One of the most common reasons people give for not going vegan is that they have to stop eating cheese. Even vegetarians are hesitant to give up that last animal product. Realizing this is a major issue for people, companies have been making vegan versions to meet demand. Is it any good?
In the 1990’s, vegan cheese was almost non-existent. In fact, the US only had one product you could buy in stores. It was called Soymage, and it was not pleasant. Hard, gray, and not able to melt, this block concoction did not mimic real dairy in any way. Now, the market has exploded and there are so many choices. Beyond block cheese, there’s single slices, cream cheeses, fancy cheeses, sauces, and more. Years of experimentation has finally resulted in vegan cheese that has similar tastes and textures to the real deal. At least, that’s what companies hope consumers think.
Vegan cheese is not without its flaws. Taste tests reveal that a lot consumers can’t get over the flavor of tofu or what’s been described simply as “a vegan taste.” Texture-wise, testers also find products to frequently be either grainy or gummy. Even though cheese substitutes have come a long way, people who aren’t vegans are not going to start eating it anytime soon.
There are tons of brands to choose from, so which are considered the best?
Field Roast – This vegan brand’s cheese slices are sold under the Chao name. Chao is a fermented soybean curd originally from Taiwan. The slices are coconut-based with the chao acting as a seasoning. A vegan website says this cheese is especially good for cold sandwiches. There are three flavors right now: Tomato Cayenne with Spicy Pepper, Coconut Herb with Black Pepper, and Creamy Original with Chao Tofu.
Tofutti – This brand has been around a long time, so they’ve really mastered their vegan cheese. They make a variety of cuts, but their shreds are supposedly their best product and melt just like real cheese. Their slices come in Mozzarella and American. They even make a ricotta you can use in dishes like lasagna.
Daiya – For people avoiding soy, this is the brand to get. Their shreds are popular and come in Cheddar, Mozzarella, Classic Blend, and Pepperjack. Fans of grilled sandwiches like how well the slices melt, too. For blocks, there’s gouda and jalapeno havarti.
Treeline – A more expensive “artisanal” product, Treeline is designed for fancy wine-tasting nights. Cheeses are made from ingredients like cashews, and comes in soft spreadable French-Style flavors (Scallion, Herb-Garlic) and Aged Nut Cheeses (Classic, Cracked Pepper).
Did you know you can actually make your own vegan cheese? It’s surprisingly easy and doesn’t require equipment fancier than a good food processor. Soft cheeses are usually made from just nuts, herbs, and a bit of lemon juice. To shake up flavors, you just swap out nuts (almonds, macadamias, and pine nuts are all good for blending) and herbs (garlic, basil, parsley). Other popular ingredients include sun-dried tomatoes, peppers, and even vanilla or maple syrup. Making Parmesan – one of the most popular cheeses for Italian food – requires just cashews, garlic powder, and nutritional yeast. Homemade vegan cheese needs to be stored in an airtight container in a cupboard, and lasts for about a week. For recipe ideas, check out this link.