Why is vegan cheese so bad? You know what? The answer is in the ingredients. Not all vegan cheese is bad, but some of them definitely are.
There are three groups of vegan cheese and each one of them is different.
The main problem with unhealthy vegan cheese lies with the first group. The second group is split between more or less healthy, and the third one is in your hands, so you can make it what you will.
- Mainstream supermarket cheeses
- Artisanal vegan cheeses
- Homemade vegan cheeses
So if you’re craving cheese and wishing your vegan block had a healthier list of ingredients and a tastier flavour profile, then this post is for you.
So let’s take a look at those nasty copy cats and see why it is . . .
Table of Contents
Why is Hard Style Vegan Cheese so Bad?
- Most hard-style commercial vegan cheeses are made from a mix of coconut oil, a form of starch, and carrageenan, which often provide no nutritional benefit and no protein.
- Carrageenan is surrounded by controversy as scientific studies show it to be a carcinogenic and some scientists have actually requested its restriction.
- Vegan hard cheese doesn’t manage to mimic the flavour or texture of dairy cheese very well, but instead has a more plastic texture and bland flavour.
- Vegan cheese doesn’t contain casein (thank goodness), a protein found in cow’s milk which gives cheese its typical characteristics and flavour (see below for a new ‘vegan’ cheese with casein).
- Wrong mindset: if you try vegan cheese expecting a replica of your local cheddar you’re going to be disappointed no matter what because you’re searching for a memory, a dream that doesn’t exist.
How to Solve the Vegan Cheese Dilema
- Make your own vegan cheese and choose healthy ingredients so that you get vegan cheese with a tasty, nutritious profile.
- Change your attitude. When you ‘give up’ dairy, it’s because you don’t want to eat it. If you really program your subconscious mind so that you really know that it repels you, you’ll find yourself leaving it in the past where it belongs, while you open your taste buds to new flavours. Because that’s what vegan cheese is – a new flavour. Sometimes an absolutely delicious one at that.
- If you decide to buy some of the vegan cheese which has no nutritional benefits, limit it to special occasions.
- Find an artisanal vegan cheese company which uses cashews and wholesome ingredients to create their vegan cheeses. (See below)
- Recognise that you don’t need cheese in your life.
Vegan cheese is bad only when it’s made with unhealthy ingredients, which tends to be the mainstream commercial cheeses and some, but not all of the artisanal vegan cheeses.
Mainstream Commercial Vegan Cheese
What kind of cheese do you most miss when you first turn vegan? I bet you most people will answer that they crave that hard cheese they’re used to grating on their food, stuffing in their jacket potato, melting on toast or slicing into a sandwich.
Sure, you might miss a cheese board with a strong blue cheese and and over ripe brie, but every day in every meal you’ll notice the absence of that Cheddar, Gouda or Montery Jack, or whatever you’re used to having on the side.
So it’s only logical that the first vegan cheese you’ll reach for is a hard block of cheese which you’ve found in the cold isle of the supermarket.
It’s called vegan cheeze, it looks like cheese and it’s packaged like cheese. So you figure you can buy it in place of cheese.
Only problem is, it doesn’t taste like cheese and it has either no nutritional value, or is actually actively unhealthy for you.
The hard cheddar style cheese seems to be the most difficult type of cheese to copy in texture/taste and also keeping a healthy list of ingredients.
And if you taste it expecting a classic cheddar, you’re going to be disappointed.
Common Ingredients in Hard Vegan Cheeses:
- Oil: the most common oil used in the production of commercial vegan cheese is coconut oil. Other oils are palm oil, canola oil and sunflower oil
- Starch: potato starch, maize starch, tapioca starch, pea starch
- Thickeners: carrageenan, guar gum
- Flavourings: natural flavourings
- Other ingredients: various other ingredients can be found including natural colouring and flavouring agents.
What is Casein Protein? (in Dairy Milk)
Casein protein gives cheese it characteristics and is found only in dairy milk.
Casein doesn’t come from plants and isn’t available for making vegan cheese.
But one company, New Culture are developing casein through precision fermentation and plan to release a plant based revolutionary mozzarella that stretches and melts the same as dairy mozzarella before 2023.
New Culture says it will be cheese without the cow.
What is Carrageenan?
Carrageenan comes from red seaweed and acts as a thickener and stabiliser.
It’s used throughout the food industry in many different types of products including but not limited to toothpaste, ice-cream, vegan jelly, cakes, desserts, milkshakes, diet drinks, vegan cheese and more.
