"If you ask me what I came to do in this world, I, an artist, will answer you: I am here to live out loud." ~ Emile Zola

16 November 2010

Vegan "Cheeses": Adventures in Cheeze Land

Ahhhh... the quest for a fabulous (or even adequate) vegan cheeze substitute! My adventures have taken me on quite a journey thus far. :) Here I review many of them...

Yes, this is vegan cheeze! Check out my review of
Sheese below.

Amy's Kitchen Mac and Cheese- OMG. Let's start with the best, which happens to be my most recent discovery on the search for the perfect vegan cheeze. I waited for a long time for this to come to my local food stores after I saw ads from Amy's, and checked faithfully for months! Just a few weeks ago, I was thrilled to find it at my local food co-op- hooray! And YUM! SO worth the wait! This mac is soooo creamy, cheezy, flavorful and delicious pasta heaven! Plus the pasta is made from rice. It's a whopping 500+ calories for a small lunch-sized serving, so I indulge (happily) only occasionally. But I could seriously eat this every day. The secret magic ingredient is Daiya, a new and groundbreaking cheeze that has the food scene with a slam dunk. Score!

Be careful when picking this up from the store, as Amy's has several kinds of mac n' cheese, including one with soy cheeze that's not vegan.

On to others, in no particular order:

Daiya- Meh. The latest star on the cheeze scene, Daiya is getting raves across the board and helping take vegan cheeze mainstream. I heard about this months and months before I got to try it. I finally asked Whole Foods when they would start carrying the retail packages, only to find out they were selling it in the deli in containers. I grabbed both a Cheddar and Mozzarella (it comes pre-shredded in bags usually) and raced home clutching them close. I had extremely high expectations, with everyone I know who'd tried it oozing praise. First I tried them cold... pretty good. A nice combination of soft and creamy yet firm, no chalk or sourness. I withheld my conclusion.

Macaroni and cheese was my first try at cooking with Daiya, and I was pleased with the results. The shreds melted right down into a creamy sauce, thick and sticky and gooey-good, but the flavor was a little "off" in my opinion. Pizza was the next experiment, and I gotta tell ya I was disappointed! Maybe I didn't use enough cheeze, but I thought the
Daiya thinned out and got watery, almost. Meltability= A+. The flavor, on the other hand, was good as far as vegan cheezes go, but nothing that made me fall in love. I tried the cheddar in a burrito and in a grilled cheeze with tomato. Again, meltability=A+, but I really wasn't crazy about the flavor. I may give it another go and experiment with adding additional ingredients to it now that I've tried it with Amy's Mac n Cheese, but I haven't much of an urge to buy it again.

Vegan Rella- One word... Ew. Back in the day when there weren't very many vegan cheeze options (at least stomachable ones), this was the bomb diggity. Well cheezes have come a loooong way, and if you don't believe me give this a try after eating some of today's variations. I grabbed a chunk of this when my favorite cheddar, Sheese, wasn't available, then a block of the mozzarella when my favorite brand was out. I expected fond memories of my first adventures with Vegan Rella when we first met in Tucson, AZ. Oh No. It was wet and gloppy on the outside, chalky and sour and weird on the inside. It stuck to my teeth. I spit it out and wiped it off of my tongue. Never again. I couldn't find a website for this company.

Vegan Gourmet Follow Your Heart- Mmmmm... Okay, while I don't prefer the other flavors of FYH much, the Mozzarella is my favorite of all brands in terms of flavor. It doesn't melt very well unless it's been in the oven on a pizza on the bottom rack at 450 degrees for 20 minutes. And even then sometimes not-so-much. It's actually even a bit rubbery when it's in a chunk. But I can put those things aside cause it's so YUMMY! I love it on pasta bakes and pizza best. Nothing else has measured up so far. Plus the company makes an excellent mayo alternative and lots of other great vegan foods!

Sheese- LOVE. I noticed this cheeze one day at my local co-op, having never seen it before. I asked a friend who worked there about it and he cut some up some of the Cheddar flavor to put out as samples. After one little nibble I was completely sold- AMAZING! I swear this tastes like the real thing (not that that's the goal- after almost 13 years vegan I just require a cheeze be appetizing).

Imagine an expensive cheeze or some sort of goat cheeze that you'd serve with evening cocktails, with a bold and strong flavor that really makes an impact. It's a harder cheese that's a bit on the dry side. Despite claims about it's great meltability on
Sheese's and various vegan retail websites, I have been unsuccessful at getting it to melt in any way, shape, or form. But I love it cut into chunks right out of the wrapper anyway. It makes a killer cheeze sandwich with some sweet mustard on toast. It's great in a burrito! Hands down the best tasting vegan cheeze I have ever tried. Likely to fool a non-vegan, too, possibly. At a hefty $8-9 USD a round block, it's only a sometime treat for me, but it's totally worth it! Fantastic!

