Unlike in the past when there was only a handful of known brands of cheese, today the market is awash with all kinds of cheese, most of which claim to be vegan. The number of recipes calling for vegetarian cheese has also grown exponentially.
Therefore, knowing the best types of vegetarian cheese that taste real will make your shopping easy. This article offers you the eight best types of vegan cheese that taste like the real thing.
What Is Vegetarian Cheese?
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Vegetarian cheese is a type of non-dairy, plant-based cheese, ranging from soft cheese to old and cultured hard cheese that can be grated. The main characteristic of vegetarian cheese is the fact that it doesn’t contain animal products. The most common types of vegan cheese are normally derived from vegetable components, including proteins, fat, and milk.
However, many other types of vegan cheese are made with components derived from seeds like sesame and sunflower, and nuts, such as cashew nuts, pine nuts, almonds, and peanuts. Other common sources of vegetarian cheese include soybeans, coconut oil, tapioca, potatoes, spices, nutritional yeast, rice, among others.
It is widely claimed that vegan cheese was invented in China in the 16th century using fermented tofu and whole soy. As time went by, people started making their homemade vegetarian cheese from soy flour, yeast extract, and margarine. Hard margarine produces hard, sliceable vegetarian cheese, while softer margarine produces soft, spreadable cheese.
Vegan cheese became commercially available in the 1970s and 1980s. However, the initial product had low quality than dairy cheese, with a waxy, pallid, or plastic-like feel. A few decades ago, the only available brand of vegetarian cheese in the United States was Soymage.
But since then more brands have continued to emerge, with some manufacturers even diversifying their vegan cheeses.
For instance, soy-free vegan cheeses are now available. According to market research performed in 2018, the market for vegetarian cheese has grown on a global scale, with Europe taking the largest market share of about 43 percent, followed by the US, Asia-Pacific, South America, Middle East, and Africa.
Experts estimate that the global market for vegan cheese will attain a market value of about $3.9 billion by 2025, up from $2.1 billion in 2016.
Is Any Cheese Vegetarian?
While some types of cheese can be absolutely vegan, most of them technically aren’t. It all depends on whether the product contains the sneaky animal-derived enzyme known as rennet. Originally, rennet was used to coagulate and solidify different types of cheese.
So, some unscrupulous cheese manufacturers will use this enzyme to solidify their plant-based cheese and label it as absolutely vegan.
In short, any type of cheese containing rennet or any other animal enzyme used for coagulation – separating milk into solid curds – is not vegan. This enzyme is obtained from the stomach of a ruminant animal like a cow or goat.
Therefore, you need to be careful when buying your vegetarian cheese to ensure that it doesn’t contain rennet. Most cheese manufacturers indicate one of these phrases on their product labels, especially if the products contain rennet: “animal enzymes”, “rennet”, or “enzymes”.
What’s the Difference Between Cheese and Vegetarian Cheese?
As mentioned above, real cheese comes from animal milk, including cow, goat, and sheep milk. To obtain this type of cheese, you have to separate the curds (solids) in the milk from the liquid element (whey). In most cases, acids or enzymes such as rennet are added to the milk to form curds.
The curds are then taken through several other processes, depending on the type of cheese being prepared. Vegetarian cheese, on the other, comes from plants, including vegetables, seeds, and nuts. So, the main difference between vegetarian cheese and other types of cheese is the type of rennin used to form the curds.
In other words, animal rennet is obtained from animals, and any cheese made using this type of rennet is not vegetarian. So, only cheeses that are made using rennet obtained from plants should be referred to as vegetarian.
8 Kinds of Cheese for Vegetarians
1. Violife Shreds
Image source: Violifefoods.com
Shredded cheese from the Violife brand is one of the most popular vegan cheeses. It comes in three main varieties: cheddar, Colby Jack, and mozzarella. There isn’t any major difference in taste between these varieties. However, the mozzarella shreds are somewhat milder than the rest.
One of the main reasons why Violife shreds are so special is the fact that they do melt easily when sandwiched between hot layers of grilled steak, or when put on a pizza or flatbread and placed in the oven.
2. Moocho Foods Dairy-Free Shreds
Image source: Mochofoods.com
Mocho Foods is a spinoff brand of Tofurky company, which has been making the famous vegan holiday roast. Recently, the company decided to dip its toes into the production of plant-based cheese. Surprisingly, its cheese has quickly become a favorite in homes.
