Week One: Changing Vegan Perspectives
Vegan cheese is “real” cheese! Showcase your best cheesy dish.
Steven and I just returned from an incredible all-vegan vacation (more on that later), and we had the chance to chat with plenty of vegans — many of them newish — about veg products available in the States and abroad (we were in London and Norway). Among the newer vegans, conversation often turned to perhaps the most deeply desired — yet frequently disappointing — food: cheese. As in, which brands are good, which brands are horrible, which products lend themselves well to which application. For the almost-vegans we chatted with, cheese was frequently the sole item they found themselves craving and occasionally indulging in.
I’ve talked about cheese quite a few times on the ol’ blog. In truth, though, after eight years without it, I really don’t miss it. Sure, I’d love a perfect analogue for the sharp, sliceable Vermont cheddar I grew up with, but you know what? I’m not going to spend my time crying about it. Instead, I just enjoy what’s available to me now and rest easy knowing that I’m not contributing to any of the horrors endemic to the dairy industry.
If you’re a new vegan missing cheese (or a would-be vegan scared about missing it), my best advice is to just stop eating it for three to four weeks. Give it a break. Avoid vegan substitutions. Then, when you’ve lost the taste for it just a bit, dive on in to the myriad substitutes available and enjoy them as they are. They are not identical to their dairy-based counterparts, but many are still damn tasty. From local, small-batch producers (such as our MD-based This is Vegan Foods varieties) to countrywide powerhouses (Miyoko’s!) to big-time international brands (Follow Your Heart!), there are a whole lot of vegan cheesemakers out there. Here are some of my current picks for the best vegan cheeses (barring in mind that I actually don’t buy vegan cheese all that often!).
My favorite store-bought vegan cheeses
- The best slices for sandwiches or grilled cheese: Field Roast Chao slices, any flavor
- The best artisanal cheese for a cheese-and-cracker snack plate: Anything from Miyoko’s Kitchen
- The best shakeable parmesan that reminds you of the cheap stuff you used to dump onto pasta: Go Veggie (or straight-up nooch!)
- The best cream cheese for bagels: Kite Hill chive (I used to be a diehard Tofutti fangirl, but I tried Kite Hill recently and was smitten!)
- The best shreds: UNDECIDED! The new Follow Your Heart ones seem pretty promising, but I’m between favorites right now. ;) Violife is new to the U.S. and I’d love to try their offerings!
- The best queso for nachos, baked potatoes, or even modifying for mac ’n’ cheese: This recipe, which I use frequently — it’s deceptively simple and so satisfying. I use unsweetened almond milk instead of water to make it extra creamy.
I also enjoy making my own cheeses. Anything from Miyoko Schinner’s Artisan Vegan Cheese is bound to be great, but here are a few other recipes I like.
My favorite homemade vegan cheeses
- This melty, stretchy, neutral-flavored vegan mozzarella is great on pizza.
- The small-batch, customizable almond-based cheeses from Maple Spice have served me well on many occasions.
- If you’re into smoked cheeses, this smoked coconut gouda is a neat (and nut-free!) option.
- This almond milk pepper jack is another simple one that uses some unexpected ingredients.
- For a fun retro cheese ball experience, here is a nut-free cheddar cheese ball.
I’m also a big fan of a simple cashew cream when I want something evocative of cheese but not overly flavorful. One of my favorite applications to date was in this butternut squash gratin, which uses both cashew cream and coconut milk to create an ultra luxe sauce. It’s a decadent recipe, perfect for the holidays
What are your favorite cheeses, either store-bought or homemade?
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