When I tell people that I’m vegan, the most common response I hear back is: “I just couldn’t give up cheese.” I love watching their faces when I tell them that – actually – they don’t have to. There are countless vegan cheese alternatives available today at most grocery stores (or you can make your own at home!) that are just as delicious as the real deal. Taste and texture have vastly improved over the years, and these “cheeses” are much less waxy, with more wholesome flavour, meaning it’s harder to tell which is vegan and which is dairy.
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Here are my vegan pantry essentials that ensure you won’t be missing dairy:
Nutritional yeast is the secret ingredient that vegans use to achieve cheesiness and savoury taste without the actual cheese. I like to call it “nature’s Cheetos dust.” The flakes are a must-have for sprinkling on top of anything and everything from popcorn to avocado toast. The bold umami flavour is irresistible.
Don’t underestimate the cashew nut – they’re the ingredient you need to recreate creamy flavour and smooth texture. Soak cashews in water for an hour before blending them into cheesy sauces, like alfredos and béchamels. Cashews can also be used to make solid cheeses comparable in flavour to bries, blue cheeses or sharp cheddars.
Arrowroot powder is an ingredient that you can use to thicken sauces, soups and even make melty vegan cheese. When warmed, it helps to thicken vegan cheeses like mozzarella into a stringy-and-gooey cheese sauce. Without it, it’s impossible to achieve the same results. Tip: Add some in between the slices of your vegan grilled cheese for an IG-worthy cheese pull.
When buying plant-based cheeses, I like options that are creamy, cashew-based and feature various herbs and spices to create different taste profiles. Here are three from my favourite brands.