It has often been said cheese is one of the hardest things to give up when going vegan. (Apparently bacon is another.) I started by giving up conventional cow’s milk cheese, mostly because I had become lactose intolerant. Though I found raw and/or organic cow’s milk cheese and organic goat’s milk cheese tolerable, I eventually gave those up as well. I was ok for awhile but still craved the texture and flavour that cheese imparted to foods. After trying various non-dairy alternatives, I came across a few brands that tasted and behaved similar to the real thing.
Some vegan cheese companies:
I also discovered the part to cheese I found so irresistible: fermentation. It’s this process, the use of microorganisms (eg. bacteria, yeast) to break down a substance, that also attracts me to sourdough bread. While earlier attempts to mimic the culinary characteristics of cheese had much room for improvement, today’s vegan cheese products can often rival the real thing. From using hard-to-pronounce ingredients to using real food and an artisan approach, vegan cheese making has come a long way. Soy, coconut oil and cashews are often used as a base for vegan cheese with additions of nutritional yeast, agar and tapioca flour for thickening/binding. Herbs and spices can also be added for a distinct flavour profile. Using rejuvelac, a fermented liquid, helps give that lactic acid flavour characteristic of fermentation. It is made by fermenting sprouted grains (eg quinoa, rice) in water. When done properly rejuvelac should contain probiotics, active enzymes and beneficial bacteria.
Parmesan – Place some blanched almonds in a food processor and process until crumbly. Add a dash of salt and some nutritional yeast. You can also use walnuts in addition to or instead of almonds.
Cheese sauce – Combine some coconut milk, nutritional yeast, prepared mustard, puréed pumpkin and some salt, lemon juice and onion and garlic powder in a pot. Stir until melded together. Add some fake cheese shreds if desired. Mix with macaroni, broccoli or cauliflower and bake. For a pub style nacho cheese replace coconut milk with some vegan beer and serve as dip.
Link for the Artisan Vegan Cheese cookbook:
A suggested list of great vegan cheeses: