Non-Dairy Cheese: Product Reviews

| 7/11/2010 9:16:59 PM

Tags: product review, vegan cheese, dairy free cheese,

Dairy-Free Cheese 

My family and I are vegans. (If you’re unfamiliar with vegan diets, they are similar to vegetarian diets — no beef, no poultry, no fish, no pork — but they also exclude all dairy products and eggs.) We happened upon this lifestyle suddenly, but it’s changed everything. Less than a year ago, I decided to tackle a year of vegetarianism for a graduate school project, thinking that it wouldn’t be a big deal, and I’d be happy to have the year behind me. Vegetarianism is so often an emotional decision, but I wanted to approach it through research, not tears.

As it turns out, researching vegetarianism without tears is nearly impossible, especially if your research includes watching animal rights documentaries. Beyond emotions, I found myself surrounded by research that called into question so many of the foods I had eaten for my entire life. Suffice it to say, without going into too much detail, I found myself quickly switching my diet from vegetarian to vegan and deciding that this was a life change, not a year-long journey.

My family was curious about my project, and they began researching the subject as well. A month later, five out of the seven of us were vegans. The change happened so rapidly that our ingenuity had to fight to keep up with our diets. We couldn’t have meat. We couldn’t have milk. We couldn’t have Hershey’s chocolate — I nearly cried thinking about all of the s’mores I’d miss out on. (Then I found out that I couldn’t have marshmallows either, so the chocolate point was moot.) All we could think about was what we couldn’t have anymore. That first month was filled with a lot of salads and yearning.

While milk chocolate was a definite sacrifice, we all felt that our biggest sacrifice was cheese. I never realized how much cheese we had been eating until we couldn’t have it anymore. It had been everywhere.

The holes in our hearts, we now know, were caused by more than just missing one of our favorite foods. The Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine says that cheese is actually considered somewhat addictive. In contains something called casein, which is a protein found in dairy products. When casein breaks down, your body gets a small high.

jw gardener
4/18/2013 3:37:55 AM

Whoever wrote this knows nothing and is a silly. Thanks for wasting five minutes of my life.

cynthia arpin
1/31/2013 3:12:58 PM

Thank you for the great information. After years of dealing with eczema on my husbands hands we have pretty well linked dairy to the flare ups. We are jumping in to a non-dairy diet to truly see how he does. We once lived organically in a commune so the idea is not a stretch, but actually doing it sounds a bit daunting. Cheese and tortillas have been a staple in our diet for years!!

kathleen eynon
1/3/2013 7:20:39 PM

Thank you soooo much for sharing!!!! I've recently been tested for food allergies and found that I'm actually allergic to wheat, corn, dairy, eggs and peanuts. I LOVE cheese, especially blue cheese, and I'll never eat it again. Talk about cheese rage -- it's more of a broken heart! Anyway, I look forward to trying these. So thanks again!!

6/3/2012 2:14:14 PM

Very helpful information! I've been lactose intolerant for a number of years, plus I live in a rural area where it's very hard to find alternatives to dairy. All the soy Cheddar brands I've tried have a slightly odd taste that ruins mac and cheese or cheese omelets. Galaxy Nutritional Foods' soy Cheddar melts really well, but that funny "off" taste is a bother. Their rice Cheddar is a disaster! Feels, tastes, and looks unnatural! That company's Parmesan was a disappointment, too. I tried Follow Your Heart Vegan Gourmet mozzarella...while the taste and texture was good, once put in foods or on pizza, the texture became more plastic and it simply didn't melt. I'm going to try Daiya soon...have to drive to a city 50 miles away to get it, but a once a month trip there...if the Daiya lives up to stock up will be worth it. As far as a good non-dairy Parmesan, the very best I've tasted is Parmazano. Not easy to find because it comes from the UK, but I stock up on it from a site called veganessentials (dot) com, and it's really so much better than any of the other brands I've tried. And, believe me, I've search high and low for decent non-dairy substitutes for mozzarella and Parmesan...I'm Italian and pizza is my life's blood!!

