No one in this world doesn’t like cheese, and if there are, the number is most likely to be compared to a pinch of salt. Enjoyed by millions of people around the globe, cheese makes every recipe taste more delicious and creamier. Hence, this is the primary ingredient that people always look for first in a dish. However, stepping in into a plant-based diet requires you to ditch the usual milk cheese for vegan cheese. If you’re new to this kind of setup, you’re probably digging deeper about what’s inside it, how it tastes and smells like, what makes it different from the dairy cheese, how it is made, and the list goes on. These questions are completely normal for beginners especially if they’re going to substitute their ultimate favorite food for something unfamiliar. But don’t worry, because we are here to bring you a short vegan cheese 101 to address all of it!
So What Exactly Is Vegan Cheese?
Vegan cheese is 100 percent dairy-free and made from the natural proteins of vegetables. Unlike the regular cheese that uses milk from cows, vegan cheeses are derived from soy, nuts, and vegetable oils like coconut oil. They may also come in different varieties – shredded, sliced, blocks and wedges, cream cheese, feta, fondue, and the like. Although many people still doubt their ability to mimic the traditional cheese, nuts - cashews and almonds - and tofu are two of the most versatile ingredients in vegan cheese making. They give off the same salty, tangy flavor and creamy texture that we get from the real stuff when blended. Coconut oil- and soy-based cheese, on the other hand, need to be carefully processed and mixed with thickeners such as carrageenan and xanthan gum to replicate the ooey-gooey experience we desire.
How Does Vegan Cheese Taste and Smell?
Of course, if you’re venturing into something new, the first thing you will be curious about is its taste – and it has to be delicious. Quick trivia: vegan cheeses began during the 1980s and were primitively insipid. They also had an unappealing whiff, at least for die-hard cheese lovers, as they were using ingredients you wouldn’t find in a traditional cheese. But as vegan products continue to occupy thousands of store shelves over the years and more people shift into the vegan life, plenty of flavorful vegan cheese brands are becoming available to the market. And guess what? Some look, taste, and smell the same as milk cheese that even a cheese connoisseur will have a hard time identifying which one is real and fake. Also, dairy-free cheeses don’t melt quite the same. However, some brands knock the consistency out of the park, especially those who distribute soy-based cheese alternatives.
What Are The Differences Between Vegan Cheese and Dairy Cheese?
Aside from ingredients, they contrast in the nutrients they offer. The latter is derived from milk - which is rich in calcium - that strengthens our bones and muscles. Whereas the former, as mentioned, is made from plants that are typically low in fat, protein, and calcium yet gluten-free and sometimes high in sodium. But this doesn’t make them less healthy; it’s just that different ingredients bring a different level of nutritional benefits. That’s why it is still better to check with your dietician about the kinds of food rich in protein that you can incorporate with your favorite vegan cheese.
How Is Vegan Cheese Made?
Vegan cheeses can either be manufactured or handmade. And oh, they are being fermented, too! Most soy-based cheese alternatives tend to go through an industrial process to perfectly achieve that melting consistency. On the other hand, nut-based cheeses are easily created by draining, boiling, or throwing them to a blender mixed with flavors of herbs and mushrooms. But if you’re not into food preps, you can already grab vegan cheese products in the market or ready-to-eat cheese recipes you can serve on the table! Switching to vegan cheese can be a little challenging, but it’s worth it in the long run. What’s important is that there’s a way how to balance health and taste!