What is vegan cheese made out of?

What is vegan cheese made out of?


Also: Does vegan cheese taste like cheese?

Vegan cheese is made out of vegetable extracts. Proteins, vegetable-fats and plant milks are all used to make vegan cheese. A wider variety of vegan cheeses can be made from seeds and nuts. Vegan cheese can be cultured from almost any vegetable oil and some spices. It can also be made out of fermented tofu or soy.

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Here’s a list of some vegetable- based materials that are used to make vegan cheese:

    • Sunflower seeds
    • Sesame seeds
    • Soya beans
    • Almond nuts
    • Peanuts
    • Pine nuts
    • Cashew nuts



    • Coconut
    • Yeast


    • Vegan cheese is plant-based

Vegan cheese made out of plant-based components ensures that nothing of it is derived from animal products.

The methods involved in making vegan cheeses are very similar to those used for making cheese from animal dairy products. The basic components needed to make a good vegan cheese from vegetable material are the same. These are proteins and fats.

Let’s take a closer look at what vegan cheese is made out of.

    • Vegan cheese made out of nuts and seeds

If you’re a do-it-yourself enthusiast, making vegan cheese out of nuts and seeds may be for you. The process isn’t overly complicated but if you want to take the easy way, and most of us do, ready-made vegan cheese made out of nuts and seeds are available to buy.

Nuts and seeds contain an abundance of the protein component that is needed to make vegan cheese. To extract protein from nuts or seeds, the process involves soaking them in water and the introduction of bacteria that will induce fermentation. This is very similar to the methods used for making dairy cheese. Salt is often added together with herbs, to enhance the flavour. The process is often completed with the addition of a nutritional yeast which will enhance the quality of a good vegan cheese.

Vegan cheese can be made out of almost any type of nuts or seeds but the most popular are almonds, cashews, pecans, pine nuts and macadamia nuts. The most popular seeds used for making vegan cheese are sunflower seeds and pumpkin seeds.

What is vegan cheese made out of?

    • Vegan cheese made out of soybeans

Soybeans and soya beans are from the same plant. Soybeans are very high in protein. You will often see vegan cheese made out of it. It isn’t just good for making vegan cheese. You can also make bean curd or tofu which is generated from the coagulation of soy milk.

Tofu is versatile. There are many types of vegan cheeses that can be made from tofu and the proteins that are available in soybeans. The high protein level in soybeans makes it one of the most productive when it comes to making vegan cheese.

To help with forming an ideal cheese texture there’re extra ingredients that need to be added. This would include gums and vegetable oils which will help to make vegan cheese feel and taste like real cheese.

There are soy cheeses that include the milk protein, casein. Strictly speaking, cheese that’s made with this isn’t vegan but it may be justified if your aim is to avoid dairy products because of a lactose allergy.

    • Vegan cheese made out of root vegetables

Vegan cheese can be made out of some root vegetables, the most popular being potatoes and carrots. This type of cheese usually becomes a  cheese sauce. The method for this involves cooking the potatoes or carrots until they are completely soft and then add water or oil. Salt and spices can be added to complete the finished cheese.

    • Vegan cheese made out of flour

Flour can play a part in the making of many vegan cheeses. It’s not possible for vegan cheese to be made out of just flour but the starch factor in flour will affect the outcome of the consistency of the cheese. Where larger quantities are flour or used to make a vegan cheese, this will have to produce a softer, runny consistency rather than  a hard lump of cheese that can be sliced.

Flour can be effective in the making of vegan cheese when added to soy milk and almond milk. The starch from flour will also help as an ingredient when making vegan cheese from cashews and beans.

    • Vegan cheese made out of coconut

With coconuts we’re off to a good start for making vegan cheese. Coconut milk has a high fat level which produces a creamy cheese. To achieve a firmer and more solid cheese from coconut milk, it may be necessary to add a starch ingredient.

A creamy cheese may not be to your liking. A firmer coconut cheese can be made by adding a starch source from cornstarch, potato starch or other ingredients, for example tapioca, carrageenan and agar-agar.

