By Robb, Vegan Pledge Buddy 2009-2012
"You might as well face it, you're addicted to cheese..."
Each year of the Vegan Pledge, giving up cheese seems to be the one thing that many pledgers think is going to be the biggest challenge. And if I had a pound for every time someone told me they "could never give up cheese" then I'd have... well... OK, only about £10. But you get the point.
However, it's not just the texture and flavour. Cheese has also been shown to be highly addictive. And that's not surprising, as it contains morphine, codeine, and other highly addictive opiates. And the casein in cheese also produces opiate effects when digested. No wonder cheese has been described as "dairy crack"!
So, for those who aren't yet ready to go "cold tofurkey", cheese substitutes can be the vegan methodone.
However, until relatively recently, if you loved cheese but wanted to go vegan, it was very much a case of "hard cheese". The first soya and nut-based alternatives to cheese weren't very good. They weren't even always vegan! But things have come a long way since then. We now have hard cheese, soft cheese, cream cheese, cheese sauce, cheese pizzas, and even breaded cheesy bites!
|A selection of dairy alternatives from Bute Island|
So here's an overview of the most commonly available brands and varieties...
Bute Island Scheese - http://www.buteisland.com
|Hard cheese:||Blue, Cheshire, Chives, Edam, Gouda, Medium Cheddar, Melty Mild Cheddar, Melty Red Cheddar, Mozzarella, Smoked Cheddar, Strong Cheddar, Tesco "Free From" Soya Mild, Tesco "Free From" Soya Medium|
|Cream cheese:||Cheddar, Chives, Garic & Herb, Original, Sweet Chilli, Tesco "Free From" Cheddar, Tesco "Free From" Garlic & Herb, Tesco "Free From" Original, Tesco "Free From" Sweet Chilli|
This was the first acceptable fake cheese I tried - the smoked cheddar being my favourite. It crisped up nicely on the top of, say, a pasta bake. But never really melted.
Until recently, that is. At last year's Bristol VegFest they had some of the first samples of their new "melty" flavours - which melted really well in a cheese toastie!
Available online, in health food stores, and in some Tesco's.
Redwood Cheatin' Cheezly - http://www.redwoodfoods.co.uk
|Hard cheese:||Parmesan, Pepperjack, Red Cheddar, Soy Free, Super Melting Edam, Super Melting Mozzarella, White Cheddar|
|Cheese slices:||Super Melting Cheddar, Super Melting Mozzarella|
|Cheese products:||Breaded Pepperjack Style Cheezly Bites, Meatless Feast Pizza, Ham Style & Pineapple Pizza, Cheezly & Tomato Pizza|
Cheezly was the first vegan cheese to melt properly, with their "super melting" mozzarella becoming my new favourite (and essential for pizzas) and their cheese slices being great for burgers.
Redwood also make a great range of fake meats (and other products). And they've just introduced a range of pizzas that use their cheeses too!
Available online and in health food stores (including Holland & Barrett).
Vegusto No Moo - http://www.vegusto.co.uk
|Hard cheese:||Golden, Classic (Blue / Stilton), Herb, Melty, Mild-Aromatic (Cheddar), Piquant, Walnut|
When the owner of Vx (the vegan boutique near Kings Cross) gave me my first taste of Vegusto, my immediate response was "this is not like cheese... this is cheese!" OK, it had been around 15 years since I'd had "real" cheese, but this was the first to get the texture right - both waxy and crumbly.
Like Redwood, Vegusto also have an extensive range of other vegan products, such as fake meats and even pet food!
Vegourmet - http://www.vegourmet.at
|Hard cheese:||Paradiso (tomato and basil), Volcano (hot), Herbario (herb), Mediteraneo (olive & garlic), Montanero (smokey), Bianco (creamy), Santeciano (strong)|
Having introduced the UK to Vegusto, Vx was also the first to bring us Vegourmet.
Texturally, I find Vegourmet quite similar to Cheezly. But with a different range of flavours.
Tofutti - http://www.tofutti.com
|Cream cheese:||Country Vegetable, French Onion, Garlic & Herbs, Herbs & Chives, Original|
|Cheese slices:||Mozzarella, Cheddar|
Probably better known for their vegan ice creams, Tofutti also make a limited ranges of fake cheeses.
Available online and in health food stores.
Life Free From
|Grated cheese:||Parmezano, Cheddareese|
Handy tubs of grated parmesan and cheddar style fake cheese. Great from sprinkling on pasta dishes.
Available in health food stores, and in some large supermarkets.
UPDATE: I've heard today that these have now been discontinued! So get them while you can...
Free & Easy
|Cheese products:||Cheese sauce|
A quick and easy cheese sauce that can be made up with water or non-dairy milk.
Available online, and in health food stores.
Daiya - http://www.daiyafoods.com
|Cheese products:||Amy's Macaroni and Soy Cheeze|
One of the most popular cheese alternatives in the USA, Daiya isn't yet readily available in the UK - except in Amy's Macaroni and Soy Cheeze (but beware - they do a dairy version too!)
Available online, and in health food stores.
And if that's still not enough, you can always try using Marigold Engevita Nutritional Yeast Flakes (available online, and in health food stores) to add a cheesy flavour to sauces, etc. Or SAF's raw cashew cheese (available at Whole Foods Market, Kensington High Street).
So, no more excuses for not giving up cheese! Although the downside is that I'm not going to make much more money from those who "could never give up cheese".
But that's a small price to pay.