Veganzolas and Shamemberts: LEAP researchers explore the world of vegan cheese

vegan cheese

With more people than ever following a vegan diet, demand for plant-based alternatives to meat and dairy products continues to grow. In particular, plant-based cheese is an expanding market, predicted to be worth just under $4 billion by 2024, according to Forbes.

These days you can find dairy-free alternatives to all kinds of cheese varieties, made from a wide range of different plant-based ingredients such as coconut oil, soy and nuts. But, how do they compare to the real deal? The LEAP researchers decided to taste some cheese alternatives from La Fauxmagerie, the UK's first dairy-free cheesemonger.

The vegan cheeses are made using similar techniques to dairy cheese, including fermentation, but feature a wide variety of ingredients to achieve an array of textures and flavours. The selection box from La Fauxmagarie had six cheeses, labelled as their best ‘converter’ cheeses to introduce us to vegan cheese. The box contained:

Veganzola - a gorgonzola style cheese made from real Penicillium Roqueforti mold which gives it a bold "blue" flavour, while an almond base gives it an amazing creamy taste and a firmer texture.

Farmhouse – a cashew cheese with a sharp flavour reminiscent of mature cheddar.

Smoke House - This firm, sliceable cheese has a soya base smoked with applewood.

Shamembert – a camembert style cheese boasting a creamy gooey texture with white truffle notes.

Miner Threat - a bold, smoky cashew cheese ripened in a coat of activated coconut charcoal ash.

Spring Special – this creamy cheese is seasoned with garlic and herbs with a layer of beetroot.

Cracking open a box of oatcakes, we started to try a bit of each. Many found that the shamembert had a very realistic texture, very creamy and had a great taste. Some of the others, such as the farmhouse and spring special reminded some of a more pâté type texture rather than cheese and so some found the texture a bit off putting.

Interestingly the researchers who liked blue cheese found the veganzola to be the most convincing in terms of taste and texture. The cheese selection was quickly finished off and those who had never tasted vegan cheese were pleasantly surprised by how tasty they were. 

Given the reputation vegan cheeses have had, we were all impressed by what we tasted and hope this and other reviews convince others to go ahead and try them too. Vegan cheese has come a long way!

For those of us moving towards a more plant-based flexitarian diet, these products are opening the door to different ways of eating and enjoying food, without having to skimp on taste and flavour. Whether our motivations are for our own health or for the planet it is a real positive to know there are increasing options to put on our plates.