Cheese is delicious. It’s salty, creamy, and melts on a hot pizza or burger like nothing else. If you’re a vegan, you’ve likely heard the phrase “cheese is made from milk.” And while that’s technically true, it doesn’t mean that all cheese is off-limits for vegans. Many kinds of cheese are easier to find in a vegan form than years ago.
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Is Cheese Vegan?
The answer to this question is no. Typically, cheese is made from dairy products unless made from non-dairy sources such as almond milk, soy milk, or cashews.
If you are looking for cheese that suits a vegan diet, options are available.
You should know that vegan cheese does not have the same taste and texture as dairy-based cheese. If you don’t necessarily need to match the taste, there are soft, spreadable vegan cheeses similar in texture to cream cheese and some that can be cut into slices.
What Types of Vegan Cheese are Available?
There are a few types of vegan cheese on the market. Some vegans continue eating dairy products until they can find a suitable alternative, while others opt for store-bought vegan cheeses made from nuts and seeds.
Vegan cheese substitutes are available at most grocery stores, and they’re an easy way to add some healthy fats to your diet. These options are often processed with other ingredients (i.e., carrageenan), so read the label before purchasing one!
It’s also possible to make your cashew or coconut milk-based “cheese.” These recipes typically require blending several ingredients until they become smooth enough to spread onto crackers or bread slices.
Vegan Cheese Brands:
- Kite Hill
- Misha’s Kind Foods
- Miyoko’s Creamery
- So Delicious (coconut-milk based)
- Vegusto cheese
- Follow Your Heart
What About Vegetarian Cheese?
But wait—isn’t cheese vegetarian? The answer is no unless it’s vegan.
While many people assume that vegetarian and vegan mean the same thing, they are very different. While vegetarian diets do not include meat or fish, they may still include dairy products like milk, eggs, or even honey (unless you are vegan).
Vegans avoid all animal products, including eggs and honey. This means that most cheeses cannot be considered vegetarian because they contain rennet—the enzyme needed to turn milk into curds (aka cheese).
Some cheese brands do not use animal rennet but instead use vegetable enzymes such as bromelain from pineapple stems or ficin from figs; however, these can still be cross-contaminated with animal products during processing.
Vegan cheeses are made with no ingredients derived from animals; these include gelatin or casein (a protein found in milk), lactic acid bacteria starter cultures, whey solids (which are often added back into non-vegan hard cheeses), albumen coagulant (which form curds when added to milk), or rennet(animal parts used for making cheese).
Cheese is Only Vegan if it’s Made from Dairy-free Sources
Vegan cheeses are typically made from solidified vegetable oil, root starches, and nutritional yeast. Some of the most popular vegan cheeses include Daiya and Follow Your Heart, found at most grocery stores.
How do these new cheeses stack up? The good news is that most of them are better for you than their traditional counterparts. They also are lower in calories than dairy cheese and lower in fat.
Dairy-free cheeses come in many forms, including blocks, slices, and spreads. The most common types of plant-based cheeses include:
These tend to be lower in fat and calories than dairy-based cheeses, but some people find them less tasty. They come in many different flavors and styles. They’re also easy to make at home using nutritional yeast—a type that has a nutty flavor when baked or fried—and tofu or cashew butter as a base.
Coconut milk-based cheeses
Coconut milk contains lauric acid—a saturated fat found in breast milk—which gives these cheeses their creamy texture and can help control blood sugar levels after eating them. The taste can vary greatly depending on how they’re made and which ingredients they contain (like coconut milk).
Methods include blending cashews with other ingredients such as coconut oil, lemon juice, nutritional yeast flakes (a kind of vitamin B12 supplement), agar powder (a thickening agent made from seaweed), water chestnuts, and tahini paste for its nutty taste—or sesame seeds like Miyoko’s Kitchen’s Cultured Vegan Butter which was featured on Good Morning America several years ago when it first hit store shelves!
How is Cheese Made?
Cheesemaking is a time-honored tradition that has been practiced for thousands of years. Milk is the most common ingredient in cheeses, with cow’s milk being the most commonly used.
The process begins by curdling the milk into cheese curds and whey. Whey, an animal protein liquid left over from cheese production, contains fat, minerals, and vitamins and can be used as an ingredient in other foods or beverages.
Cheese curds are drained of excess moisture to produce blocks of varying shapes (such as bricks or wheels) or a liquid called ricotta.
To make ricotta cheese, rennet (an enzyme found in the stomachs of ruminants—animals such as cows that chew their cud) is added to coagulate milk into curds and whey; this mixture can then be strained through cheesecloth to remove excess water content before aging it further for several months at room temperature so that flavors develop fully.
Making Your Vegan Cheese
You can make your vegan cheeses at home using recipes found on the internet or in cookbooks. YouTube is an invaluable resource for all things vegan, including vegan cheese recipes. These recipes usually call for nuts or soybean curd as a base.
To make nut-based cheeses taste like their dairy counterparts, manufacturers use enzymes that break down proteins into amino acids that help form new proteins during fermentation. They also add sugar to create a similar texture as dairy cheese.
You can use vegan cheese in any recipe that calls for regular cheese. You may find it difficult to substitute one type of cheese for another since they have different textures and flavors, but this will work best if you’re using creamy sauces or dips with minimal amounts of spice (like guacamole) so that the cheese does not mask the flavor.
If you’re making a spreadable cheese that can replace cream cheese, remember that most vegan cheeses have a slightly granular texture. Use cashews or macadamia nuts instead of almonds if you want a softer consistency in your cheese recipe. You can also use tofu or soybeans for a firmer texture in your vegan cheese recipe.
Final Thoughts on Is Cheese Vegan
As you can see, plenty of non-dairy, vegan cheeses are out there, and most of them don’t have any animal ingredients. However, some may not be easy to find and might cost more than regular cheese.
But as we mentioned before, if you can’t find vegan alternatives at your local grocery store, you can probably find them online! So, if you’re looking for a way to reduce your dairy consumption without sacrificing flavor, these products will do just fine!