Thursday, 29 November 2012

Cheese, please! What are the dairy free alternatives?

If ever I'm asked about what I miss most, being dairy free, my thoughts invariably turn to cheese. I don't think I'm quite as anal about it as Wallace and Grommit, but I used to love cheese... cheese on toast, or crackers; in sandwiches, jacket potatoes or macaroni cheese; on top of lasagne, shepherds pie or fish pie; or simply... just by itself. Sigh!

'Cheese' topped Shepherd's Pie
This post is born out of a conversation I had on Twitter. Today, someone asked me about dairy free cheese. I tend to think I know nothing about this subject, as I can only eat one dairy free cheese, but I have a few ideas and have been ably helped along the way, by Sugarpuffish and by recent conversations on our page on Face Book. So here's what little I DO know: 

The thing is, I love cheese so much, that I've been of the opinion that I don't want to try a dairy free alternative, in case it's awful and I end up disappointed.

Not that I've had all that much choice - most dairy free cheeses are made with soya, and I get really bad reactions to soya milk. For those dairy free peeps, who can have soya, you can get a whole lot more choice - most supermarkets sell some form of soya based 'cheese' as do health food shops.

You lucky people can have cheddar, mozzarella, cream cheese, even those individually wrapped 'cheese' slices!

I'm reliably informed, by Sugarpuffish that 'Sheese' by Bute Island is pretty nice, and also 'Tofutti.'

If you're dairy free and unable to tolerate soya, but can handle cashews, then Vegusto, may be the 'cheese' of choice for you. It's meant to be pretty good, but... unfortunately, for me, cashews are no good for me either!

There is one, well two, dairy free cheeses that even I can have, though. By Redwood Foods, a vegan firm, and they're called "Cheezly". Redwood Foods make a range of meat and cheese alternatives and hidden among the product range is the two cheeses that I can have. Watch out, if you want to buy them though - Redwood Foods have other 'cheeses' called 'Cheezly' that are made from soya, so read the labels carefully!

The first, their cheddar cheese, is, I have to admit, a bit more expensive than your standard cheddar, but it does have a long shelf (or rather, fridge) life and it can be grated and frozen. So, bargain hunters,(like myself) can buy it in, whenever Holland and Barrett have their offers going and store it up, for ages in the fridge/freezer.

The second tastes pretty much like the first and is similar in appearance, but is made for melting. It's not cheese as such, but laid on gluten free toast, and heated under the grill, it comes near enough for me! It's also pretty good on an omelette, or pizza! Although, my top tip for pizza, is not to put the cheese on top, until the last ten minutes or so, if you don't want to burn your cheese topping.

Whichever version you use, you may be pleased to hear that like cheese made with dairy Cheezly cheeses do cContain calcium - though not quite as much. if you're trying to keep track of just how much calcium you are getting in your diet, you may be interested to know that there is 200mg of calcium per 100g.

Originally, I found this cheese it in my 'nearest' health food store. However, I've now found that Holland and Barrett stock it too - great news, as now that we have moved, my 'nearest' health food shop is not that near at all!

Free & Easy Cheese Sauce

Contains soya!
Another form of 'cheese' substitute is this 'cheese' sauce, I found in Sainsbury's. I bought a tin ages ago but was too afraid to try it - consequently it ended up being chucked, as it went out of date! I bought another tin, but it turns out it's no good for me either! 

Apparently, it contains soya, but you'd never know by reading the ingredients list, unless it's the 'hydrolysed vegetable protein'!

I have heard, via the grapevine, that this is quite nice, but obviously I'm unable to verify that!

Nutritional Yeast

There's quite a lot in this pot!
Those of us who are dairy free and soya free can still have another 'cheese' substitute, known as 'Nutritional Yeast'. In the UK, we can get it in the form of Engevita Yeast Flakes. They're made by Marigold, who also make the bouillon that we use as gravy, in Shepherd's Pie. 

The yeast flakes are not available in most supermarkets, although you can get them from Ocado. They are also sold via many health food stores and online they can be bought from Amazon and Goodness Direct, among other places. 

I've only tried the yeast flakes sprinkled over food so far. They smell like old socks, but haven't packed a flavourful punch yet, so maybe I'm doing something wrong. Apparently, according to their website, you can make them into 'cheese' sauces - something with which I've yet to experiment.

You see Baby has never had real cheese and all attempts to introduce her to dairy free cheese have been met with frowns, wrinkled facial expressions and loud verbal utterances rejecting the stuff. So experimenting with cheese flavours is something I mainly keep to myself, and, inevitably, if it's just for me, it's not going to be in great quantities, therefore I haven't made anything like a lasagna or a macaroni cheese. And, to be quite honest, there's not a lot of point making macaroni cheese just for myself, when Amy's Kitchen make such a great one! Theirs is made with Daiya cheese - an American product. So far Daiya tell me that they're not available in the UK, but they are interested!! So here's hoping!!

Not to be confused with the version sold in Tesco - gluten free, not dairy free!
However, I am gearing myself up for a little experimentation. I'll have to get back to you soon, and let you know how it goes!

By the way, if you are an experimental type, you might like to have a go at making this home made coconut milk cheese. Yes really! 

If you do, then make sure you read the comments, at the end of this lady's blog - they explain a few details a bit more, and help make sense of some of the ingredients, for us Brits! And please, let me know how you got on!

More posts about dairy free substitutes can be found by clicking on this link.


  1. Thanks for the mention, I tried the cheese sauce a long time ago & didn't think much of it. I just make my own (white sauce & add dairy free cheese). I keep hearing about yeast flakes and you see it a lot in US Vegan recipes I have yet to try it as I am suppose to avoid too much yeast.

    1. No worries :) It's great to be able to discuss these things with you. Useful to hear what you think of the cheese sauce too. I think I would prefer to make my own, on the basis that it's got less 'funny stuff' in it.

      Have to admit, I'm a bit iffy about yeast, as I've had more than my fair amount of yeast infection (following antibiotics - grr). This yeast seems to be specially cultivated - don't know if that helps? It seems yeast flakes are quite useful in making the 'coconut cheese' recipe!

  2. Thank you for this post. I, like you, stay away from dairy free cheese as the ones I have tried have made me react in the same way you mentioned baby did! I only had to give up lactose about 3 years ago and I know I am extremely lucky to be able to eat Lactofree products. However, my current problems appear better without dairy, gluten and soya so I am keen to keep them out of my diet. Living down here in the sticks I rarely get to know about these products and without your help I wouldnt know anything at all.
    I also was unaware of the different Amys Kitchen mac and cheese so thank you for the warning.
    Keep up the good work I enjoy reading x

    1. Hey Emma! Thanks for the comment. Glad you found the post helpful. Yeah, I love Amy's Mac & Cheese. If you badger your local Health Food Shop, they may stock it, otherwise you'll have to get it via Goodness Direct and suck up the extra packaging costs, I'm afraid. For some reason, the one Tesco stock is only gluten free - if only they'd gone for the dairy and gluten free one, I'm sure they'd have doubled their sales! Maybe we need to try and persuade them! x