August 19, 2011

Vegan Cheese Showdown

In my omni days (and much more so during my attempts as a vegetarian) I was a big cheese-eater. Deli slices, blues, bries, hard cheeses, even the stinky washed name it, I loved it. There are many vegan cheeses on the market and most of them are priced comparably to conventional cheeses (but are just as high in fat, so beware!), but what of their taste? Here are the results of my quest for good cheese.

FYH Mozzarella style cheese, cold and by itself, has a mild flavor and tastes like oil or vegan butter. The texture is oily, softer than mozzarella, and of course it isn't stringy like its namesake, but it's sliceable. When I used it on a pizza, it melted and bubbled like conventional cheese and it looked nice. Upon eating it, the first thing I noticed was that the melted cheese left a film on the roof of my mouth. The second thing I noticed was that my pizza tasted like I had topped it with a sturdier, melty version of Earth Balance. Overall, FYH Mozzarella was a decent solution to a craving for melty, creamy cheese, but I never bought it again. (Tip: this cheese takes a while to melt and can burn all of a sudden, so you have to keep an eye on it.)

Sheese Smoked Cheddar style cheese, cold and by itself, had a weird aftertaste that was so hard for me to get past that I didn't even try to eat it melted. The Bute Islands website touts it as a cheese that can be enjoyed alone, but I couldn't. The texture of the cheese was almost spot-on for a hard cheese such as cheddar. But the me it tasted like chemicals or something and just tasted really artificial. Maybe I need to try other flavors. Has anyone else tried Sheese? What did you think?

Daiya cheddar style shreds, cold and by itself, has a similar taste to the Follow Your Heart cheese, that vegan butter flavor, but leans more toward a mild cheese. I've also tried the Pepper Jack flavor and it also has the vegan butter flavor underlying the peppers. Daiya is supposed to melt and stretch like conventional cheese, and it really does. I've used it in grilled cheese sandwiches with great success, flavor-wise and texture-wise. On pizza it has a slight vegan butter flavor but the texture is much better than FYH. I used the Pepper Jack flavor in a vegan quiche and it was omni-approved by someone who is a major meat/cheese-alternative-phobe. (Tip: this cheese also takes a while to melt and can burn all of a sudden, so you have to keep an eye on it.)

Several months before I became vegan, I tried Dr. Cow Aged Tree Nut Cheese at an academic gathering because it was brought by a vegan student. As an omni I was really surprised by the cheese and liked it very much. The cheese definitely left an impression on me and planted a little seed: "If stuff like this exists, I guess it can't be so bad to be vegan!" I sought out Dr. Cow and bought it at least a few times before even becoming vegan. The Aged Tree Nut cheese comes in several varieties, most of which I have tried. All the aged cheeses have a texture almost as firm as cheddar so you can slice it when it's cold, but unlike cheddar you can spread it at room temperature. All the varieties have the same base flavor: a rich, barely nutty flavor with the tang of an actual aged cheese (which is because it actually is aged). Dr. Cow aged tree nut cheeses are definitely cheeses that stand on their own two feet and can be enjoyed alone, with wine, on plain crackers, or with fruits or nuts. I have never tried this cheese melted and suppose that it's really meant to be eaten alone, not melted into other foods, and I doubt that it melts like a conventional cheese anyway. The only downside about this cheese is the price. A very small 2.3 ounce wheel (about 2 inches in diameter and 2 inches high) goes for about $8.50, so this cheese is a really big splurge at about 6-8 times the unit price of the other vegan cheeses. This is a special occasion cheese for me. I tried to make this cheese at home and totally failed, but I'm not giving up. Stay tuned for posts on homemade nut cheeses.

Verdict: My favorite vegan cheese to eat on its own is Dr. Cow Aged Tree Nut Cheese (which is not only vegan, but raw), and my favorite vegan cheese for cooking is Daiya.

Here is the last Dr. Cow aged tree nut cheese I had. It was the blue algae flavor (hence the color).

Have you tried any storebought vegan cheese? What did you think of it?

Vegan on a Shoestring

1 comment:

  1. I'm just beginning my journey as a vegetarian, and have a feeling veganism is not far behind. (My body doesn't handle dairy very well.) I, too, am a big cheese lover, so I'll have to check out Dr. Cow and see what I think! Thanks for the heads-up!