Cheese Alternatives: Reinventing the Cheese Wheel
Let’s face it, the major thing that’s stopping most of us from converting to veganism is cheese. Gooey, melting, cheese. Well, that and meat of course…
Not-so-fun-fact: 70% percent of adults are reportedly lactose intolerant. And if we look at South Africa, predominantly black adults suffer from lactose intolerance, which is not ‘gouda’ at all. Regardless of this, many people will ‘deny’ being lactose intolerant because they simply cannot live without cheese or dairy.
So, if you are considering moving your cheese, for whatever reason — we have a couple of dairy-free cheese alternatives for you!
We know… it’s not fair that some get to chumble all the cheese they want without the consequences. With age, our bodies respond to certain foods and substances differently. You might find that you’ve become intolerant to certain foods or substances you once loved. For you those foods might be cheese/milk, which is unfortunate if you’re lactose intolerant.
Lactose intolerance is the inability to digest lactose (sugar found in milk), due to a lack of lactase enzymes in the body.
It’s not exactly known how the lactase gene is dramatically downregulated with age in most individuals, yet remain active in some. What we do know is that genetic factors and epigenetics come into play. For those who aren’t familiar with the term, epigenetics refers to behavioural and environmental changes that affect the expression of genes, without altering genes themselves. Some things remain a medical mystery…
While most conditions require a medical opinion before diagnosis, lactose intolerance is mostly self-diagnosable and treatable. Plus, with a cheese alternatives oozing on the market, you get to have your pick.
The main ingredient used to produce dairy-free/vegan cheese naturally depends on the type of cheese. Nuts, soy, seeds and root vegetables have been used as base ingredients for cheese alternatives. As always, best practices include checking labels to avoid consuming products containing allergens. Let’s reinvent the wheel of cheese and explore some options.
Gauda is Gouda’s vegan cousin, dairy removed. This dairy-free cheese is mostly made using oat, coconut oil, modified potato starch and chickpea flour/protein — to mimic the sweet, nutty, mild gouda taste.
Earth & Co has a great range of vegan cheeses, using coconut oil as the base ingredient. Their products are mostly dairy/soy/palm free. You can order their gauda from Green Butler. Look out for Irene’s Dairy Free Cheese product range which also includes a gouda style cheese.
If you can’t have Parmigiano Reggiano, have Parmesan. Can’t have that either? No problem, Try Parmesan sprinkle. Unfortunately, most Parmesan cheese alternatives aren’t available in the block form it traditionally presents. But if you can’t live without a young Parmesan sprinkle on your pasta or pizza — Parmesan sprinkle is the way to go.
Most vegan Parmesan sprinkle products are made using nuts and while it won’t taste exactly like the OG Parmesan, it’s slightly reminiscent. If can’t get hold of vegan parmesan, nutritional yeast is a great substitute due to its unique, savoury cheese-like flavour.
BLACK TRUFFLE CHEVRE-STYLE
Dairy lover or not, you have to admit that sounds undeniably delicious. This Dairy-Free Chevre-Style Cheese is made from cashew nuts and black truffle. Just when you thought it couldn’t get better, they’ve added dried porcini to enhance that nutty and earthy taste.
Fauxmage’s Black Truffle Chevre also contains nutritional yeast, vegan cultures and Himalayan salt. They also have an impressive range of chevre-style cheese flavours — natural, herbed garlic, olive and rosemary, black pepper, beech smoked and red hot chilli.
Come on! What’s a cheeseburger without cheese? If you’re having a Veggie Burger you’ll need a couple of cheddar slices for maximum deliciousness. Most cheddar cheeses are made using oil as the main ingredient, typically coconut oil.
Woolworths has a range of plant-based cheeses, that’s perfect for burgers and sandwiches.
Cheese is associated with many decadent dishes, but the ultimate cheese offering is (read in Italian accent, while pinching fingers) pizza. As with most vegan cheeses, the main ingredient in most vegan mozzarellas is either cashew or macadamia nuts. To get that mozzarella cheese-pull texture, binding ingredients such as agar agar, tapioca, peas and vegetable oil are added.
You’ll also find that some cheese alternatives use golden syrup to add sweetness, as well as lemon juice for slight acidity. Apart from salt, other seasonings incorporated in this dairy-free cheese may include garlic powder, which adds a wonderful flavour profile.
DAIRY-FREE CREAM CHEESE
Cream cheese is one of the most low-maintenance and versatile cheeses on the market. Have it on a tartine, schmear it on your morning bagel, put it in a cheesecake — the options are truly endless. More often than not, cheese alternatives contain oils and soya, which might make it difficult if you have to keep an eye on your cholesterol or have a soya allergy. Shoutout to Utopia Foods for creating a dairy-free and vegan-friendly Cashew Nut Cream Cheese that’s soya-free and doesn’t have any added oils.
GORGONZOLA-STYLE CASHEW CHEESE
In our opinion, the stinkier the cheese the better. Ideally, you want your cheese to look like it’s rotten — but in a good way. Gorgonzola has that characteristic blue-veined marbling and it’s stinking good! And of course, no charcuterie board is complete without it.
When it comes to cheese alternatives, the classic offerings are easier to find, but you’ll struggle to find decent blue, feta and gorgonzola options. Fauxmage’s Gorgonzola-Style is creamy in texture and tangy in taste. It’s even soy/gluten-free and is manufactured by a local brand, which makes it even more amazing!
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