What is Dairy Free Cheese?
Thanks to food science, we are constantly challenging traditional food systems and revolutionizing the modern day diet with traditional techniques – the pursuit for dairy-free cheese is on the rise!
When my friends ask me what does dairy free or vegan cheese taste like, well to explain that, I’d have to breakdown how it’s made.
Cultured raw vegan cheese use the same method as traditional cheesemaking – incorporating live enzymes to culture a protein mass, resulting in a rich, probiotic-dense, fermented product. The only major difference is vegan cheese lacks the consolidation of proteins that naturally occur in dairy cheesemaking, where proteins bind to each other and become curds. When you use traditional cheese aging and bacterial culturing methods to make vegan cheese, all you need is the base, culture starter and salt to develop a complex flavour profile.
In addition, the culturing process will naturally produce enzymes to help break down food to be more digestible, introduce live microbes + nutrients and flushes out anti-nutrients.
Free from preservatives or refined oils, homemade non-dairy cheese can be made using a wide range of plant-based mediums, such as rice, soy, nuts, seeds, or even vegetables.
From adding natural flavouring and coloring (like roasted garlic, ground tumeric or paprika) to manipulating the moisture content and texture, the world is your cheese platter!
Some can be ready as soon as 1-2 days, a savoury umami flavour with a bit of tang should develop only after a few days of culturing. I have been enjoying a long fermentation myself, some homesteads prefer months old cheeses.
So depending on what you are using, how long you are fermenting, how you treat it, your dairy-free cheese will vary in flavour and texture.
Although traditionally made with seeds or rice, I’ve fell in love with cashews for its creamy, mild flavour – a perfect base for cheese. Check out my Cashew Cheese recipe using three ingredients: cashews, grain-free rejuvelac* and salt. This is a basic vegan cheese recipe a beginner can build on. It will age from a creamy spread to a sliceable, even grateable cheese – yes please!
The demand for sustainable, delicious dairy alternatives is only one small aspect of the fast growing plant-based culture – it has already made its mark on the evolution of cheesemaking! A flavour unique to its own, I have no doubt naturally cultured dairy-free cheeses will earn their place on charcuterie boards real soon!
*What? You don’t have rejuvelac handy or have any idea what it even is? Head here to learn more about this probiotic beverage and make your own.