According to this interesting article on Medical News Today, it’s often added to chicken (to make it juicy for longer), to other meats and to dog food.
Because it acts like gelatine it can also be found in chewy sweets or chewy vitamin tablets.
However, carrageenan is surrounded by controversy and there are calls to have it taken off the market although the studies so far have proved the health hazard in animal cells rather than humans.
The long list of possible side effects from consuming carageenan range from bloating, stomach ulcers IBS, glucose intolerance and colon cancer.
In fact carageenan has been listed as a ‘possible’ carcinogenic food for humans by the FDA.
Artisan Vegan Cheeses (And Why They Can Be Better)
Artisan vegan cheeses vary enormously.
You can find a nutritious, gooey delicious cashew nut camembert while you’re sitting at a vegan Café in Bordeaux passing the time of day.
(You know the kind of cheese that warrants dreaming about?)
Or you might buy an artisan vegan cheese and find that it tastes like plastic and/or is full of sugar, salt or carrageenan.
Small companies make vegan cheeses all around the world. And while they’ll never be whole foods, they have the potential to be much more tasty and healthy than the mainstream cheddar imitations.
Artisan vegan cheeses tend to be made from nuts, with cashews being the most common nut in the production of cheese.
But if you’re going to include commercial vegan cheese in your diet, I recommend you study the ingredients first.
And incase it’s a help to you, here you can find a long list of the best artisan vegan cheese companies according to Vegout.
A Look at Some Great Innovative Vegan Cheeses
Is All Vegan Cheese Unhealthy?
Shop bought commercial vegan cheese is a processed food.
If you look at the ingredients of a standard vegan hard style cheese from the supermarket or health store, you’ll see that normally none of the ingredients are actually health-giving.
They tend to be high fat, high sugar/salt and low protein, meaning that this kind of vegan cheese isn’t really something you want to include in your diet unless for you, you really find it a treat.
Homemade vegan cheese on the other hand, or good quality artisan cheeses can be healthy when eaten in moderation.
Why does Vegan Cheese Taste Horrible?
The reason vegan cheese tastes horrible to you might be because you’ve just stopped eating dairy and you’re jumping onto the vegan cheese expecting it to be the same.
And it isn’t.
In fact it clearly isn’t from the udder of a cow so why would it taste the same?
The good news is, if you take a break for a while and start investigating new foods and being ‘new’ flavours rather than copies of old things, then you might be surprised to find that vegan cheese doesn’t taste so bad after all.
Or maybe it tastes delicious. Depending on who you are and what vegan cheese you’re eating.
It’s a similar story with tofu. You might find tofu disgusting in the beginning, but give it time and your taste buds will change and you may find you get to love tofu.
Why is Vegan Cheese Called Cheese?
Vegan Cheese is called cheese because it’s used in the place of cheese and because its made using the same process as dairy cheese (though this is not always the case of course).
Whenever you would have eaten the old dairy cheese, you look to put something there in its place and that my friend is vegan cheese.
Why Homemade Vegan Cheese Isn’t So Bad
Homemade vegan cheese in the main part doesn’t actually imitate dairy cheese – it has its own character in its own right.
And it can’t be called ‘bad’.
Except when it’s made bad of course.
Because it’s delicious, nutritious and as healthy as the ingredients your choose to put in it.
Homemade vegan cheese uses ingredients like cashews, tofu, walnuts, agar agar, tapioca, nutritional yeast etc.
I would never add an ingredient like carrageenan for example – but some people do. For me, it’s what I would call a non-food, which at best doesn’t help you at all and at worst can hurt you.
So why eat it?
I also don’t add sugar. BTW, did you know that your sugar might not be vegan? Is it true that sugar is processed with bone char, I hear you ask?
So it is possible to make some healthy and tasty cheese replacements, but you’ll need to give yourself time to adapt.
Take a simple vegan parmesan for example, it’s so simple and healthy and tasty – but you shouldn’t try it with traditional parmesan in your mind. Because it’s different.
And because vegan cheeses aren’t cheese.
I wrote a post on how to give up traditional cheese because it seems to be something many of us struggle with in the early days of going vegan and also on why vegans crave cheese (the reason may surprise you!)
I hope you liked this post on why vegan cheese is bad, and I hope that you get to give up cheese once and for all without craving it and find some healthy vegan replacements which you love.