Click here for the Official Guide to the Best Vegan Cheese.
This is the intro to the official guide. If you’ve never tried vegan cheese before, here are a few things to keep in mind:
1. Automatic bias. When it comes to vegan “cheese” (and “meat” for that matter), a lot of people automatically judge it. Some people have this bias without ever trying vegan food. Try not to have a closed mind about it. Even if you’ve had vegan cheese before and were underwhelmed, give it another shot. Some brands are good, some not so good. Some companies have good varieties, and some not so good varieties. Some companies were once not good, but have since stepped up their game. Think about almond milk. There are at least 10 different companies making almond milk around the US. They all taste a little different. Some I don’t like. Some are okay. Some are amazing. And some that I like now, I didn’t like when I took my first sip. Don’t let a subpar first impression hinder that crucial second chance.
2. Magic taste buds. Even if you initially don’t like a product or brand, you might the next time you try it. When it comes to taste, there is a lot of crazy biological stuff going on inside the body and your mind. At a minimum, scientists have found that our taste buds change and adjust depending on what we are eating or not eating. If you can simply refrain from eating certain things for a matter of days or weeks, your taste buds will adjust. It’s amazing. And you’ll wonder, “How the heck didn’t I love this from the get-go?” Or, “How did I once like this?” That’s the mystery of our taste buds.
3. Cheese addiction? There are theories as to why we are so attached to milk and cheese products. It might be from the fact that milk is the first thing we consume at the start of our lives, so we have some sort of deeply entrenched attachment from that. Some theorize that milk has a “drug-like” reaction in the mind, like an opiate. Others say it is simply because humans have an evolutionary preference for highly caloric foods. Whether it’s either of those reasons, or whether it’s a perfectly reasonable desire to consume savory/umami foods, the dairy-free options of 2015 have you covered.
4. Weird ingredients? Nope. You might assume vegan cheeses are made with ingredients you’ve never heard of. That’s not true. Most (all?) of the brands are natural and non-GMO (if you care about that kind of thing). You’ll see ingredients like coconut oil, almonds, tapioca flour, or cashews. Not that weird. Even a paleo/caveman dieter probably doesn’t have much issue with food that’s mostly made from coconut oil or tree nuts. And remember, weirdness of ingredients never stopped you from spreading cream cheese from a lactating cow on your bagel.
5. Don’t forget what motivated you to venture slightly out of your norm to try vegan foods. To try Daiya or Field Roast instead of Kraft or Cabot, you probably learned how cruel the process of extracting milk from lactating cows is. Cheese, yogurt, milk. It all comes from the same place. And it’s usually loaded with hormones, both naturally occurring estrogen from lactating cows, as well as added hormones. So, if vegan cheese is somewhere less than the 1000% of exactly what you remembered your favorite grilled cheese tasting like, and now you are second guessing every decision you’ve ever made, let your ethical motivations fill the gap.