How is vegetarian cheese made?
In this brief guide, we will answer the query, “How is vegetarian cheese made?” and will discuss the detailed ingredient composition of vegetarian cheese.
How is vegetarian cheese made?
Vegetarian cheese is made from rennet obtained from either fungal or bacterial microorganisms. Vegetarian cheeses are created entirely from vegetable proteins and are completely devoid of animal products. Soy, nuts like cashews and macadamias, and vegetable oils like coconut oil are often used to make them. Other cheeses are made from arrowroot, agar, tapioca, peas, and even peas plus arrowroot.
Recently, however, there has been a growing trend towards the production of cheese analogs manufactured from plant-based ingredients. Recent studies reported a growth in plant-based cheese analog sales of around 42% from 2019 to 2020, with $270 million being sold in the USA alone in 2020 (4).
Vegan cheese uses legumes or nuts as basic ingredients blended with commercial fermented yeast and salt. Unflavored coconut oil is the main oil used, and for a desired meltability and stretchability texture, tapioca flour is usually added due to its viscoelastic and stretchy properties. Plant-based cheese alternatives are perceived to be healthier than the original dairy versions as they have no lactose and no cholesterol (1).
Some vegetarian cheeses’ ingredient lists may surprise vegetarians who are striving to eat as cleanly and little processed as possible. Starches and thickeners like carrageenan and xanthan gum are often used.
Legumes could be a better ingredient for plant-based dairy alternatives than any other plants thanks to their high protein content, almost twice, than whole grain cereals and pseudo-cereals and their low cost compared to that of nuts. Legumes are poor in sulfur containing amino acids such as tryptophan, cysteine and methionine but are rich in lysine content while the composition of amino acids in cereals is vice-versa. Consequently, legume proteins complement those of cereals and a mix of both might equilibrate the anabolic properties of plant-based protein intake (1).
Vegetarian cheese is created by blending various ingredients
In the 1980s, the first dairy-free cheeses were developed, but they were not very tasty. However, in the past several years, the market for vegetarian cheese has grown tremendously. A wide variety of flavors are now available, some of which may trick even the most ardent cheese fanatic. You may buy them or make them yourself using a variety of unusual components.
For any plant-based animal product alternative, soy may be the most prevalent component. This includes cheese.
In the dairy industry soymilk and soybean proteins compete with dairy and milk proteins as a low-cost substitute. Among vegetable proteins, soybean is a protein rich food with a good balance of amino acids and desirable fatty acids. Soy-based foods are well recognized for the beneficial health claims such as hypolipidemic, anticholesterolemic, and antiatherogenic properties (2).
Tofu and other soy protein products that resemble cheese are available from a variety of commercial brands. Various vegetable oils, gums, and other additives are often used to provide a texture and flavor that are as close as possible to authentic cheese.
Soy proteins are cheap and possess good functional properties; however, the consumption of soybeans and derivative products is limited because of their potential allergenicity and the concerns that some people have over genetically modified (GMO) soybeans (1).
Casein, a milk protein, is found in several soy-based cheeses. Casein is added to the processed cheese to make it melt more like genuine cheese. Casein is a milk protein. Casein is present in soy-based cheeses, which are not vegetarian. Lactose-intolerant people may still be able to use these products.
Nuts and Seeds
Since they are so simple to produce at home, DIY vegetarian cheese replacements made from several kinds of raw tree nuts and seeds may be the most popular. If you’d rather not deal with the hassle of meal preparation, pre-made versions are available in your local supermarket.
One of the most appealing aspects of this sort of vegetarian cheese is how little processing is required. To manufacture nut or seed cheese, bacteria similar to those used in making dairy cheese are soaked, mixed, and fermented. Salt, nutritional yeast, and herbs may all be used to provide taste.
Peanuts, cashews, macadamias, and almonds are usually used for nut cheese making. However, nuts are relatively expensive compared with the price of beans and cereals. As a result, the nut content (less than 5%) and consequently that of protein (less than 0.2 g) in the final product is low. In general, all plant-based cheeses are more expensive than cow cheese, with nut-based cheese alternatives being more than three times more expensive than the other plant based ones (1).
Nut and seed-based cheeses may be made using a variety of ingredients, including:
· Toasted nuts
· The seeds of the sunflower
· Cauliflower seeds
Coconut milk, cream, and oil are additional common vegetarian cheese bases.
For a creamy cheese-like product, coconut’s high-fat content makes it necessary to add extra ingredients such as carrageenan, cornstarch, tapioca, and/or potato starch. Because coconut has a distinct taste that isn’t evocative of cheese, other flavorings such as salt, garlic powder, onion powder, nutritional yeast, and lemon juice are often used to enhance the coconut flavor.
