If you talk to any vegan or person who's lactose intolerant, the thing they most likely miss is cheese. Smelly, unique, creamy, delicious cheese.
Similarly, if you chat to any person about veganism, the thing they'll always say (aside from "but bacon") is:
But I just love cheese too much.
Over the past few years, with veganism growing, some pretty awesome food manufactures have committed to making vegan cheese. So much so that if you browse your local health food shop or independent supermarket, you'll find an impressive amount of vegan cheeses -- from Brie and Gouda to classic cheddar and mozzarella.
But are these cheeses any good?
With the help of PETA, The Huffington Post Australia road-tested eight different vegan cheeses. Here's what we thought.
To preface this taste testing experiment, we wanted to make clear that it's important to stay open-minded when it comes to trying new foods, especially vegan alternatives. It's easy to class them all as 'bad' by nature, but this taste test was done with the intention of constructively criticising them.
If people who are vegan or lactose intolerant can find cheese that tastes similar to dairy cheese, that's awesome. Cheese for everyone.
1. Parmesan by Angel Food
This powdered parmesan is vegan, gluten free, egg free and wheat free. Its powder base is made using coconut four, to which salt, yeast extract, vegan flavour for cheesiness and white pepper is added.
You can use this parmesan any way you like -- on pasta, mashed potato, sliced fresh tomatoes or beans on toast.
We tried this powdered Parmesan on spaghetti and this is what we thought:
"Mmm, it's very salty."
"Parmesan cheese is my favourite type of cheese in the world, but not powdered cheese. I still like it, though I can tell the difference."
"It's salty but I would eat it. It smells cheesy, too. It makes me think: are you sure it's not cheese?"
2. Tofutti 'Better Than Ricotta Cheese'
The main ingredients in Tofutti's vegan ricotta cheese is tofu and oil, and it can be used on toast, in pies, lasagna, cannelloni and cakes.
We tried vegan ricotta cheese on top of spaghetti. Here's the verdict:
"It doesn't really taste like cheese. It's creamy and almost sweet. It's not cheese but it's definitely not unpleasant."
"I actually really like that. It's creamy and neutral tasting. Interesting."
"It adds a nice creaminess. This would be amazing in spinach and ricotta pie, or on toast with cinnamon and banana."
3. MyLife Biocheese 'Cheddar Cheese Slices'
This vegan cheddar cheese is made using water, coconut oil, vegan flavours, salt and b-carotene for that cheddar colour. Like regular cheddar slices, you can use this vegan alternative on burgers, sandwiches and toasties.
Here's what we thought of vegan cheddar cheese on a toastie with tomato.
Uncooked -- "This feels like actual cheese slices."
Toasted -- "It's really cheesy. I can't believe it. It's delicious. I can't tell the difference, I really can't."
"Mmm, it tastes like proper cheddar. It actually tastes and smells like cheese. I thought this was going to be a disaster."
4. Daiya 'Mozzarella Style Shreds'
Daiya's vegan alternative to mozzarella is made from tapioca and arrowroot flours, plant oil, pea protein, natural flavours and salt. The cheese is designed to melt, bubble and stretch like regular mozzarella cheese, so it's ideal for pizzas, pastas and lasagna.
We added this mozzarella to some tomato toasties. Here's the verdict:
Uncooked -- "Ooh, this feels a bit weird and rubbery. But it smells like mozzarella."
"It's good, but a bit nutty. It's very creamy and melty -- exactly what you want in a toastie."
"I want to go vegan but I don't want to give up cheese, but this is convincing. I would 100 percent have both of these cheeses [the BioLife cheddar] on a sandwich or toastie."
"It looks a bit weird. It tastes good but it doesn't taste like mozzarella. I mean, I quite like it. It's way saltier than mozzarella."
"I'm so impressed. It's not plastic-y or weird. This is so amazing. It's not even lying when it says that it melts."
5. Green Vie 'Gouda Style' vegan cheese
This vegan Gouda cheese is made of water, coconut oil, starch, salt, vegan flavourings and b-carotene for colour. You can melt, slice, grate or cook this neutral tasting dairy free alternative.
We put this cheese in a toastie. Here's what we thought:
"This one smells a bit plastic-y."
"It smells quite like Gouda. It's got a pleasant smell."
"I think the texture is right, but it's not super flavoursome."
"If someone told me this was real Gouda, I would believe them. It's good, but I like the other two [above] better."
"I would never question that it's not cheese. A pleasant surprise."
6. Sprout and Kernel 'Herb and Cashew Cheese Nut Cheese'
Sprout and Kernel's vegan cheese is made from cashews, buckwheat, oil, salt and mixed dried herbs and vegetables. This cheese would be great on a platter with crackers to let the zesty blend of herbs and spices speak for itself.
Here's the verdict of the cheese when served on a platter with crackers:
"This is almost like a solid dip. It's herby, peppery, and the base is really creamy. Definitely yummy."
"This one is my favourite. It's not particularly cheesy, but the flavours are so well rounded and delicious."
"I would buy this and the first two cheeses used in the toasties."
"I think the texture is awful. It looks like it would have gelatine in it."
7. Damona Brie
This non-dairy brie is handmade in Melbourne using cultured soy milk, coconut oil, tapioca starch, miso, apple cider vinegar and Himalayan salt.
Like the other cheeses, this vegan Brie was served as a platter with crackers. Here's what we thought:
"It feels like playdough and tastes like nothing."
"It's not offensive but it doesn't taste like anything. Just a cracker with plain mush."
"Nothing like Brie."
"Oh my god, it's got nothing. It's like having a decaffeinated skim almond milk latte. Just have a glass of water."
8. Vegusto 'No-Moo Piquant Cheese'
This vegan piquant is made using water, vegetable oils, potato starch, yeast, rice flour, nut butter, rock salt, spice and vegetable flavouring. This style has a strong cheese flavour and is designed to soften when heated and not melt.
We served this cheese on a platter. Here's the verdict:
"This tastes very cheesy. Whoa. It has a slightly unusual aftertaste but it's very similar to regular cheese."
"I like it. It's a bit spicy at the end. This tastes like a cheesy cheese."
"This one's not bad. It's very cheesy."
There you have it. Excluding a couple, these cheeses are perfect for all lactose intolerant and vegan people out there who are missing cheese.
You can purchase all these cheeses from The Cruelty Free Shop online or in their store in Glebe, Sydney.
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