Vegan cheese

So I’ve been wanting to write this blog post for a while. Cheese is a biggie! For most people, cheese is what comes between them and a life of living cruelty free.

Sounds funny that doesn’t it, when you see it written in black and white, that one measly meagre food item could be so humongous and pivotal in swaying or detering someone from abstaining from cruelty?! Or their goals to live a life that’s better for the environment, or better for their health. But it’s true. People love cheese. And people don’t just love cheese – People are literally addicted to cheese. Read on to find out more…

When I first went vegan 4 years ago I struggled to give up cheese (& eggs) after having been vegetarian for 13 years. But once you know the truth you can’t unlearn it. So once you know better you do better. I hated vegan cheese at first and felt sad and a bit pissed off about it. But then I remembered why I was doing it (not for myself or my taste buds but for the animals). So I kept going and kept trying different cheese alternatives. I now love loads and there are so many different types (even just here in Scotland alone!) – I even like ones I hated at first because once you go vegan your taste buds completely change.

So let’s first rewind 4 years ago to January 2014. I was doing Veganuary and the very first vegan cheese I tasted was Tesco’s own. Now this was before the relaunch of their ‘free from’ range – this was a very different, very substandard offering… let’s put it this way when I tasted it that first time, with such high hopes and enthusiasm for my new vegan lifestyle, I nearly cried. Well, to be accurate, I spat it out and then nearly cried. IT WAS VILE!!!

But I didn’t let that deter me. I ordered a starter pack from the wonderful Vegusto, and jumped for joy on tasting their delicious Swiss artisan cheezes.

They were savoury and delicious and I could eat it cold on crackers or warm on pasta. It wasn’t the taste of cheese I was used to but it filled my cheesy void and it was a flavour I could get used to.

So Vegusto was on repeat order online and was what fed my cheese cravings in those early days.

I then tried a cheese from the Cheezly* range by UK based Vbites foods. Again I was disappointed and didn’t like them at all. And then I tried Sheese* by Scottish company Bute Island foods. Again, I was disappointed and did not enjoy it one bit. *NB I will refer back to both of these in just a moment!

So after much trial and error, mostly error, my first big revelation with vegan cheese came courtesy of Violife. Now a big leading name in vegan cheese on both sides of the pond, Violife were what saved me from a life of doom (ie a cheese-less life!)

Violife is reminiscent of American style processed cheese – it tasted and felt familiar, with no confrontational smell or funny taste. It was mild and unassuming… almost reminded me of edam in texture. Violife was my first major win with a Vegan cheese that I could eat regularly, and in ways I’d previously eaten cheese. It was a triumph in many ways.

I then tasted another Scottish offering by Nutcrafter Creamery – artisan nut based cheeses. Absolutely delicious. The only downside is that they’re not as easily available and the quality hand crafted product comes with a price tag to match. But I treat myself once in a while.

Early 2015 I went out with vegan friends to a veggie place and one of the things we shared was cheesy chips. They were so yummy! I enquired as to what vegan cheese they used and on discovering it was my once detested Cheezly, I set about sourcing some for myself asap! On this discovery I realised that either they’ve changed their recipe (unlikely) or my taste buds have changed in the course of being vegan. Triumphant I stocked up and have never looked back – Cheezly is now to this day probably my overall favourite vegan cheese. (More on this below).

Inspired by this victory, I then tried Sheese again (the other one I very much disliked at first) and who would have thought?! I loved it as well! I’ve bought it and enjoyed it ever since…

…So when Tesco relaunched their vegan cheeses along with Sainsbury’s last year I stocked up, delighted to have such a range of choice of flavours and styles so easily available. Not many people realise that Bute Island foods are the wizards behind both these supermarket’s vegan cheeses. I think one of the best things about these cheeses are that they melt so well, but again more detail on this below.

My husband went vegan last June and he can’t stand vegan cheese! And so instead of trying to make himself like them he’s simply not having them! It’s not the end of the world for him! …but the reason so many people struggle to give up cheese is because of casein (morphine like substances in casein act like opiate receptors in our brains) hence why people feel literally addicted to cheese. But the sad reason it has this effect is because dairy milk is breast milk intended for a baby. A baby needs milk to grow hence the addictive effect; it’s to ensure the young keep going back to the breast for more. Except the milk isn’t going to her young – it’s going to the mouths of humans in the form of cheese and ice cream.

If you want to find out more about the damaging effects of dairy on the environment and your health and the cruelty involved,  please check out the following links:

http://www.NationEarth.com (watch Earthlings documentary for free)

http://www.Cowspiracy.com

http://www.WhatTheHealthfilm.com

Here are some of the best vegan cheeses available in the UK and some more info on them:

Violife – probably the most easily available vegan cheese in the UK, most supermarkets sell this brand and it is very reasonably priced. The normal variety doesn’t melt very well but there is a Violife for pizza block that melts better. Like I mentioned above the taste and texture is reminiscent of a processed American cheese, almost rubbery but very mild in flavour and aroma.

*I would recommend Violife first and foremost for people transitioning to a vegan diet and lifestyle.

Vegusto – available online and from specialist health food style shops. A bit pricier but worth it because they are really good.

*Vegusto is another good introductory cheese for people transitioning.

Cheezly – made by Vbites, offer a range of cheese styles and varieties. I love their edam melted on toast – it’s not like a dairy edam so if you ever see it I urge you to buy it to make the most amazing melted cheese on toast! Available in Holland and Barrett and other health food shops.

Sheese – made by Bute Island Foods, excellent for melting and all types of cooking. Try their cheddar spread for an excellent Dairylea style spread. Available under the Sheese brand from Holland and Barrett and other health food shops. Or also available as the vegan cheeses available in Tesco and Sainsbury’s.

Nutcrafter – organic artisan cheeses. I can really recommend them as they are exceptional! Available locally in central Scotland or can be bought online.

Tyne Chease – another fantastic artisan cheese offering, also made using organic ingredients, available from their own website or alternativestores.com

Finally, my last word on vegan cheese… whatever reason you are going vegan or eating more plant based, my advice to all would be to avoid all alternative cheeses for the first month or 2, or longer, if you can. The reason for this is to let your taste buds change and adapt (because believe me, they will and they do!) and then you can introduce these vegan products once your palate has been renewed, and you will likely enjoy them much more than if you try them right away and are disappointed or put off by how different they are to real dairy cheeses. You may even find that you lose all notion for needing or wanting to eat them at all!

If you find you’re struggling because the addiction is just too real and you really want to cave and eat some actual cow’s cheese, just google ‘dairy is scary’ and that will help you get back on track!

Good luck friends and enjoy this whole new world of vegan cheese that awaits you!

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