Say (vegan) Cheese!

(Sorry I couldn’t resist!)

So 3 guesses what the topic is this time?! Yep. Vegan cheese.

Something I hear a lot is I would be vegan but “CHEEEEESE tho” It’s up the with bacon for the omni masses and I know I was one of them. If you are v-curious, veggie wanting to go vegan or dairy intolerant, I feel you. We’ve all been there, grated, melted, sliced, nibbled mouse like straight from the block. Cheese is so good there’s even a cheese theme park! I know!!

But.

Dairy. There’s no getting round it, it’s not a pretty industry. I won’t get graphic, there is plenty of information out there if you want to look for it. I’m going to stick for now to the mostly yellow, sometimes white, often coconut or soya based, vegan swap out.

Vegan cheese is a bit of a minefield and a lot of it is down to personal tastes but don’t let one or two bad experiences put you off forever. You will have one or two bad experiences I’m afraid but it’s not all bad I promise! I was ready to give up entirely on vegan cheese after one memorable VegFest trip but we have come along way in a short time and there really is something for everyone now.

I’m going to split the vegan cheeses I know of into sections, Beginners, Advanced and Artisan and those sections in to separate blogs because this was getting really long! Everyone needs to start somewhere and some of the “advanced” can take a little working up too! An acquired taste shall we say…

Beginners

These are the cheeses I recommend to customers when asked at the stall and some are used in our Savoury Rolls. I call them beginners as they are the most inoffensive for first (or second, or third…) timers and are easily accessible.

My go to cheese of choice for first timers, skeptics and those recovering from scary vegan cheese experiences is Violife. Available in supermarkets and Holland & Barrett – see easily accessible! Start with the Original and go from there. It is, in my opinion, the mildest vegan cheese out there and reminds me of mild cheddar. It makes for good slicing (and comes in sliced packs) for sandwiches, grating for topping pasta but don’t expect it to melt the same as a dairy cheddar. Most importantly it doesn’t have the -shall we say ..bold.. – scent of some of the brands in the Advanced section.

Violife are expanding quickly both in flavours and styles so you can now get everything from the Original style to Mozzarella style, hard cheese for pasta, soft cheese for spreading or using in cake frosting or sauces to After Dinner Blocks. The After Dinner Blocks are the cheeseboard style, slightly fancier blocks with ingredients like blueberries and cranberries. Excitingly Violife brought out a halloumi style cheese last year which griddles brilliantly and this year a feta style which you might have tried in our Feta Style & Beetroot Savoury Rolls. (The Original block or slice makes for lovely cheese on toast or toastie)

After Violife, the next step I suggest is the supermarket own brands. Sainsbury’s started something last year with their own brand range of cheese and caused Gary-gate. Since then Tesco has joined the party and eventually Asda ambled in. Both Sainsbury’s and Tesco cheese to my knowledge are made by Bute Island (we’ll get to them in the Advanced group!) and have a similar gentle tang of slightly more mature cheeses. A word of caution, we are entering the distinctive vegan cheese tang here.

I’m not going to sugar coat it, it’s “cheese” Jim, but not as you know it.

For some it does take a little getting used to and this is why I try to recommend people build up slowly through the ranges. Tesco’s own label being the more delicate of the two, Sainsbury’s own has a touch more punch to it. Both brands have grated cheddar style and happily these melt a little more in the style of a dairy cheese, and soft spreadable. Tesco also has a hard cheese replacement again suitable for pasta, a Red Leciester and some fancier after dinner styles. Adsa are playing catch up a little but have recently brought out a mature cheddar style which is creamy and delicious nibbled straight out of the pack …..not that I do that…. and a grated which I haven’t managed to get my hands on yet as they haven’t rolled it out to all stores frustratingly.

Whether you are testing the waters of going dairy free or are vegan on a cheese finding mission, these are great starting points. All of the cheeses I have mentioned here are readily available in most supermarkets and are around the £2.50 mark. This makes them a little more expensive than some dairy cheeses but much easier on the purse strings than the Advanced and Artisan ranges in the featured next blog – especially if you are still looking for the perfect vegan cheese for you.

If I can leave you with one piece of advice, it’s don’t give up! Try as much vegan cheese as possible, ESPECIALLY if there are free tasters going! You might not like them all but I guarantee in this modern day of veganism there is definitely something for everyone.

I hope you have found this beginners guide helpful. Let’s me know in the comments if you have any questions or tips for your fellow cheese lovers, I’d love to hear from you.

Until next time xx