If you recently went vegan — or even if you’ve been vegan for quite a while now — if you miss any animal-based or animal byproduct food item, it’s likely that guilty pleasure beloved the world over: cheese.
Creamy, melty, ooey, gooey cheesy goodness. On your pizza. Served with tortilla chips. Sliced with crackers. However you like it, you’re not alone.
Thankfully, vegans can enjoy their cheese without hurting a single cow (or goat), and even if you’re not vegan, you might find you like vegan cheese. After all, just like traditional cheeses, vegan cheeses come in an array of flavors and textures, all awaiting the adventurous palate on the search for something new.
Want to know more? Here’s everything you need to know about vegan cheese, as well as how to make it yourself.
What is Vegan Cheese?
Vegan cheeses are simply defined as cheeses that feature absolutely zero animal products. They’re all across the board, ranging from soft, fresh cheeses to hard, aged cheeses.
Vegan cheeses are made from a variety of plants. Popular vegan cheese ingredients include sesame seeds, sunflower seeds, cashews, pine nuts, almonds, soybeans, peanuts, coconut, tapioca and others. Vegan cheese is often heart-healthy (in comparison to its traditional counterpart) and, like traditional cheese, full of protein.
Vegan cheese has been around for quite a while, first showing up on the culinary radar in the 1500s, when the Chinese created cheese from tofu and soy. Vegan cheese didn’t come onto the commercial market until the ‘80s, however. Over the last three decades, the brands and options available to vegans and other shoppers have expanded considerably.
Shopping for Vegan Cheese
Popular vegan cheese brands include Daiya Foods, So Delicious, Follow Your Heart and Trader Joe’s. For the standard home cook who doesn’t want to make their own vegan cheese, they can look to one of these brands, and others, for shredded cheese products like what you might find in the dairy aisle from Kraft or Sargento.
When shopping for vegan cheese, you really want to think about your end use before choosing a brand or style. Depending on the cheese’s ingredients, it’ll react differently to heat and other cooking factors.
If you’re throwing your cheese in a casserole or atop a pizza and you want it to melt, then you’ll want an oil-based cheese. If, though, you want your cheese to stay as it is, in its shredded state, for use maybe in a salad or on tacos, then you’ll want a nut-based cheese. This is because oil-based cheeses are easier to melt, while nut-based cheeses retain their shape.
You can buy vegan cheese in a variety of flavors.
Making Vegan Cheese
The process for making vegan cheese will differ greatly according to the type of cheese you want to make. However, in most instances, you will need to have a nice blender on hand. Other equipment that will prove handy include cheese cloths, a large vessel for soaking your ingredients, possibly a nut milk bag and nutritional yeast.
It’s generally easier to make smooth, creamy and soft cheeses than it is to make harder cheeses with an outer rind. These hard cheeses also take a lot longer to make and require a bit of patience and fridge space.
Basic Vegan Cheese Recipes
Ready to get started making your own vegan cheese? Here are a few beginner recipes to get you comfortable in the kitchen.\
Whip up this easy garlic and herb vegan cheese for snacking anytime. It takes a day to make, but most of that time is spent in just letting your ingredients rest — first get the cashews soaking in their water and then the cheese itself chilling in the cheesecloth.
Once you’re finished, the cheese can be served straight away, or you can keep it in the fridge for up to a week.
How about some delicious, creamy nacho cheese to enjoy with a side of tortilla chips? This nacho cheese features a vegetable base, so it’s even healthier than some of the other vegan cheeses on this list. Potatoes and carrots come together with an array of seasonings for a texture and taste you won’t believe. (And it all takes less than half an hour!)
Advanced Vegan Cheese Recipes
If you’ve tried your hand at making the above vegan cheeses and you want a bit more of a challenge, you can move on to one of these more advanced recipes.
This cheese is more on the difficult side and requires a few ingredients you might not already have on hand, like white wheat berries and white miso paste. However, if you spring for the ingredients and set aside the right amount of time, you’ll be rewarded with delicious white cheddar perfect for slicing and snacking.
Yes, it takes 72 hours to make (not including extra wait time for full maturation), but it’s worth it.
The real difficulty for this recipe is all in the waiting. However, all that waiting results in a stronger cheese flavor and the longer you let this cheese age in your fridge, the better it’ll taste. After three weeks, you’ll have a sliceable cheddar ready for sandwiches, soups, salads and more.
Want to grate it up? Just pop the cheese in the freezer for extra hold and you’re good to grate away.
Party-Worthy Vegan Cheese Recipes
Do you have a reputation for being the “hostess with the mostest”? Then add a cheese board back to your party buffet, with these vegan cheeses sure to please even the pickiest of your guests.
Just take a gander at this vegan camembert! It doesn’t even look vegan. Soft, creamy, delicious, with a gorgeous white rind, this camembert will be a beautiful addition to your cheese tray, served alongside some fruit and crackers.
But note — this is one party-worthy cheese you’ll have to plan far in advance. It takes about three weeks to make. Ingredients include cashews, cultures, water, salt and penicillium candidum (which creates the rind).
Another vegan cheese that will look lovely on your cheese board, this vegan bleu cheese is made with just four ingredients (cashews, probiotics, mold cultures and salt). It all comes together for that killer kick of bleu cheese flavor. The texture is spot-on, too.
Want to Make Your Own Vegan Cheese?
It’s not that difficult, especially when you start out with some of the easier cheeses on this list. Then, once your cheese-making skills are up to snuff, you can move on to the more time-intensive, more mature cheeses that require a little bit of patience and hard work. Vegan cheese never tasted so great!
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