August 18,2020

Vegan Cheese: What Is It Made Of?

Vegan cheese developed a bit of a notorious reputation during the late 20th century, as vegan lifestyles gained popularity in North America. Early vegan cheeses available in stores wasn’t quite palatable and didn’t act very similarly to cheese when cooked. Thankfully for vegans who find themselves craving cheese, products, and recipes for vegan cheese have come a long way. You may even be able to enjoy vegan cheese in PlantX’s Vegan Meal Delivery Service!

 

What Is Vegan Cheese?

 

Vegan cheese is an umbrella term for any cheese made dairy-free, and as plant-based recipes developed, people realized that non-dairy cheese could be made from a wide variety of ingredients. Nearly any plant milk can be made into vegan cheese, meaning there are vegan cheeses made of soy, rice, almond, nuts, and more. This versatility of ingredients is super useful to food scientists because of how many kinds of cheese exist. Vegan cheese producers have recreated rich and creamy cheeses like ricotta and hard, pungent cheeses like parmesan. Vegan cheese is also available in just as many preparations: you can find vegan cheese pre-shredded, in a block, sliced, as dips, or as cream cheese.

 

What Is Vegan Cheese Made Of?

 

Soy might be the most-used ingredient in plant-based substitutes for animal products, and for a good reason! Soy can be used in several ways to produce vegan cheese, as tofu or as soy protein. Soy has been used as a cheese analog as far back as 16th century China, as fermented tofu.

 

Nuts like almonds, walnuts, and cashews have been a great addition to the vegan cheesemaker’s toolbox.

Vegan cheese made with cashews.

These nuts have rich flavor and are high in fat, and are easily cultured and fermented for a funky, cheesy flavor. These vegan cheeses are often boosted in flavor from additions like mushrooms, herbs, or other ingredients. Some brands have even created vegan cheese that develops a rind as you would find on brie or Camembert.

 

Coconut is the rising star in vegan cheese production. Coconut milk, coconut oil, and coconut cream are rich and creamy on their own, making them a perfect base for vegan cheese. Coconut oil is also used in combination with other vegan cheese ingredients to create a rich, creamy texture.

 

Other ingredients you’ll commonly see in vegan cheeses include various flours and starches from tapioca, potato, and corn. These ingredients help vegan cheeses melt like dairy cheese alongside some scary sounding ingredients:

  • Konjac gum 
  • Agar-agar
  • Arrowroot
  • Xanthan gum

 

These may sound unfamiliar to you, but these ingredients are naturally derived-from-plants and help create that delicious cheesy, melty texture.

 

Do you have a favorite recipe you haven’t been able to make because you’re not consuming dairy? Take a look at the vegan cheese selections on your next grocery trip, because you might be surprised at how tasty they can be! Head to the PlantX Forum to discuss your favorite vegan cheese brands or recipes.