Even though most cheese aficionados are likely to claim it’s impossible to capture the essence of “fromage” without dairy, vegan cheese (or “faux-mage” if you prefer hearing groans after you say something) has come close by leaps and bounds. Let’s take a look and find out exactly what is vegan cheese—and maybe lower our risk of heart disease!
What is vegan cheese made of?
Vegan cheese—or rather the milk we use to make vegan cheese—is usually made from soy or tree nuts (think almond or cashew). Producers typically use vegetable or coconut oils as emulsifiers. Other dairy-free cheese bases include peas and arrowroot. I’d say just steer clear of any that use “the milk of animals,” as I’ve found that’s typically a big ol’ “no-no” in the vegan community.
How is vegan cheese made?
Vegan cheese is made using a similar process to proper cheese, but it starts with plant-based milk rather than stuff from a cow’s udder. Faux-mage makers add bacterial cultures in order to separate the various plant proteins in the milk, and thickeners are used to achieve some form of cheese-like texture before the aging process. The aging allows flavor to form, in addition to helping firm up the final product. The longer the aging, the drier and more fragrant the cheese. After that, it’s ready to get shredded onto a pizza or sliced up and tossed on top of your Boca burger! Either way, buddy, you’re eating good tonight!
Does vegan cheese melt?
Since most people envision cheese melting on top of tortilla chips or pizza, I was surprised to find that most vegan cheeses do not melt. Though it is possible to find some specific varieties that do (Violife and Field Roast Vegan Chao are a couple that manage a melt) this usually means that the “cheese” in question is more processed, which often defeats the purpose of eating plant-based cheese if one has gone vegan for health concerns. However, vegan cheese’s melt-averse nature does mean it’s much easier to transport and snack upon on hot summer days.
Is vegan cheese lactose free?
Yes, you bet! Vegan cheese, pretty much any which way you slice it, is plant based, therefore it does not contain the lactose element regular cheese does. This makes it not only a useful product for the vegan population, but also one for folks who are lactose-intolerant. Or, simply for folks who are doing the ever-popular “no-lactose November.” And, not to mention those with dairy-based phobias, perhaps spurring from a bad childhood experience with a cattle stampede.
Any reason you choose to enjoy it, vegan cheese is a fantastic way to get the sensation and flavor of cheese without the possible negative impact dairy can have on your system or our environment. Plus, as an added bonus, it’s a great way to get your vegan dog to swallow a pill.