I love cheese. I love the taste, the smell, the gooey texture when melted and the mouth feel. Because I adore cheese, I have found it hard to transition from a vegetarian lifestyle to a vegan one. Consciously it is important to me to do this. Climate change, better health and animal rights are all topics that have made me want to change my lifestyle. So, you can see it was a struggle. A struggle until I found nutritional yeast. Nutritional yeast is the form of yeast called Saccharomyces cerevisiae. When added to recipe it takes very similar to cheddar cheese! It’s allowed me to work towards veganism.
Nutritional yeast is found in most versions of vegan cheese. Vegan cheese also contains a variety of plant-based products. These can include nuts, soy, seeds, coconut milk for creaminess, agar agar to firm the cheese, lemon for acidity, salt for flavour, tapioca starch to make the cheese melt better, and root veggies for bulk.
Like dairy based cheese vegan cheese comes in many varieties including Parmesan, mozzarella, cream cheese, shredded cheese, block sliced, nacho cheese, and Gouda. The best cheeses tend to have a cashew nut base as the taste is neutral and allows the flavourings to shine.
Vegan cheese is often fortified with Vitamin B12; something that is essential for a healthy diet. In general plant-based cheese eaters tend to have better blood pressure and cholesterol than dairy consumers.
When choosing a plant-based cheese make sure you read the labels on the different vegan products. Some commercial forms of vegan cheese are high in saturated fat in the form of vegetable oil or coconut oil. The oils increase the smooth mouth feel of the product so some oil in the product is not a bad thing just watch that you’re not getting to much fat from the product you choose.
Ideally, it might be best to make your own cheese. It’s simple and you can control the amount of salt and fat in the product. Parmesan cheese, for example, takes minutes to make, stores for several weeks and is excellent anywhere you would use dairy Parmesan.
(Note: Parmesan vegan cheese does not melt)
1 cup raw cashews
1 tsp salt
1 tbsp garlic powder
Blend all items in a blender just until mixed. Do not over blend or you will make garlic cashew butter.
Seal and keep in the fridge for several weeks. Shake the flakes on your favourite recipe.
With the creation of commercially available yogourt vegan cream cheese is now easier to find. Vegan cream cheese is light like dairy cream cheese and can be used on a bagel or in vegan cheesecakes. The recipe takes a little time, but the resulting cream cheese is worth the wait.
Vegan Cream cheese
2 cups unsweetened soy yogourt – plain or vanilla if you’re creating a sweet dessert
½ tsp salt
Cover a large bowl with cheese cloth. And secure so the cloth will not fall into the bowl. Pour yogourt onto the cloth and let sit in the refrigerator for at least 8 hours. The liquid in the yogourt will fall through the bowl leaving the cream cheese.
Refrigerate in an airtight container for up to 7 days. Note: vegan cream cheese does not freeze well.