Every vegan has heard it a million times, and some of us have said it ourselves: “I could never be vegan – I can’t live without cheese!” Well, sure you can, but there is a scientific reason that people often feel addicted to cheese. As explained by Dr. Neal Barnard of the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, dairy cheese produces mild opiates known as casomorphins when it is digested. No worries, though! The quality of vegan cheeses on the market these days is absolutely stellar. Even though I make a lot of my own vegan cheeses from scratch, there are a few commercial brands that I absolutely adore. Here they are – in no specific order!
- Miyoko’s Creamery – Aged English Smoked Farmhouse. “A semi-hard wheel with rich, smoky and sharp tones that linger on your tongue” (per Miyoko’s website), this is the my first vegan cheese love. Prior to trying it, most vegan cheeses were….meh. This cheese, though, is the perfect blend of sharpness and smokiness. It has incredible flavor and I dare say non-vegans might not be able to tell it isn’t dairy! I enjoy it with raw seed crackers, or just cut a slice and devour. It’s that good.
- Daiya’s Jalapeno Havarti Wedge. In my experience, Daiya’s products are better than the average vegan cheese, overall, but some are better than others. I really like their wedges, especially this one. It’s creamy; it’s flavorful; it melts. My favorite way to enjoy it is on a vegan Reuben sandwich. I haven’t found a vegan Swiss I like, but this fits the bill for the Reuben just fine!
- Kite Hill’s Cream Cheese Style Spread. In a word: divine. My English friend was visiting recently and for breakfast, I made him an English muffin (which, incidentally, he says they don’t eat in England) with a little vegan butter and some Kite Hill Cream Cheese with Chives spread. His reaction? “This is the best, creamiest, most flavorful cream cheese I’ve ever had.” ‘Nuf said.
- Chao Slices by Field Roast. Since these came out, they’ve been all the rage in the veg community – for good reason. They are far superior to other vegan sliced “cheese” products: great flavor, good warmed or cold, and reasonably priced. The tomato cayenne slices are sharp and spicy – perfect for a grilled cheese or for noshing on with crackers.
- Daiya Cheddar Style Shreds. The Daiya shreds, mozzarella style and cheddar style, are good, and they are remarkably versatile. The mozzarella ones are, of course, good for pizza. I have used the cheddar shreds in many ways: for nachos; to make a cheese sauce; on baked potatoes; on chili; to make a grilled cheese; and in wraps. Like I said, they are quite versatile, and they melt and stretch like dairy cheese.
Give them a try! I don’t recommend a lot of “faux” stuff or processed foods, but it’s all right to indulge once in a while. And if you’re interested in learning more about vegan cheese making, check out Miyoko Schinner’s Artisan Vegan Cheese cookbook, as well as the Non-Dairy Evolution Cookbook from Skye Michael Conroy. Both are fantastic!
What’s your favorite vegan cheese (commercial or handmade)? Let me know in the comments…I’m always looking for new brands and recipes to try.