Vegan cheese is a plant-based substitute for animal-based cheese, and it's popular among people who want to go dairy-free or those who have lactose intolerance.
Vegan cheese is also recommended for people who are on a plant-based, vegetarian or vegan diet. However, do note that store-bought vegan cheese is highly processed and is not always a “natural” product like dairy cheese.
Like regular cheese, vegan cheese must be eaten in moderation. (Related: Reset your gut hormones with a vegan diet.)
Nut-based “cheeses” are popular vegan cheese products because their taste and texture closely mimic that of dairy cheese. While nut-based cheese contains less calcium than regular cheese, you can now find calcium-fortified products on the market.
But you also have the option to make nut-based cheese at home. This type of vegan cheese requires little processing. It's also easy to make seed cheese, which has a similar culturing process to conventional cheese.
The manufacturing process for both kinds of cheese involves soaking, blending and fermenting nuts or seeds with the same bacteria often used to make dairy cheese. Nut and seed cheeses can be infused with flavor by adding nutritional yeast or herbs.
Nut- and seed-based cheeses are often made from:
Coconut is used as a base for cheese alternatives, but it needs to be processed to attain a texture similar to cheese. Coconut oil's high fat content helps recreate the rich creaminess of cheese.
However, the strong flavor of coconut also requires the addition of other ingredients to make it taste cheesy. Coconut-based cheese contains starch or flour, along with flavorful ingredients like garlic powder, lemon juice, nutritional yeast, onion powder and salt.
Tuber vegetables like potatoes and carrots are often used in cheese sauces and spreads, particularly vegan nacho cheese.
You can make this kind of cheese at home using fresh ingredients. First, chop up the vegetables, then boil them until they’re soft. Transfer the mixture to a blender and process until smooth.
Boost the flavor and texture of your vegan cheese by adding non-dairy milk, nutritional yeast, oil, starch, water and seasonings. Other vegan cheese bases include aquafaba, hazelnuts, onions, and vegetable broth.
Cheese substitutes can be made out of tapioca flour or combinations of flours and other products like soy. This kind of cheese is less likely to be used as sliceable cheese, but you can still use it in sauces.
A small amount of tapioca flour is used as a binding agent for nut-, seed- and soy-based cheese products. These are available in more solid forms.
Like dairy cheese, you must consume store-bought vegan cheese in moderation since they contain coagulants, salt and vegetable oils. In contrast, homemade varieties like carrot-, nut-, potato- or seed-based cheeses can be made with whole foods, which makes them better nutritionally.
Try making healthy vegan cheeses at home by following the recipes below:
This cashew brie takes 30 minutes to prep.
Ingredients for 8 servings:
You'll need 12 hours of prep time for these vegan mozzarella sticks.
Spread a bit of vegan cheese on crackers or a bagel for a healthy snack. Who says vegans can't have their cheese and eat it too?