Say Vegan Cheese!

Are you all ready for a super informative Say Vegan Cheese! excerpt from The Vegetarian Flavor Bible, by Karen Page? Today is National Cheese day, so it’s only appropriate that we delve into vegan cheeses! Read all of the way to the end so that you can enter to win a copy of this AWESOME book!

Say Vegan Cheese!

by Karen Page
(based on an excerpt from THE VEGETARIAN FLAVOR BIBLE)
Karen Page, author of The Vegetarian Flavor Bible, talks about cheese addiction, tasty vegan alternatives and making your own. Say Vegan Cheese!

Cheese addiction is one of the last things standing in the way of would-be vegans. Indeed, as my husband Andrew Dornenburg and I sought to reduce our consumption of eggs and dairy, we easily stopped buying eggs and butter and yogurt. A wedge of Parmesan cheese was long the last bit of dairy to be found in our refrigerator, however. And it took us months to evolve our regular order for our favorite neighborhood pie – a large ‘Shroomtown pizza on organic multigrain crust with roasted garlic from Vezzo in Manhattan’s Murray Hill – to evolve from “light cheese” to “half-cheese” to “NO cheese,” which is how we’ve been ordering it for the past several months even prior to our participation in “Veganuary.”

I interviewed bestselling author Dr. Neal Barnard of the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM) about the phenomenon for , and he shared that some people’s addiction to cheese is physical. “Nutritionally, [cheese] is awful – with a very high content of saturated fat, cholesterol, and sodium…It’s not just taste, it’s not just mouthfeel – dairy producets are unique in that they release casomorphins, and cheese has a much higher concentration of them than milk or ice cream,” he told me. “If I stuck a needle in your arm a half-hour after you ate cheese, there would be opiates in your bloodstream and attaching to your brain. While it’s not enough to make you drive dangerously or rob a convenience store, it’s enough to make you say the next day, ‘I think I’d like a little more cheese.’”

A cottage industry of vegan cheeses has sprung up. Vancouver-based Daiya cheese debuted in 2008, supported by a strong marketing campaign, and launched a retail line in 2010. Vegenaise makers Follow Your Heart debuted their line of Vegan Gourmet shredded vegan cheeses in 2013.

Portobello Trattoria PDX Vegan Restaurant

Many vegans enjoy branded vegan cheeses, which come in various flavors (e.g., cheddar, mozzarella) and often melt and stretch much as dairy cheese does. Just last week, Andrew and I enjoyed a vegan slice at The Slice of Life in Sebastopol, California, which we were told was made with shredded Follow Your Heart mozzarella-style cheese. We were impressed with its very mild flavor and melting texture – which is sometimes lacking in other brands.

I have to admit that I’ve been even more impressed with the flavor of some of the artisanal vegan cheeses I’ve tasted. In addition to serving cashew cheese on its vegan pizza, Portobello Vegan Trattoria in Portland, Oregon, serves an artisanal vegan cheese plate that has showcased cheeses from cheese makers across the country, including Field Roast, Seattle-based producer of Chao Cheese (herb-crusted, tofu-based cheeses), Door 86 (Nashville), Heidi Ho (Portland, OR), Kite Hill (Hayward, CA), Punk Rawk Labs (Minneapolis), and Treeline Treenut Cheese (Kingston, NY).

Vegan Cheese Rounds

The very best artisanal vegan cheese I’ve ever tasted was made by a woman named Lori Robin (above right) — who goes by Cheezehound – based in Fleischmanns, New York. Last July, we were houseguests of our omnivore actress friend Susan Dey, who couldn’t remember if we were eating vegetarian or vegan at the time, and bought some of Lori’s vegan cheese at a local farmers market for us. When we tried Lori’s peppercorn-flavored Brie-style vegan cheese (made with a combination of hemp seed milk and macadamia nut milk), we were truly floored. It turned out to be the first-ever vegan cheese we ever truly loved. (Thank you, Susan!)

Miyoko Schinner Artisan Vegan Cheese

Interested in trying to make your own? You’ll want to pick up a copy of Miyoko Schinner’s 2012 book Artisan Vegan Cheese, which is developing a cult following among vegan chefs and foodies.

And the next time you or your friends are trying to kick your dairy cheese habit, look to the handy chart in Chapter 2 (pp. 76-80) of THE VEGETARIAN FLAVOR BIBLE excerpted here for other ways to tame the crave:

 

IF YOU ARE CRAVING….

 

This                                                    Try This Instead

 

cheese                                                  cashew or other nut-based cheese

 

cheese, cream                                      soy cream cheese

 

cheese, Parmesan                                Parma brand vegan “Parmesan”

 

cheese, ricotta                                     ground almond, cashew, macadamia or pine nut “ricotta” half nondairy cream cheese + half  firm tofu, mashed tofu “ricotta,” made from crumbled tofu

 

cheese, smoked                                   smoked tofu (e.g,. on sandwiches, in salads)

 

 

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26 Comments on “Say Vegan Cheese!

