It’s one of the most common things people say to me.
“But I couldn’t live without cheese.”
Once you extract the obvious hyperbole (you realise when you’re vegan that ‘can’t live without’ means ‘sorta want’) you realise what the person is actually saying, is that they like cheese.
I get it: I used to enjoy a good Gorgonzola. Fontina d’Aosta. Parmigiano Reggiano. Mozzarella di bufala. Asiago (really, I loved Asiago). Robiola Piemonte. But as soon as I learnt more about the dairy industry, I really didn’t want them. When the switch goes off and you realise how weird it is to consume the breast milk of another species, the very thought of milk and eggs becomes absolutely repulsive.
Good thing there are animal-free alternatives.
Ok, so there is some way to go before something like roquefort, or the perfect gorgonzola dolce is recreated, but there are lots of really tasty alternatives already on the market-and more vegan cheeses are being launched all the time.
While I tend to go through phases with what I enjoy eating I’ve put together a little round-up of the vegan cheeses currently topping my list of faves.
While this may seem quite pricey (£3.85 for 100g) a little goes a long way-and it’s made from expensive and high quality ingredients. As you’d expect, it has a really deep smoky flavour (unsurprisingly reminiscent of the tangy paprika flavour of chorizo) and spreads like a dream, with a smooth and even consistency. Great on crackers or in sandwiches, this higher end cheese makes a good treat.
This is a genuinely excellent cruelty-free alternative to feta. It has a salty, creamy flavour, as well as a realistic ‘crumbiness’ to the texture. With cool, crisp lettuce and cucumber, succulent olives, and tangy, fresh tomatoes, this makes a delicious Greek salad (remember to dress with high quality olive oil and balsamic vinegar).
Violife (£2.25 for 200g) is the brand I turn to when I want something classic with a good melt. All the flavours I’ve tried are great – fairly mild in flavour, but very agreeable, and a good dupe for sliced cheeses and less flavourful varieties (cheddar, for example). This block is versatile and works for slicing, grating, or cubing and works very well in sandwiches (highly recommended with Tofurky meat-free slices). One complaint…the packaging is a bit impenetrable. If anyone has a good technique for getting into it, let me know!
My personal favourite type of pizza is cheeseless – when the crust is good, with lots of tasty tomato and the right amount of quality olive oil and garlic, I simply don’t believe you need any cheese. However, for those times you really fancy it, this Follow Your Heart (£4.29 for 227g) ‘mozzarella’ is the premium pick. It melts easily, and has the mild, creamy taste of its dairy-based counterpart.
Another from Bute Island – which goes to show how solid this brand is. This (£2.50 for 255g) for is a really good cruelty-free dupe for cheeses like Boursin. It has a good, smooth, creamy texture, as well as a really tasty flavour. The garlic and herb influences are pronounced, but not overpowering. This is excellent on toast, or slathered over French bread.