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Vegan “cheese”: Any good ones? June 30, 2010

Posted by ourfriendben in wit and wisdom.
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Silence Dogood here. I’ve been a vegetarian over half my life: no meat of any kind, including no poultry or fish. No fertilized eggs. No meat byproducts like gelatin. No pseudomeats, bacon bits, and the like. But I’m not a vegan: I enjoy our own cosseted heirloom chicken flock’s rich, tasty eggs, and I enjoy cheese, sour cream, and yogurt.

Recently, though, I’ve been trying to reduce the dairy component in our friend Ben’s and my diet. After reading Alicia Silverstone’s book, The Kind Diet, I bought some Earth Balance “butter” and found that it worked just fine, as long as you added a pinch of salt. I often use olive oil instead of butter in recipes, but when I want butter, Earth Balance works for us as an acceptable dairy-free substitute, with no hidden animal products like gelatin (see my earlier post, “Gelatin is everywhere,” for more on this).

OFB is my guinea pig on this, since I haven’t told him I’m trying to switch to more vegan dairy alternatives for our cholesterol and weight’s sake as well as my conscience. He hasn’t noticed the switch to Earth Balance, and I’m not about to tell him.

Unfortunately, there’s still the cheese issue to contend with. Cheese on sandwiches; shredded, crumbled, and grated cheese on salads; cheese in sauces and on pizza and pasta: OFB and I love cheese in all its variations. Could vegan “cheese” make the grade?

In a word, no, at least as far as the vegan “cheese” in our local grocery is concerned. I bought blocks of vegan mozzarella and Monterey Jack before OFB and I set out on our mini-vacation. I typically buy veggies, dips, chips, hummus, nuts, pepitas, sunflower seeds, dried fruit, and cheese for the road so we don’t eat nasty fat- and sugar-laden snacks out of desperation.

This time, I thought I’d substitute the vegan “cheese” for real cheese and hope we’d enjoy it. So I sliced the blocks of “cheese” into strips and put them in zip-lock bags. But I was curious, so I tasted them before putting them in our cooler. Eeeewwww, they were totally revolting. The pasty texture and aftertaste were so awful I made myself throw them out, telling OFB when he later asked “Don’t we have any cheese?!” that I’d forgotten to get any.

I’d still like to make the switch to vegan cheese (and sour cream and yogurt). I checked online and found a couple of suggestions: Cheezy from Redwood in the U.K., and Earth Balance Gourmet Brand over here in the U.S. (Tofutti brand yogurt and sour cream were also highly recommended.)

Problem is, now I’m scared. That pseudo-cheese was one of the worst things I’ve ever tasted. Does anybody out there have a yummy cheese alternative that actually tastes (and cooks) like cheese? Have you tried Earth Balance Gourmet Brand cheese or Cheezy, and if so, what did you think? Is there a source for Cheezy in the U.S.? Any other thoughts? Please let me know!

           ‘Til next time,