People choose to abstain from dairy or all animal products for a variety or reasons. Some have allergies or intolerances. Some choose a plant-based diet simply for better health. Others choose Veganism, in an effort to end the animal cruelty involved in the dairy industry. Likewise, Veganism is a religious decision for some. Finally, many are realizing the necessity of the reduction or elimination of animal products from our diets, for unavoidable environmental reasons.
Jonathan A. Foley explains in his 5 Step Plan to Feed the World that reducing or eliminating animal agriculture can play an integral role in successfully ending world hunger, as well as doubling our food production in order to feed the projected increase in population by 2050, all the while reducing greenhouse gasses.
Animal agriculture is responsible for 51% of greenhouses gasses!
In light of these realities, we face a necessary transition. And in this time of transition, we are faced with many questions. The most frightening for some being, “How will I live without cheese?!!”
To this burning and common question, I have two responses. One, you can live quite happily without cheese; it isn’t air. Two, thankfully, you don’t have to.
Many companies produce quality and even artisanal dairy-free cheeses, that are available online and at grocery stores. There are even soy-free and nut free cheeses, that taste great! Some really good dairy-free cheeses available at the Co-op and Smith’s in Albuquerque, (in order of awesomeness), are as follows:
- Fieldroast Chao Slices (3 varieties, including coconut milk with black pepper)
- Heidi-Ho Black Lava (fancy cheese spread! Everything they make is awesome)
- Daiya Shredded Cheese (cheddar or mozzarella, great for pizzas)
- Toffuti Dairy-Free Cream Cheese (also comes in an onion flavor)
- Daiya Jalapeno Havarti Block (also available in Cheddar, Smoked Gouda and Jack styles)
If you enjoy experimenting in the kitchen, there are countless published recipes, and even fully devoted cookbooks available on making your own vegan cheeses and cheesy dishes, with a variety of bases.
I have had great results with any cashew-based recipe I have tried and am currently smitten with coconut milk as a base. The recipe below is quick, easy and tastes so good hot from the stove that you’ll want to eat nachos until you explode. It has a great smoky flavor and is also nice as a cold spread with crackers – but, hot is definitely the best.
Smoky Garlic Coconut Milk Cheese
2 cans full fat Coconut Milk
4 teaspoons Agar Powder (Agar-Agar)
1 tablespoon Balsamic Vinegar
½ teaspoon of Salt
Pinch of Black Pepper
4 tablespoons Tapioca Starch (Cornstarch or Arrowroot Powder should work as well, but the cheese might be less gooey)
2 tablespoons Paprika
¼ cup Liquid Smoke
2 teaspoons Garlic Salt
1 teaspoon Garlic Powder
½ cup Nutritional Yeast
The ingredients I used are all pictured here in packages, with the exception of Tapioca Starch, but most of these are also available from the bulk bins at La Montanita Co-Op, including Tapioca Starch, Agar Powder and Nutritional Yeast. Bulk Bins are great, because you get choose the amount you buy and you generally save money, as well.
Assemble your ingredients beforehand, because the process goes fast. Pour both cans of milk into a pot and boil.
Once the coconut milk is boiling, add the Agar Powder, Vinegar and Salt and stir vigorously to dissolve.
Add Tapioca Starch and stir to dissolve.
Add remaining ingredients, (Paprika, Liquid Smoke, Garlic Salt, Nutritional Yeast*) to taste! Or use my suggested measurements.
*Your dominant cheesey taste comes from the Nutritional Yeast, or “Nooch,” so if you want more cheesey taste, add more Nooch! I always temper the Nutritional Yeast with Garlic Salt, because I think it’s a perfect compliment and integral in achieving an authentic cheesey flavor. They are great paired on garlic toast, popcorn and a million other things, too!
If you feel like the cheese isn’t smooth enough, it can be transferred to a food processor for a super silky texture.
I expect you will eat all this glorious cheese out of the pot with tortilla chips, but if not, it can be poured into Pyrex containers or covered muffin tins and refrigerated for later enjoyment. As I mentioned, this cheese is great with crackers, but really stands out when it is melted.
The recipe I used as a base for my coconut milk cheese is here. (Click for pics of beautiful quesadillas!)
Also, check out these links for more dairy-free and cruelty-free cheese recipes from various sources!
- Vegan Paprika Cheesewithout Nuts or Soy! (from Cooking With Plants)
- Roasted Red Pepper Mac N Cheese (Video recipe from Post Punk Kitchen!)
- Three Cashew Cheese Recipes (from Nutrition Stripped)
- List of 10 Vegan Cheese Recipes compiled by One Green Planet
And check these links out, for Vegan Cheese Recipe Books available on Amazon!!!
And if you are interested in vegan baking, cooking or food in general, check out The Post Punk Kitchen and all the amazing cookbooks that these ladies have written, (like The Veganomicon!!!) Every recipe I have ever made from a PPK book (or the website) has worked and tasted great.
Finally, check these links out for more information on helping animals by living vegan.
Thanks for reading and for caring enough to make a change. Enjoy!
-Posted by Heidi