Do Vegans Eat Cheese?
Cheese is one of the few foods that most people can agree is delicious. Many argue that few foods cannot be improved by being smothered in cheese. So one question that many who are considering a vegan or vegetarian diet have is “do vegans eat cheese?”.
The short answer is no. Vegans do not consume any animal products. As milk is the main ingredient in cheese, that means no cheese for vegans. However, there is more to the story! There are many different kinds of vegan-friendly cheeses readily available at the supermarket.
Do vegans eat cheese or eggs?
Do Vegetarians Eat Cheese?
Yes and no. Some vegetarians choose to eat cheese and others do not. There are many diverse ways to go about vegetarianism. Some vegetarians choose only to exclude meat and fish from their diets. Others have more strict dietary rules. The majority of vegetarians choose not to eat animal products where the animal was harmed or killed in the process but do consume other types of animal products.
Most vegetarians would agree that eating cheese is perfectly fine. Cows, goats, and other animals that are raised for their milk are not harmed in the process. In many cases, the animals require milking to remain healthy. This means that most vegetarians also drink milk and eat eggs.
Is Cheese Bad for You?
Yes and no. Whether cheese is healthy has been a hotly debated subject among scientists for decades. The answer is that there is no simple answer. Scientists cannot agree on the subject because there are so many variables.
Cheese is a nutrient-rich food and a good source of calcium, protein, phosphorus, and vitamins. However, most cheeses are also high in sodium, saturated fat, and cholesterol. This is concerning because a high intake of saturated fat can increase LDL cholesterol levels. Also, a diet high in sodium is bad for heart health. The current U.S. Dietary Guidelines recommend consuming only low-fat cheeses. Recent studies have been inconclusive as to the impact of cheese on conditions like cardiovascular diseases and type 2 diabetes. (https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/cheese/)
All of the potential health benefits of cheese come with health risks. However, all of the beneficial components of cheese can be found in other, healthier foods. Dark leafy vegetables, nuts, seeds, lentils, and whole grains can provide all of the same nutrients without the risks.
Why is Cheese so Addictive?
Cheese is a guilty pleasure for many people, but is it actually addictive? The answer is yes. The reason that cheese is so addictive is not just that it tastes good.
Cheese is a food that is a great source of protein. Most of the protein in cheese is called casein, which is present in milk but not in such a high concentration. Casein is a protein that is slow to break down in your digestive system. As casein is digested it produces compounds called casomorphins. These casomorphins pass through the blood-brain barrier where it binds to dopamine receptors and causes your brain to release dopamine. Dopamine is a brain chemical that is related to feelings of pleasure, happiness, and a sense of reward. (https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/is-cheese-addictive#your-brain-on-cheese)
The more cheese that a person consumes, the more dopamine that the brain produces. The more dopamine that is released, the happier the person feels. This creates the same kind of feedback loop that is present in most types of addiction.
What Do Vegans Eat for Cheese?
If vegans cannot eat dairy-based cheeses, then what do they eat for cheese? Don’t worry, vegans aren’t sacrificing cheese entirely. They are not lacking in vegan-friendly cheese options! Vegan cheeses are made of many different ingredients.
Many kinds of vegan cheese are made of nuts. The most common nuts used are cashews, almonds, and macadamia nuts. Other common ingredients include sunflower seeds, soybeans, sesame seeds, and even plant milk. Some are even made of rice, potatoes, tofu, nutritional yeast, coconut oil, or peanuts.
Just like dairy cheeses, there are many different types of vegan cheese. Some vegan cheese is great on a charcuterie board, others are best for making classic recipes like macaroni and cheese. It’s possible to find a vegan cheese that works for any culinary need.
Vegan Cheese Alternatives
There are many different types of vegan cheeses available to suit any tastes or needs. The only unifying factor to vegan cheese is that it contains no animal products, making the resulting products extremely diverse and interesting.
A. Nut cheeses – Nut cheeses are usually made of cashews, almonds, pine nuts, or macadamia nuts. This is one of the most diverse kinds of cheese as the end result can be soft and spreadable or more like a crumbly, aged cheese. Nut cheeses are also one of the most commonly available types of vegan cheese on the market. Many nut cheeses are flavored with nutritional yeast, miso paste, or spices to give them a wide variety of different flavors and uses.
B. Soy cheese – Soy cheese is made of soybeans. While there are some soy cheeses that contain milk, there are many completely vegan options available. Soy cheese has a soft, creamy texture and it melts beautifully. Soy cheese is softer than many other types of vegan cheese, making it great for cooking.
