Vegan Cheese? Yes, Please!

Violate Just like Parmesan wedge cheese. My youngest son calls this the “yum yum” cheese. Grates perfectly, tastes as good as— if not better than—dairy based parmesan.

I am excited to share a few of my favorite vegan cheeses with our Flavors and More readers. You don’t have to be vegan to sample these delicious plant-based foods. If you love food, you’ll probably find one or more alternative cheeses that will become a staple in your culinary repertoire.

When both of my children chose to follow a vegan lifestyle several years ago, I thought that was the end of cheese…for them! There were a few products in the health food stores, but most were inedible. Now the good news! Today there is a large and growing variety of delicious vegan cheeses to choose from and they can be found in large chain grocery stores as well as health food and specialty markets. And online!

Violife just like Feta block cheese…is almost buttery in flavor, reminiscent of Feta but not as salty. I love it! Cut it into cubes for appetizers or crumble over a crisp green salad.

Vegan cheeses are made primarily from nuts (almonds and cashews are most popular), coconut oil, coconut milk, and soy. I recently discovered a brand that has a line of cheeses made from rice.

In larger cities one can find gourmet and specialty shops devoted entirely to vegan cheese. Many make their cheeses on site. Some of the more notable locations are Riverdel and Dr-Cow in Brooklyn, NY; Vtopian Artisan Cheeses in Portland, Oregon; Vromage in LA; and Three Girls Vegan Creamery in Guilford, CT.

You can also order online from retailers like Ste Martaen–their flavors include Munster, one of my favorites—and are made from sunflower seeds. Vegan Essentials carries a variety of brands including The Frauxmargerie and Reine Royal Vegan Cuisine. Another option is making your own vegan cheese.

Siete Family Foods makes outstanding cashew queso in two flavors – Mild Nacho and Spicy Blanco. Perfect for dipping with their grain free chips, layered in nachos, or a zesty cheese sauce for your favorite pasta dishes.

Now it’s time to sample these alternative cheeses! Keep in mind you can substitute vegan cheese for dairy cheese in just about any recipe. Some varieties melt better than others. Flavor varies based on the foundation ingredients used to make the cheeses. I find the coconut oil-based cheeses tend to have the creamiest texture while the nut-based options have a firmer texture.

First up is a quick, easy, healthy appetizer to ward off the hungries while you prepare a main dish.

Cheesy Chive Celery Sticks

Celery sticks filled with Kite Hill chive cream cheese. Perfect for you and your guests to snack on while you cook. 

Ingredients:

Organic Celery
8-oz container Kite Hill Chive Cream Cheese

Instructions:

Wash celery thoroughly, trim end and remove strings. Fill generously with cream      cheese and feel good about eating this super healthy treat.

Smoky Baked Penne

Baked penne with smoky gouda and almond pepper jack…yum!

Ingredients

  • I box penne
  • Olive oil
  • I small sweet onion, finely chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 8-oz can tomato sauce
  • ½ jar pasta sauce
  • 1 4-oz can coconut cream
  • I block Daiya smoked gouda, grated
  • ½ block Lisanatti Almond Jalapeno Jack style cheese, shredded
  • 1 teaspoon oregano
  • 1 teaspoon basil
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon white pepper

Instructions

  1. Cook penne, drain and cool.
  2. Sauté chopped onion in olive oil until soft and transparent. Add minced garlic and sauté 1-2 minutes more, careful not to burn the garlic.
  3. In a large bowl combine pasta, 2/3 of grated gouda, tomato sauce, pasta sauce, coconut cream, and seasonings.
  4. Coat a 2-quart casserole dish with coconut oil spray. Fill with pasta mixture. Combine remaining gouda with jalapeno jack and sprinkle evenly over the top.
  5. Bake at 350 for 25-30 minutes.

 

Recipes I plan to try soon
So many recipes, so little time. As I was researching this article, I found a wealth of creative, healthy sides, main dishes, desserts, and more that I can’t wait to add to my family’s weekly menus.

 

Siete Family Foods – Avocado “Fries”

What a fabulous idea! Dip slices of firm ripe avocado in queso and a crumb mixture of Siete chips and bake. Dip in more queso!

sietefoods.com, stories

Violife Foods – Au Gratin with Spinach, Artichokes, and Beans

                This interesting combination of ingredients incorporates their smoky gouda…it is really good-a! (Sorry, couldn’t resist?)

violifefoods.com, recipes

Miyoko’s Tomorrow’s Creamery–Phenomenally Vegan Sundried Tomato Risotto

                So many of my favorites – garlic, wine, sundried tomatoes. And the best part is no stirring required! Prep and then pop in the oven while relaxing over a glass of wine.

miyokos.com

Daiya Foods — Balsamic Berry Vegan Grilled Cheeze

            Strawberries, blueberries, fresh spinach, balsamic vinaigrette in a mozzarella stuffed grilled cheese sandwich. I’m sold!

daiyafoods.com

 

Lori Rodgers – Lori’s passion for food and fine dining began at an early age. She started reading Gourmet at 8, and was fortunate to have a father who included her in his travels to cites across the US, often frequenting restaurants she had read about in the magazine. After studying hotel and restaurant management at FSU for two years and thoroughly enjoying the summer program in Switzerland, she graduated with a degree in International Business with a minor in Spanish. Lori owned and operated the family business, Bert Rodgers Schools of Real Estate for 25 years, indulging her cooking hobby by whipping up meals for family and friends on the weekends. She has two teenagers who have adopted a vegan lifestyle, adding a new challenge to Lori’s cooking repertoire. Lori recently sold the business and is embarking on a new chapter and new career, returning to her true calling, cooking and exploring the multifaceted world of food!