When approached with the idea of a vegan diet, one of the things many people declare is that they could never give up cheese. It can be hard to believe that there’s something out there as delicious and creamy as dairy cheese, especially when most of the options found at major grocery stores have the flavor and consistency of plastic. However, as veganism grows in popularity, more and more tasty cheese substitutes are appearing on the market. Some can even be made at home.
Galaxy Foods Vegan Slices
These individually-packaged “cheese” slices are reminiscent of processed dairy cheese. The biggest difference, of course, is that they’re vegan! Galaxy Foods produces two types of vegan slices: soy-based and rice-based. Either can be used on sandwiches and burgers, to make grilled cheese, or anywhere else sliced dairy cheese would normally be used.
Take note, however, that these slices don’t melt as well as dairy cheese, so it may take a little longer to achieve the creamy texture associated with dairy cheese. Also, not all of Galaxy Foods’ cheeses are vegan. Some contain the milk protein casein, so serious vegans and those with lactose intolerance should take care to look for packages specifically labeled “vegan.”
For dishes that require a truly creamy cheese texture, VeganRella is the way to go. This vegan cheese substitute melts well and becomes gooey when baked inside lasagnas and other pasta dishes. The cheddar variety works well as a topping in burritos or quesadillas. The mozzarella flavor has the zip and tang of dairy cheese, making it a good go-to “cheese” for those new to a dairy-free diet. The only drawback of VeganRella is that it can become very sticky when it cools, making it difficult to clean off of dishes and pans that haven’t been soaked.
Daiya shredded cheese is the current darling of the vegan community. Dairy-free, soy-free, gluten-free, and nut-free with no artificial ingredients or preservatives, it’s safe for just about everyone with a dietary concern. And unlike some vegan cheeses, it melts and stretches in a way that’s similar to dairy cheese. When used on pizza, it can fool the pickiest of omnivores. Although Daiya can be pricey, it’s worth the money, especially for those who are just switching over to a diary-free lifestyle. Some pizzerias are even starting to offer vegan pizza with Daiya on top! Daiya shreds come in both mozzarella and cheddar styles.
Nutritional Yeast Sauce
Nutritional yeast is an inactive yeast with a nutty, cheesy flavor. Though it doesn’t taste exactly like dairy cheese, it comes close enough to make a good base for nacho cheese sauce and baked mac and cheese dishes. These sauces are quick and easy to make, plus making them at home offers more options for variation according to personal tastes. Nutritional yeast can be found at natural foods stores, sometimes in bulk, and is often fortified to aid vegans in getting essential nutrients like vitamin B-12.
Raw Nut Cheese
Cheese from raw nuts may sound strange, but it’s becoming more and more common in the vegan community. Nut cheeses, such as the Dr. Cow brand, can be bought from some retailers, but they can also be made at home. The texture makes them perfect for use as a ricotta substitute or anywhere a thicker filling is desired.. Nut cheeses can also be formed into logs to mimic the traditional party snack spread.
The best part of these “cheeses” is that they’re easy to customize with herbs and spices. The type of nut used varies, but the most common are cashews, almonds, and macadamia nuts. Making nut cheese at home takes a little work, but the reward is a delicious, homemade, dairy-free treat. Raw nuts can be found in bulk at some grocery stores, health food stores, and through mail-order co-ops.
These and other cheese substitutes can aid in making the switch to a vegan or otherwise dairy-free diet. Whether homemade or store-bought, it’s possible to have a good substitute for any dish that normally uses dairy cheese. The quality and best way to use each of these “cheeses” differs, but with a little trial and error, a new dairy-free favorite can emerge.