The thing about cheese is that it’s kinda delicious, so I have to admit I understand why so many people I talk to – including those who’ve already given up meat – say they could never be vegan because they love cheese too much. I get it; for most of my life I was a huge fan of cheese and all things cheesy, too.
In fact, on the night before we went to Farm Sanctuary (which was the experience that led us to veganism), we were treated to a beautiful vegetarian antipasto dinner made for us by our good friend, Steve, that included a fresh mozzarella-type cheese I had never had before, called burrata. I thought it was so fantastic tasting I pretty much pledged on the spot to eat it everyday for the rest of my life.
But that was then, and this is now. Fast forward to going vegan…
Based on what we learned at Farm Sanctuary about how the dairy industry operates, it was easy for us to leave all cheeses, including burrata, behind us. The next step, though, was finding the right dairy-free alternative, and that was a bit of an adventure for me. I think it’s fair to say you actually need to adopt an adventurous attitude when you’re shopping around for the right vegan cheese to feed your family. Some on the market are really good, while others will remind you exactly why you have a gag reflex! This was true of the very first vegan cheese I tried (I don’t remember what kind it was; I just remember it being incredibly bad in smell, texture, taste… everything). I brought it home, opened the package and sliced into it with great anticipation and optimism, put it in my mouth, spit it out straightaway, and tossed the rest directly into the garbage. It was a sad day, and I was definitely thinking, “Oh crap, what if this is as good as it gets?” But of course it’s not, and now I’ve sampled enough that I can recommend these fine non-dairy cheese products to you:
Heidi Ho Ne Chèvre Black Lava (great spread on crackers)
Beyond what you can find at the grocery store, you can also make your own vegan cheese at home. Dave has learned to make a cashew ricotta that’s excellent and perfect for stuffing manicotti and ravioli or layering into a lasagna. I plan to try making my own cannoli with it at some point and will post that recipe once I’ve nailed it.
To summarize: Burrata, schmurrata… when you make an informed choice and feel as strongly as we do about that choice, saying goodbye to foods you can no longer love is a cinch.
1 1/2 cups raw, unsalted cashews (soaked)
1/2 cup water
1 large lemon, juiced
2 Tbsp nutritional yeast flakes
1 clove garlic, pressed
3 dashes (or to taste) onion powder
salt (to taste)
- Soak cashews for two hours (minimum) or overnight. Water should cover cashews by 2-3 inches.
- Drain cashews, then add all ingredients into a food processor, and blend until mixture is creamy.
- Taste, add salt as desired.
- Mixture can be refrigerated. If you refrigerate, you may need to add extra water before piping into pasta.
*Recipe makes enough to fill approx. 2 boxes of manicotti shells.