Vegan cheeses: What you need to know to choose and use them in the kitchen
Recently created in response to growing market demand, vegan cheeses are beginning to gain popularity, even among omnivores intrigued by the novelty.
Vegan cheese? Why not? But on one condition: to be aware that they are not real cheeses, but 100% plant-based products that mimic their taste and texture.
What is vegan cheese?
Let’s take a step back and remember that to be defined as such, cheese must be made from coagulated milk. Rennet can be of animal or vegetable origin – an option that is very rare. Traditional cheese is therefore not suitable for vegans, and in some cases not even for vegetarians, precisely because of the use of animal rennet.
As we know, cheese is one of the most commonly used ingredients in our kitchens, not only as a stand-alone product, but also to flavour many recipes. In short, cheese is one of the pillars of the Italian culinary tradition
For this reason, with the increase in dietary preferences that exclude the use of animal products, the need arose to create a vegan alternative to cheese that mimics its taste and texture. This is similar to what has been happening for some time with plant-based drinks that ‘mimic’ the taste and use of milk.
A resource for those with lactose intolerance
The emergence of vegan cheeses also meets the needs of a growing number of people with lactose intolerance. While it is true that many types of cheese are naturally lactose-free (due to long ageing processes), it is also true that it is impossible to find fresh cheeses (such as mozzarella or ricotta) that are naturally lactose-free.
Therefore, vegan cheese refers to a product that contains no animal ingredients or derivatives (and therefore no lactose), and is often made from plant proteins.
How is vegan cheese made?
The core of these vegan cheese alternatives are often nuts (such as walnuts, almonds or cashews), seeds (pumpkin or sunflower), but also tofu, potatoes, carrots, tapioca, nutritional yeast, vegetable oils and natural flavours. The production process involves fermentation, which allows these ingredients to transform their texture into different types of pasta, from the creamiest to the harder ones that mimic mature cheese
Vegan cheeses in the kitchen
These products are equivalent to traditional cheeses in every way and can therefore be consumed as finished products or used as ingredients in recipes, whether traditional or more contemporary. The flavours vary considerably depending on the ingredients, as do the textures themselves. Our advice is to be curious and try the different types of vegan cheese on the market.