So like many people, giving up dairy (milk) was one thing, but giving up cheese was a whole different ball game. And if you read Part 1. in this series, you’ll see that I’m not alone.
It’s hard for me to pick a favourite cheese, though a creamy camembert, tasty cheddar and smooth cream cheese are pretty hard to beat. While I’m still working on the camembert alternative, and I shared my favourite cream cheese alternative in Part 1, I can proudly say that I’ve (finally!) found what I believe is the best dairy-free cheddar alternative I’ve ever tasted. If you disagree though, and you’ve got a couple of your own suggestions, feel free to add your suggestions in the comments- being a trained scientist and all I’m completely up for more research in this area and finding out if an even better dairy-free cheddar alternative exists;-)
The quest for the best ever sliceable cheese alternatives
I began this quest years ago when after I had my son I went through a period of being really sensitive to dairy (it was about the same time we were realising that his little body wasn’t a fan either and so I ended up having to cut dairy strictly out of my diet). The cravings for a tasty cheddar were pretty hard to beat (I come from an Italian family and so strong, salty, tasty cheeses featured heavily in my childhood and in many of my favourite recipes that my mum made).
It was about 1 month into my journey when it occurred to me to call our local vegan cafe and ask if they had some cheeses in stock. I’d tried the soy cheese in our local supermarket and it was pretty horrible (and I also realised it contained milk protein in it afterward which led me to wonder why you’d even bother?) All I wanted was a little bit of cheese for a cracker. When the store owner said “yes, we’ve got a few different kinds,” I was ecstatic, and so the research began.
So a brief word about cheese alternatives:
ALWAYS CHECK YOUR LABELS!!
Not all soy cheeses are actually dairy free (yes I thought that was a bit crazy too). So among other things on the label (like “Contains dairy”, keep a lookout for “casein”, “milk protein”, “milk solid” too.)
Yes there will probably be some non-whole food ingredients in them. But context is important here. We consider these dairy-free cheeses as something to offer that little bit of “zing” to the dish or on the cheese platter at a party, rather than a staple food that we’d include at every meal every day.
So without further ado… lets get stuck into Part 2 of this series:
The Best Dairy-Free Sliceable Cheeses. Ever
1. Redwood Cheezly Range: Mature Cheddar Style Cheese (contains soy) and the Soy Free Style Cheese.
The first cheese I tried that ticked all the boxes was this one here by Redwood. The Cheezly range have a couple of cheese alternatives. But after trying a few cheeses from other brands (including a horrible soy cheese which I later realised had dairy in it anyway, I was a bit skeptical that a nice dairy-free cheese was even possible. So rewind to when I first tasted the Redwood Mature Cheddar style cheese and I realised there was hope! It was the first one that I actually thought tasted like cheese.
The Mature Cheddar Style Cheese which contains soy, certainly has a sharper taste that is more reminiscent of “real cheddar” than the soy free one.
This is what the soy free style one looks like. Out of it’s packaging It’s a bit more orange in colour than our cheeses are here in Australia, it’s also softer in texture than the Mature Style cheese, but it’s an option if you can’t have soy and just want something to sprinkle on your taco, or put in your burger.
2. Vegusto No Muh Piquant (though the mild one is pretty good too). Once I tasted this cheese alternative, my search for the best dairy-free cheddar cheese was over. This one is still the best dairy-free cheddar cheese alternative I’ve tried. I love the tang of the Piquant one, but the mild one is equally tasty. And I’m not the only person who feels this way according to the results from the Free-from food awards. We serve these either sliced on our meat free burgers, or grated on tacos and sometimes we grate it and sprinkle it over a pizza or pasta bake, or on a dairy free cheese platter when we go to parties or have the cast over because Anne, Hayley and I can eat it and everyone else likes it too. This alternative is gluten free, dairy, free and soy free but it contains tree nuts so check the labels to see if it would be suitable for you.
3. A Home-made whole food sliceable cheese option? Before it occurred to me to check out the options in the vegan stores, I began trying to make my own. I’d been playing with some egg alternatives using agar agar making raw cheeses with cashews and re-thinking what was possible when it came to cooking without certain ingredients. (Btw if the idea of an egg-free egg interests you, if you’re not on our newsletter list, make sure you join up by entering your details below because there are some episodes coming up in Season 2 you won’t want to miss). So anyway I began playing with the agar agar and my eggy blends to try to make a cheese alternative too. This was the recipe I came up with back then. For those of you wanting a bit of a challenge, here’s a sliceable cheese alternative you can make at home (but watch this space because we aren’t done with this challenge just yet;-)
This cheese alternative doesn’t have the typical texture of a sliceable or cheddar style cheese, it’s softer and a little springy ( the texture sort of makes me think of barbecued Haloumi (although it’s no where near as salty or as creamy ;-).
- 1 x 400g can butter beans (rinsed) – or 1.5 cups home prepared butter beans which have been soaked and cooked.
- 1/2 tsp onion powder
- 1/2 tsp garlic powder
- 1/2 tsp turmeric
- 1/4 tsp mustard powder
- 1 tsp Himalayan salt
- juice of 1/2 a medium sized lemon
- 1 and 1/2 cups of boiling filtered water
- 3 tbsp nutritional yeast
- 1 cup filtered water
- To a blender add the spices, nutritional yeast, salt, beans, lemon juice and 1 cup of cold filtered water and blend until it is pureed and is smooth. (This mix needs to be smooth, so if you find there are still some pieces of the bean skins in the mix then pass it through a sieve first).
- To a saucepan of 2 and 1/2 cups of boiling water add 4 tsp of agar agar powder and stir or whisk until it is all dissolved (it’ll look clear). Once it has dissolved, leave it to cool (but be mindful it doesn’t set yet! So keep stirring and if you notice “strings” in the pan, go to step 3.
- Line a rectangular dish with a plastic wrap (or equivalent so that it it easy to remove once it has set)
- Add the dissolved agar agar into the blender and blend again to mix the agar agar through and then pour the mix into your rectangular dish.
- Leave the mix to set in the fridge for 1-2 hours.
Want to keep in the loop and learn about even more alternatives? Enter your name and email address below and you can get a copy of our list of Handy Alternatives and other subscriber bonuses when you join our newsletter (it’s FREE).