If you think that vegan cheese is just a new trend in the food world, you might be thinking wrong. Vegan cheese-making dates back in 16th Century China where Chinese people have been very resourceful in using fermented tofu or whole soy as main ingredients to making this “cheese”. It has been recorded that at this time and age, there is no abundant supply of milk and if there is, it would be costly. Later on, homemade vegan cheeses started to pop up in markets as the demand rises while the supplies can sustain longer since the ingredients are not as expensive as that of dairy cheeses. What is vegan cheese made of during this time? These vegan cheeses were made usually from soy flour, margarine (served as a fat binder) and yeast extract. The texture of these old vegan cheese recipe depends on the kind of margarine used because, by using a softer margarine, the texture will become softer and more spreadable; on the other hand, putting in harder margarine or fat would produce solid hard cheeses that can be sliced and grated. At around 1970s or 1980s, the vegan cheese gained its fame and started to be commercially available for public consumption. At this point in time, vegan cheeses were poorly made so the initial products were sold cheaper than the dairy ones. Soymage was the only brand of vegan cheese available in the United States in the early 1990s, since then, the market has evolved catering to different dietary needs even producing non-dairy cheeses in several variations. The supplies in the market have diversified giving lots of options to health junks.
Evolution of Vegan Cheese
According to research, Europe has the biggest share (about 43%) in the marketing of vegan cheeses where in 2018, the market for vegan cheese grew on a worldwide scale. The Plant Based Food Association have reported that the in the year 2024, US market for plant-based foods will reach in an estimated amount of $4 billion in sales. The global expansion is due to the proclivity of consumers to lean towards vegetarian sources and produce that has greatly impacted their dietary needs. Below are the most common types of vegan cheeses that are being manufactured anddistributed:
- Cream Cheese
Non-Vegan versus Vegan Cheese
Cheese lovers will surely be petrified by the thought of eating “vegan cheese” because firstly, they have branded it not as a real cheese but just a dupe of the real thing; secondly, the process of making vegan cheese differs from that of the real cheese where milk pasteurization and aging is involved; lastly, the tangy taste and texture is a far cry from the real cheese.
What Is Vegan Cheese Made Of?
As for the vegans who are curious on what goes in on their cheeses, the answer is: several plant-based and non-dairy ingredients. This includes:
- Almonds/Almond Milk
- Coconut Milk
- Tofu/Soya beans
- Root vegetables
- Nutritional yeast
This list is not exclusive because there are other protein rich plant-based ingredients that may be used in making vegan cheese.
Vegan Cheese Scandal
Countries that are part of the European Union and in the United Kingdom have been prohibiting the labeling of vegan cheeses as “cheese” because the nomenclature is misleading to the consumers who are not familiar with the said product. It has been a tough and controversial time for vegan cheese manufacturers since dairy companies have been rallying for the prohibition of such labeling. European Union regulated that the term should not be used to refer to cheeses because there is no such thing as plant cheese but only cheese derived from an animal’s milk. In the United Kingdom, labeling of products has been strictly prohibited, so the next time you ask someone from this country the question, “what is vegan cheese made of?” they will surely give you that skeptic look since they do not label vegan cheese as cheese.
Nutritional Value Of Vegan Cheese
Is vegan cheese healthier? Well for starters, yes it is. Since vegan cheese do not contain cholesterol and has less saturated fat than the normal cheese. In certain studies, it has proven that vegan cheese is healthier than the dairy cheese because it has lower calories and fat; it may also provide Vitamin B12 if the vegan cheese is made out of nutritional yeast.
How To Make Vegan Cheese At Home (Sliceable Cashew Cheese)
If you are making it at home, the easiest way is to blend all the ingredients in a blender. In a basic sliceable cashew cheese recipe, all you need are cashew, agar powder, water (to thin consistency), herbs, spices, seasonings and nutritional yeast. You can also add dried fruits such as cranberries, raisins or apricots for added flavor. All of these plant-based ingredients will just be mixed together and blended into a blender until a desired consistency be reached. You can modify the taste afterwards by adjusting the amount of seasonings. This goes with vegan cheese made out of almonds as well. The thing with vegan cheeses is that, adding nutritional yeast makes the taste similar to that of a pasteurized cheese—giving you that tangy, aged flavor that you get from normal non-vegan cheese.
Is Vegan Cheese Healthy?
The recipe may sound great but it will still depend on how you make it. Because sometimes, you tend to overdo the recipe wanting to create something that very much resembles the taste of a real cheese; it means that, you might be adding to much salt, too much sweeteners that it can be considered as a vegan junk food already. It is the same issue when you try to buy it from the stores—you have to make sure that you check the nutritional facts labeled in every vegan product that you buy. What you should be considering is that: the vegan cheese should be low in sodium, no fillers or binders such as oil with minimal ingredients used.