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16 DIY Whole Food Dairy Free Cheese Substitutes

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Being vegan in an omnivore-dominant world can be tough. But being a vegan who believes in a whole food diet, or even a raw food diet can be even more difficult. Sure, there are a plethora of convenient mock milks and cheeses on the grocery store shelves these days--but check those labels and you'll find a few unwelcome visitors that are on the no-no list: processed ingredients like vegetable glycerin, titanium dioxide and "natural" flavors. And most brands certainly don't pass the real food no-more-than-five-ingredients rule.

So, what's a vegan foodie gotta do to get some cheese around here? Make your own, of course! There are cooked vegan and raw vegan cheese recipes plastered all over the Internet. So let's round up a few to get your started on your whole food, dairy-free cheese adventure.

Vegan cheese is becoming popular not only for dairy-free and vegan individuals, but also for those seeking healthier hormone-free cheese options. But, as with store-bought processed dairy cheese, it is more processed than a real foodie would like and contains a few questionable ingredients. One of the most popular store-bought vegan cheeses boasts this ingredient list: filtered water, tapioca and /or arrowroot flours, non-GMO expeller pressed canola and /or non-GMO expeller pressed safflower oil, coconut oil, pea protein, salt, inactive yeast, vegan natural flavors, vegetable glycerin, xanthan gum, citric acid (for flavor), annatto, titanium dioxide. Instead of dealing with that ingredient list, you can make your own, raw or cooked, vegan cheese with just a few simple ingredients.

Most vegan cheeses are made primarily from nuts: usually cashews or almonds. Others are made from dairy-free milks or even tofu. There are six basic types of vegan cheese:

  • Cheese sauces
  • Firm cheeses that contain agar or vege-gel
  • Spreadable nut cheeses
  • Tofu ricotta
  • Cheeses using a nutmilk or cheese bag and sometimes a probiotic bacteria to culture
  • Cheese toppings, usually nutritional yeast-based Parmesan substitutes

Cheese Sauces

1. Fondue, Ultimate Cheese Sauce: A gruyere-based fondue cheese sauce from Vegan Manifesto is made with cashews, brown miso and Rejuvelac. Rejuvelac can be bought commercially or made at home by sprouting grains and using the leftover liquid in your cheese recipes. This cheese can be used in recipes calling for any liquid cheese sauce, or you can use the original gruyere recipe in place of gruyere or Swiss cheese.

2. Cheese Sauce: This cashew-based cooked cheese sauce can also be solidified into sliced cheese, making it a versatile choice.

Firm Cheeses

3. Unprocessed American Cheese Slices: The only ingredient that may not be in your vegan pantry is the vege-gel (a vegetarian gelatin substitute). But that's the glue that holds these mock processed cheese slices together. This recipe's great for old-fashioned grilled cheese or on sandwiches.

Cheese Spreads

4. Baked Almond Feta: Try it with or without the dill to simulate Greek feta cheese. This recipe is fantastically simple, with just almonds, oil, lemon juice and garlic.

5. Cashew Chive Spread: Great for bagels, this simple yet flavorful vegan cheese spread is a great starter cheese.

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From the Organic Authority Files

6. Vegan Cashew Cheese: This one's blended in the VitaMix with a simple cashew-based recipe. It's a great cream cheese substitute. The recipe is a little different than your standard cream cheese substitute, boasting a hint of hummus.

7. Nut Cheese Log Rolled in Chives: This cashew-based beauty is great for a party platter. Easy to make and it's flashy on a cheese tray.

8. Chickpea Cheese: Created by a mom with nut-allergic kids, this is a unique cheese substitute made with pureed chickpeas.

Nutmilk or Non-dairy Milk Cheeses

9. Vegan Cottage Cheese: I love to pair this with fruit, or add it to lasagna layers. This one's a simple dairy-free milk-based cottage cheese substitute.

10. Raw Vegan Almond Cheese: A great cream cheese substitute, raw vegan almond cheese is made from five simple ingredients, including almonds, nutritional yeast, lemon juice and salt.

11. Raw Almond Dill Cheese: A great starter cheese, this cream cheese substitute recipe gives you almond cheese and a fresh batch of liquid whey (which is a great buttermilk substitute). Or try this pine nut-based (#12) Herbed Cream Cheese Spread.

Tofu Ricotta

13. Tofu Ricotta: Another great starter cheese, this one just requires a block of tofu, some spices and about 20 minutes of your time.

Soy-free? Try #14, Cashew Ricotta. Delish.

Cheese Toppings/Powders

15. Raw Vegan Parmesan: A flax seed-based Parmesan topping substitute for vegan pizza and pastas.

16. Raw Homemade Cheese Sauce Powder: This one's a versatile recipe for kid-friendly mac and cheese sauce, popcorn topping and cheesy vegetable sauce. The best part is all you need for this recipe is your blender or food processor.

Keep in touch with Kristi on Twitter @VeggieConverter and Pinterest.

Image: CookingGlutenFree

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