The blog formerly known as   Fake Plastic Fish
June 27, 2010

I’m looking for a cheese subsitute that isn’t just processed fake cheese in plastic wrap and doesn’t suck.

Shredded cheeseI’m toying with the idea of veganism — toying with it as a cat toys with an injured mouse before finally killing it — but I constantly run up against the cheese issue. I love cheese. Cheese is the king of my world, and all other foods exist in service to it. Veggies, pasta, bread, nuts, crackers, and even leftover Chinese food are mere vehicles for that sublime substance.

Going plastic-free was hard at first because I couldn’t find good cheese not wrapped in plastic. Finally, I ended up purchasing an entire 12-pound wheel of Perenzin San Pietro hard cheese (much like parmesan only better) coated in beeswax without any plastic. I bought it almost a year ago, and I still haven’t eaten it all because, like parmesan, a little sprinkling goes a long way. But also, it’s lasted this long because it’s so hard to cut into and grate that I don’t just wolf it down like I might cheddar… I didn’t, that is, until recently.

I made the discovery, after 45 years of life, that my food processor (with its BPA-containing plastic pitcher, but that’s another story) has a grater attachment. Who knew? Um… everyone in the world but me, apparently. I went online to the Cuisinart web site and watched a video that changed my whole understanding of life as we know it. And soon after, I had grated every last bit of that cheese and stored it in mason jars in my freezer. (Very hard, dry cheese keeps fine in the freezer.)

And now I’m eating that cheese on everything and sharing little bits with Arya kitty, who loves cheese almost as much as I do. It’s starting to look like I’ll actually run out sooner than later. And then what will I do? Like I said, I’m toying mercilessly with the idea of veganism, but I just can’t figure out how to quell whatever craving it is that only very sharp cheese can satisfy. I’m hoping you guys can help.

Here are the characteristics I am looking for:

1) Real food, not a fake cheese substitute. I am not interesting in eating processed foods with their empty promises. I’m looking for some food, or a combination of foods, that can satisfy the desire for cheese without actually trying to be cheese.

2) It’s got to have some combination of sharp, tangy, nutty, sweet, salty, and umami. What is umami? Why, it’s the 5th taste (after sweet, sour, salty, and bitter) which is sometimes described as savory. The food I’m looking for has got to have that combo of very sharp with sweet and nutty. I’m not looking for a mozzarella or cottage cheese substitute. I want flavor, and a lot of it.

3) Obviously the ingredients cannot come wrapped in plastic.

My initial thoughts…

I’m thinking the solution might have something to do with an oil like olive oil and a tangy citrus like lemons, and maybe some actual nuts. What do you guys think? Recipes are warmly welcomed!

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25 Comments on "I’m looking for a cheese subsitute that isn’t just processed fake cheese in plastic wrap and doesn’t suck."

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SarahGiraffe
1 year 7 months ago
Just creepin’ around on your website and saw the question of veganism. I struggle with this myself, I describe myself as “vegan with some bacon. and i like cheese.” Meaning, I eat bacon maybe once every few months, and I’m severely lactose intolerant but I love cheese. My thought?  Who cares? If you like it and it doesn’t hurt you, why stick the label on? I have made so many attempts at cheeze-like products and making my own sorts of cashew-based cheeses and tahina/nutritional yeast cheeze-things. In my mind, the only reason you should be vegan is if you want… Read more »
2 years 9 months ago

@Alyssa Thank you so much for suggesting folks visit The Blooming Platter.  I’m honored.  (I just saw this even though it’s three years old!)  I’m not sure if my old and inactive blogspot site still redirects people automatically, so I hope you and everyone else will visit my new(er) site at http://www.thebloomingplatter.com.  Thanks again.  Cheers!

5 years 8 months ago

By my vegan friends I”m told this is the only cheeze that not only melts like milk-based cheeze, but tastes AMAZING. I haven’t tried it yet, because I consider it to be outside of my price range, but here it is – http://www.daiyafoods.com/

M
5 years 8 months ago

I see I’m the lone one out here, but my body does not do well with nutritional yeast. I’m pretty sensitive to msg and I think the nutritional yeast has a similar effect on me. Just as a forewarning : /

Nut cheeses can be pretty tasty depending on how you use them though, but they are like sitting down and munching a piece of cheese….

