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What is vegan cheese made of, and is it healthy?




For many years it was harder to find a good vegan substitute for cheese than for many other animal-derived foods. Yet in recent years a booming market across the whole range of vegan products has led to new innovations and recipes. Vegan cheese has moved away from its formerly sad, rubbery existence toward achieving the same melty, rich consistency for which animal-derived cheese is loved. Now vegan cheese is just as delicious as “real” cheese, without the negative environmental and animal welfare impacts.


What is vegan cheese made of?

If you were to reach for a few different vegan cheese alternatives in the grocery store and flip them over to review the ingredients list, you’d see a lot of variety. All of the cheeses would likely have a source of protein and a source of fat listed among the various other ingredients, but beyond that they might have little in common. One of the great things about vegan cheeses is that they can be made from such a vast array of different ingredients. There are cheeses made of nuts, others made from oats or vegetables such as sweet potatoes, and still others made out of tofu. This not only means that there’s likely an option out there that meets even the most detailed dietary restrictions, but also means simply that there are a lot of options to try and that there’s likely one that you’ll find as delicious as any dairy counterpart.


The variation in what vegan cheeses are made of is due to a few different factors. Cheeses that are made at home tend to have simpler ingredients that can be acquired at a grocery store, while cheeses that are made on a larger scale may have more additives to achieve a particular color, texture, and taste. Another reason that the ingredients in vegan cheese vary so much is that there are so many different animal-derived cheeses to imitate. Specific ingredients tend to lend themselves better to imitating different products, for example, one might choose to use tofu as the base for a mild, soft cheese.


What is vegan mozzarella made of?

Mozzarella is known for its mild flavor and soft texture. A good vegan mozzarella alternative must not only capture these aspects of the cheese, but should also melt perfectly so that it can be used on pizzas and pastas in the many ways that animal-derived mozzarella can. Recipes for vegan mozzarella have aimed to reproduce all of its aspects by using a number of different ingredients.


Store-bought

As mozzarella is a mildly flavored cheese, it may come as no surprise that Felices Las Vacas’ vegan alternative cheese, Muzzalmendra, has a short and fairly simple list of ingredients that includes water, almonds, coconut oil, cassava starch, rice, yeast, spices, and salt, in that order. Another brand of vegan mozzarella, Numu, has a slightly longer list of ingredients and uses coconut oil, different starches, and soy milk powder in their version of mozzarella.


Homemade

There are several different recipes for making vegan mozzarella from scratch at home. Common ingredients you might find in recipes are tofu, various plant-based milks, cashews, and nutritional yeast.

What is vegan cream cheese made of?

Cream cheese is not only used to spread on a slice of bread in the morning for breakfast, but also to lend creaminess to sauces, and is viewed as a mainstay in a wide array of dips. Successful vegan cream cheeses can also be used in all of these different ways without sacrificing texture or flavor. Creamosa — a vegan cream cheese alternative from Felices Las Vacas — uses water, almonds, coconut oil, cassava starch, rice, yeast, spices, and salt to achieve a consistency, versatility, and flavor similar to animal-derived cream cheese. For making vegan cream cheese at home many recipes opt for cashews, because they get very soft when soaked and can be blended with other ingredients to achieve a creamier texture.


What are vegan soft cheeses made of?

The world of soft cheeses contains a wide array of different flavors and textures. Ricotta is a very mild cheese whereas feta is endowed with a tangy flavor. Gorgonzola has a strong taste similar to other blue cheeses, but brie is more mild and buttery. Because of this huge range of different tastes and textures, soft vegan cheeses can be made out of a lot of different ingredients. Nuts are the base for both Vegan Gift Foods mozzarella and cream cheese substitutes. When it comes to recipes for making soft cheeses at home, tofu is used in some recipes to help achieve the desired texture. In soft vegan blue cheeses, like gorgonzola, spirulina is often used to grant the cheese the bluish-green coloring that animal-derived blue cheeses are known for.


Vegan cheese frequently asked questions


Does vegan cheese taste like cheese?

Cheese doesn’t have a uniform taste, so unsurprisingly vegan cheese doesn’t either. There are hundreds of different kinds of vegan cheeses with different flavors, textures, and purposes. There are vegan sliced cheeses that are great for adding to sandwiches and soft, flavored cheeses that can dress up any charcuterie board. Along with the rest of the vegan substitute industry, the number of vegan cheeses available on the market has exploded in recent years. This has not only increased the options available to consumers but also increased the quality of vegan cheeses.


Is vegan cheese healthier than real cheese?

There are several factors to consider when determining whether or not vegan cheese is healthier than animal-derived cheese. In addition to the impact that cheese may have on an individual’s body, there are also other factors including environmental damage and the public health risks of animal farming to consider.


Dairy, like other animal products, contains cholesterol, something that is absent in all fully vegan foods, and high levels of saturated fats. Consuming too much dairy, such as cheese, may lead to coronary heart disease. Further, around 70% of the global population is lactose intolerant, meaning that they are likely to experience cramping, bloating, and diarrhea if they consume cheese and other dairy products.


As is the case with all animal-derived foods, dairy is highly destructive to the environment. For example, producing just one liter of milk requires 628 liters of water. In addition, the dairy industry is responsible for the release of 2.1 gigatons of carbon dioxide annually.


The production of animal-derived cheese and other dairy products is only possible on the scale we have today due to the millions of dairy cows kept on factory farms around the world. These factory farms are the perfect breeding ground for disease, as often the cows are kept in unhygienic environments and the overuse of antibiotics encourages drug-resistant infections. For these reasons a number of widespread diseases are spread from dairy farms, including bovine tuberculosis, which in 2018 impacted 143,000 people.


Is vegan cheese inflammatory?

The vegan cheeses produced on a large scale that we are most likely to find in grocery stores are processed foods. As is the case with all processed foods, they can cause some inflammation in some consumers. Choosing to make vegan cheeses at home using whole-food ingredients such as nuts and spices is a great way to reduce the likelihood of experiencing any inflammation.

Is vegan cheese gluten-free?


Because of the vast array of different ingredients that vegan cheeses can be made out of, checking the package, asking the waiter, or making it yourself are the best ways to ensure that a particular cheese doesn’t contain any gluten. With that being said, a lot of vegan cheeses do not contain any gluten, but rather are made up of mostly nuts, soy products, oils, and spices. Many brands of vegan cheese will actually market themselves as gluten-free, so often the ones that fall into that category are pretty easy to spot.


Does vegan cheese melt?

Yes, many types of vegan cheese do melt and provide the satisfying, instagrammable cheese pull everyone loves! Review the packaging of the individual cheese you’re considering to determine whether it's intended for use cold on sandwiches or can provide the melty texture you’re looking for.


Is vegan cheese sustainable?

Vegan cheese is a more sustainable alternative to animal-derived cheese. To understand why we must return to the dairy cows that produce the milk that is then processed into cheese. Milk uses more land, more fresh water, and produces more greenhouse gases than plant-based milk alternatives. This is in large part because on top of the resources that the cows directly use, there are also massive amounts of resources being used to grow food for them to consume. Vegan cheese, on the other hand, only requires the ingredients used directly to make it.


Conclusion

Many of us love a satisfying cheese pull when eating a pizza or grilled cheese, or a delicious smear of cream cheese on their morning bagel. Thanks to the number of new and exciting vegan cheese products entering the market, as well as the improvement of our old favorites, these experiences are no longer limited to just animal-derived cheese. Vegan cheese is better for the environment, kinder to animals, and every bit as delicious as “real” cheese. There has never been a better time to commit to a more compassionate planet by swapping out your choice of cheese.

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