Unflavored coconut oil is the main oil used today in the cheese-like industry, owing to its high fat content in saturated fatty acids (80–90%) and consequently high melting point, followed by palm (51.4%) and sunflower oils (12.6%). However, the coconut-oil-based plant-based cheeses contain a mix of starches; typically, a combination of native and modified potato and/or cornstarch. The modified starch is another undesirable ingredient for many consumers (1).
It is necessary to add starches and/or hydrocolloids to ameliorate the texture of a cheese matrix (1). Tapioca, potato, arrowroot, and all-purpose flour are among the starchy flours used in certain vegetarian cheeses. Soy milk, almond milk, cashew, coconut, or white bean flours are blended with other substances such as flour. Vegetarian cheese recipes that call for huge amounts of flour tend to produce a sauce-like consistency rather than a sliceable, block-style cheese. What works for one person may not work for another.
Other ingredients used to enhance the texture are food thickeners, hydrocolloids (such as agar, guar gum, xanthan, carrageenan, gum arabic, tragacanth gym, inulin, gelatin), or vegetable microfibers (such as oat microfiber and bamboo microfiber). The most commonly used gum was carrageenan, mostly associated with guar gum. While Oat fiber was found to be the most commonly used plant fiber, mainly used for the production of hard and extra-hard cheeses (1).
Root vegetables may be used as a foundation for certain forms of vegetarian cheeses, which are less prevalent. There are several prominent sources, including potatoes and carrots.
This technique of creating vegetarian cheese results in a gravy-like cheese sauce that is extremely soft. Cook the veggies until they are extremely soft, then combine them with water, oil, salt, and spices to get a creamy texture.
The main cooking method of pulses is boiling them that are soaked before, and whose volume increases and swells by taking water. Pulses can be cooked in water and consumed directly or packaged and sold. The water left over during cooking is called aquafaba. Commercially produced aquafaba is obtained by drying this water under suitable processing conditions and delivered to suppliers. Chickpea cooking water or aquafaba contains 7.89 g/100g protein and is suitable for producing cheese. Commercially, Aquafaba is found for sale in the form of liquid in a milk carton to use directly, as well as in the powder form which could be mixed with water to use for different recipes such as cake, ice-cream, cookies, brownies, muffins and dressing (3).
The canning liquid for chickpeas is, therefore, called aquafaba. When it comes to vegetarian baking, you may not think twice about tossing it in the trash. However, its most recent claim to culinary fame is its usage as a vegetarian cheese alternative in baked products.
Because it melts like dairy cheese when heated, aquafaba makes a practical cheesemaking component. Binding agents, such as agar-agar or carrageenan, are still needed in the final product. There are generally other ingredients like cashews, coconut cream, or oil in the recipe as well.
Several Styles to Choose From
It is possible to get vegetarian cheese in almost every form now available for cheese made from dairy products. This is especially beneficial for those who want to convert to a vegetarian or dairy-free diet. The majority of these vegetarian cheeses may be found at major supermarkets; however, the variety may vary from shop to store.
The following are some of the most often used styles:
· Shredded vegetarian cheese is currently available from several big companies. Mozzarella and cheddar are the most popular varieties. On pizza, tacos, potatoes, or casseroles, this version is ideal.
· In addition to using vegetarian cream cheese over bagels and toast, it may also be used as a base for creamy sauces. They also come in a variety of flavors, much like ordinary cream cheese.
· Vegetarian choices for block and sliced cheese include cheddar, smoked gouda, provolone, and American cheese. On crackers or in sandwiches, they’re best served.
· Vegetarian ricotta, brie, and camembert are examples of soft cheeses.
· For topping spaghetti, pizza, or popcorn, grating parmesan-style vegetarian cheese is a terrific alternative.
· For those who crave cheese sauces and dips, vegetarian nacho cheese is now available, as well as a range of simple recipes online.
Other FAQs about Vegetarian that you may be interested in.
How is vegetarian rennet made?
In this brief guide, we answered the query, “How is vegetarian cheese made?” and discussed the detailed ingredient composition of vegetarian cheese.
- Mefleh, Marina, et al. Legumes as basic ingredients in the production of dairy‐free cheese alternatives: a review. J Sci Food Agric, 2022, 102, 8-18.
- Jeewanthi, R.K.C., Paik, HD. Modifications of nutritional, structural, and sensory characteristics of non-dairy soy cheese analogs to improve their quality attributes. J Food Sci Technol, 2018, 55, 4384–4394.
- Erem, Erenay, et al. A new trend among plant-based food ingredients in food processing technology: Aquafaba. Crit Rev Food Sci Nutr, 2021, 1-18.
- Grossmann, Lutz, and David Julian McClements. The science of plant-based foods: Approaches to create nutritious and sustainable plant-based cheese analogs. Trend Food Sci Technol, 2021, 118, 207-229.