I love cheese. I love the savory, salty flavors and the creamy textures. I love how it pairs with a diverse variety of foods, from fruits and crackers to vegetable crudités and antipasto. I’m far more likely to crave cheese than any other food. What I don’t love, however, is how cheese makes me feel — at least the standard variety of dairy cheeses. I’m not just lactose intolerant, I’m allergic to dairy products.
As a nutritionist and doctor of natural medicine, I used to console myself with the notion that most dairy products aren’t healthy options for a wide variety of reasons. But, once I applied fermentation techniques I learned over the years to nuts and seeds, I realized I could create delicious, creamy, and versatile cheeses that were completely free of dairy products. Now I don’t have to live without cheese, I just have to focus my attention and diet on vegan options. Fortunately, these options are many, and each offers a wealth of unique and amazing flavors to draw upon.
Excited by my new discovery, I began experimenting with vegan “cheeses” made from almonds, Brazil nuts, cashews, hazelnuts, macadamia nuts, pecans, pumpkin seeds, and sunflower seeds. I explored the addition of herbs, specific probiotic cultures (there are many different types of probiotic powders available, so I was sure to choose dairy-free options), smoked salt, and other flavor enhancers. Then I began aging my “cheeses,” which helped them to develop sharper flavors, harder textures, and the rinds we expect only on dairy cheeses. Unlike many commercially available dairy cheeses, however, these plant-based options include a wide variety of health-boosting probiotics. By eating them, not only will you avoid the challenges and allergens associated with eating dairy products, you’ll also be giving your health a big boost. And, unlike many of the rubbery faux cheeses on the market, these homemade vegan cheeses have silky textures and a range of flavors to suit even the most discriminating palates.
I use a Canadian probiotic product, which isn’t available in the United States. However, there are many other vegan probiotics on the market, including some that are dairy-free, and all will work fine, as they all contain the most critical strains of bacteria, which include L. acidophilus and B. bifidum.
Dairy-free cheese recipes to try:
- World’s Easiest Vegan Cashew Yogurt Cheese Recipe
- Walnut Thyme Vegan Cheese Recipe
- Aged ‘Savorella’ Vegan Cheese Recipe
- Vegan ‘Bracotta’ Cheese Recipe