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Vegan cheese taste test: 8 Non-dairy products, ranked
Vegans hear it all the time: “I could never go vegan, because I could never give up cheese!”
But even though vegans have given up cheese, that doesn’t mean some of them don’t miss it. When I switched to a primarily vegan diet two years ago, my friends and family were shocked, mostly because I was notoriously obsessed with cheese. Back in the day, my sister always said she would marry cheese when she grew up, and for some reason my personal motto was “I like cheeeeeeeese.” So giving it up was a daunting prospect.
So maybe it’s because of my love for the taste of dairy cheese — and my dissatisfaction with its nutritional profile and the farming techniques that are used to procure it — that have helped me be more open-minded about vegan cheese. Yeah, vegan cheese. And while some vegan cheeses are made with mysterious combinations of tapioca starch, artificial flavors and colors, others are made from cultured nuts and nut milks using techniques very similar to traditional artisanal dairy cheeses.
But how do they stack up? To find out, I bought eight different brands of vegan cheese and hosted a tasting for two of my omnivorous friends and one other vegan. While there were definitely some misses, there were a few options that wowed us all.
1. Leaf Cuisine Peppery Jack Probiotic Cashew Spread (Similar to: Boursin/dip)
This cheese came out of nowhere and totally won the tasting. I was the most skeptical of this product. I mean, it’s called “probiotic cashew spread” right on the label — I assumed it was going to taste like the worst stereotype of vegan hippie food. But I was so, so wrong. This super-creamy spread was richly flavored with herbs and spices. It didn’t taste like pepper jack, as the name implied, but more like Boursin. One taster even likened it to French onion dip. Once we were done with the tasting, I had to get the rest of this one out of the fridge so we could keep snacking. I will definitely purchase this product again, and I’m excited to bring it to parties with crackers or potato chips and to watch my omnivore and vegan friends eat it up.
And I’m thrilled to know that tasty vegan cheese is now a reality.
MY FAVORITES OF EXPO WEST 2016
leaf cuisine / When you pair probiotics and cashew cheese in the same sentence, you have my full attention.
I can appreciate a smooth, flavorful cashew cheese spread with a distinct probiotic tang. A good option for those times you want a lighter cashew cheese.
Gluten-free, Soy-free and Raw
Local Favorite | Leaf Cuisine Cashew Cheese Spreads
Leaf Cuisine is a local, Los Angeles cashew cheese based company with roots that date back to the formative Leaf Cuisine Restaurant run by “Raw Food’s For Real People” author and chef Rod Rotundi.
Rod has dedicated his career to helping others understand the powerful benefits in raw foods and the positive effects it has on our mind and body.
An individual with such passion has now taken his latest endeavor to this year’s Natural Products Expo West, where I met him and his lovely girlfriend Mia.
I tried the Smoked Gouda and The Original. I was hooked. The fermented cashew cheese spread was creamy, salty/sweet, soy-free, gluten-free and raw–a winning combination to create a minimally processed product.
Since scouting them at Expo West, they have added to their line.
After trying all the new flavors, I still stand firm on the Smoked Gouda being my standout favorite.
Since seeing them originally at my local Whole Foods, they have now expanded across the US. I have also seen them at Erewhon Market, Santa Monica Coop and Lassen’s.