Pheas
5 years 9 months ago
The following vegan mac’n’cheese recipe has gotten raves at every potluck it’s seen. Omnivores love it, too, and one (not realizing it was vegan) even exclaimed that it was the best mac’n’cheese he’d ever had! It should be pretty plastic-free except maybe the margarine, but substituting oil with perhaps a little non-dairy milk might work. This is NOT health food, but it IS comfort food. Ingredients: 1 box elbow macaroni or shells 1/2 c vegan margarine 1/2 c flour 3 1/2 c boiling water 1 1/2 t salt 2 T soy sauce 1 1/2 t garlic powder pinch turmeric 1/4… Read more »
rob
5 years 9 months ago

I love cheese, or rather remember loving cheese. It’s something that you’ll get over after eating vegan for a while. The salt & fat is addictive, but once the addiction is gone you won’t crave it.

Nutritional yeast is a good substitute on pasta and many other things.

Meg
5 years 9 months ago

@Beth

I’m glad you did look into what happens at dairies and wrote about it. Thanks for sharing the link here. I don’t know if I saw that post or not. That was before I became a vegan. It’s amazing how many people — including a lot of vegetarians — have very little clue about milk production. Biologically, it’s not so different from how our own species produces milk.

And you’re right — it is very sad. It’s sad and completely unnecessary.

@Pheas

Thanks! And mmm…. I love nut “cheeses”.

5 years 9 months ago

I know all about dairy cows. I visited Straus Dairy Farm last year, where the cows are treated really well, relatively, and are not inseminated. They do it the natural way. And yet it was still very sad– especially the calves being separated from the mothers. Here’s my post about it with lots of pictures: http://fakeplasticfish.com/2009/10/learning-where-my-food-comes-from-a-field-trip-to-straus-dairy-farm/

Pheas
5 years 9 months ago

Well said, Meg.

A diagram of the anal/vaginal rape used to inseminate dairy cows can be found here:

http://www.thecattlesite.com/articles/721/artificial-insemination-for-beef-cattle

(And note this is an industry source, not a pro-animal source.)

There was an article in VegNews in the last year or so that covered artisanal vegan cheeses. I haven’t tried any, but as I remember they sounded very fancy and were packaged in paper or wax and made from fermented almonds or cashews.

Meg
5 years 9 months ago
@Daxle “Usually handcrafted artisan cheeses from small farms with very well treated animals.” There is no way to make cheese that involves non-human animals being treated “very well”, especially if we talking about a place that makes a profit. Small farms might look nice, but for cows (and other mammals like goats) to lactate, they have to be impregnated repeatedly, usually about once a year. About half or more of their children will be males. Males are of no use to dairies alive. They’re killed or sold to someone who will kill them (they are the source of veal and… Read more »
Daxle
5 years 9 months ago
If you were previously into really fancy cheeses, or even just decent cheeses, you will find that there is absolutely no substitute. The best that you can hope for is to thoroughly hide some fake cheese in a heavily spiced recipe that normally calls for cheddar or mozzarella. I debated this issue with myself for years and the conclusion I finally came to is this: On a day to day basis there are millions of tasty recipes that don’t call for cheese, especially Indian, Thai, Japanese, and Chinese recipes. Most vegan recipes don’t call for fake cheese (cause it’s gross!).… Read more »
Danish girl
5 years 10 months ago
Hurray for nutritional yeast also from Europe! I was pretty much a cheese addict as you were, but went cold turkey, when I became a vegan. After a while I discovered this very simple and wonderful alternative. For starters, try to make a homemade pizza. Put all the veggies on top that you like. Instead of cheese, you now do this: Mix nutritional yeast with soy cream so that it gives a creamy paste. And you take spoons full of this and put it where your mozzarella would normally be. Bake as a normal pizza. I swear, this is so… Read more »
Melissa
5 years 10 months ago

I am vegan and absolutely love Daiya cheese. You can buy it in a 5lb bag, but again its a plastic bag. You can make some fantastic things with nutritional yeast. I highly recommend the Hurry Up Alfredo in Vegan Yum Yum! Even omnis will eat it.

A Green Spell
5 years 10 months ago

Nutritional yeast all the way. I’ll paste the address to my favorite vegan mac n’ cheese below. Also look in How It All Vegan for a Cheese Sauce – it is so good, I could eat it out of the pan.