C. Vegan cream cheese – Vegan cream cheese is soft, creamy, and amazingly delicious. Most vegan cream cheese is made of coconut milk, coconut oil, and tapioca flour. The end product is a spreadable cheese that is divine. Vegan cream cheese can be used as a spread on bagels as well as in desserts like vegan cheesecake.
D. Plant milk cheese – Plant milk cheeses can be very diverse. Most plant milk cheese is made of coconut milk but there are other options on the market. Plant milk cheeses are usually compared to semi-soft cheeses like mozzarella or Monterey Jack in texture and they also melt well.
Does Vegan Cheese Melt?
Just like dairy-based cheeses, there are vegan cheeses that melt well and those that don’t. It’s easy to find vegan cheeses that melt well, especially those made of plant milk, soy, and certain kinds of nuts. The best way to tell which cheeses melt the best is to read the label. Most melting cheeses will advertise that fact somewhere on the packaging.
Best Vegan Cheese Brands
A. Field Roast, Chao Creamy Vegan Slices – This pre-sliced cheese is made of coconut and fermented tofu, giving it the perfect balance of taste and texture. These slices are available in several flavors but the original is the perfect addition to any sandwich. (https://www.amazon.com/Field-Roast-Slices-Creamy-Original/dp/B01CR5HN1E)
B. Violife, Just Like Mozzarella Cheese Shreds – Violife has several excellent products to choose from but one of the staples is their cheese shreds. They are convenient to use, melt beautifully, and taste great. They are soy and nut-free, too, which is a bonus for people with dietary restrictions. (https://www.amazon.com/Violife-Mozzarella-Cheese-NON-GMO-Packages/dp/B089DNM1ZN)
C. Treeline Cheese, Aged Artisanal Nut Cheese – Treeline’s line of Aged Artisanal Nut Cheese is a great addition to any charcuterie board or cheese tray. These are eating cheeses instead of cooking cheeses with the texture of aged cheeses like cheddar or parmesan. Treeline has two flavors to choose from: original and cracked black pepper. (https://www.amazon.com/Treeline-Cheese-Artisanal-Plant-Based-Ingredients/dp/B087G8NYW2)
D. Violife, Just Like Mature Cheddar Cheese Slices – Another great Violife product is their cheese slices. This cheese is the perfect choice to make a stellar vegan grilled cheese sandwich because it melts wonderfully. It even produces the all-important cheese stretch! (https://www.amazon.com/Violife-Mature-Cheddar-Cheese-NON-GMO/dp/B089DM6LFQ)
E. Daiya Deluxe Cheeze Sauce – Daiya’s line of Cheeze Sauces is convenient to have on hand as a quick addition to any recipe. With three flavors to choose from, they are versatile and hassle-free. The cheddar and zesty cheddar flavors are great for mac and cheese or on nachos. The alfredo flavor, though, is a must-have for anyone craving a bowl of pasta alfredo. (https://www.amazon.com/Daiya-Cheddar-Style-Cheeze-Sauce/dp/B078HSMPZX)
F. Miyoko’s Creamery, Vegan Cream Cheese – Miyoko’s is a great choice for vegan cream cheese. This option is soy-free and coconut-based. It’s exceptionally creamy, easily spreadable, and delicious. (https://www.amazon.com/Miyokos-Creamery-Organic-Classic-Cheese/dp/B08V71XNR6)
G. Vegan Valley, Jalapeno Queso Cheeze Sauce – Queso is a vital part of any plate of nachos, and Vegan Valley’s Jalapeno Queso is the perfect vegan option! The queso is creamy with just the right amount of tang and spice from the jalapeno. (https://www.amazon.com/VEGAN-VALLEY-Jalapeno-Cheeze-Sauce/dp/B098766CXC)
H. Go Veggie Sliced Yellow American – Not all vegan cheese has to be fancy. Individually wrapped American cheese slices have had a place in many, many households over the years. Go Veggie offers a vegan version that offers all of the convenience and melty goodness. (https://www.amazon.com/VEGGIE-Sliced-Cheese-Yellow-American/dp/B012BMT19A)
Conclusion- Do Vegans Eat Cheese?
Vegan cheese has come a long way from the lackluster options available in the 1970s and 80s, when vegan cheese first hit the market. A lot of misconceptions about vegan cheese come from products available decades ago. Today, it is versatile and delicious, and in many cases indistinguishable from dairy cheese.
While cheese is considered by many to be a vital part of their diet there’s no reason to think that vegans are missing out! Vegans may not eat cheese made of dairy but with so many options for vegan cheese on the market, they are hardly deprived! From grilled cheese enthusiasts to cheese snobs, traditional recipes to quick meal solutions, there’s a vegan cheese out there for everyone.