Many of us took the big leap from omnivore to vegan in one go after being convinced either from an environmental, animal rights, or health perspective. While giving up meats doesn’t seem too big of a hurdle for most, dairy products, especially cheese, seem to be a particularly addictive comfort food that’s harder to ditch. Especially for people who spent time in western countries, where cheese is part of the standard everyday diet. Luckily, the quality of plant-based cheese alternatives is improving at a staggering rate, much similar to what we’ve seen with mock meats in recent years. We present to you, the “artisan vegan cheese”!

What is an Artisan Vegan Cheese?

Image Source: Natural Cookery School & Catering

These types of cheeses are also often called cultured, probiotic, fermented or aged cheeses. They are a superior type mock-cheese due to the way these cheeses are ripened, which is precisely in line with the microbiological processes involved in our dairy-based counterparts. Bacterial cultures, mold spores, yeasts, and enzymes are used to alter the cheeses taste, texture, and appearance. 

Stilton, Camembert & co.? No Lactose Needed!

Image Source: @plantbasedcheese

One may think that dairy is crucial for blue cheeses to develop their much-beloved, typically blue/green vein. However, this culinary feat can be attributed to a mold spore, known as Penicillium Roqueforti. P. Roqueforti is a staple culture for making artisan vegan cheese and crucial for creating any type of blue cheese. Species, such as P. Stilton or P. Glaucum, are all subspecies of P. Roqueforti. Of course, there are many other exciting types of cultures artisan vegan cheesemakers can experiment with, such as P. Candidum (Responsible for camemberts’ white crust), G. Candidum (Yeast that develops rich flavor and creamy consistency) and B. Linens (Develops a sticky red rind that is typically found in Tilsiter, Romadur, and other cheeses) 

Image Source: Healing Lifestyle

Contrary to popular belief, these bacterial cultures do not require lactose to grow. Using nuts, such as cashews, pine nuts, almonds, macadamia, walnuts, as a base ingredient, we can create a vegan environment where these cultures can genuinely thrive. People allergic to nuts can even use sunflower or pumpkin seeds.

Where can we buy these cheeses?

Image Source: Baker Barn

Similar to mock meats around five years ago, these types of cheeses still haven’t hit the fridge sections of our grocery stores, as they have yet to be commercialized. However, there are some online shops of small-scale vegan cheesemakers, that offer these types of cheeses such as Baker Barn or Madree Vegan Cheese. Alternatively, if you’re ever in Bali, hop into Sayuri or Seeds of Life and try their versions of cultured cheeses. 

DIY Artisan Cheese

Of course, you can always make your own cheese wheels. It is a fun project that teaches you a thing or two about microbiology. Even though working with such ripening techniques adds another layer of complexity to cheesemaking, mastering these is not as difficult as it sounds. The biggest challenge remains to let them age in peace for 2-3 weeks, without being overwhelmed with curiosity and nibbling on them before they are properly matured.

Photo by Camille Brodard on Unsplash