Vegan cheese is a non-dairy or plant cheese analogue aimed at vegans and other people who want to avoid animal products, including those who are lactose-intolerant. As with plant milk, vegan cheese can be made from seeds, such as sesame and sunflower; nuts, such as cashew, pine nut, and almond; and soybeans, peanuts, coconut oil, nutritional yeast, tapioca, and rice, among other ingredients. Vegan cheese is cholesterol-free and may be a good source of soy protein.
Several brands of vegan cheese advertise as closely mimicking the way dairy cheese melts. Popular vegan cheese brands include Daiya, GoVeggie, Follow Your Heart, Treeline Tree-nut Cheeses, Teese, and Tofutti. As these brands continue to grow in popularity, they are becoming more readily available in major American supermarkets such as Whole Foods, Kroger, and Meijer. 
Non-dairy cheese became commercially available in the 1980s, but at that time and into the 1990s,[when?] the vegan cheeses available weren’t as good quality as regular cheese, having a waxy, chalky or plasticky texture. From the early 1990s,[when?] a high-quality vegan cheese called Sheese has been available in Scotland and is distributed worldwide. In the United States, the only brand of vegan cheese available at the time was Soymage. Since then, the variety and taste of vegan cheese have improved significantly.
As of 2018, the current market for vegan cheese continues to grow and develop on a global scale. This is speculated to be due to the continuance of growing health concerns, dietary restrictions, and popularity in veganism. This market increase can be seen directly in regions within the United States and Canada. The growth can also be seen reaching all the way to market economies across the world in places such as China, Japan, Australia, Germany, France, and Brazil. The more popular types of vegan cheese being manufactured, distributed, and produced through this market are those mimicking Mozzarella, Parmesan, Cheddar, and Cream Cheese dairy based cheeses. These vegan cheeses are most popularly being applied to the general area of food itself, be it via restaurants, grocery stores, bakeries, or personal cultivation. Vegan cheese is expanding and projected to continue to grow greatly into the mid 2020s.
In February 2019, a Vancouver, British Columbia vegan cheese shop, Blue Heron Creamery, was ordered by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) to stop calling their products cheese as it was 'misleading' to consumers, despite the Creamery stating that their cheese was always labelled as "dairy-free" and "plant-based." The CFIA later reversed the rejection and stated that they have no objection to the Creamery using the nomenclature “100% dairy-free plant-based cheese” provided that "it is truthful".
In the same month, a Brixton vegan cheese shop, La Fauxmagerie, was ordered by Dairy UK to stop describing products as cheese because it 'misleads shoppers'. Sisters Rachel and Charlotte Stevens, owners of the cheese shop, stated that it is not misleading as their "products were clearly marked as dairy-free."
Some of the success in the vegan cheese market can be attributed to the continuing development of plant based proteins in substitution for cow’s milk among dairy products. Plant based proteins or vegetable proteins are derived from edible sources of protein such as soybeans. These proteins are used to help mimic texture and overall structure of the food product they are attempting to replicate in a non-dairy version. Plant based proteins are partly responsible for vegan cheeses being able to imitate the stretching and melting property that dairy cheeses possess.
A difficult challenge for food scientists is creating vegan cheese that melts and stretches like real cheese. Dairy cheese, and many lactose-free cheese analogues, melt and stretch because of the protein casein, which is a milk protein and therefore not vegan, so food scientists use a "blend of gums, protein, solids and fats" to attempt to duplicate the mouthfeel and melt of real cheese. A project called Real Vegan Cheese aims to solve this difficulty by making cheese with casein produced by yeast rather than by cows. This cheese would have real casein, but would be vegan because the casein would not be animal-derived.
As of 2018, there are a few different approaches to making vegan cheese, but one of the more intricate and scientific processes involves fermentation. In this approach the “cheese” maker would typically start with some type of tree nut and allow the desired amount of nuts to soak in a small amount of water for about 36 hours. The soaking of the raw nuts allows bacteria to develop and then ferment. The natural sugars produced by the tree nut and the bacterial development are how the fermentation happens. The length of time involved in the before mentioned fermentation is what gives vegan cheese its variance in tangy flavor.
- Dixie Mahy, Miyoko Schinner, Artisan Vegan Cheese, Book Publishing Company, 2013, p. v.
- Stepkin, Kay (16 January 2013). "Vegan cheese replaces lingering brie craving: Vegan brie takes just minutes of actual work". Chicago Tribune. Archived from the original on 3 March 2018. Retrieved 3 March 2018.
- Buren, Alex Van (29 March 2018). "What Is Vegan Cheese Exactly—and Should You Be Eating It?". Health. Yahoo!. Archived from the original on 3 April 2018. Retrieved 3 April 2018.
