When I first went vegan, I was living in Walla Walla. While a large local population of Seventh-Day Adventists made availability of vegan groceries better than it would have been in many similar towns, I can best describe the offerings of vegan cheese products in Walla Walla in 1995 as grim.
Thus, when I went vegan I went cold-turkey off cheese, which had been such a favorite food that a friend referred to me as “Cheese Girl,” and I’m sure I uttered that now-annoying refrain, “Oh, I could never be vegan. I love cheese too much!”
Vegan cheese has come a long way since the mid-90s, and Seattle probably has as many offerings of different types as you can find anywhere. But a funny thing happens when you go five years or so without eating any type of cheese: you kind of lose interest in it.
I do like pizza with Daiya, Follow Your Heart or Teese, and I love the vegan nachos at Bimbo’s, and an assortment of other uses of cheese-like fake cheese. But sometimes what I like even better is food that serves a similar purpose but doesn’t try to pretend that it’s dairy cheese.
Here are some favorites:
Homemade Parma: 2/3 cup walnuts or cashews, 1/3 cup nutritional yeast, 1/8 tsp. salt. Pulse in a mini chopper until the consistency shown. Dump generously on spaghetti as is, or combine one part sprinkle to two parts breadcrumbs for a delicious casserole topping.
Bechamel on pizza (in this case, with sauteed beet greens, caramelized onions and pecans). Be sure to use an unsweetened nondairy milk, and season with nutritional yeast, plenty of garlic and a bit of dry mustard.
And a couple favorite off-the-shelf products: Miso Mayo is fantastic on sandwiches, and gives you the salty/tangy/don’t-skimp-on-the-fat richness that cheese often provides. If you’re working with ingredients that would go well with Swiss or cheddar, give this a try! Similarly, Seattle’s own Karam’s Garlic Sauce (also known in my home as “liquid crack”) is phenomenal on anything Middle Eastern or Latin American, and frankly on most other things, too. It’s actually more like a sour cream than a cheese, but depending on what you want out of a cheese it might be just the thing. Looks like it’s only sold in the western US now, so Canadians will need to grab some while south of the border.
What do you use when you want something not-quite-like cheese?