Groundbreaking, Game Changing Vegan Cheese Is Here

Vegan Cheese, Vegan Smoked Cheddar

Mouth-watering Harvest Smoked Cheddar from the new vegan cookbook, The Non-Dairy Formulary. Scroll down for more cheeses.

I don’t talk a lot about how I struggled to give up cheese when I went vegan years ago; I don’t want people to think that living dairy-free is so difficult that they put it off or, worse, never even try. For many people, ditching dairy is only moderately difficult; for others, it isn’t hard at all. But for some it’s a real obstacle; one of the most consistent objections to veganism I encounter is “I could never live without cheese!”

But the truth is that while we joke about dying without dairy products, millions of cows and calves are killed each year in the name of dairy production, with calves cruelly torn from their mothers at birth even on small, so-called humane dairy farms. So even though I’ve gotten to a place in my life where I don’t miss cheese anymore, I’m constantly on the lookout for new vegan cheese products to try, in the hopes of finding one that would satisfy even hardcore cheese lovers.

Frankly, I haven’t had a lot of luck. I’ve tried some store bought vegan cheeses, as well as some fancy ones available online; at best, there were a couple that were okay if melted. But for cold slices or wedges, I have never found anything that was delicious and strongly reminiscent of dairy cheese, until discovering the brilliant new cookbook, The Non-Dairy Evolution. Written by esteemed vegan chef Skye-Michael Conroy, The Non-Dairy Evolution contains over 80 delicious recipes for plant-based cheeses, butters, milks and creams, including cultured cheeses, buttermilk, and sour cream; block and wheel cheeses that shred and melt beautifully; egg alternatives and eggless egg dishes; and scrumptious non-dairy desserts.

These recipes are easy to follow and extremely user-friendly; many of the block cheeses, including Cheddar, Mozzarella, Provolone, Brie, Havarti, and Muenster— take less than 15 minutes to make, with only 8 or 9 ingredients involved (they then refrigerate for a few hours). But best of all is the taste. Not only are these cheeses reminiscent of dairy cheese; some of them, like the mozzarella, muenster, and pepper jack, taste so much like their dairy counterparts that I would have a hard time believing they weren’t actually dairy, if I hadn’t made them myself. Click through the photo gallery below for more information, mouthwatering images, and two exclusive cheese recipes from The Non-Dairy Evolution Cookbook. Scroll down for Frequently Asked Questions about the cheese ingredients, and for ordering information.

Frequently Asked Questions about Vegan Cheese

Questions sometimes arise about two of the main ingredients in The Non-Dairy Evolution’s sliceable block cheeses (which include the Cheddars, Mozzarella, Provolone, Muenster, Jack, Swiss and Havarti.)

These cheeses can be made using soy milk, almond milk, or cashew milk, as well as an ingredient called carrageenan, a thickening agent derived from seaweed that is used in many foods (including many dairy cheeses and other dairy products). While almond milk and cashew milk can be used successfully for people with soy allergies, Chef Conroy recommends soy milk for best results. He writes:

The Block and Wheel Cheeses are created through a process known as emulsification. Simply stated, emulsification is the process where two or more ingredients that wouldn’t normally mix together, such as oil and non-dairy milk, are blended together into a homogenous mixture.

The cheeses were formulated using pure soymilk, therefore pure soymilk is recommended for achieving the best results. Homemade almond milk, when prepared according to the recipe in this cookbook, can also be used successfully for preparing the cheeses.

Homemade raw cashew milk can potentially be used as an alternate to soymilk or almond milk; however due to the composition of raw cashew milk, heat and stirring alone will not successfully emulsify the milk with the oil and an immersion blender is required to force emulsification while the cheese is being cooked. This can be a little tricky until you have become proficient at preparing the cheeses using soymilk or almond milk. Due to their watery consistency and abundance of additives, commercial nut milks, rice milk, oat milk, hemp milk and coconut milk beverage are not recommended for preparing the cheeses.

There is, in my opinion, a lot of unwarranted fear-mongering around soy milk these days, and carrageenan has also been in the “scary foods” spotlight. I contacted Virginia Messina, who is one of the most respected dietitians and vegan nutritionists in the country, in large part because her claims about vegan nutrition always err on the very conservative and cautious side; they’re also backed up by extensive research.

Messina had this to say in response to my questions about carrageenan:

“As far as I know, all of the studies on health effects of carrageenan have been in animals—mostly rats—so I don’t think they tell us too much about effects in humans. It’s very often the case that large amounts of a substance fed to animals produce problems that never occur in humans who are consuming more normal amounts of that substance. So I’m not concerned about health effects of carrageenan, and I do consume products (like soy milk) that contain it.”

There’s also a significant difference between the type of carrageenan that caused health problems in rats — “degraded carrageenan” — and the type that is used in human foods. Yet even though degraded carrageenan and food-grade carrageenan are different, the harmful effects of degraded carrageenan have been mistakenly associated with food-grade carrageenan. Scientific assessments support the safety of food-grade carrageenan. But just as some people show sensitivity to foods such as beans, dairy, or nuts, some people show sensitivity to carrageenan, and experience gastrointestinal issues when they consume it; for most people, however, it is not a problem.

