Are you following a strict plant-based or vegan diet and craving for some delicious cheese at the same time?
Well, we have some good news for you; vegan cheese is here to save the day!
While real cheese is traditionally produced from the milk of sheep, goats, or cows, the alternatives are made with nutritional yeast, soy, coconut, nuts, and other vegan products.
Over the past few years, the number of plant-based cheeses, along with other vegan products, being sold at major grocers has skyrocketed.
Thanks to human ingenuity, food technology, and most importantly, the popularity of vegan diets plant-based cheese has now entered the dairy-free world.
So the real question is: what is vegan cheese made of, and how good of a substitute is it for dairy cheese?
Here is a mini-guide to vegan cheese to help you learn all about this non-dairy goodness:
- 1 What Is Vegan Cheese Made Out Of?
- 2 Price of Vegan Cheese vs. Actual Cheese
- 3 Is Vegan Cheese Good?
- 4 How Many Forms Is Vegan Cheese Available In?
- 5 Bottom Line
What Is Vegan Cheese Made Out Of?
Vegan cheese is a category of plant-based or non-dairy cheeses. It ranges from fresh, soft cheeses to cultured, hard, aged, and grateable cheeses such as plant-based Parmesan.
The main characteristic that defines vegan cheese is the complete exclusion of any kind of animal products.
In 1980, the first non-dairy cheeses were produced. However, they weren’t quite palatable.
n the last few years, the market of vegan cheese has exploded, and there is now a wide range of mouthwatering varieties available. Following are some of the most common dairy-free products used to craft vegan cheese:
Tree Seeds and Nuts
The most popular types of DIY vegan cheese are the alternatives produced from different kinds of raw tree seeds and nuts.
These ingredients make creating vegan cheese at home relatively easy. If you think that DIY food products aren’t your thing, you can easily find these cheeses in a pre-made form from any local grocery store.
The best thing about cheeses made from seeds and tree nuts is that the processing time is fairly minimal. Typically the seeds or nuts are soaked, blended, and lastly, fermented with bacteria.
The bacteria used are of the same type as those used in the production of dairy cheese. Other ingredients such as herbs, nutritional yeasts, or salt might be added for flavor.
Some of the most popular ingredients used for seed or nut-based cheeses include:
- Pumpkin seeds
- Sunflower seeds
- Pine nuts
- Macadamia nuts
Soy is also one of the most common non-dairy ingredients used for the production of plant-based, dairy alternatives; and vegan cheese is no exception.
Multiple commercial brands sell products similar to cheese made from some form of soy protein, such as tofu.
Various other ingredients, including gums and vegetable oil, are usually added to mimic the real taste and texture of dairy cheese.
Notably, there are some cheeses that are soy-based but contain casein. Casein is a milk protein which is included to enable the processed vegan cheese to melt like the original dairy version.
However, soy-based products that contain any amount of casein aren’t vegan. But if you are only opting for vegan cheese to manage a lactose allergy, it might be a good alternative option to consider.
A combination of various starchy flours such as potato, tapioca, all-purpose flour, or arrowroot is used to make some types of vegan cheeses.
The flours are used in conjunction with other ingredients, such as almond milk, coconut, cashews, white beans, or soy milk.
Generally, vegan cheese recipes that require you to use flour in large quantities might result in cheeses with a sauce-like consistency instead of a block-style, sliceable cheese.
Remember, results can always vary depending on the ingredients and recipe used.
Coconut oil, milk, and cream can also be used to produce vegan cheese. The high-fat content of coconut makes it an ideal ingredient to produce a creamy, cheese-like product.
However, the addition of some other ingredients such as carrageenan, agar-agar, tapioca, potato starch, and cornstarch is required in order to mimic the texture and density of dairy cheese.
Due to the strong unique flavor of coconut, which isn’t reminiscent of dairy cheese, some other ingredients are usually added to boost the flavor of the vegan cheese.
The ingredients might include lemon juice, nutritional yeast, onion powder, garlic powder, and salt.
While this is a less common practice, some types of non-dairy cheeses contain root vegetables as the key ingredient.
Two of the most popular sources are carrots and potatoes. The cheese produced using root vegetables is usually a gravy-like, soft cheese sauce.
The root veggies are first cooked properly until they turn soft. Then, they are blended with some other ingredients such as salt, oil, water, and spices until a creamy and smooth consistency is achieved.
As with most canned foods, canned chickpeas come with some excess liquid. That liquid is known as aquafaba.
While a lot people tend to throw that water away, little do they know that they can utilize that liquid for vegan baking.
This convenient cheese-making ingredient allows the end product to melt smoothly when heated.
However, the final product does require additional binding ingredients like carrageenan or agar-agar. Oftentimes, ingredients like coconut oil, coconut cream, or cashews are also used.
Price of Vegan Cheese vs. Actual Cheese
The price of pre-made vegan cheese is far higher than that of dairy cheese. There are mainly two reasons for such vast difference:
- The competition in the vegan market is far lesser compared to the constant battling going on in the dairy world. Therefore, manufacturers face less pressure while pricing their products.
- Vegan cheese manufacturers are unable to leverage the same economies of scale that makers of animal cheese can. This is because of the difference in bulk orders both makers receive. For instance, a vegan cheese manufacturer could produce goods at a more reasonable price if they received the same number of orders as makers of dairy goods do. This is because they would be ordering a higher number of ingredients at an overall lower cost.
Is Vegan Cheese Good?
If you are avoiding cheese because of the content of saturated fat it contains, you might not need to.
According to recent studies, cheese might actually be quite good for your health, and it may also reduce your risk of cardiovascular diseases and diabetes.
As compared to regular dairy cheese, vegan cheeses contain a lower amount of fat, calcium, and protein, and they are also usually gluten-free.
However, as vegan cheese is a processed product, it might contain a higher amount of sodium; therefore, it is essential that you check the label of any foods you are about to consume.
While you can’t consider non-dairy cheese to be a source of protein, you can always enjoy eating it with your pizza, queso dip, or grilled sandwich!
How Many Forms Is Vegan Cheese Available In?
Like dairy cheese, vegan cheese also comes in many different forms.
This factor particularly makes it easier for individuals to adapt a vegan lifestyle and enjoy dairy-free cooking. Some of the most popular forms of vegan cheese include:
Parmesan-style vegan cheese that is grated makes an amazing plant-based substitute as a pizza topping, for popcorn, or for pasta.
The varieties of soft vegan cheese include vegan camembert, brie, and ricotta.
Block-Style and Sliced
There are many different varieties that block-style, sliced vegan cheese comes in. The varieties include smoked gouda, cheddar, American, and provolone. These cheeses are best eaten with sandwiches or crackers.
Vegan cream cheeses are great for spreading on toast and bagels. They can also be used to make delicious creamy sauces. Like conventional dairy cheese, vegan cream cheeses come in several different flavors.
Several major cheese brands produce shredded vegan cheese. Cheddar and mozzarella vegan cheeses are two of the most popular cheese products. You can sprinkle them on top of tacos, casseroles, baked potatoes, and pizzas.
If you miss your delicious nacho cheese dip, you can now select from a wide variety of vegan cheese dips available online.
Vegan cheeses made from a variety of plant foods such as seeds, soy, nuts, root vegetables and coconut. Moreover, they come in almost as many flavors and styles as dairy cheese.
If you are looking to embark on a journey to veganism, don’t worry about saying goodbye to this delicious creamy product. As we said earlier, vegan cheese is here to truly save the day!Last updated on: