By Melanie Campbell, VRG Dietetic Intern
Do you miss cheesy pizza or at least the consistency of cheese on pizza? The last few years have seen a boom in the vegan cheese market (including options from across the Atlantic). Today, there are several different companies producing a variety of vegan cheese alternatives that make that cheesy pizza a possibility.
At first glance, vegetarian cheese and vegan cheese may appear to be one and the same, but a closer review of the ingredient lists reveals the difference between the two types. Vegetarian cheese may contain casein, enzyme-modified cheese flavor (a derivative of cultured milk), butterfat, and, on occasion, goat’s milk and cream. Each of these ingredients is derived from animals. Vegan cheese is a non-dairy alternative that is often made from soy products (tofu, soy flour, tempeh), rice flour, potato starch, or almonds.
The nutritional content of vegan cheeses may vary. Vegan cheese slices contain 35-70 calories per serving, depending on the brand; dairy cheese slices yield approximately 50 calories each. Vegan cheese in block form can contain 40-100 calories per 1-ounce serving, compared to 90 calories from 1 ounce of dairy cheese.
Protein content in vegan cheese is low compared to dairy cheese, but this is due partly to the smaller serving size, which is less than 1 ounce. Vegan cheese slices have 1-2 grams of protein, while dairy versions have 4 grams of protein per slice. Vegan cheese in block form contains 0-4 grams of protein per 1-ounce serving; its dairy counterparts usually contain 7 grams of protein.
The vegan alternatives to cream cheese run approximately 80-85 calories per 2-Tablespoon serving size, compared to dairy cream cheese’s 100 calories. Vegan sour cream alternatives contain 50-85 calories per 2-Tablespoon serving size, while dairy-based sour cream has 60 calories. Grated Parmesan cheese alternatives contain 15 calories per 2 teaspoons; grated dairy Parmesan cheese provides 20 calories.
Dairy cream cheese and grated Parmesan have 2 grams of protein per serving, as do the vegan versions. The grated Parmesan contains less protein due to the fact that its serving size is so small (one third of an ounce). Both vegan and regular sour cream have very little protein (1 gram per serving).
The fat and saturated fat content in vegan cheese is often, but not always, less than its dairy counterpart. Sodium content in vegan cheese is variable. The sodium content can be equal to or higher than the dairy version, depending on the product.
If you intend to use vegan cheese as a source of calcium and vitamin D, you may want to supplement elsewhere in your diet. With the exception of the Galaxy brand (Vegan and Rice Vegan cheese), most vegan cheese barely contains calcium, much less vitamin D. Fortified soy products (tofu, soymilk, etc.) and dark leafy green vegetables are some good sources of calcium. Adequate sun exposure; vitamin D-fortified soymilk, juices, and cereals; and calcium supplements with vitamin D are good sources of vitamin D.
In a blind taste test (using VRG staff and volunteers), all vegan cheeses listed in the article were sampled. Some of these vegan cheeses were readily available in local health foods stores, and many can be purchased nationwide.
The average cost per item (for 4-11 ounces of product; see brand lists below and on the following page for actual package size) if purchased in a supermarket chain or health foods store is approximately $3. Cheezly and Sheese are only available from online retailers, such as Pangea and Vegan Essentials. Their average cost, not including shipping and handling, is approximately %#36;9 for 7-9 ounces of product. Soyabel and Soyadelia are German products from the Soyatoo! company, which makes Soy Whip. Currently, they are not available in the United States.
With all the vegan cheese alternatives available, there is no reason to feel deprived. So, go make that pizza!
Brown, Amy Christine. Understanding Food: Principles and Preparation, 2nd edition. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth Publishing, 2004.
– Slices: Cheddar, Mozzarella
– 7-Ounce Blocks: Cheddar Style with Bacon-Style Pieces, Edam, Garlic and Herb, Gouda, Mature Cheddar, Mature Cheddar (White), Mozzarella, Nacho
• Brand Characteristics: Vegan; dairy/cholesterol/GMO/wheat/gluten-free; no hydrogenated fats, artificial colors, or preservatives
• Where to Purchase: <email@example.com>, Vegan Essentials
– Rice Vegan Slices (8 slices): American, Cheddar, and Pepper Jack
– Vegan Slices (8 slices): American, Mozzarella
– Vegan Blocks (8 ounces): Cheddar, Mozzarella
– Vegan Grated Topping (4 ounces): Parmesan
• Brand Characteristics: 100% non-dairy; casein/lactose/cholesterol/soy/gluten/preservative-free; zero trans fat
• Where to Purchase: <www.galaxyfoods.com>, many grocery stores nationwide, online stores
– VeganRella (8-ounce block): Cheddar, Mozzarella
• Where to Purchase: Grocery stores nationwide
Chreese mix (1.1-ounce powder): Cheddar, Gluten-Free Alfredo, Gluten-Free Cheddar, Mozzarella
Product Characteristics: Vegan; casein-free; dairy-free; egg-free; soy-free
Uses: With pasta or on grilled cheese, pizza, lasagna, casseroles, and subs
– Nacho Chreese Dip (11-ounce jar): Nacho Mild, Nacho Spicy
Product Characteristics: Lactose-free/gluten-free; low sodium; no casein or rennet; wheat-free; cholesterol-free
Uses: With tortilla chips or Mexican dishes
(Bute Island Foods, Scotland)
– Creamy Sheese (9 ounces); Chives, Cheddar, Garlic and Herb, Mexican Style, Original
Product Characteristics: Vegan; 100% dairy-free; cholesterol/lactose/gluten-free; non-GMO; no hydrogenated fat
– Sheese (8-ounce block): Blue, Cheddar and Chives, Cheshire, Edam, Gouda, Medium Cheddar, Mozzarella, Smoked Cheddar, Strong Cheddar
Product Characteristics: Vegan; 100% dairy-free; cholesterol/lactose/gluten-free; non-GMO
– Soyabel Cheese (Block): Black Pepper, Crunchy Hazelnut, Herbs, Paprika, Roasted Onion, Supreme Baked, Supreme Nature, Very Italian Herbs
–Soyadelia Cream Cheese (Cream of Soy Cheese): Herbs, Paprika, Supreme Nature
• Brand Characteristics: Suitable for vegetarians and vegans; 100% Vegetal (relating to plants); 0% cholesterol, 0% lactose, 0% casein
• Where to Purchase: Not yet available in the United States
– Better Than Cream Cheese (8 ounces): French Onion, Garden Veggie, Garlic and Herb, Herbs and Chives, Non-Hydrogenated Plain, Plain
• Tofutti Soy Cheese Slices (12-slice package): American, Mozzarella
• Brand Characteristics: Milk-free, no casein/animal products/butterfat/cholesterol
• Where to Purchase: <www.tofutti.com> ,many grocery stores nationwide, Pangea
(Follow Your Heart)
–Vegan Gourmet Cream Cheese (8 ounces) and Sour Cream Alternatives (16 ounces): Plain
Product Characteristics: Organic; gluten/wheat-free; 100% dairy-free; no hydrogenated fat/no trans-fat; no cholesterol
–Vegan Gourmet Cheese Alternative (10-ounce block): Cheddar, Monterey Jack, Mozzarella, Nacho
Product Characteristics: 100% dairy-free; casein/gluten-free; no cholesterol/animal products
• Where to Purchase: <www.imearthkind.com>, online store
|Product||Galaxy Rice: Vegan Slices||Galaxy Vegan Slices||Tofutti Soy: Cheese Slices||Kraft 2% Milk Singles*|
|Total Fat (grams)||2.5||2||5||2.5|
|Saturated Fat (grams)||0.5||0||2-3||1.5|
|Product||Cheezly||Sheese||Soyabel||Vegan Gourmet||VeganRella||Kraft Cracker Barrel*|
|Total Fat (grams)||5||8||6||3-7||2||6|
|Saturated Fat (grams)||3||5||3||0-0.5||0||4|
|Primary Ingredient(s)||Soy||Soy||Soy||Soy||Tapioca Starch/Brown Rice Flour||Milk|
|Product||Creamy Sheese||Soyadelia Cream of Soy Cheese||Tofutti Better Than Cream Cheese||Vegan Gourmet Cream Cheese Alternative||Kraft Philadelphia cream Cheese*|
|Total Fat (grams)||7||8||5||8||10|
|Saturated fat (grams)||3||3||2||3||6|
|Primary Ingredient(s)||Soy||Soy||Soy||Soy||Milk/Milk Fat|
|Product||Tofutti Sour Supreme Better Than Sour Cream||Vegan Gourmet Sour Cream Alternative||Kraft Breakstone's All Natural Sour Cream*|
|Total Fat (grams)||5||5||5|
|Saturated Fat (grams)||2||1||3.5|
|Product||Chreese Mix (powdered mix that consumer must prepare, 1 1/3 Tablespoons per serving)||Nacho Chreese Dip (prepared dip sold in a jar, 2 Tablespoons)||Kraft Cheez Whiz Cheez Dip - Original* (1 1/4 teaspoons per serving)|
|Total Fat (grams)||0||0||7|
|Saturated Fat (grams)||0||0||4.5|
|Primary Ingredient(s)||Flour/NutritionalYeast||Lentil Flour/Nutritional Yeast||Milk/Milk Fat|
|Product||Galaxy Vegan Grated Topping||Kraft Grated Cheese*|
|Total Fat (grams)||0||0|
|Saturated Fat (grams)||0||0|
|Primary Ingredient(s)||Flour/Nutritional Yeast||Parmesan Cheese/Skim Milk|
Products containing organic ingredients are italicized.
*Non-vegan products are included for comparison purposes.
Melanie Campbell wrote this article while doing a dietetic internship with The Vegetarian Resource Group. She is currently working towards a master’s degree in applied nutrition at Sage Graduate School in Albany, New York.
The contents of this website and our other publications, including Vegetarian Journal, are not intended to provide personal medical advice. Medical advice should be obtained from a qualified health professional. We often depend on product and ingredient information from company statements. It is impossible to be 100% sure about a statement, info can change, people have different views, and mistakes can be made. Please use your own best judgment about whether a product is suitable for you. To be sure, do further research or confirmation on your own.
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