Carrageenan is difficult to find in stores, but can be ordered online. I order the brand recommended in the book, which is the Kappa Carrageenan from Modernist Pantry. A 2 oz. bag runs around $12, but this will make at least 8 large wheels of cheese, as very little carrageenan is used. A 16 oz. bag is $32, which is very economical if you decide to start making the cheeses on a regular basis.

What kind of soy is safe?

As for soy, while most of the misinformation behind the soy scare has been debunked, I still see a lot of reactionary, unproductive comments from people who insist on linking all soy products to GMO. This simply isn’t accurate, and it’s hugely unhelpful to animals, because many people who might be open to veganism associate a vegan diet with soy foods. The truth is that many large grocery franchises carry at least one brand of organic, non-GMO soy milk (and tofu), and most natural foods stores carry several varieties. For best results with the cheeses in The Non-Dairy Evolution Cookbook, Chef Conroy recommends using a soy milk without additives, such as Westsoy Unsweetened Organic Soy Milk, which is carried in many stores and can also be ordered online.

For more information on soy, please see Virginia Messina’s article “Soy Isoflavones and Estrogen.” For a well-researched contextualization of carrageenan with citations, please see “Is Carrageenan Safe?

To order The Non-Dairy Evolution Cookbook on amazon or directly from the author, please visit the website, The Gentle Chef. For cooking support with the recipes in the Non-Dairy Evolution Cookbook and The Gentle Chef Cookbook, and for general vegan cooking information and tips, please join The Gentle Chef group discussion forum on facebook. You can also follow the facebook page The Gentle Chef.

About Ashley Capps

Ashley Capps is a poet, freelance writer and editor, and vegan activist. Her first book of poems is Mistaking the Sea for Green Fields. For more information on her poetry or advocacy writing, please visit http://ashley-capps.tumblr.com/. She also keeps a vegan/animal blog at Alpha Bêtes.

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28 comments

  1. I order the cookbook a while ago and I tried the Brie recipe this past weekend. I was thrilled with the results. The cheese has a very smooth texture that equals that of dairy Brie and the taste is remarkably close to the real thing. Just amazing.

    • They’re in the descriptions of 2 of the pictures in the middle of the article. Specifically, 3rd row, 3rd picture (cheese dripping onto broccoli) and 4th row, 1st picture (cheese spread with garlic bulbs).

      • I’m also not seeing the link to the recipes. I only see one picture in the article of the Smoked Harvest Cheddar. I’m not sure what I’m doing wrong. I ordered the book today so I’ll be able to start making cheese as soon as it arrives.

      • These cheeses look delicious! However, I’ve only been able to locate the recipe in the 4th row, 1st picture (cheese spread with garlic bulbs). I don’t see any cheese dripping onto broccoli. Perhaps it’s been removed?

  2. Why can’t you use Almond, hemp or coconut milk? Soy is not good for you, it can contribute highly to breast cancer! I know I am sure it contributed to mine along with mammograms!

    • The cookbook explains that soy milk does not separate, which allows it to emulsify with coconut oil to create the cheese. Other plant milks such as almond and coconut can separate and may not produce cheese. The cookbook states that for these cheese recipes, “there is no substitute for soymilk.” However, in the article above Ashley says she had success using almond milk.

  3. Ashley brought the mozzarella cheese from this book to a vegan potluck, and I was amazed. It was not hard for me to give up cheese, but I really missed pizza! I just made my own first batch of firm mozzarella and can confirm that the preparation is fast and easy, though it takes some care when stirring. The cheese does need to refrigerate for at least six hours and ideally for 24 hours to reach the best texture. It blows away Daiya and even mozzarella Teese (formerly my pizza topping of choice) for taste and especially texture. The recipe produced a little over one pound of cheese. I hope to do a cost analysis and will post it here if I do. Thanks again, Ashley!

  4. Tracie,

    the idea that soy contributes to breast cancer is a myth propagated by the dairy industry. the estrogen in soy and all other plants is phytoestrogen and has little resemblence to human or other animal estrogen. in fact, studies conclude the opposite-that soy consumption protects against breast cancer in women. please see: http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/06/25/really-eating-soy-increases-the-risk-of-breast-cancer/?_r=0

    the true culprit is the cows milk which is consumed and which, in equivalent volumes, has 10,000 times the estrogen (not to mention the fact that unlike soy it is animal estrogen) than soy milk. add in the hormones and growth factors given to cows and even not taking the saturated fat, cholesterol and animal protein into account, and cows milk is pretty much a toxic sludge to the human body. T Colin Campbell argues that casein, a protein found in milk from mammals, is “the most significant carcinogen we consume.”

    • @Markgil

      Thank you so much for clarifying the myth behind soy. Do you have any idea how many times, through the course of a day, I hear people tell me that soy is bad for me and causes breast cancer? It is unfounded. I ususally hold my tongue but what I would really like to say is, “Let me get this straight, the pus and hormones you are ingesting in that milk is ok, but soy, which is a plant, is not? You’re drinking something that is supposed to turn a calf into a 1,000 cow!” YUCK! I’ll take my chances with Soy any day of the week.

