If you follow a vegan diet, are lactose intolerant, or have an allergy to dairy, you might be missing out on the delicious taste of cheese. Luckily, there's a solution – vegan cheese. Vegan cheese is a dairy-free alternative to traditional cheese made from plant-based ingredients. In this article, we'll explore the ingredients in vegan cheese, the sustainability of vegan cheese, and some ethical and organic vegan cheese brands to consider. We'll also look at some other plant-based alternatives to traditional cheese and how to incorporate them into your diet.
Ingredients in Vegan Cheese
The ingredients in vegan cheese can vary depending on the brand and type of cheese. However, in general, vegan cheese is made from plant-based ingredients such as nuts, seeds, soy, or vegetables. Nuts and seed cheeses are made by blending nuts or seeds (such as cashews, almonds, sunflower seeds, or hemp seeds) with water, salt, and sometimes probiotics or enzymes to help with fermentation and create a cheesy flavor and texture. Soy cheeses are made from soy milk or tofu, blended with other ingredients, and then fermented to develop flavor and texture. Vegetable-based cheeses are made from potatoes, carrots, or cauliflower, blended with other ingredients to create a cheesy flavor and texture.
The sourcing of ingredients for vegan cheese can vary depending on the brand and the specific ingredients used. However, many vegan cheese manufacturers generally prioritize using sustainably sourced and non-GMO plant-based ingredients. Nuts and seeds used in vegan cheese are often sourced from organic and fair-trade suppliers. Soy used in vegan cheese is often non-GMO and sourced from North American farmers who follow sustainable agriculture practices. Vegetables used in vegan cheese are typically sourced from local farms to reduce carbon emissions from transportation.
It's important to note that some vegan cheeses may contain additives or preservatives, so it's important to read the label to ensure you are comfortable with the ingredients.
Sustainability of Vegan Cheese
The sustainability of vegan cheese depends on various factors, such as the source of the plant-based ingredients, the production process, and the packaging. Generally, vegan cheese made from locally sourced and organic plant-based ingredients can be more sustainable than cheese made from animal-derived ingredients that require more resources such as water, land, and energy. Additionally, vegan cheese production generally requires less water and produces fewer greenhouse gas emissions than traditional dairy cheese.
However, some vegan cheese manufacturers may use unsustainable packagings, such as plastic, which can contribute to waste and pollution. Therefore, choosing vegan cheese brands that prioritize sustainable packaging and production methods is important. Some vegan cheese brands use eco-friendly packaging, such as compostable or recyclable materials.
Ethical and Organic Vegan Cheese Brands
Many vegan cheese brands prioritize organic and sustainably and ethically sourced ingredients. Here are some examples:
Miyoko's Creamery: Miyoko's Creamery makes a variety of vegan cheeses using organic and non-GMO ingredients, including cashews, coconut oil, and oat milk. They also use sustainable packaging, such as plant-based materials and paperboard.
Treeline Cheese: Treeline Cheese makes nut-based vegan cheeses using organic and non-GMO ingredients, such as cashews and almonds. They also prioritize using sustainable and eco-friendly packaging.
Violife: Violife is a popular vegan cheese brand that uses organic and non-GMO ingredients, such as coconut oil and potato starch. They also prioritize sustainability in their production methods and packaging.
Kite Hill: Kite Hill makes vegan cheeses using almond milk and other plant-based ingredients that are organic and non-GMO. They also use sustainable packaging materials.
Vtopian Artisan Cheeses: Vtopian makes vegan cheeses using organic and non-GMO nuts, such as cashews and almonds. They also prioritize using local and sustainable ingredients.
These are just a few examples of vegan cheese brands prioritizing organic, sustainable, and ethically sourced ingredients. It's always a good idea to research and read the labels of different brands to ensure that they align with your values and priorities.
Alternatives to Vegan Cheese
If you're not a fan of vegan cheese or want to try other plant-based alternatives to traditional cheese, many options are available. Here are some examples:
Nutritional yeast: Nutritional yeast is a deactivated yeast that is often used as a cheese substitute due to its nutty and cheesy flavor. It's also a great source of vitamins and minerals, such as B vitamins and zinc.
Cashew cream: Cashew cream is a versatile dairy-free alternative to sour cream or cream cheese. It's made by blending soaked cashews with water and other seasonings to create a creamy texture and flavor.
Hummus: Hummus is a spread made from chickpeas, tahini, lemon juice, and garlic. It's a great alternative to cheese spreads and can be used on sandwiches or as a dip.
Tofu: Tofu can be a great alternative to cheese in dishes such as lasagna or pizza. It has a mild flavor and can be easily seasoned to mimic the flavor of cheese.
Incorporating Vegan Cheese and Alternatives into Your Diet
If you're new to vegan cheese and plant-based alternatives, it's important to keep an open mind and experiment with different brands and types of cheese. Vegan cheese can be used in various dishes, such as pizzas, sandwiches, and salads. It's also important to ensure you're getting a balanced diet that includes other sources of protein and nutrients. If you're not sure where to start, consider working with a registered dietitian who can help you plan a balanced vegan diet.
Vegan cheese can be a great alternative for those who cannot or choose not to consume traditional dairy cheese. Vegan cheese offers a variety of benefits, such as being suitable for those who follow a vegan diet or have lactose intolerance or allergies. Additionally, vegan cheese can be more sustainable than traditional dairy cheese, especially if it's made from locally sourced and organic plant-based ingredients. However, choosing a brand that aligns with your values and preferences and you're comfortable with the taste and texture is important. Lastly, don't forget about other plant-based alternatives to traditional cheese, such as nutritional yeast, cashew cream, hummus, and tofu, which can add variety and nutrition to your diet.