    • Vegan cheese made out of aquafaba

Aquafaba is an extremely useful by-product which can be extracted from the cooking of legume seeds, for example chickpeas. It seems to have the capability to perform like egg whites when cooking. It is also the liquid that can be found in canned chickpeas. Those who don’t appreciate its value when making vegan cheese usually discard it.

Aquifer has been found to be very convenient for the making of vegan cheese. Using this ingredient will result in a cheese that will melt when heated in a very similar manner to that of dairy cheeses, which makes it versatile in a number of cheese-recipes.

    • Vegan cheese made out of potatoes

There’s a very simple recipe for making vegan cheese from potatoes. You need to add some carrot because this helps bring some sweetness to the finished flavour.

Ingredients for potato vegan cheese:

360 g peeled and chopped potato

135g peeled and chopped carrot

125ml water

35g nutritional yeast

70g olive oil

1 tbsp lemon juice

½ tsp of garlic powder or one crushed garlic clove

½ tsp onion powder or one small onion finely chopped

Here’s what you do:

1. The potatoes and carrots need to be boiled or steamed for 30 minutes to make them completely soft.

2. Drain the water away but keep back about 125ml to use later.

3. Put the cooked potatoes and carrots in a blender and add all the other ingredients including the 125ml of drain-water.

4. Blend thoroughly, and use straight away.

Potato vegan cheese can be frozen in an airtight container. Move it from the freezer to the fridge the night before you want to use it. It will thaw overnight in the fridge. It should be good for 4 to 5 days if left in the fridge.

It can be reheated in a saucepan. You may need to add a little water to bring it back to life.

    • Vegan cheese made out of tapioca

Tapioca isn’t an ingredient that will make vegan cheese by itself but it is a very  useful edition when attempting to make vegan cheeses generally. The starch factor of tapioca provides a stretchy consistency which you may want for some of the cheeses that you try to make.

An example of using tapioca to improve the consistency of a cheese to become stretchy, is to use it in a recipe that involves cashews.

For this vegan cheese recipe you will need:

½ cup of cashews

4 tablespoons of tapioca flour

1 cup of water

1 tablespoon of apple cider vinegar

2 teaspoons of nutritional yeast

½ teaspoon of salt

½ teaspoon of powdered garlic

The cashews need to be soft enough to be blended to a pulp to achieve a consistent cheese with no bits of cashew in it. There are two ways to do this. Either boil them for at least 10 minutes until the cashews are very soft or soak them in water overnight.

When the cashews are soft enough, put them in a blender and add all the other ingredients. Blend until it’s clear that the cashews have completely disintegrated. The blend will be very liquid at this stage.

You then need to empty the blender into a saucepan and cook it to a simmering heat. Stay with it and keep stirring as the mixture begins to thicken and start to resemble a cheese sauce.

When it’s reached a point where it appears to be consistent, which will take about 5 to 10 minutes, you can consider it done. Some like to eat it hot, as an addition to another recipe or it can be stored to cool. It will keep refrigerated for up to 4 days. As a cold vegan cheese it will be soft and runny but thicker than when it was hot.

    • Vegan cheese made out of rice

If you’re looking for a vegan cheese that’s more solid and grateable, this may be for you. There’s a fairly simple procedure that involves steaming some rice. It can be thinly sliced and eaten cold or grilled on a pizza.

There’s plenty of scope for playing around with the flavours as well.

Here’s a recipe and instructions to get started.

200ml water

120 g white rice flour

80g coconut oil

2tsps salt (can be reduced)

2 tsps mustard (English or French)

1tbspn white vinegar

1 squirt of lemon juice

1tbspn yeast (nutritional)

The cooking:

The cooking procedure involves placing all the ingredients in a blender and mixing everything to the point where it’s fully emulsified.

Pour the mixture into a container that can be placed in a steamer vessel.

The container will become a mould for the cheese and must be high enough to retain the liquid as it bubbles.

