Influencing the taste of anything is all about including tasty ingredients that over-power the flavour of the base-food. This definitely applies when you want to make vegan cheese taste better. You can use almost any ingredient to improve the taste of vegan cheese including garlic, onions or curry.
With all the ingredients that can be added to make vegan cheese taste better, it shouldn’t be too difficult to get something to work for you. Let’s look at some options here:
- Nutritional yeast
Nutritional yeast is often described as having a unique cheese taste. Some describe the taste as being ‘nutty’. If you use nutritional yeast as an ingredient to get a better tasting vegan cheese, you need to contain your expectations. It won’t give you a complete cheese taste. This, apparently, has something to do with the levels of sodium.
Traditional cheeses tend to be well-salted; salt contains sodium. Adding salt may be the way to improve the taste of vegan cheese that’s relying on nutritional yeast to enhance the overall taste. With or without salt, nutritional yeast is often favoured for giving vegan cheese a better taste as it has a deep, strong and rich taste that has enough staying-power for a good vegan cheese.
- Miso paste
Described as being salty, savoury and tangy, miso paste is an ideal choice as an ingredient that would make vegan cheese taste better.
Miso is a paste that’s generated from a fermentation process. It has its origins in Japan where it’s been used as a taste enhancer since before the eighth century.
Most foods that are derived from fermentation tend to carry an interesting taste. Miso paste has the appearance and feel of peanut butter. This makes it an ideal ingredient to add to other ingredients to make vegan cheese taste better.
There are many varieties of miso paste, each having their own variant taste. The general rule is that the lighter coloured paste will have a mild taste at one end of the spectrum while dark coloured paste will have a strong taste. This variation is due to the length of time that the fermentation has been extended to. A short fermentation will produce a lighter, mild taste whereas a longer fermentation will produce a darker paste with a stronger taste.
- Dijon mustard
Mustard is all about taste. The French have a long history of making mustards that goes back to the Middle Ages. Taking its name from Dijon in Burgundy in France, Dijon mustard has a unique taste which can be largely attributed to the replacing of traditional vinegars with acidic juices extracted from unripe grapes.
If you want Dijon mustard to add a tangy taste to vegan cheese, you may want to look at the label on the jar. There is a risk that the wine ingredient may contain animal-based materials which may have been used in the production process.
But this needn’t stop you from using Dijon mustard to enhance the taste of your vegan cheese. You can make your own Dijon mustard using ingredients of your choice, this way you will know the ingredient sources. This would involve brown mustard seeds and white wine together with some vinegar and salt, taking you very near to the taste of the real thing.
- Lemon juice
The adding of lemon juice will enhance the taste of almost anything. When you ask chefs why lemon juice is so effective, be ready for a protracted response as they go on about how the taste buds work.
The thing about lemon juice is that it’s actually very similar to vinegar’s. The acidity in both lemon and vinegar will stand out and affect the taste of any food. An adequate dose of lemon juice added to a vegan cheese recipe is almost certain to impact on the taste
It will surely come as no surprise to anyone that garlic would be easily identified in any food. There are some very successful, traditional, garlic flavoured cheeses. There’s rarely a better option for making vegan cheese taste better than to include garlic. You will need to add enough but you can be fairly confident that garlic will mask out other flavours that you may not want, to become the dominant taste.
A close relative to garlic is onion. Both of these will announce their presence during cooking as well as providing that rich taste. You can make a very successful vegan cheese sauce by sauteing a chopped onion with some minced garlic cloves to command the taste.
Here we look at bell-peppers. There are a range of colours with each colour offering a different taste. Green peppers are picked before they ripen into whatever colour they would have become. Pre-ripened green peppers tend to taste rather bitter. They are not so attractive when eaten raw but they can be very effective when cooked with other foods. The acquired taste that green peppers have would impact the taste of vegan cheese.
Then there are the coloured peppers that have ripened from being green. The colouring will indicate that they are fully ripened with each having a taste that can be attached to each colour.
The yellow pepper is often described as having a fruity taste with a sweetness to go with it.
Red peppers also have a more fruity taste with a sweet element.
Purple peppers have a sweetness from being ripened but they do tend to have a bitter element that contrasts with both the red and yellow peppers.
All peppers, wherever they sit on the colour spectrum, will impact the taste of vegan cheese. There is the added advantage of the bright colours playing a part in the finished appearance of the cheese. With vegan cheese and any other foods, it isn’t just about taste.
Looking at how to make vegan cheese taste better
- Fermented vegetables
When anything is fermented it generates a flavour of its own. Vegetables can be fermented which is a very convenient way of influencing the taste of vegan cheese. Vegetables contain varying amounts of sugar in varying forms. During the fermentation process these sugars are broken down. The process continues until the lactic acids build up, from the fermentation, and kill off the bacteria that instigate the fermentation.
The best part about all of this is that a whole range of flavours can be generated from the wide range of vegetables that can be used for fermentation.
You don’t need to use the fermented vegetable itself, just a measure of the fermentation juices that are generated from the process may suffice. This would involve draining off some liquid from a jar of fully fermented cabbage for example.
Traditional cheeses involve a strong element of fermentation. It’s this that provides each cheese with its identity, taste and flavour.
