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Tuesday, December 1, 2020

The Ultimate Guide to vegan cheese: FAQs and where to find it

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Vegan cheese is growing in popularity, and Alice Johnson has you covered with everything you need to know in this ultimate guide.

Hello, is it brie you’re looking for? 

The vegan cheese market is doing grate and there are more plant-based substitutes available than ever before. It’s almost too gouda to be true!

Whatever type of vegan cheese you are looking for, I’ll show you what it’s made from, where to find it in the UK, and how to prepare, cook, and eat it!

But first, I’ll start by answering some vegan cheese FAQs. Feta get going…

Vegan Cheese FAQs

Does vegan cheese taste good?

You betcha! Akin to dairy cheese, its plant-based alternatives are diverse, each with unique textures, flavour profiles, microbial cultures, and ingredients. I honestly believe there is a vegan cheese to suit every preference.

If you’ve tried one type of vegan cheese and didn’t like it, I urge you to try another. They are all so different!

Just scroll further down this page to see the variety for yourself (I’ll go into more detail about the flavour of each alternative as well).

Does vegan cheese melt?

Some of them do and some of them don’t. Check the ingredients list of your vegan cheese to find out. If coconut oil is high up on the list, it’s likely to melt. Tapioca starch is another ingredient to look out for, because it gives cheese that stretchy texture when it melts.

Some vegan cheeses melt so well you can even make fondue!

 

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What is the best melting plant-based cheese?

There are so many great vegan cheeses that melt, but here is a selection of the most popular gooey products available to buy in the UK in 2020:

To see melted vegan cheese in action, check out this awesome plant-based family’s review:

What is vegan cheese made from?

Over the past few years, the ingredients used to make plant-based cheese have broadened as vegans have become more experimental. Even those who suffer from nut allergies can now enjoy delicious dairy-free cheese alternatives!

Below is a list of some of the most common main ingredients found in vegan cheese:

    • Nuts and seeds: For example, cashews, almonds, macadamias, pine nuts, sunflower seeds, etc.
    • Coconut oil, milk, and cream: To give the cheese the fatty content similar to dairy cheese. Coconut oil, in particular, helps to solidify the plant-based alternative when cold and helps it melt at higher temperatures.
    • Tapioca starch: As mentioned earlier, this gives the vegan cheese a stretchy texture when it melts and also works as a thickener and binding agent.
    • Tofu/soy protein: Tofu already has a pretty similar texture to some dairy cheeses, so it has been used to create feta-style, nacho, and cream cheese alternatives. Soy protein is also frequently using in store-bought vegan cheeses (usually the more rubbery varieties).
    • Solidified vegetable oil: For example, coconut, palm, safflower, etc.
    • Agar-agar: Used as a gelatin alternative to stabilise and thicken vegan cheese.
    • Nutritional yeast: Commonly used as a parmesan substitute on top of dishes or as an ingredient to give plant-based cheeses a more umami flavour.
    • Aquafaba: also used as a vegan egg alternative, aquafaba has also been used to emulsify plant-based cheeses due to its high protein and starch content. This helps to create a cheese with a semi-firm texture that melts.

Try this super tasty and easy-to-make plant-based parmesan recipe:

Is vegan cheese healthy?

Much like dairy cheese, vegan cheese can be part of a healthy diet if eaten in moderation.

Depending on the type of vegan cheese you choose to eat, they can contain vital nutrients, including fibre, healthy fats, and micronutrients. Some of them are even fortified with calcium and essential vitamins, such as vitamins B12 and D.

Nevertheless, you can have too much of a great thing and the high-fat content can be unhealthy if consumed in large quantities. In addition, watch out for plant-based alternatives that contain lots of processed ingredients; it’s always good to keep these to a minimum in your diet. 

Now, the important bit: What is the best vegan cheese?

Whether it’s gooey camembert, meltable slices, maple oak-smoked, stinky blue, pungent Roquefort, crumbly feta, salty parmesan, soft spreadable, or even a simple cheddar cheese: a vegan alternative exists.

But which ones taste, feel, and smell the best? I’ve rounded up and tried some of the most popular and delicious vegan cheese alternatives available in the UK in 2020.

Below, you can find my verdict on the best of the bunch:

The best vegan camembert: Shamembert, Honestly Tasty

This cheese is the real deal! Covering in a white bloom rind but intensely gooey and creamy inside, this camembert alternative has been infusing with truffle oil to create rich and earthy flavours.

What is Shamembert made from?

Shea butter, rice bran oil, almonds, tapioca flour, miso (soybeans, rice), salt, nutritional yeast, carrageenan, white truffle oil, vegan cultures.

Where can you buy it?

Direct from Honestly Tasty’s website or from one of their UK stockists, including La Fauxmagerie.

How is it prepared/cooked/eaten?

Shamembert can be eaten cold on crackers, or it can be baked, just like real camembert, and enjoyed with crusty bread!

 

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The best vegan cheddar cheese: Epic Mature Cheddar Flavour Block, Violife

With a great taste, feel, and crumble, Violife’s Epic Mature Cheddar Flavour Block can be eaten straight out of the packet or grated into dishes, sliced onto plant-based meat burgers, melted on pizzas, etc.

What is Violife Mature Cheddar made from?

Water, coconut oil, modified starch, starch, sea salt, sunflower, kernel grounded, mature cheddar flavour, lactic acid, olive extract, beta-carotene, vitamin B12.

Where can you buy it?

Pretty much everywhere (in the UK and the US); most major supermarkets and convenience stores now sell Violife products in 2020. Check out their store locator for more information.

How is it prepared/cooked/eaten?

Violife Mature Cheddar can be eaten raw. Or grated. Melted. Cooked. Grilled. Sliced. Diced. Licked…

 

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Is Violife the best vegan cheese on the market? Read our article to find out more about this popular plant-based alternative.

