When I first went vegan back in the summer I was given a piece of advice: ‘steer clear of vegan cheese for a while, until you’ve forgotten what dairy cheese tastes like’. Of course, I ignored that and bought a yellow block of something resembling cheddar. It was disgusting. It was like eating coconut flavoured margarine and I threw most of it away.
The range of vegan cheeses on the supermarket shelves is impressive, and they seem to promise so much! They look the part, and come in lots of different varieties – cheddar, mozzarella, and wensleydale replicas are all readily available. However, they all seem to have this horrible synthetic smell which makes me feel a bit ill. I should add that there are very few foods that I don’t like – I’m really not a fussy eater (apart from the vegan thing, obvs), but I’ve not been impressed with vegan cheese so far.
To be fair, a few weeks ago we did find one that was reasonable. The Violife Mediterranean Style Block resembles something like haloumi or manchego, and tasted a bit like cheddar when I fried it in the pan. It didn’t taste like either haloumi or manchego.
However, yesterday I found one that I do actually genuinely like! I’d just about given up on the whole idea of vegan cheese, when I spotted a blue cheese style product called Sheese, from Bute Island Foods. I was pleased to find a product made on the Isle of Bute having lived not far from there for a few years. It was in the fridge at Holland and Barrett and was only £2.99, so I decided to risk it.
The first sniff wasn’t promising; that same synthetic weirdness could be detected. However, flavour and texture-wise it’s actually really good. Like most vegan cheeses the main ingredient is coconut oil, but it doesn’t really taste of coconut. To be honest, I don’t really think it tastes like blue cheese either (I used to really like stilton, and this is nothing like that). It has a mild and creamy flavour, probably more like a ripe wensleydale.
After a few moments I stopped noticing the smell too. I guess maybe the smell had been a bit concentrated initially having been wrapped in the packet, or maybe I just got used to it. And to be fair, cheese does generally taste better than it smells!
I’m really pleased to have found a vegan cheese that tastes good, although I don’t expect I’ll be eating loads of it. Even before I went vegan cheese wasn’t a big part of my diet; I cut lots of it out a few years ago when I decided to lose weight and get fit and healthy.
I’m pretty sure that vegan cheeses will get better as demand increases and more products are developed. It feels like they are a work in progress at the moment, but it’s great that they don’t all taste disgusting!