Asking around, many who wish to follow the vegan way have had their own experiences of how to make vegan cheese taste better.
Some thoughts and opinions of others:
“It’s not possible to make vegan cheese taste better. Those who choose to live by vegan principles will have to accept the taste of vegan cheese and learn to cope with it”
“You mustn’t expect vegan cheese to taste like traditional cheese. It’s important to eat it as part of a full dish with a range of other ingredients. Successful vegan cheeses can be made from cashews, soy and almonds to create what is essentially a substitute that takes us away from animal milks.
Including vegan cheeses, with all their imperfections, in a wider recipe, will allow you to add ingredients that should make vegan cheese taste better.
For those that find it too difficult to eat fully vegan, consider trying the lacto-ovo vegetarian way. This would allow you to consume traditional dairy cheeses rather than struggle with the disciplines of vegan cheese.
This would, of course, depend on how strict your ethics are regarding your insistence on avoiding all animal products.”
“We mustn’t expect vegan cheeses to taste like traditional dairy cheeses. The flavours of plants will overpower everything in the recipe. One example is Daiya. Some regard the taste of this as disgusting. It’s made from Arrowroot and another tuberous, starch-containing root called Cassava. It may be no surprise to some that Cassava is also known as Yuca.”
“If you can’t find a brand of vegan cheese that tastes good enough for you, try making your own cheese. There are plenty of online recipes and cookbooks available. Your first attempt may not work but if you persevere with ingredients that you can live with, you will have a good chance of producing a taste that suits you.”
“Vegan cheese is not cheese, so don’t call it cheese. Make it stand alone for what it is. That way you will avoid the issue of having expectations about vegan cheese, or any other vegan foods, having to taste like what you’ve been traditionally eating.”
Just out of interest
Why is broccoli not vegan?
Broccoli is categorised as being not vegan because there tends to be an unnatural element in the growing process. Broccoli won’t grow in ways that satisfy the demand without the involvement of ‘farmed’ bees. This is seen as exploitation of animals and goes against the ethos of vegan living.
Bees and how they are used
Bees are needed to play an important part in supporting plant-life. Few plants would survive without the intervention of bees. The issue with ‘farming’ of bees is that, in some countries, it involves transporting hives of bees over long distances, on trucks, on the roads, to place them where they can be used to an effect that’s considered to be industrial.
It’s not just broccoli that’s been rendered as being not vegan because of the industrialisation of bees. There are other fruits and vegetables that don’t fit in with the vegan ethos and, consequently labelled as being ‘not vegan’. These include cucumbers, cherries, almonds, avocados, butternut squash and kiwis.
If we consider all the plants that bees visit and that their involvement leads to all the fruits and vegetables that are, thereafter, cropped, as being not vegan, we should start wondering what vegans can actually eat.
The biggest problem lies in countries where there is big agriculture. There are huge farms in places like California where there are large areas of land that grow crops on a commercial scale that requires more bees than can show up naturally from the local area.
Bee farming, for this purpose, is big business. It isn’t just broccoli and other crops that rely on big production by, what’s seen as, exploitation of bees. Any honey that’s produced from these bees is also off limits as it too is labelled as ‘not vegan’.
There are, however, countries where there’s smaller, less industrialised practices where bees aren’t so evidently ‘used’ to further the production on a large scale.
But it doesn’t matter where you are in the world or where you source your broccoli and other cropped foods, there will always be a risk that there may be interloper bees that come from a bee-farm nearby and no one can possibly know about it.
The Vegan society has voiced a view about this. Speaking in general terms they point out that vegans “avoid using animals as far as it’s practically possible”. They go on to say that “many forms of farming can involve indirect harm to animals and that it is unfortunately impossible to fully avoid the destruction of animals in most modern farming.
Another reason why broccoli is not vegan is because of the nature of the harvested broccoli heads. There’s always the possibility that there may be insects hiding in the mass of broccoli when presented for preparation and cooking. It would take a lot of effort and investigation to pull it all apart to make sure that there’s nothing in there.
Here’s what others say about broccoli not being vegan:
“I’ve found a holistic vegan recipe that included, from the beginning of the list of ingredients, broccoli. There’s nothing objectionable about using broccoli. The issue for committed vegans is the methods of production that abuse the natural power of bees.
Some vegans have very strict views regarding the prevention of exploitation of animals at any level. Bees have to come into the same category. We have to accept that large quantities of bees are needed to maintain food output. It’s unfortunate that production can’t happen at the level that’s needed without transporting bees over long distances.”
“ Veganism for some appears to be almost like a religion. Broccoli plants need to be broken apart to be able to wash it thoroughly. Some people object to the idea of consuming the slightest amount of insect parts that may be hiding in broccoli. I find this approach to be very picky. Just think about all the stuff that you breathe in, which you have no control over.
Think about the cooked insect in the broccoli to be another source of protein.”
Finally, for what it’s worth
The National Health Service in the UK makes the point that we all need a source of calcium and vitamin D which usually comes from dairy foods. For vegans this can be replaced, up to a point, from green, leafy vegetables. They suggest broccoli along with cabbage and okra.
They also emphasize the need to eat broccoli or other dark green, leafy vegetables e.g. watercress and spring onions.