9 New Vegan Cheeses to Please the Masses

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9 New Vegan Cheeses to Please the Masses

We all listened to our share of alternative rock in 2002. Don’t even lie; we all know you rocked out to Green Day in your car and memorized every Bowling for Soup song. Well now 2016 is here, and it is the era of alternative cheese.

According to the National Institute of Health, 30 million to 50 million American adults are lactose intolerant. USA Today published the following back in 2009. “Somewhat less than 40 percent of people in the world retain the ability to digest lactose after childhood. Being able to digest milk is so strange that scientists say we shouldn’t really call lactose intolerance a disease, because that presumes it’s abnormal. Instead they call it lactase persistence, indicating what’s really weird is the ability to continue to drink milk.”

All well and good that a scientist is validating my stomachache, but most of us grew up eating grilled cheese sandwiches when it rained, and Kraft mac and cheese for just about any occasion, or if we were lucky, our southern granny’s homemade baked macaroni bubbling with American cheese, a hint of cheddar and a whole lot of pepper. Cheese and apples were the “healthy” childhood snack. Cheese is a comfort food, and appreciation of cheese paired with wine one of the joys of adulthood.

So what’s the alternative to indigestible dairy cheese? Terrible vegan cheese comprised mostly of tapioca starch and other random ingredients almost as terrible for your stomach as dairy cheese? Thankfully not: a plethora of cheeses made of cashews, almonds, macadamia nuts, hazelnuts, hemp, coconut milk and tofu now exist on the shelves of your local market or can easily be ordered online. Here are nine of our favorites.

Treeline


Herb-Garlic French-Style Soft Cheese

Artisan-made in the Hudson Valley, this cashew cheese is very accessible. It is sold in over 600 stores, including supermarket chains like Whole Foods and Lassens. Do you want to spread creamy soft savory cheese on your Triscuits while you watch the premiere of the newest Shonda show starring a kickass redhead and that hot guy from Dirty Sexy Money? Yeah, I thought so. This probiotic, raw, cholesterol-free, delicious and tangy cheese is what you want.

Riverdel


“Billy” Truffle

This goat cheese inspired Brooklyn-made soft cashew cheese is very sweet with no bite. And that’s a good thing. Slip this in your croissant with just a hint of lemon curd and you’ll think you just had the best cheese danish of your life.

Avellana


Handcrafted Vegan Hazelnut Cheese

Avellana is Spanish for hazelnut, and made of hazelnut and hemp, this cheese is a unique flavor in a sea of cashew. Created with organic hazelnuts and hemp seeds grown in the Pacific Northwest and using age-old traditional cheese-making methods, this cheese is made from actual nut and seed milk instead of nut pastes that are used in many vegan cheeses. The result is a cheese with a lush, silky-rich, cultured taste. If you’ve ever put hemp milk in your coffee and liked it, you’ll understand the creamy weight carrying this cheese.

Chao


Coconut Herb
Cayenne Herb

This is the cheese for your tuna melt, turkey melt, veggie melt … whatever melts float your taste buds. Seattle-based vegan company Field Roast gives you the convenience of sliced cheese, while subtlely slipping you a rich and creamy coconut cheese seasoned with a traditionally fermented soybean curd from Asia. If chowing down on a good sandwich in the park (or your car) is the bright spot of your day at the office, this cheese is for you.

Kite Hill


Cream cheese-style spread — Plain or Chive

Meet the cream cheese your bagel and lox has been dreaming about since before salmon learned Yiddish or New Yorkers discovered brunch. Almond-based, this spread is not as heavy as cashew-based cheeses, and soy-free unlike tofu-based cream cheeses. Non-dairy cheesecake tarts anyone?

Vtopian


Aged White Cheddar

OMG! Best cheddar! Melts in your mouth! This cultured cashew cheese is made in lovely Oregon, and the closest dairy cheese taste comparison would be a good Dublin cheddar. Have you ever had a bad day and just wanted to sit on the couch and eat a whole brick of cheese? This is the cheese you are going to want to do that with.

Cheezehound


Sichuan Pepper Berry

Folding the perfect layer of pepper into the middle of a round log of macadamia nut cheese, this alternative cheese maker from Upstate New York knows how to deliver. Pair this cheese with a spicy Spanish Grenache and you’ll deliver at your next soiree as well.

Soledad


Cheddar Style Jalapeno

Another crowd pleaser from Upstate New York, this is simply a great nacho cheese. Forget Velveeta and Ro-Tel, make your bean dip for that March Madness party with this.

Miyako’s Kitchen


Country Style Herbes de Provence

Encrusted in herbs for sunny, floral hints of Provence, this wheel is mildly tangy and coated in lavender for a touch of bread-fresh-out-of-the-oven sweetness. Please pair with crackers and rose and have the best spring afternoon ever. California-based Miyako’s Kitchen is becoming well-known in the vegan world. All their cheeses are free of cholesterol, lactose, egg, gluten and soy.

Special thanks to Riverdel Vegan Cheese in Prospect Heights, Brooklyn for all the samples and for facilitating our vegan cheese adventure!

Main photo by voyagevixen2 CC BY

Lydia Bottom is a writer, actor and occasional painter who has lived on all four American coasts, but now lives in Brooklyn. Tweet her at @LydiaBottom.