Do you frown upon the idea of cheese that is vegetarian? Do you think it is just as tasteless as tofu or a vegetarian burger?
Or perhaps you didn’t know vegetarian cheeses even existed. But they do and there is a load of variety, enough to satisfy every vegetarian/vegan out there and beyond. In fact, vegetarian cheeses prove you can age nuts and make dairy out of them.
For the past 30+ years, producers have been making vegan and vegetarian cheese from tofu, seeds and nuts, even artisan varieties.
How and when the first vegan cheeses were produced
Vegan cheeses were introduced into supermarkets in the 1980s, although prior to their commercialization chefs and manufacturers secretly worked to develop satisfying recipes.
When they first hit the market, these cheeses didn’t exactly boost sales. They were far from resembling real cheese and most people described them as plastic tasting.
There was another problem. Most of the cheese produced back then contained casein. Casein is a protein found in mammal’s milk. It was added to cheese as a stretching and thickening agent, but of course being animal-derived, was not suitable for vegans.
Here comes tofu
Tofu was already a popular food alternative and proved versatile as cheese. Tofu cheese could be processed as sandwich ingredient, spread on bread and crackers, even mashed to resemble soft cheeses and seasoned to make Greek-style salad.
But there was still an issue with taste – did not come as close to dairy cheese as people desired, and texture – tofu cheese is highly textured.
Then came the nuts
Vegans with soy allergy were particularly happy when nuts cheese was first discovered. At last, people found that nuts are just as versatile as tofu when it comes to cheese making.
Not only can these vegan cheeses take on various flavors, but also a variety of them can be made from all sorts of nuts. Cashews make mozzarella-style cheese while walnuts are good to replicate Parmesan. And in time, manufacturers started aging nut cheeses, thus developing vegan cheese that would eventually be found in common grocery stores and supermarkets.
Every day, more and more vegan cheeses are produced and sales prove that veganism is now a dominant trend. Americans are eating $30 million worth of vegan cheese every year, and with ongoing supply from countries around the world, things are looking up.
And here are some cheeses
From Canada: sun dried tomato and basil cheese made from cashew nuts; is an artisan soft cheese with creamy texture and herbal, nutty aromas.
From the U.S.: nut cream cheese made from cashew; it is a white and fresh, semi-sweet cheese with clean, fresh aroma and great to serve over crackers.
Blode Kuh: produces a variety of plant-based raw cheeses including cream cheese-style and aged semi-soft wheels.
Treeline Treenut Cheese: makes 100% dairy-free products and cheeses that include soft French-style nut cheese, Scallion French-style soft cheese and classic aged nut cheese.
Miyoko’s Kitchen: sells cashew-made cheeses like smokey mozzarella-style, mozzarella di buffalo-style, classic double cream rounds and semi-hard rustic Alpine-style cheese.