The best plant-based cheese slices: Smoky Cheese Alternative, Applewood

Applewood slices make for an epic melted cheese toastie, as they melt really well and stick to the roof of your mouth much less than other processed cheeses. They’re also free-from dairy, soya, lactose and gluten and are fortified with calcium and vitamin B12.

What are Applewood Smoky Cheese Slices made from?

Water, coconut oil, potato starch, modified maize starch, yeast extract, salt, natural flavouring, carrageenan, calcium phosphate, smoke flavouring, calcium chloride, carotenes, paprika, vitamin B12.

Where can you buy it?

Tescos, Asda, Sainsbury’s, Waitrose, or any number of vegan stockists, including Hank’s Deli, The Vegan Kind Supermarket, and Vegan Food UK.

How is it prepared/cooked/eaten?

It’s already slicing, so Applewood vegan slices work best on a plant-based burger, jacket potato, or melting on toast.

 

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The best vegan feta cheese: Trímma Greek-Inspired Culture Cheese, Food by Sumear

I can’t get enough of Sumear’s vegan cheese. As an ex-dairy cheesemaker, he uses his own secret blend of bacterial cultures and matures his cheese in a cave to create the UK’s only long-aged cheeses with natural rinds.

His Trímma cheese is firm and crumbly with the most incredible salty tang, which would fool even the most staunch dairy lovers. Oh, and Sumear endeavours to be environmentally responsible through his use of eco-friendly packaging and pursuit to provide transparency.

Like shopping sustainably? Check out our favourite UK environmentally-friendly and vegan product suggestions

What is Trímma made from?

Cashew nuts, tapioca starch, home-grown lactobacillus cultures, coconut oil, salt, kappa carrageenan.

Where can you buy it?

Due to the coronavirus, many of Sumear’s stockists had to shut, so his vegan cheese is mostly only available directly from his website. Nevertheless, keep an eye on his stockist page if you would like to find somewhere more local.

How is it prepared/cooked/eaten?

I just ate it straight out of the home-compostable wood pulp packaging… but you can also crumble it on salads, melt it, or even use it as a pizza topping. Sumear suggests pairing it with a pinot noir wine with a light and fruity profile.

 

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The best vegan blue cheese: Blue Roqueforti Verdure Cheese, Food by Sumear

Sumear wins again with his authentic dairy-like flavours! This one is not for the faint-hearted though; if you didn’t like blue cheese before you went vegan, then you probably won’t like this one.

What is Blue Roqueforti Verdure Cheese made from?

Cashew nuts, tapioca starch, home-grown lactobacillus cultures, coconut oil, salt, penicillium roqueforti.

Where can you buy it?

Same as the Trímma cheese, check out Sumear’s website.

How is it prepared/cooked/eaten?

Eat this delicious blue cheese alternative on crackers as part of a cheeseboard, crumble on dishes, or use it to make a blue cheese sauce. Sumear suggests pairing it with an acidic or sweet dessert wine.

 

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The best plant-based spreadable/cream cheese: Faux Lox + Dill, Kinda Co.

Creamy and zesty yumminess! Kinda Co. has pushed the boat out on this one. The fresh flavours of dill and lemon pair perfectly with the saltiness of the baked and marinated carrots. 

What is Faux Lox + Dill made from?

Cashews, water, natural cultures, coconut oil, dill, marinated carrots (carrots, rapeseed oil, apple cider vinegar, nori, salt), lemon oil, smoked salt, citric acid.

Where can you buy it?

Direct from Kinda Co.’s website or from one of their many vegan stockists, including La Fauxmagerie and Planet Organic.

How is it prepared/cooked/eaten?

Spread on anything you can find or eat this mouth-watering vegan cream cheese straight from the jar.

 

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Looking for a cheaper and more easily accessible supermarket alternative? Try Violife’s Creamy with Garlic & Herbs.

The best vegan grated/shredded cheese: Vegan Gourmet Mozzarella Shreds, Follow Your Heart

Mozzarella Shreds are my favorite shop-bought vegan grating cheese, mainly because they are convenient and don’t taste like plastic.

They are pretty processed though, which is difficult to avoid when you are choosing something this convenient. Furthermore, whilst Follow Your Heart use Rainforest Alliance Certified sustainable palm oil, if you are trying to avoid it altogether, I recommend making your own cheese and grating that instead.

Try this awesome recipe for shreddable & meltable vegan cheese (it takes just 15 minutes!):

What are Vegan Gourmet Mozzarella Shreds made from?

Filtered water, organic palm fruit oil, modified corn and also potato starches, natural flavours, pea fibre, pea starch, also bamboo fibre, calcium phosphate, rice flour, organic vegetable glycerin, and cellulose, sunflower lecithin, sea salt, carrageenan, and calcium sulfate, citric acid, xanthan gum, disodium phosphate, also sodium citrate.

Where can you buy it?

My Vegan Kind Supermarket or Real Foods.

How is it prepared/cooked/eaten?

It’s already preparing for you to use so you can simply scatter it across pasta dishes, stir it into macaroni cheese, or use it as a pizza topping. It also melts, but takes a little longer than non-vegan cheese.

 

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Alice
Alice Johnson 
Alice Johnson is a freelance writer, keen musician, and co-founder of Vegan Sisters’ Online Community, which offers training courses for content writers. She is passionate about public health, animal rights, sustainable living, plant-based food, travelling, conservation, and rescuing stray animals on her way around the world. Alice has made appearances on BBC News and her work has been published in national scientific journals, print magazines, and on web-based news channels. When she’s not in the kitchen experimenting with cashew cheese, homemade body moisturisers, and vegan kimchi, you probably won’t be able to find her as she will be off gallivanting around the world.