Pheas
5 years 10 months ago

Lots of good suggestions above. You can also probably find a tasty nut-based cheese at a raw-food restaurant. I never thought I’d be able to do without cheese, but once those heroin-like casomorphins cleared my system, I didn’t have the cravings anymore.

Kaylen
5 years 10 months ago

You might like this recipe: http://veganfeastkitchen.blogspot.com/2010/02/potted-tofu-miso-marinated-tofu-thats.html.

I like nutritional yeast sprinkled on a baked potato with salt and margarine (you might use olive oil, or another fat you like).

5 years 10 months ago
There are a lot of “cheese” sauces you can make with various combinations of nutritional yeast, cashews, tahini, miso, lemon juice and garlic with other spices. I think pretty much every vegan cookbook has its own vegan cheese recipe. As far as something that tastes just like cheese? You’re not going to find it. The closest thing there is is Daiya, and it comes in plastic and it’s more of a product than a food. Part of becoming vegan is re-training your taste-buds. I went cold turkey on cheese, and didn’t try any cheese substitutes for a LONG time, because… Read more »
5 years 10 months ago
First – congrats on the vegan consideration. Don’t freak out if it takes a while. I was vegetarian for five and a half years before I went vegan, and I had been thinking about it all that time. Sometimes it creeps up on you and sometimes you just need that ‘ah ha!’ moment to push you over the edge. So here’s an important piece of advice: don’t expect faux cheese to taste and act like cheese. You can get fake cheese to do one or the other, but a plastic-free (aka homemade) substitute is not going to meet both taste… Read more »
5 years 10 months ago
add to your food procerssor – 1-2 cloves of garlic turn on processor to mince, then add 1 cup sprouted sunflower seeds big handfuls of your favorite herbs (i use dill and parsley and chives) – equal to your average bunch you would buy in plastic if either of us did that! :) juice from one juicy lemon turn on processor and add 1/4-1/2 cup of water depending on if you want it to be a spread or sauce stores in fridge well I find a new way to enjoy this constantly, right now, it’s with a bit of honey… Read more »
Rita Vail
5 years 10 months ago

I’ve been eating all raw this summer and noticed in my vegan raw recipe books (guess I can’t call them cook books!) lots of directions making nut cheese, which is easy – if you have a juicer you make nut milk by soaking nuts and then juicing them.

I am 62 and this is the ONLY way I have been able to lose weight. It gets harder as you get older.

I love coconut butter. It takes care of those cheese cravings.

5 years 10 months ago

Mudnessa,

I can vouch for the popcorn thing. It is amazing, especially if you use some salt, pepper, and chili powder with it. Soooooo good.

Jeanne

5 years 10 months ago

I think it depends on what you are using it for. There are so many great recipes out there that don’t include fake plastic wrapped cheese. Nutritional yeast is a good choice for some things or try making your own “ricotta” from almonds or “cheese” from cashews. You have to realize that it isn’t going to be the same and start cooking with alternatives accordingly. That is the hardest part, shifting your thinking from finding a substitute to cooking for the ingredients you have.

5 years 10 months ago
Cheese was the one thing I was worried about missing more than anything when I went vegan. At first it was hard and I did buy and quite enjoy the soy cheese blocks wrapped in plastic. Now I don’t because I have gotten over that craving finally. I read somewhere that you become sort of addicted to cheese and milk products because of something in it. If that’s true then I guess I hit the point where I no longer crave them. I don’t have any substitute recommendation for you other than you may just want to try and you… Read more »
Meg
5 years 10 months ago
Get The Ultimate Uncheese Cookbook. The answers/recipes are in there and it is really worth buying if you think you’ll have a problem giving up cheese (though feel free to see if you can get it from the library before you decide to purchase it or not). Lots of cheezy recipes, mostly using nutritional yeast and/or nuts — both of which you should be able to find in bulk bins — plus some seasonings and various other ingredients. I’d be very surprised if you couldn’t find something in there that would work and the uncheeses are much healthier than animal… Read more »
5 years 10 months ago

Hey Beth,

Have you ever tried nutritional yeast? You can get it in bulk from most organic food stores. It’s a pretty delicious substitute for Parmesan and can be used to add lots of umami to sauces.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nutritional_yeast

Jeanne

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