What on earth is vegan cheese?

What on earth is vegan cheese?

There’s nothing quite like biting into a cheese toasty. Until recently, this was a simple pleasure that vegans had to do without. Vegan cheese has come a long way in the last five years and it’s getting closer and closer to tasting like the real thing.

According to a report by research firm Bharat Book, vegan cheese is a rapidly expanding market with an annual growth rate of 7.6% and the vegan cheese industry is expected to be worth $4 billion by 2024.

In this blog, we’ll look at the mystery that is vegan cheese and you’ll learn:

  • What actually is vegan cheese?
  • Is vegan cheese healthy?
  • How is vegan cheese made?
  • Does vegan cheese melt or crisp up?
  • What are some good vegan cheese brands?

We’ll also throw in a vegan parmesan recipe, as well as a vegan cheesecake recipe at the end that you can try at home.

Vegan cheese

What actually is vegan cheese?

Vegan cheese is an alternative to regular cheese that uses plant-based ingredients to recreate the flavours and textures of different types of cheeses. Common ingredients in vegan cheese include nuts like cashews and macadamias, root vegetables, soy, fruit oils like coconut oil, nutritional yeast, onion powder, lemon and vegan lactic acid.

Nowadays, you can get vegan mozzarella, cheddar, ricotta, parmesan, cream cheese and more.

Vegan parmesan
Click image to view as PDF

Is vegan cheese healthy?

That depends. Like all things, it should be eaten in moderation. You also need to carefully read the labels before you buy (you should do this with regular cheese too – some of the cheaper brands have appalling additives.) Some vegan cheeses use whole ingredients and keep things as natural as possible. Others are highly processed and use loads of artificial colourants, flavourings and preservatives that your body is not going to like.

Where possible, avoid fillers or gums and high levels of salt, and go for cheeses with minimal ingredients using whole foods and fruit oils.

Generally speaking, minimally processed vegan cheeses made from whole ingredients are lower in fat than regular cheeses, but they are also lower in protein and calcium, so you would need to get those from other foods, such as soy products, seeds, legumes and leafy greens.

Vegan cheese

How is vegan cheese made?

Vegan cheese is made in a similar way to regular cheese, depending on the end result you’re looking for. Creamy cheeses are made through a simple process of blending the other ingredients with oil, so that they set soft and are good for spreading or dipping.

For harder cheese or stronger flavoured cheeses, the ingredients are blended and fermented with bacteria, much like in the production of regular cheese. A setting agent is also added, such as agar-agar or a starch like cornflour, to give the cheese its shape and texture.

Does vegan cheese melt or crisp up?

Some do. Vegan cheese is a growing market and more and more companies are working on creating better and better vegan cheeses. The best idea would be to find a reputable brand that uses whole ingredients and give them a try.

Vegan cheese

What are some good vegan cheese brands?

This is a list of vegan cheeses available in South Africa (not necessarily South African brands). For our international readers, a quick Google search in your country should land you on a few good options.

And finally, here is a great recipe for vegan cheesecake that will have your dinner guests swooning.

Vegan cheesecake recipe
Click image to view as PDF

So, that’s the low-down on vegan cheese. You don’t have to give up all the good things in life to eat a healthy and ethical diet. If you have any questions related to plant-based cooking, please feel free to reach out to christine@arunafoods.com.au.


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Lisa Parsons

Lisa is a content writer and strategist with experience across many platforms. She is also a personal trainer and has a keen interest in holistic health encompassing physical, mental and emotional wellness. She enjoys travel, books, puzzles, learning languages, and a buttery Chardonnay.

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