by Karen Joslin
August 14, 2019
Let’s be honest: until a few short years ago, most vegan dairy alternatives left quite a bit to be desired. And there weren’t many to choose from.
In addition, many “cheeses” touting themselves as lactose-free, made from soy, etc., weren’t actually dairy-free because they contained casein. (This still applies in some cases so to avoid dairy completely, check labels carefully.)
Over the past couple of years, though, vegan dairy alternatives have grown tremendously in both quantity and quality.
In this review, I’ll cover products from Kite Hill, Miyoko’s Creamery, and Treeline Treenut Cheese.
Note that all of these brands use nuts as their base. For excellent nut-free cheeses, check out Spero Foods. (I’ll be doing a full review on them soon.)
Kite Hill uses almond milk to make cream cheeses, ricotta, yogurts, dips, and filled pastas.
All products are soy-free, dairy-free, and non-GMO. Except for the pastas, products are also gluten-free and Kosher. The only products containing sesame are the Everything Cream Cheese and Spinach Ricotta Ravioli.
Until Kite Hill came along, Tofutti’s Better Than Cream Cheese was the only vegan cream cheese around (at least that I’m aware of). Tofutti’s version has a gummy texture that’s similar to regular cream cheese while Kite Hill’s version has a light, airy texture akin to whipped cream cheese.
While I always liked Tofutti’s cream cheese, I prefer the taste and texture of Kite Hill. It’s got a “real food” mouthfeel, as opposed to Tofutti.
Kite Hill’s cream cheese flavors include Plain, Chive, Jalapeño, Everything, and Strawberry. Of those, I’ve tried the Plain and Chive, and I like Plain better.
As far as yogurts go, I still prefer making my own, in part because most store brands contain a lot of sugar. Having said that, Kite Hill’s yogurts are tasty with a pleasant texture.
The Vanilla and Plain Unsweetened both make a good base for smoothies. I’ve also added monk fruit extract to the Plain Unsweetened to satisfy my sweet totth without sugar. The Greek Style yogurts have the thickness you’d expect, and the Plain Unsweetened Greek works well for Tzatziki sauce.
Both of Kite Hill’s raviolis (Mushroom Ricotta, Spinach Ricotta) are decent. However, I find La Pasta’s vegan raviolis more flavorful, and they’re also less expensive. I haven’t tried Kite Hill’s Ricotta Tortellini.
I don’t know when Kite Hill introduced their dips, as I don’t think I’ve seen either of them. They come in two flavors, Ranch and French Onion.
Miyoko Schinner founded Miyoko’s Creamery several years ago by popular demand. Many people told her that they loved her recipes in Artisan Vegan Cheese but lacked time to make them.
(If you do have the time, you can try her Fondue and Better Buffalo Mozzarella recipes from her old website.)
Miyoko’s Creamery produces vegan butter, cheese wheels, mozzarella, cream cheese, and cheese spreads. The main base for their products is cashews, with many also containing coconut oil.
All products are organic, non-GMO, and gluten-free. Some are also raw, although the cashews are steamed to remove them from their shells (for more details, see their FAQ page). The company is also working on attaining kosher certification in 2019.
Let’s start with the European Style Cultured Vegan Butter. In a word: scrumptious. The flavor and texture replicate dairy butter incredibly well. This makes it the perfect choice for mixed-diet households, as long as nut allergies aren’t an issue. It’s become the go-to for me and my omni partner.
On to the cheese wheels. Miyoko’s makes 10 different varieties, although at least half of them I’ve never seen in stores. I’ve tried the Smoked Farmhouse, Classic Double Cream Chive, and Sundried Tomato Garlic.
With a semi-hard texture, the Smoked Farmhouse evokes a smoked cheddar. The Classic Double Cream Chive and Sundried Tomato Garlic are softer and creamier. While I found all of them delicious, the Sundried Tomato Garlic was my favorite.
All of these cheeses would be equally at home on a sandwich or a cheese plate, and the product pages for each cheese suggest wine pairings.
Naturally, the cheeses I’d most like to try are the ones I can’t find — Rustic Alpine, Herbes De Provence, Fresh Loire Valley, and Black Ash. Although they can be ordered online, for me the shipping cost is prohibitive.
I’m not fond of either the Fresh Vegan Mozzarella or the Plainly Classic Cream Cheese. (Miyoko’s also offers two other cream cheese flavors, Un-Lox Your Dreams and Sensational Scallion.)
I love Miyoko’s recipe for homemade mozzarella, which uses cashews and yogurt. It’s easy to make, with excellent flavor and texture. The packaged version replaces yogurt with coconut oil and contains a few extra ingredients. I find the gloppy texture of the packaged mozzarella unappealing.
Likewise, there’s something about the texture of the Plainly Classic Cream Cheese that I don’t like. For me, Kite Hill’s cream cheese wins over Miyoko’s.
However, I do know people who love the Fresh Vegan Mozzarella and Miyoko’s cream cheeses, so you may want to try them for yourself.
The Roadhouse Cheese Spreads seem to be Miyoko’s take on spreadable crock cheeses. Flavors include Cheers to Cheddah, Biergarten Garlic Chive, and Spicy Revolution. Cheers to Cheddah is the only one available in my area, though I haven’t tried it.
The butter and cheese wheels freeze well, and I imagine the other products would as well. That’s helpful if you live far from a store that carries them and need to stockpile your supply.
Treeline Treenut Cheeses
Treeline makes cultured cashew cheeses in three styles: Soft French Style, Aged Artisanal, and Premium New York Style Cashew Cream Cheese. All cheeses are non-GMO, gluten-free, soy-free, oil-free, and certified Kosher Parve. They also don’t contain gums, thickeners, or preservatives.
The Soft French Style cheeses include Scallion, Herb-Garlic, Green Peppercorn, and Chipotle-Serrano Pepper. I really like the Herb-Garlic, and the Scallion is also decent. The other two flavors I haven’t seen in stores.
To me, the texture of the soft cheeses falls in between cream cheese and a spreadable goat cheese. Spread it on a bagel, sandwich, or crackers. Or use chunks in a salad, omelet, pasta dish, casserole, etc.
The Aged Artisanal cheeses have a firm texture, available in Classic and Cracked Pepper. I’ve only tried the Classic, which is fairly similar to Miyoko’s Smoked Farmhouse cheese. However, it’s less tangy and less smoky.
Although I prefer Miyoko’s, the Aged Artisanal cheeses could be good options for anyone who avoids certain ingredients, like rice, alcohol, oils, and thickeners.
Treeline announced the debut of their Premium New York Style Cashew Cream Cheese on July 28, 2019. Whole Foods stores in New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut currently stock it.
You can also order any of Treeline’s sampler packs online and get a 15% discount using the code FBX 15. (Note: I don’t know how long that code will be valid.)
Have you tried any of the products/brands above? I’d love to hear your opinion in the comments below.
by Karen Joslin
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