Top Vegan Cheese Brands
Many would agree that cheese is one of the most important inventions in history. Just imagine eating your all-time favorite mac and cheese without the cheese part. Cheesecake, mozzarella sticks, chili con queso and all the other foods we love would not have existed too.
Yet, not everyone can eat cheese. For people who are on a vegan diet or are lactose intolerant, dairy products are a big no-no. Fortunately, vegan cheese came into existence. More than being dairy-free, it’s also packed with nutrients you won’t find in dairy-based cheeses.
How is Vegan Cheese Made?
If you’ve told someone decades ago that cheese can be made without milk, no one would probably take you seriously. You see, the type of cheese we grow up munching on is traditionally made with casein. It’s a type of milk protein produced by animals like cows, buffaloes, goats, and sheep. Then it’s coagulated by adding rennet, another substance that comes from the stomachs of these animals.
But with vegan cheese, every ingredient comes from plants. The process still very much relies on the protein (plant-based protein in this case) being consolidated with lactic bacteria. Then an emulsifier or thickener is added for a firmer variety.
Most vegan cheese recipes call for protein-rich legumes like almonds, cashews, and soya. Some brands also use tapioca, potato starch, arrowroot powder, white beans, and chickpea. Emulsifiers usually include coconut oil, xanthan gum, agar powder, and olive oil.
As a substitute for rennet, most people use lemon or apple cider vinegar. Others opt for probiotic supplements. Yes, you read that right. Probiotics make good coagulants for vegan cheeses too. The key is in the lactic bacteria present in these supplements. So if you’re looking for a less acidic alternative to rennet, that bottle of probiotic supplement in your medicine box might just be the answer. Just make sure it has the right probiotic strains.
Health Benefits of Vegan Cheese
As each brand uses different ingredients and processes, the nutritional value of vegan cheese can vary widely. In general, however, they have lesser fat and cholesterol content than traditional cheese. Thus they present a lower risk of heart disease, obesity, high blood pressure, and other related illnesses.
Because it uses no dairy, it’s safe for the lactose intolerant. This also makes cross-contamination one less thing to worry about. Milk is also found to have high levels of the hormone estrogen. Thus incorporating vegan cheese into your diet can significantly reduce your risk of prostate and breast cancer.
Switching to vegan cheese helps your weight loss efforts too. It has lower calorie than most dairy products which lets you indulge in it without packing on more pounds. Thanks to its probiotic content, vegan cheese also aids in regulating your digestive process making weight management a lot easier. Probiotics help improve your immune system too in addition to keeping your face acne free. (See more health benefits of probiotics here)
Vegan Cheese Brands Worth Checking Out
Not all vegan cheeses are created equal. Some may taste bland and rubbery. But there are vegan cheese brands that hit the nail on the head. They captured that tangy, salty and creamy taste that we all come to love. And you can easily find them in the whole foods section of your local supermarket.
This environmentally conscious startup makes vegan cream cheese, aged cheese, and even yogurt. Their vegan products are all made from almond milk. Though they use plant-based ingredients, the company uses traditional techniques in making their cheese. They use microbial cultures and enzymes which helps make their cheese products taste very much close to the real deal.
Introducing vegan cheese flavors like sundried tomato garlic, double cream chive, and French-style winter truffle, Miyoko’s Kitchen cheeses are an ultimate hit, even for non-vegans! They also donate 1% of all online sales to non-profit institutions. So if you’re looking for tasty and ethical vegan products, give this brand a try.
Field Roast is famous for its vegan meats and deli substitutes but it seems like their vegan cheese is winning the market too. Made with fermented Chao tofu, coconut oil, potato starch, and filtered water, their cold cheese looks, tastes, smells and feels like real cheese. Its firm with a strong cheesy smell and melts just right when heated.
Daiya claims that their vegan cheese melts like real cheese. They weren’t kidding. It captures the right combination of that gooey elasticity and creaminess that we usually associate with real cheese. They offer string, shredded, sliced and spreadable cheese products.
Treeline’s artisanal vegan cheeses are flying off the shelf that the company has to double its production to cope with demand. That’s how much people love their cashew-based dairy-free cheese products. The company claims to make their cheeses from the finest Brazilian cashew nuts fermented to perfection with no oils added. Considering how tasty their vegan cheeses are, it’s so easy to believe they’re telling the truth.
Soy-based Tofutti vegan cheese is slowly making a name for itself in the vegan world. Their cream cheese is soft, rich, creamy and tastes almost identical to the real deal. Some vegans even claim to make a frosting out of it and no one knows its not real cheese until they were told so.
If you’ve ever had vegan pies at Pizza Hut, then you’ve already tasted Violife’s vegan cheeses. Based out of Greece, this startup makes plant-based cheeses that could pass as real cheese. They have parmesan, mozzarella, cheddar, gouda, feta, Mediterranean style, provolone, and blue cheese.
Follow Your Heart is indeed capturing the hearts of vegans all over with their amazing vegan cheese products. You can put it in basically every recipe that calls for cheese. Pop it in the microwave with your fave macaroni shells and you got yourself a delicious vegan mac and cheese dinner. It tastes so cheese-like that you can serve it in family dinners and none would be the wiser.
With cheeses hand made from fermented cashew, macadamia or a combination of both, this start-up looks like its heading the right direction. Punk Rawk Labs uses time tested methods for making cheese with only four simple ingredients: organic nuts, water, bacteria culture, and salt.
Among all the cheese brands listed here, Heidi Ho has the most unique set of ingredients. Their savory cheeses are made from cashews and a vegetable puree consisting of red potatoes, bell peppers, carrots, onions, and garlic. What sets them apart though is their use of chia seeds. In fact, three out of their five flavors are chia-based. The company also supports the farm-to-table movement and sources its ingredients from local farmers.