One bite and you’ll see why Daiya’s Medium Cheddar Style Farmhouse Block is already a fan favorite. It’s got the rich cheddar flavor and melty, gooey texture of real cheddar cheese, making it the perfect alternative for mac-n-cheese, nachos or any other comfort foods you crave.
What Are the Benefits of Vegan Cheese?
For some of us, one of the hardest parts about going vegan is giving up dairy products. And cheese, in particular, is everywhere. It’s stuffed in sandwiches and pasta shells, layered over pizza dough, sprinkled in salads, stuffed in tacos and burritos, baked into crackers, served raw with wine and fruit, and poured over plates of nachos. Even traditionally non-dairy products like ramen are starting to offer cheese-flavored options. And if you’re a cheese lover, you’re probably convinced that nothing can replicate the cold creaminess of real cheese. You’ve switched over to almond milk and Tofurky burgers, but cheese? Do you really have to spend the rest of your life choking down a plastic-y, artificial-tasting mess that doesn’t even melt properly?
In recent years, non-dairy cheese has expanded far beyond the one or two products you used to see tucked away at the back of the grocery store. Dozens of vegan cheese products have sprung up on the market, each offering their own unique take on the classic cheese recipe. Most products start with a base of something like cashews, fermented tofu, or coconut oil, then add all-natural ingredients like salt, proteins, and nutritional yeast. It might seem impossible, but these recipes are delicately balanced to replicate the flavor, texture, and melty goodness of traditional dairy-based cheese. In fact, once you’ve taken a bite, you might find yourself preferring nut- and plant-based cheeses over the so-called “real thing.”
Why Should You Switch from Dairy-Based Cheese to Vegan?
We all heard the line in elementary school: “Dairy is full of calcium, which helps build strong bones!” It’s true that eating dairy cheese does have some health benefits. Cheese is indeed rich and calcium, and offers vitamins and proteins. But the health risks of eating dairy-based cheese far outweigh the benefits. Cheese is loaded with calories and saturated fats, and while it’s okay to eat in moderation, most of us consume far too much. That cheese-slathered pizza you’ve been getting from the local pizza place? It’s not just the bread and meat that makes people gain weight. If you eat a lot of cheese, you’ll have to exercise quite a bit to burn off all those excess calories.
Dairy products are also loaded with hormones. Cow’s milk is chock-full of dozens of naturally occurring hormones, and with the addition of artificial hormones during the process, who knows what you’re consuming? Excessive dairy consumption has been linked to cancer, diabetes, and even mood swings. A glass of milk with dinner won’t kill you, but when you think about how prevalent cheese is in American culture, you realize that we’re all consuming far too much.
And as every environmentally-conscious person knows, the dairy industry is rife with the horrific abuse of animals. Dairy cows are crammed into tiny cages and forcibly impregnated so they can continuously produce milk for the next three or four years. After that, they’re shipped to the slaughterhouse. They undergo painful surgeries without anesthesia–for example, their tails are cut off to make the milking process easier for the farmers–and they never get the chance to graze in a field or feel the warmth of sunlight on their faces. It’s true that certain farms allow their cows to happily live out their lives, but the vast majority of cheese products are sourced from factory farmed milk.
What Are the Health Benefits of Vegan Cheese Products?
Have you ever noticed how heavy and greasy you feel after eating a plate of cheese-soaked nachos or a slice of cheese-stuffed lasagna? You won’t feel like that with vegan cheese products. Vegan dairy alternatives are made from light, all-natural ingredients that aren’t packed with chemicals and hormones. A typical vegan alternative to cheese might include cashews, filtered water, nutritional yeast, coconut oil, rice, tapioca, salt, or natural proteins. It’s so simple that you can make it at home–and many vegans do. You’ll get all the rich, creamy flavor of cheese without any of the harmful side effects.
Vegan cheese also has much lower levels of fat and cholesterol. Most non-dairy cheese is non-allergenic (with the exception of soy and nuts), and it’s perfect for those who are lactose intolerant but still want to enjoy the creamy richness of cheese. And best of all, it’s completely free from growth hormones, toxic chemicals, and artificial additives that are rife in the dairy industry.
Does Non-Dairy Cheese Satisfactorily Compare to “Real” Cheese?
In the past, you might have had trouble finding a non-dairy cheese product that actually tasted like cheese. Fortunately, most major brands have tweaked and altered their recipes to perfection, offering plant- or nut-based options that taste just like a brick of cheddar. Vegan cheese typically has a smooth, creamy, mildly nutty flavor that cuts, slices, and melts just like traditional cheese. The cheese can be stirred and melted into your dishes for that classic gooey cheesy goodness. Remember the thrill of picking up a slice of pizza and watching strings of cheese pull away from the pan? You won’t have to sacrifice that with vegan mozzarella, which is just as fresh and creamy as the real thing.
Non-dairy cheese comes in a wide range of products. The classic bricks and shreds are still on the market, but you can also buy individually wrapped slices if you want to get the full American cheese experience. Some brands have also branched out into specialty products like spreadable cheese, fondue, flavored snacks, and even vegan cheesecake. You can enjoy all your favorite cheese-loaded dishes without feeling like you’re clogging your arteries.
Most major grocery stores carry a few variations on the traditional cheddar and Swiss varieties. But if you do a little searching, you’ll discover a whole world of vegan cheeses that go way beyond the basic flavors. You can find vegan versions of mozzarella, smoked Gouda, Gruyère, Parmesan, feta, cream cheese, and even brie (yes, there’s a vegan version of brie!) Several brands have also branched out into unique recipes that don’t have any roots in the “traditional” cheese world. These cheeses are flavored with garlic, spices, herbs, peppers, and other ingredients that make each variation a delicious work of art.
Where Can I Find A Vegan Alternative to Cheese?
If you’re ready to take the plunge, your local grocery store probably has a few non-dairy cheese products on their shelves. When you’re ready to get more adventurous, try looking around in a specialty store or gourmet food store–they typically carry a wider range of products. Health food stores are also a great place to find new non-dairy cheeses that you haven’t tried before.
If you live in a rural area or don’t have any specialty stores nearby, several brands offer online stores where you can have their products shipped directly to your house. You can also buy non-dairy cheese-making kits online, if you’d prefer to be involved with every step of the process. Many vegan cheeses are made with simple ingredients like cashews and sunflower seeds. And unlike regular cheese, which can take days (or weeks) to age properly, vegan cheese is typically ready to eat in a matter of minutes. Simply blend the ingredients, cook it up, chill, and enjoy!