Sheese is out of Scotland from family-owned
Bute Island Foods, and they make magic! There are nine flavors of hard vegan cheeze: Blue, Medium Cheddar, Strong Cheddar, Smoked Cheddar, Mozzarella, Cheshire, Gouda, Edam, and Cheddar with Chives. I've tried six: Medium, Strong, and Smoked Cheddars and Mozzarella, Blue, and Gouda. I love the Medium Cheddar most, and the Gouda is a close second. The others are good, except for the Smoked Cheddar at all, which I don't like at all. I'm dying to try the soft and spreadable Creamy Sheese (there are 5 flavors), but have been unable to find them at my local natural foods stores so far.

Teese- Umm... Yuck. The one big plus Teese has, in my opinion, is its meltability, much like that of Daiya. I also found Teese to be like Daiya in the way that it thins out and seems to get watery when it melts. I think it tastes watery cold and right out of the package, too, even though there's not really any liquid in the tube with it. I am very sensitive to certain tastes, and Teese in all flavors has a peculiar taste that I find totally unappetizing. Not sure what its source is, but it's enough to keep me from buying this again.

Follow Your Heart Cream Cheese- Just okay. Follow Your Heart's cream cheeze is unimpressive, and I could take it or leave it. To me it tastes quite chalky and leaves a bit of a coating on the tongue that I don't prefer. I have baked with this and used it in sauces and it worked okay, but I wouldn't advise it for eating right out of the container on a bagel or crackers.

Tofutti Better Than Cream Cheese- Eat it up. Cause it's creamy and yummy. I enjoy this on crackers and bagels, and it works great in cooking and baking, too. I can sit with a box of crunchy little Wheat-thin-type crackers and put some Tofutti Cream Cheese aWAY. It's also really tasty on a bagel with avocado and mixed into some marinara sauce for a bit of a different spin on spaghetti.

Be careful to buy the Tofutti Cream Cheese with the yellow container, as it doesn't contain hydrogenated oils! For some very stupid reason, Tofutti makes one version with hydrogenated oils (blue and red container) and one without. Duh.

Edward & Sons Trading Company Macaroni and Chreese- ??? I was sooo excited to find four styles of Macaroni and Chreese on the food co-op's shelf one day a few years back. I immediately bought some in both the cheddar (comes in pasta shells, macaroni, and 1-2-3 shapes) and alfredo flavors! This was the very first prepared non-dairy mac n' cheese dish I'd tried, so I was thrilled to give it a try. I went with cheddar first, and after boiling the shell-shaped noodles, liked that they were tasty with a nice, chewy texture. The sauce comes as a powder in an envelope like in traditional boxed mac n' cheese, and you add it to the cooked noodles with a non-dairy milk and margarine. The results are pretty good, with the sauce turning out quite creamy and thick (stir it well to get rid of any graininess). The alfredo yielded similar results, but the sauce was lighter in color and a very, very garlicky.

Nutritional yeast, of which I am not a big fan, is a significant ingredient in both the Chreese flavors, and its taste is prominent. This may be the reason I felt the need to add lots of vegan parmesan (see review below) to give it anything that resembled a cheezy flavor. Or perhaps I was trying to cover up the nutritional yeast-y taste. If you love nutritional yeast, you're probably gonna go crazy for Mac n' Chreese.

Galaxy Foods Vegan Grated Topping (Parmesan)- GOOD STUFF. This vegan parmesan stinks to high heaven and its strong smell fills a room fast. But it's good- really good! It's a terrific substitute for any hard, granular dairy cheese, excellent on Italian dishes, in pesto, sprinkled on veggies. It has a sharp and sort of salty flavor, and just a little goes a long way. One of my all-time favorites!

Cheese Slices- I've tried'em all. They all suck. I don't do slices.

Hope this review helps in your own search for a tasty go-to vegan cheeze. Or at the very least, entertained you for a few minutes. :P


Monique a.k.a. Mo said...

GREATNESS!!!! Seriously awesome reviews!

VeggieAmanda said...

Thanks for the review! I haven't tried all of them, but now I have too! I am also so in love with the Amy's GF and vegan mac n cheese. Is it heaven in a box or what?

Gina said...

Thanks for the reviews! I'm going to to look for the Sheese. I've not seen the Galaxy parmesan but I use the Galaxy Cheddar Veggie Shreds whenever I need a grated cheddar for casseroles, etc. We do use one sliced cheese - Galaxy Smoked Provolone - we like it in sandwiches. Good to know of others to watch out for - either to buy or avoid - thanks!