In the past few years, there has been a significant increase in the amount and variety of vegan products available around the world. From plant milks to vegan meat, there’s no shortage of plant-based alternatives to animal products. One of the popular foods in the vegan market is vegan cheese. Although it has only gained popularity in the past few years, the first vegan cheeses were actually made in the 1980s, unfortunately, they weren’t all that tasty. Nowadays, however, vegan cheese is completely different. Not only does it taste good, but it also acts and melts like dairy cheese! It is also, free from the cruelty of the infamous dairy industry, which separates calves from their mothers and robs the milk from said calves, and it is also better from the environment. With more and more, ethically and environmentally conscious consumers on the rise, vegan cheese has been rapidly increasing in demand. In this article, we’ll address the following topics:
- What Is Vegan Cheese Made From
- How Is Vegan Cheese Made
- Vegan Cheese Brands
What Is Vegan Cheese Made From
Vegan cheeses are typically made with vegetable proteins, such as:
- Cashews: These incredibly versatile nuts are one of the most popular ingredients used in vegan cheese production. They deliver a wonderfully creamy texture which is perfect for making cheeses.
- Coconut: Coconut oil is another common ingredient that goes into vegan cheese. This particular ingredient gives cheese that ‘fattiness’ that many people have to come to expect when they hear the term cheese. It’s usually combined with tofu or potato starch and produces really melty, gooey cheeses.
- Almond: Though not as smooth as cashews, almonds work really well in ricotta, cream cheese and many more!
- Nutritional Yeast: Highly praised by vegans around the globe, nutritional yeast is quite a popular vegan cheese alternative. It’s typically used as a substitute for Parmesan cheese and is great in making a wide variety of dishes from pasta to cheese dips.
- Tapioca: Starches make for a great base in vegan cheeses. And so, many of the pioneer producers of vegan cheese are often derived from tapioca, which enables the cheese to stretch and melt, much like its dairy counterpart.
- Soy: One of the most popular ingredients in plant-based foods, soy, unsurprisingly, is also used in making vegan cheese. In some cases, tofu is actually used as a substitute for cheese such as paneer, a type of fresh cheese in Indian cuisine that is akin to cottage cheese.
While these are the most commonly used ingredients, some vegan cheeses are also made using macadamia nuts, agar, peas, and arrowroot.
How Is Vegan Cheese Made
Initially, vegan cheese was made with the only goal that it should look like dairy cheese. Evidently, it wasn’t enough. Both taste and other aspects were also an important factor for most vegan cheese consumers. Thus, vegan cheese producers started to become more innovative.
When it comes to nut cheeses, there are two ways in which they are made. The first method involves using nut milks such as almond milk, cashew milk or soy milk. They are sold as nut milk cheeses and are made by forming strained nut milk into a more solidified mass, which are usually flavoured as well. The second method is something that is more similar to the process of making dairy cheese. Nut milks are drained and injected with bacteria which ferments it. Once they’ve been aged, they end up with more complex flavours similar to that of any fermented food.
Styles Of Vegan Cheese
Similar to that of dairy-based cheese, vegan cheese comes in every shape, form, and size! It makes it really beneficial for those who are transitioning into a vegan and are just learning how to cook with vegan alternatives. These are just few of the popular styles of vegan cheese that are available around the world:
- Shredded: Many brands are now offering shredded vegan cheese, especially mozzarella and cheddar cheese alternative. This particular style is really convenient and saves you the trouble of having to grate a block of cheese. It’s perfect for sprinkling on pizza, potatoes, dosas or tacos.
- Block and sliced: There are several vegan cheese options that come in either blocks or sliced forms. Such varieties include but are not limited to gouda, American, provolone, and cheddar. They’re usually used on sandwiches and crackers.
- Cream cheese: Vegan cream cheese is most often used as a spread on foods such as bagels and toast or in creamy sauces for pasta as well as when baking a vegan cheesecake.
- Soft cheese: Vegan soft cheeses are typically vegan alternatives for cheeses such as ricotta, camembert, and brie.
- Parmesan-style: Vegan parmesan cheese usually comes in the form of sprinkles or grated shreds. It’s a great topper for pasta, pizza or popcorn.
- Cheese dips: Vegan cheese dips are fairly simple to make and are great with nachos and other finger foods. Many recipes use either vegan parmesan cheese or the vegan pantry staple, nutritional yeast.
Vegan Cheese Brands
- Cowvathi: Cowvathi is renowned for its signature vegan cheeses. The brand features a vegan alternative to the traditional mozzarella and cheddar cheese. They work great on pizzas, pasta, and sandwiches. Cowvathi also has a few uniquely flavoured cheeses including pepper cheese and garlic basic cheese.
- Live Yum: Live Yum is unique in the sense that they make allergen-free, 100 percent plant-based cheeses. Live Yum produces vegan mozzarella as well as vegan cheddar cheese shreds, which are amazingly rich and melt just like their dairy counterpart. It’s perfect for pizzas, pasta such as mac ‘n’ cheese, nachos and more. On top of that, their vegan cream cheese is also a delicious alternative to dairy cheese and pairs well on a bagel, sandwich and it is even great for when you are baking a vegan cheesecake!
- Bombay Cheese Company: Bombay Cheese Company offers a delicious cheddar cheese that’s derived from potatoes and rice bran oil. Not only is it a delicious alternative to dairy cheese, but it also contains zero cholesterol, thus making it healthier than most dairy cheeses.
- Urban Platter: Urban Platter is a popular brand that makes many vegan products such as vegan mayo, soy milk powder, peanut butter, mock meat such as soya chaap, nutritional yeast as well as vegan parmesan cheese. Their cheese is made using cashews and the ever-popular nutritional yeast. The cashews provide a nuttiness that resembles the real parmesan cheese and nutritional yeast brings in the cheesy taste. It goes great on popcorn, veggies, soups, salads, dips, pasta and more!
- Happy Calf: Happy Calf offers many different vegan products, such as vegan buttermilk in the flavours, mint, kokum and curry leaf, kimchi, and parmesan cheese sprinkles. Their vegan parmesan cheese is also derived from cashew and can be used as a cheesy addition to any dish. It is great in salads, dosas, bread, veggies, chapati or noodles. It can also be used to make a delicious cheese dip! An added benefit to this vegan cheese is that it also contains protein, vitamin B12, and folic acid!
The Bottom Line
Vegan cheese is a delicious alternative to dairy cheese. It’s typically made using a wide variety of vegetable proteins such as nuts including cashews, almonds and macadamia nuts as well as coconut oil, tapioca, peas, agar, and arrowroot. It’s also made through a fermentation process similar to that of its dairy counterpart. As the demand for this particular food rises, many brands such as Cowavthi and Live Yum have begun to cater to the rising needs. Some vegan cheeses such Happy Calf’s Parmesan Cheese Sprinkles come fortified with additional nutrients such as protein, vitamin B12, and folic acid. Many consumers have taken to opting for vegan cheese as awareness about animal cruelty and environmental degradation that’s associated with the dairy industry comes to light.