Those looking to emulate the creamy texture and saltiness of real cheese tend to find themselves reaching for cashews, both at restaurants and at home. [...] But several other nuts can be transformed into vegan 'cheese'—what Keenan calls 'nutcheese'—such as almonds and pine nuts, among others.
- Moreau, Elise. "What in the World is Vegan Cheese, Anyway? Can it Actually Replace 'Real' Cheese?". Foodie Buzz. Organic Authority. Archived from the original on 3 April 2018. Retrieved 3 April 2018.
Depending on the brand and recipe that's used, vegan cheese can be made from soy protein (used in shiny, slick, rubbery varieties), solidified vegetable oil (like coconut, palm, or safflower) nutritional yeast, thickening agar flakes, nuts (including cashews, macadamias, and almonds), tapioca flour, natural enzymes, vegetable glycerin, assorted bacterial cultures, arrowroot, and even pea protein.
- Nutritional value of Toffuti mozzarella. United States Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service: USDA Branded Food Products Database. Accessed 02/16/2018
- "Enjoy Pizza and Grilled Cheese With These 7 Best Dairy-Free Cheeses". The Spruce Eats. Retrieved 2018-11-26.
- "Vegan Cheese - Dairy Free Cheeses Made from Cashews | Treeline Treenut Cheese is a Cultured Nut Product". Treeline Vegan Cheese. Retrieved 2018-11-26.
- "The Evolution of Vegan Cheese". Fresh n' Lean. 22 June 2015. Archived from the original on 3 April 2018. Retrieved 3 April 2018.
- "The Evolution of Vegan Cheese - Fresh n' Lean". Organic Meal Delivery Service | Healthy Diet | Fresh n' Lean. 2015-06-22. Retrieved 2018-03-02.
- Winograd, Jennifer; Winograd, Nathan (15 August 2011). "A Guide to Vegan Cheese". All American Vegan. Archived from the original on 3 April 2018. Retrieved 3 April 2018.
- "Vegan Cheese Market 2018 – Global Sales,Price,Revenue,Gross Margin and Market Share - Press Release - Digital Journal". www.digitaljournal.com. Retrieved 2018-11-06.
- "Vegan Cheese Market 2018 | Industry Key Players, Growth, Trends, Analysis & Forecast to 2025". Amazing Newshub. 2018-10-29. Retrieved 2018-11-06.
- "Vancouver vegan cheese shop told they can no longer use the word 'cheese' in packaging". Global News. Retrieved 2019-02-18.
- Daily Hive https://dailyhive.com/vancouver/cfia-permit-blue-heron-creamery-cheese. Retrieved 2019-02-25. Missing or empty
- "Britain's first all-vegan cheese shop causes a stink as dairy industry demands it changes branding". City A.M. Retrieved 2019-02-17.
- "Past, present and future: The strength of plant-based dairy substitutes based on gluten-free raw materials". Food Research International. 110: 42–51. 2018-08-01. doi:10.1016/j.foodres.2017.03.045. ISSN 0963-9969.
- Estabrook, Rachel (30 April 2012). "Cracking The Code: Making Vegan Cheese Taste Cheesier". The Salt. NPR. Archived from the original on 3 April 2018. Retrieved 3 April 2018.
But to make a true vegan cheese substitute, you can't use casein. So [Jonathan] Gordon's latest challenge has been to make a cheese that is completely free of animal byproducts but still retains the properties we love about cheese. 'The skill of the formulator is to use exactly the right amounts and blend of gums, protein, solids and fats to get a desirable, cheese-like bite and mouth feel while achieving a realistic melt (this is very difficult),' he tells The Salt. Those gums replace the casein, working as 'emulsifiers'and 'stabilizers' to hold the other ingredients together, according to Crowe. (The other ingredients include a protein base like soy or rice, water, oil, starches, flavors and colors.)
- Messina, Ginny (28 September 2014). "Real Vegan Cheese and Real Nutrition Science". The Vegan RD. Archived from the original on 3 April 2018. Retrieved 3 April 2018.
One of those innovations in the works is for Real Vegan Cheese, using the milk protein casein but without the input of a cow. It boggles the mind (or at least my mind) but biotech researchers are working on it right now in labs in Oakland and Sunnyvale, California.
- "The Vegan Way". scienceandfooducla. 2017-09-26. Retrieved 2018-11-27.
Collection of primary sources
- Shurtleff, W.; Aoyagi, A. (2013). History of Cheese, Cream Cheese and Sour Cream Alternatives (With or Without Soy) (1896-2013):: Extensively Annotated Bibliography and Sourcebook. Soyinfo Center. ISBN 978-1-928914-61-7.
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