Most traditional cheeses are not vegan because they are made with cow, sheep, or goat milk. However, many vegan cheese alternatives are available, or you can easily make vegan cheese at home.
The common ingredients in cheese are animal milk & rennet, salt, and bacteria culture. Vegans don’t eat foods made with animal-derived ingredients such as milk or milk products, honey, and eggs.
Vegetarians eat dairy products but some may not feel comfortable eating animal rennet. Animal rennet is obtained from the stomach lining of young animals like cows, sheep, goats, and pigs. Animals are not slaughtered for rennet but for their meat. It puts rennet on the gray list for vegetarians, and stricter vegetarians may reject cheeses made with animal rennet.
What is Vegan Cheese Made of?
Vegan cheese is commonly available in stores and online. It is made with plant-based milk extracted from soy, coconut, oat, hemp, rice, almonds, cashews, peanuts, or other varieties of nuts. Each vegan cheese recipe may have different ingredients like tofu, agar, garlic, lemon juice, vinegar, nutritional yeast, and olive oil.
How to tell if your Cheese is Vegan?
The best way to find out is to look at the labels and check the ingredients. Most brands that make vegan cheese usually display a vegan label on the packaging.
You can also look for words like dairy, milk fat, rennet, animal enzymes, traditional rennet, or pepsin. Simply keep the cheese back if you find these ingredients. Cheeses made with plant-based milk and rennet will typically have big vegan labels. Plant-based rennet is usually listed as thistle rennet, vegetarian, or plant rennet in the ingredient.
Cheese manufacturers are not mandated by law to mention the type of rennet they use in cheese. If you see only “enzymes” written on the packaging and it doesn’t have a vegan label, it probably has animal rennet.
Another important thing to consider while buying commercial vegan cheese is cross-contamination. Most brands make vegan and non-vegan foods on the same equipment. It raises concerns about cross-contamination.
Generally, traditional hard cheese imported from Europe is never vegan. Yes, there are many alternatives, but authentic varieties are always made with animal milk and rennet, making them unfit for vegans and some vegetarians.
Many softer cheese varieties are made with non-animal rennet, making them good for vegetarians, but they still contain animal milk.
Eating Out: Most restaurants use dairy cheese for authentic texture and taste in their recipes. However, many restaurants offer many vegan dishes topped with vegan cheese. You can ask the restaurant staff about the ingredients and what vegan options they have. You may also find labels and ingredient information in most restaurants.
Should I Buy Vegan Cheese or Make it at Home?
Many great-tasting, healthy, and cheesy vegan cheeses are available on the market. Not all brands are the same, and there is always the risk of cross-contamination.
Homemade cheese doesn’t have cross-contamination problems; you can also control the ingredients. You may not be able to get the same creaminess and texture, but you’ll be 100% sure of what you are eating.
Is Mac and Cheese Vegan?
Most store or restaurant-bought mac & cheese is not vegan. Nonetheless, some brands make vegan mac & cheese; for example, Annie’s Vegan Mac and Goodles Mac & Cheese are made with plant-based cheddar. On the contrary, Kraft Mac & Cheese is not vegan.
Click the links below to see which cheese types are vegan!