Alternative cheeses may strike some as strange, but they’re a game-changer for those who are lactose intolerant or are eating vegan food. There is quite a variety of non-dairy cheeses nowadays and many of them are made with nuts instead. This may seem strange, but it’s actually awesome for health, the planet, and vegan cheese lovers who don’t eat dairy.
What's the Issue with Regular Cheese?
Dairy cheese contains a lot of saturated fats and sodium, which you want to consume in moderation. In fact, the delicious gooey stuff on pizza that is loved so dearly and regular store-bought cheese are the top two contributors of saturated fat in a standard American diet. Imagine all the other saturated fats you consume in addition to those.
There are also some concerns about the ways that dairy cheeses are produced. A lot of cheese factories are not the most environmentally friendly.
Heavily dairy factory populated areas suffer from air pollution, and those near water sources are a threat, too. Runoff can cause groundwater poisoning on top of all the greenhouse gas emissions. Not to mention that, if you’re an animal lover, the inhumane practices of dairy farms should be enough of a reason to at least explore vegan cheese.
History and Types of Nut Cheese
For a long time, vegan cheeses were merely featured in cookbooks and something that you had to make at home. This was done by soaking and blending your choice of nuts, adding some spices, and letting it sit out for a certain amount of time before refrigerating and eating.
Or, you could opt for the super expensive, and super processed dairy-free cheese that uses protein casein. They are not suitable for a vegan diet. On top of them being hard to find with very slim alternatives, a big problem that many had with cheese for vegan consumption was the texture being all wrong.
The early alternatives had no close resemblance in taste or texture to the original. But now, there’s an abundance of nut options and they’re becoming increasingly available. These options are made of:
Sometimes 1 tbsp coconut oil is also added to help produce a firmer feeling product. You can make completely dairy-free and delicious alternatives in any way you can think of, including cream cheese and cashew cheese sauce.
What is Vegan Cheese Made Out Of - The Process
Selecting the Nuts.
Cashews are the most commonly used because they’re soft and have a creamier texture than other nuts. Whichever base you choose has a huge impact on the consistency and how your batch will taste.
The first step is soaking the nuts in a container after a thorough wash, based on the size and roughness. Almonds, for example, get soaked in a mixing bowl for over six hours before being blended in a food processor for almond milk. Softer nuts like cashews are soaked between two and three hours for cashew milk.
Similar to dairy cheese, there’s a fermentation process to add the beloved cheesy tang. Most vegan cheese options are infused with probiotics, agar agar powder, or apple cider vinegar. Once this is done, you set them aside for anywhere between eight hours to a few days to be allowed to ferment like wine.
The aging process is where it develops most of its flavor. It’s allowed to age from six weeks to however long is needed to achieve the texture desired. Milder options get less time to age whereas parmesan and harder alternatives are given a lot more time to achieve the stiffness needed.
Cheese flavor is normally added during the fermentation process. There are a variety of things that you can add, ranging from herbs and spices to teas, mushrooms, and algae! For example, you may use:
It's easy to make your own. You'll need a cheese recipe, nuts, a milk bag/ cheesecloth, and an immersion blender.
Is nut cheese healthy?
They are normally gluten-free and lower in fats. Cheese vegan is also free of growth hormones, animal proteins, and has less unhealthy fat. This makes it better for your heart and cholesterol levels in the long run.
On that note, have you ever asked yourself which nut milk is healthiest?
What does nut cheese taste like?
With the abundance of research and testing that has happened, nut cheeses are a lot like their dairy counterparts. Some brands prefer to keep some of the nutty flavors while others like to be as close in flavor to the dairy products as possible. It’s all about the alternative option you choose.
What is the vegan alternative to cheese?
The majority of nut milk is vegan friendly and delicious. They are made purely of plant-driven ingredients. There are also non-dairy options for vegans and non-vegans with nut allergies. Some recipes call for nutritional yeast instead.
What is the best plant-based cheese?
If you like a softer, more subtle flavor, a cashew one might be your favorite type. On the other hand, for people who like harder and stinkier cheese, some well-aged almond cheese recipes may be what’s best for your tastebuds.
Final Thoughts - Getting into Vegan Cheeses
Purchasing and consuming nut cheeses can clear your conscience when it comes to worrying about clogging your arteries or making sure animals are treated properly. It was a long road of experimentation to perfect the science of vegan cheese. A lot of trial and error was put into making all sorts on non-dairy cheeses. Now, we have such a diverse assortment of nut cheeses to satisfy nearly any cheese cravings.