Whether you are needing to be dairy free because of an allergy, intolerance, or sensitivity, you are not alone. More and more people are finding that dairy products in their every day diet is causing their inflammation symptoms to worsen and realize they function better on a day-to-day basis if it’s not in their diet all the time.
But that brings in a whole other issue. Cheese is good! No wonder there’s been a boom in dairy free cheese substitutes! Now, before I go any further, I have to say one thing:
Dairy Alternative cheeses are it's own genre of cheese.
It can be used for different purposes, and just like there are thousands of different cheeses to be used in specific and different ways, there are many dairy alternatives to try and to use in different ways.
While there are some cheeses out on the shelf, many choose to try to make their own at home for many reasons. It could be because of random allergies or other intolerances, trying to keep the recipe as whole as possible without fillers, reducing or not having any added sugars, or that it’s less of a hit on the wallet.
Whatever the case, if you are looking for a good recipe for a dairy free alternative to cheese, I do have a few tips and things to look for in recipes to make sure you are making “a good one”. Or if you are looking for it to be more firm or look for it to stretch, I have some ingredients to look for with that specific texture. If anything this might help you when picking out a dairy free cheese alternative at your store.
Getting the Bite or Tang of Aged Cheese
The best way to get that tang that aged cheese has is to have your mixture age. But that can get a little tricky since you probably don’t want to worry about mold, or have your kitchen smell like stinky cheese for weeks.
The best tang I’ve been able to get with a simple recipes at home is about as much as you would expect from softer cheeses like cream cheese or feta cheese.
Ingredients to look for:
- Lemon Juice
- Apple Cider Vinegar (more bite) or White Vinegar (mild bite)
- Fermented Products:
- Miso Paste
- Probiotic capsules
- Unsweetened plain plant based yogurt
- Sauerkraut Juice
- Rejuvelac: Water from sprouting grains
- If you sprout your own grains, the leftover semi cloudy water has probiotics in it, it’s said to have a mild kombucha flavor, and is healthy to drink. You can always save this for your cheese alternative recipes.
- If you don’t sprout grains and have no idea what I’m talking about, you can look up the benefits and see if it’s something you would want to add to your routine, but if not, you can find other items to add to your recipe and not sprout grains just to make dairy-alternative cheeses.
- Mustard or Mustard Powder
Texture: Cuttable and/or Sliceable
If you are looking for a cheese to put on sandwiches or want something on your cheese plate with a harder texture, you’ll need something to solidify your mixture.
Ingredients to Look for:
- Refined Coconut Oil – solid at room temperature, easy to blend, easy to mold into a shape, and the refined version does not have a taste. It’s also saturated fat, which is part of the reason why we love cheese so much. Good for cheese balls.
- Agar Agar powder/flakes – usually will call for powder. It’s from seaweed, but it’s a plant-based alternative to gelatin, which once it’s set with your other ingredients will make it more sliceable.
If you are wanting something to stretch like mozzarella on your dairy free pizza or over a casserole, you’ll need some specific starches. Some starches are good to thicken a mixture, while others add elasticity. When using starches, read the instructions and make sure to follow them, otherwise you might not get the right reaction and it won’t stretch or thicken properly. With some starches, you need the right temperature, and to not overheat the mixture after adding it.
Lastly, when finding the ingredients, some starches will just say “powder”. You might be able to find arrowroot powder, but not arrowroot “starch”. It’s the same thing.
Ingredients to Look For:
- Arrowroot Powder or Starch – comparable to corn starch to thicken, but adds a little stretch as well.
- Tapioca Powder or Starch – this seems to be the most stretchy and when it’s at colder temps, it’s rubbery, of the two. I’ve used this to make a cashew mozzarella balls before.
Add Some Fat
Let’s face it, the reason we love cheese, is because it’s basically saturated fat other than some mozzarellas and feta varieties. Dairy-free cheese alternatives should be used like cheese, in that it should be more of an every once and a while item, and not with every meal. So if you are worried about where your fat intake comes from, do yourself a favor and when you make a dairy-free cheese recipe, add the fat.
The only one I’ve made that I like that doesn’t have a lot if any fat, is my white bean queso dip. But that’s pretty much it. All others I love and other people love, have coconut oil or is full of nuts, so, if you want it hit the same buttons as cheese or close to it, add the fat.
Plant Based/Dairy Free Cheese are it’s own product. They are trying to make the alternatives available to act like and semi-taste like cheese, but you and your body knows it’s not. You just have to know it’s a different type cheese you’re working with.
There are plenty of delicious cheeses out there to try, but trust me, don’t cheap out if you are going to buy it on the shelf and it’s your first time trying dairy free cheese. And the softer nut cheeses are usually a guaranteed hit.
As always, keep finding you beet and I will catch up with you all soon!