Its main selling point is the ability to melt when making a hot burger. Furthermore, these shreds are flavor-forward. While most other vegan cheeses taste like real cheese but in a nondescript way, Mocho Foods’ flavors are quite distinctive.
3. Daiya Plant-Based Cheese Shreds
Image source: Daiyafoods.com
Daiya shreds were launched in 2008, the same year when Daiya brand was established. These shreds, which are known to melt easily, were among the first upgrades to the traditional vegan cheese. Daiya mozzarella shreds are commonly found on the vegetarian option at typical pizzarias, and they are free of common allergens like tree nuts.
4. Follow Your Heart Slices
Image source: Followyourheart.com
These slices are the number one choice for making a classic grilled cheese or topping burgers. So, if you are in the mood for something unique, you should make a tomato grilled cheese with the salty smoked gouda from Follow Your Heart. Fortunately, these slices melt neatly to work even in Toastabags.
5. Field Roast Chao Slices
Image source: Fieldroast.com
If you want a slice of cheese to stack in a fully loaded sandwich, you should reach for a Chao slice. These slices come in spicy, smoldered, and original flavors. Although they do not melt as quickly as other vegan cheese slices, they are among the tastiest. These cheese slices are made from fermented tofu, which gives them a rich, creamy flavor.
6. Parmela Creamery Slices
Image source: Parmelacreamery.com
If you love sharp cheddar, then you should try the plant-based sharp cheddar slices from Parmela Creamery. These slices are gently fermented and are sharp enough to stand out from the brand’s mild cheddar slices. They are thicker and larger than many other vegan cheese brands. Their toughness makes them the main affair in a sandwich.
7. Kite Hill Dairy-Free Cream Cheese
Image source: Kite-hill.com
Kite Hill cream cheese is one of the most preferred vegan cream cheeses. It has a smoother consistency than its competitors, more like orthodox cream cheese. It’s perfect on bagels and for sweet applications, such as cream cheese topping for carrot cakes.
8. Miyoko’s Creamery Organic Cashew Milk Mozzarella
Image source: Miyokos.com
Miyoko’s Creamy cultured vegan mozzarella cheese is suitable for people who love to slice their own cheese. This type of vegan cheese was inspired by mozzarella di buffala, and it’s suitable for homemade pizza Margherita. It also tastes great in a vegan Caprese salad with ripe tomatoes and good, syrupy balsamic. Its texture is semi-elastic and the taste is buttery.
Common Vegetarian Cheese Recipes to Try
If you are a vegetarian, there are many recipes that you can make with vegetarian cheese. The good thing about most of these types of cheese is that they taste like real cheese. Here are some of the common vegan cheeses you should try.
1. Herb Cashew Cream Cheese
Herb cashew cream cheese is one of the most preferred vegan cheese recipes today. The good thing about this cheese recipe is that it is very easy to make. It is also very creamy garlicky. You can make it with garlic, nutritional yeast, and other fresh herbs.
2. Vegan Blue Cheese
This vegan cheese, which tastes like real cheese, is made using traditional cheese-making techniques and simple ingredients, including cashews, coconut oil, nutritional yeast, and water. It is a creamy, sharp, and tough cheese that is perfect for Christmas celebrations.
3. Almond Feta
This is a salty and saline vegan cheese made with raw almonds and nutritional yeast. It can be crumbled over salads or melted in a variety of traditional dishes. Its flavor becomes stronger over time.
4. Nacho Cheese Dip
This type of vegan cheese is made using butter, all-purpose flour, chili powder, nutritional yeast, and salt. It is so tasty that you might not believe it is vegan.
5. Parmesan Cheese
Parmesan cheese is quite easy to make and very delicious. Furthermore, it can stay fresh for a long time and it’s cheaper to make than traditional parmesan cheese. You will also love the fact that it is gluten and dairy-free. You just need to have cashews, nutritional yeast, garlic powder, and sea salt.
Frequently Asked Question
Is Parmesan Cheese Vegetarian?
Although currently there are several recipes for vegan parmesan cheese, the traditional parmesan cheese is not vegetarian. It is also important to mention that cheeses from a specific region need to follow a regular recipe to be accepted as having particular names.
In this case, Parmigiano-Reggiano, or Parmesan cheese, should always use animal rennet. This means that it can’t be vegetarian.