      :-)

      • GiRRLEEarth,
        there is SO much misinformation, lies and myths about veganism, especially about the health and environmental aspects. i look around me in everyday life and see people i know (including my family) consuming what they have been told is healthy such as milk and yogurt, and watch as they continue to get sicker, take more meds and have more surgeries. it seems that people will believe anything if it allows them to continue doing what they have been programmed to do. i am not sure if it is a matter of being creatures of habit, one of addiction or one of guilt which makes people work so hard at trying not to have to confront the truth-most likely it is a combination of the 3. if people would even just try to educate themselves on these subjects it would be a tremendous step in the right direction. sadly most people just stick their heads in the collective sand and wonder why the world is such a violent, apathetic, painful place. it is merely a reflection of ourselves and one that most people will do anything to avoid making the connection between.

  5. I have this cookbook and have tried the recipes. They all seem good – a few could use some more ingredients, but this is personal choice. I believe the cheez sauces in this book are better than the actual cheez, but again, this is personal preference. The hardest part for me with this book is the reference in all of the recipes to other pages or other recipes in the book. This is annoying. I realize it’s self published, but at least include an index in the back. Not being able to cross reference is terrible and I found the book extremely difficult to find recipes. The book, overall, is good, but I would only give it 3 out of 5 stars.

  6. I have nothing against your lifestyle choice of eating vegan, but I do have a problem with your misconception of what the dairy industry is. You people do no realize that farmers are not some inhumane group of people who torture their livestock. They are their livelihood and are treated with large amounts of respect. Go to a farm for yourselves and find out what it’s really like instead of getting your information about it from journalist that live in Chicago, IL.

    • Hi Matt,

      For your information, we have firsthand experience with caring for and rescuing farmed animals from so called “humane” farms. Visiting a sanctuary is a vastly different experience than visiting a farm. Farms value animals to the extent that they produce a profitable product via their flesh, mammary gland secretions or ovulation. Visiting animals on farms does not produce any “breakthrough” in our understanding of animals. On the contrary, most people simply walk away from a farm reaffirming what they have been taught: animals don’t object to being used as “resources.” It’s natural and sanctified by ancient traditions. Somehow, we rationalize, animals have passively accepted their lot in life. On farms, we view meek or fearful animals from a distance or on the other side of an electrical fence, typically in herds or flocks with ear tags (numbers instead of names), and under conditions which generally repress their ability to express themselves as individuals.

      Yet, each animal is a self-aware individual with a unique personality — a complex of experiences, interests, emotions, thoughts, memories, likes, dislikes, desires, joys, fears, loves, families, friends, losses and pains. How do we know this? From sanctuaries and from science.

      On a sanctuary, animals are individuals who, like human beings, have intrinsic value and who have no expectations placed on them. The owners are replaced by guardians who provide a caring environment that empowers them with the confidence to more authentically express their true selves. People can walk away from sanctuaries often with a “breakthrough” understanding. They recognize that these individuals are vastly more expressive, more sophisticated than their repressed counterparts on farms. They see much of themselves in these animals. They realize that the stereotypes they’ve come to believe all of their lives are based on prejudice.

      Every animal-eating culture around the world has developed, over the course of centuries, a set of oppressive beliefs and traditions to deny animals — not only their identity as individuals — but also the right to exist itself, with the exception of their abbreviated lives as a human resource. Humans treated this way are appropriately called slaves. Humans killed in the manner in which animals are slaughtered is appropriately called an atrocity.

      “Many who readily condemn human victimization as ‘heinous’ or ‘evil’ regard moralistic language as sensational or overly emotional when it is applied to atrocities against nonhumans. They prefer to couch nonhuman exploitation and murder in culinary, recreational, or other nonmoralistic terms. That way they avoid acknowledging immorality. Among others, Nazi vivisectors used the quantitative language of experimentation for human, as well as nonhuman, vivisection. Slaveholders have used the economic language of farming for nonhuman and human enslavement.” — Joan Dunayer, from the essay, English and Speciesism.

      So, I would suggest that you, Matt, visit a sanctuary if you want to base your understanding of these animals on anything more substantial than what you’ve been trained to think.

  7. Matt,

    enslaved farmed animals, just like enslaved human’s, are treated as commodities and are used accordingly and disposed of (i.e. brutally slaughtered) when they begin to cost more than they bring in. what is not considered torture or abuse by the victimizer is just that when considered from the victims point of view.

    “Whoever is content with the world, and who profits from its lack of justice, does not want to change it.” -Friedrich Durrenmatt

  8. Over the years, after hearing so many people’s opinions about why it’s all right to slaughter and eat farm animals of all kinds, I’ve heard what sounds like the excuse that “it’s ok, they can’t even communicate anyway, they don’t care. They have no idea what’s going on.”

    Too many people think that because the animals don’t communicate in English and tell us that they’re hurting, scared, sad or uncomfortable, that they’re obviously not good for anything but eating. They must have been put here for that reason.

    That was extremely difficult for me to type. :'( but I know most of you understand.

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