Whether you’re an animal lover or lactose intolerant, cheese has always been a barrier to dietary bliss. In theory, you know it would be healthier to eliminate it from your life completely, but it’s just so darn good. Plus, eliminating it often results in unsympathetic looks and snarky comments from omnivorous friends at every cocktail party.
Recognizing cheese’s power over food lovers, many chefs and pro-vegetarian food companies have gone where nobody has before to introduce a non-dairy cheese that solves this conundrum—satisfaction without remorse. While a number have succeeded with rich, meltable shreds and sauces—Daiya Cheese, Teese Cheese, and GO Veggie!—gourmet vegan cheeses have been a tougher nut to crack.
But, rising in-store sales are starting to beg the question: Is gourmet vegan cheese the next big food trend?
In roughly the past 25 years, American consumption of cheese has increased three-fold, yet interestingly, sales of processed cheese are on the decline. With more than one-third of Americans now admitting they eat vegetarian meals a significant part of the time, there appears to be a huge opportunity for non-dairy cheeses that are worthy of wine pairing.
Here are a few that are making their way to cheese boards across vegan and vegetarian kitchens.
Dr-Cow is a small but robust Brooklyn-based operation that offers a variety of gluten, soy, and dairy-free cheeses derived from 100% raw, organic nuts. Using as few unprocessed ingredients as possible, Dr-Cow cheeses are made with a homemade acidophilus and pink Himalayan salt to create a curd-like texture of traditional dairy cheeses. You can choose from more than a dozen flavors, including the crowd favorite, the Cream Cashew Nuts Alternative Cheese. But, a fair warning: the Aged Cashew Nuts & Kale Cheese and Aged Cashew & Blue Green Algae Alternative Cheese do not look like your everyday block of cracker spread. One is green, and the other is greenish-blue, respectively. It may throw you off a bit, but remember that’s because Dr-Cow hasn’t doctored them up with artificial food dyes.
2. Ste. Martaen.
Started by a vegan family out of Chicago, Ste. Martaen gourmet cheeses are truly a product of love and compassion. Their goal was not to emulate the artificial taste or ingredients associated with traditional non-dairy cheese—in fact, the texture is closer to a medium-firm tofu—but to offer an elegant, healthier alternative for entertaining and wine pairing. The flavors are nothing short of bold; the Olive is a stand-out flavor, but the Muenster has a kick that is sophisticated enough for dinner parties and versatile enough to eat with sliced tomatoes and a drizzle of olive oil. Also choose from Smoked Gouda, Pepper Jack, and Colby—all delivered to your door, vacuum-sealed and ready to join the party. (Also available at select Whole Foods Chicago locations!)
3. Kite Hill
Co-founded by the talented and celebrated vegan chef and restaurateur, Tal Ronnen, Kite Hill offers the only non-dairy cheeses available in Whole Foods gourmet cheese department. Tapping into European cheese-making techniques, each specialty flavor is made of a proprietary nut milk derived from locally sourced macadamias and almonds in lieu of highly processed ingredients. The flavor is milder, some say a bit bland, but the texture is surprisingly complementary to the real thing. Choose from three flavors.
4. Dairy Tree Foods
Soon to hit shelves, Dairy Tree is experimenting with a number of flavors, but rumor is they will roll out a plant-based bleu cheese wedge as their debut product. According to its makers, the cheese will not contain cholesterol, lactose, casein, palm oil, or animal products. They have racked up more than 18,000 fans on Facebook without an actual product yet, and Colleen Holland, advertising director at VegNews, called it a “serious game changer.”
5. Follow Your Heart (Gourmet Cheese Blocks)
While not quite up to par with some of the other “gourmet” non-dairy cheeses on this list, Follow Your Heart offers an affordable and easy-to-get-your-hands-on vegan alternative that is ideal for everyday eating. Their gourmet, GMO-free line-up includes cheese blocks in Mozzarella, Nacho, Monterey Jack, and Cheddar.
This article was originally published on www.NaturallySavvy.com
*Image of “morning toast” via Shutterstock