How To Make The Best Vegan Cheese

vegan cheese

Beloved across the globe whether pairing with wine, on a simple grilled cheese, shredded on pasta or gooey and melty on top of pizza, cheese is simply everywhere. With a recent study showing that each person in the US consumes more than 38 pounds (17 kg) of cheese per year, on average, adapting cheese to the growing vegan community in the US has taken on many forms. The rise of the vegan and other dairy-free diets has led to numerous dairy-free cheese substitutes, made from a variety of sources, are now available.

Vegan cheese 101

Vegan cheeses are made from a variety of plant-based ingredients including soy, tree nuts and seeds (macadamia nuts, cashews, almonds, pecans, pine nuts, sunflower seeds and pumpkin seeds), coconut cream, aquafaba, root vegetables and more. While the first dairy-free cheeses were made quite a while ago, the new vegan and health craze taking over the country has led to a wide selection of styles (shredded, cream cheese, block and sliced, soft cheese, dip and more) and flavors, mirroring the abundance of regular cheese offerings you can find at the grocery store.

What do you see as main difference between nut, seed and soy-based cheese?

Different bases will likely yield different textures of dairy-free cheeses. “Nut-based cheeses are typically softer and more spreadable while oil-based cheeses are found more commonly in a block form,” says Katherine Franklin, Vice President of Product & Marketing at Follow Your Heart. No matter what base you’re looking at, there’s a dairy-free cheese out there to satisfy every plate and accommodate every allergy. And per Youssef Vromage, proprietor of Vromage in LA, widely considered to be the first artisanal vegan cheese shop, “I prefer to use nuts like Macadamia, cashews and almonds before mixing in seeds for nutrient protein and spices and herbs for flavor.”

Advice for any new vegans trying to make ‘cheese’ at home?

Making vegan cheese at home is not as hard as most people think says Youssef. Cheese made from tree nuts and seeds are the most popular DIY cheeses as they are, “relatively easy to make and it requires fairly minimal processing.” To start, it is important to “soak and blend before adding herbs and spices; I like to use truffles from Italy from all seasons.” These cheeses will be healthier than processed cheeses as they are packed with fiber, healthy fats and vital micronutrients.

How many offerings are there really of vegan cheese?

Since opening Vromage in 2014, Youssef has sought to create the same taste and texture of regular dairy cheese and currently makes about 17 to 21 different kind of cheeses. Each cheese takes about 10 days to make and they come in flavors like pepper jack, rosemary asiago, mozzarella, cheddar, ricotta and more. Franklin mentions that Follow Your Heart as a whole has over 60 products sold in over 35 countries and that their “game-changing slices along with their shredded packs of your favorite Follow Your Heart dairy-free cheese (from cheddar, mozzarella, and parmesan to more gourmet options like pepper jack and smoked gouda)” offer consumers a number of choices to enjoy at home.

Whether you are like Follow Your Heart who created the first-ever melting vegan cheese or Vromage who began his vegan cheese quest from a love interest, amateur chefs at home can learn from these vegan cheese experts as they are trying to mimic the taste and texture of a dairy-based cheese while using more sustainable ingredients with integrity. It is important to choose quality ingredients as the flavors from the better-quality nut, seed, spice or other ingredient will present themselves when topping your pizza, using as a spread, noshing on with wine and more.

Article by Jarone Ashkenazi

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