raymond lopez
6/2/2012 2:25:15 PM

I became a Vegan, about a month ago, health reasons more anything drove me to this lifestyle. Meats were easy to leave......Cheese however has been hard to live without. Thanks for your article, i'd like to try some of the alternatives.

karl peterson
5/14/2012 4:25:40 PM

Thanks for the information! I am allergic to dairy and have been looking for and eating alternatives for more than 25 years. There are certainly a lot more options, and good ones, of the completely vegan variety - as opposed to products that contain casein and the like - than there used to be! Daiya is a favorite of mine. There is an Amish Market in New York City that carries a number of artisan soy cheeses ( - unfortunately their website just gives a catering menu that doesn't include the cheeses - and they list the ingredients, so I can pick out the ones that do not include casein. Among those there is a great gouda cheese - mild flavored, but it melts great in risottos and dishes like that.

8/31/2010 11:08:35 AM

What a great source of information! I am so tired of buying dairy-alternative butter and cheese and being disappointed. I can't wait to try your favorites. My infant is allergic to milk and eggs and is breastfed, so I am not eating those items either. I relate to your post in that this experience has made me realize EVERYTHING has cheese in it and it has been difficult weaning myself from the cheese foods, like pizza and mac and cheese. Incidentally, I have tried the rice-based american cheese slices and a canola oil-based butter that were awful! I like pretty good the Earth Balance butter that you mentioned.

8/23/2010 10:16:39 AM

Not sure if my first post actually made it, so I apologize if this is a double posting. Hi and thanks for the great article and information! I recently developed lactose intolerance and am quite sad about the whole ordeal. I am not so sorry that I cannot have milk anymore, as I never really did care much for it, but not being able to have cheese is terrible. Also, shopping is a much longer experience as I am now forced to read labels in-depth and eating out has become quite a hassle as well. I am wondering Lindsey, how you were able to acquire samples. Is this due to your job, or are they readily available to anyone? There are many types that I would like to try, but am remiss to spend $8 or more + S&H and then I may not even like the product. Has anyone ever tried Sheese by Bute Island Foods? I have a Gouda mac and cheese recipe that I miss having. They seem to be the only company making Gouda style dairy-free cheese. Thanks again for all the great info!!

radical daddy
7/18/2010 9:43:34 AM

Give me milk/cheese derived from beans, grains & nuts any day as opposed to from the blood cells, pus & hormones of another species, which is exactly what animal milk is composed of. Not to mention the exploitation and violence which ALWAYS occurs within all animal "farming", unless you can find a farm that does not take the babies away from the mother and kill them for veal or any other reason, does not kill the mother for meat production when she is no longer "productive", does not force the mothers to be continually impregnated, birthing and lactating, and actually allows all the enslaved animals to live out the total duration of their full, natural lifespans. Very doubtful. Thank you to Mother Earth News for being fair enough to include this article, as it's well known that the magazine leans heavily toward the raising & killing of animals for consumption, as the recent vehemently anti-vegetarian article clearly attests.

7/14/2010 1:53:06 AM

I have developed a lactose intolerance over the past year and have had to resort to some of these vegan cheeses in order to survive it. I am very happy for the review on the Dr.Cow cheeses though, since that is one of the ones I have been wanting to try for some time. I make my own homemade pizzas and the best combo for cheeses I have found is 2 parts Rice brand mozzarella cheese and 1 part Daiya mozzarella cheese. Rice doesn't melt as well, so the Daiya helps fill in the spots that the Rice doesn't cover. The Daiya seems to melt a little on the runny side if you use too much. There is an interview series on healthcare that you might enjoy.

7/13/2010 9:22:35 AM

Did you even read the article? Some of the them were soy based, but others were nut based and one was tapioca. And enjoy your local cheese, not all of us are lucky enough to live somewhere that has local cheese or have the money to afford it!

radical mama
7/13/2010 7:24:11 AM

it's not cheese, it's soy, soy, soy. there's a whole other bag of worms. give me local cheese made from animals i can see & touch any day over filling my family with soy.

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