  1. Homemade vegan cheese is delicious! Sometimes it is hard for me to find raw cashews or pine nuts, but tofu is always in the house to save my life 😀

  2. Artisan Vegan Cheese was one of the first vegan books I purchased after going vegan overnight almost two years ago. I quickly dove into making my own rejuvelac, and without having had it previously, I had no idea what taste I was looking for, so I threw out several batches. I haven’t tried in a while but I still plan to again. My favorite cheeses so far are macadamia and cashew based, but I like a little Daiya occasionally on toast. I can’t wait to read this book! Being vegan just keeps get easier and more rewarding. I can’t wait to try all of the artisan cheeses everywhere. We have a great raw line named Shakti here in Jacksonville, FL that makes some amazing aged “cheddar” and “boursin”. I think I could talk about cheese all day?

  3. I love making vegan cheese, especially the recipes from Artisan Vegan Cheese and The Non Dairy Evolution.

  4. Pingback: More Than Half-Way Through "Veganuary," Our Vegan Blog Tour Continues (& Extends!) for THE VEGETARIAN FLAVOR BIBLE - Karen Page and Andrew Dornenburg

  5. Giving up cheese was surprisingly easy for me, but there are members of my family who struggle with it a whole lot more so I’m always looking for helpful ideas. My husband likes some of the branded ones, but my kids haven’t liked a single one I’ve tried. It is a bit of a barrier for them.

  6. I like some of the various vegan cheeses I’ve tried. Never made anything too ambitious, but do like making cheesy sauces and have made some delicious vegan pizza!

  7. I have tried several vegan cheeses and like some and dislike others I have never tried to make a hard vegan cheese myself but have made vegan cheese sauce, like for pasta, before and have LOVED what I have made before.

  8. Here in my town in the Netherlands the vegan cheeses are not to my liking, I think they taste ‘slippery’, artificial and have the texture of plastic. I’ve made a number of vegan cheese sauces but I think they all taste too much like nutritional yeast and garlic and onion powder. I would like to buy Miyoko’s Shinner’s book, but I’m afraid I won’t be able to have the patience or time to make cultured cheeses or maybe I won’t be able to purchase the necessary ingredients in my town.
    I miss the Spanish Manchego cheese and mild goat cheese to fill some fresh dates with…

  9. I haven’t tried any of the artisan cheeses yet. Daiya is okay and I’ve heard good things about Chao. I make tofu feta and ricotta, and cheesy sauces.

  10. I have yet to try vegan cheese. the closer i have gotten are home made cashew cheese sauces for kale chips. it’s reminiscent of cheese, but not quite the same. i am keen to keep trying things, though!

  11. The only vegan cheese I’ve made is a cashew parmesan- otherwise I just use nooch on its own but I’d really love to try more!

  12. I’ve tried making my own and enjoyed the process but find using the commercial ones very handy. I’m really impressed with the texture/flavor of Chao cheese.

  13. As a former cheese addict, I am constantly looking for great Vegan Cheese. Made a batch of cashew cheddar fro. Artisan Vegan Cheese, super yum.y, but tons of work. Following your Heart does a great Mozzarella.

  14. I’ve made a few vegan cheese sauces and some tofu ricotta, but never any of the more serious (and often more involved) vegan cheeses. I’ve just never taken the plunge to do it, but I want to try some day!

  15. The only vegan cheese I made myself was simple cashew cheese sauce for pasta, which was pretty good! My favorite vegan cheese is definitely Miyoko’s artisan cheese! I also bought her vegan cheese cookbook, but haven’t tried any recipe yet. :p

  16. I have a love/hate relationship with vegan cheese since I wasn’t crazy about cow’s milk cheese to begin with. For some things i go for it, for others I think it masks too much of the main flavor in a dish.

  17. I like Daiya. But most of the vegan cheeses I have tried are icky. Someday I will try to make one on my own, but I haven’t felt brave enough yet.

  18. I haven’t made a vegan cheese yet that tastes like cheese. Trying cultured/fermented vegan cheese recipes are next on my list.

  19. I love vegan cheese, though I don’t have it often. I have tried a couple of commercially available cheeses and there are some good ones out there. The macadamia mozzarella I tried to do myself a couple of weeks ago didn’t firm enough, but the taste was wonderful. I’m really intrigued by the options and creativity of self-made vegan cheese.

  20. I have tried to make vegan cheese a few times now. I have only been able to attempt with agar-agar flakes at the moment since I have had troubles making rejuvelac and finding probiotics as they are hard come by in Mexico.. However, the second attempt was much better and I did enjoy it. However, I still have much experimenting as it just wasn’t thick enough. 🙂

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