Bring the steamer vessel up to boiling and then position the mould containing the cheese.

The steaming process will take between 45 minutes to 1 hour. At this point the cheese will be soft because it will be hot. When you remove it from the heat and allow it to cool, the cheese will become more solid.

When it has completely cooled it can be covered and placed in the fridge, ideally overnight, where further cooling will produce the final solid cheese. 

The finished cheese can now be removed from the mould container and stored in an airtight container. The flavour will improve if you can leave it stored for 2 to 3 days but you need to consume it within 2 weeks of making it.

    • Vegan cheese made out of yeast

There aren’t any vegan cheeses that I can find that are constructed from yeast alone. However there are plenty of examples where nutritional yeast is part of a recipe. The main purpose of nutritional yeast in vegan cheese is to provide flavour and, in some cases, a colouring element. Some people have mentioned that it can take a lot of nutritional yeast to have a significant impact when trying to flavour vegan cheese.


Does vegan cheese taste like cheese? 

Does vegan cheese taste like cheese? 

No, vegan cheese doesn’t taste like traditional dairy cheese. You can find or make vegan cheese that has a taste of something but there is some way to go before vegan cheese can be said to have a full taste of traditional cheese. Vegan cheese recipes tend to include oils and starch which give it an acquired taste.

Committed vegans persevere with the range of vegan cheeses that are out there. Many of these cheeses are regarded as having a dull taste that’s often described as being like plastic.

The taste problem can only come from the ingredients that are used. Nuts and beans are often processed to be used for making vegan cheese. Typically these will be almonds, cashews and soybeans. While each of these have their own unique taste, they don’t shout out with strong, recognisable taste when converted to cheese.

Using nut and bean ingredients will achieve the desired texture of a cheese that works well in the mouth but often it’s the structure of the cheese that takes precedence over taste.

But when it comes to the taste of vegan cheese or anything else, maybe it’s subjective. Cheeses that taste one way for you may taste differently to others. It’s interesting to hear of the taste experiences that others have with these variants that we try to introduce into our diet.

When asked, among those that responded to the question of vegan cheese taste, the overwhelming response was that it didn’t taste like cheese. But then we have to note that most people have a taste memory that will keep taking them back to the traditional tastes of the range of dairy cheeses that they probably grew up with.

Does vegan cheese taste like cheese?

Old habits die hard but someone suggested that the taste of vegan cheese will ‘deepen’ if you allow it to sit for a few months to mature.

There are others who say that the way to handle the different taste of vegan cheese is to leave the traditional dairy cheeses for long enough to get it out of your taste-memory. Then, with the pallet cleared, see how vegan cheese tastes.

Someone suggested that the addition of nutritional yeast is a good way of giving vegan cheeses a bit of a taste identity and make it taste like cheese.

Here are some more comments that people have made:

“Most vegan cheeses are not good or bad. They are not an ingredient that I would necessarily have in a meal. Some of them can have a nutty taste while others are quite dull and bland. You may sense a subtle cheesy tang but you will always know that it’s vegan cheese.”

Vegan cheeses do not taste like traditional dairy cheeses. I would say it is nowhere near it. Some vegan cheeses taste really bad. As a long-term vegan I find that vegan cheeses are somehow influenced by the memory of cheese taste when you haven’t had cheese for a while. It’s probably wise to avoid switching to vegan cheese straight after you have started to go vegan. You need your taste buds to forget the traditional tastes of dairy cheese to give yourself a chance to adjust to the new-world taste of vegan cheese.”

There are some vegan cheeses that taste like cheese, for example ‘Follow Your Heart Parm’ and ‘Violofe’ which I quite like the smell of. We have to forget about trying to match dairy cheeses exactly. All we want is a similarity to which we can adjust. I’ve been looking for a plant-based Brie that has a taste of Brie but without much success. Everyone I talk to about vegan cheese says that it always helps to allow all cheeses to mature for a few months to generate a rich flavour.”


Image sources: basket with cheese & vegetables | Block of cheese




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