Tillamook is a cheese and ice cream brand that began in 1909 as a collection of local creameries known as the Tillamook County Creamery Association (TCCA). The brand is named after its place of origin, Tillamook Valley, Oregon where the state’s first official ship, the Morning Star, transported dairy products by water. They’ve been known to sell the highest quality, naturally produced cheese wheels since 1921 and in 1947, Tillamook launched its original ice cream brand, Tillamook Maid. Finally, in the 1990s, Tillamook introduced its sour cream and yogurt products.
Tillamook is one of the big names in dairy products around Oregon and neighboring states, but despite their impressive history of success and succession, none of their cheeses are vegan.
None of Tillamook ice creams are vegan either, although they claim that a majority of their dairy products are vegetarian, this really doesn’t help vegans in the slightest bit. In their restaurant, they do serve fruit sorbets, and those are their only vegan options.
This brand, as well-known as it is, better not show up on your shopping list. Don’t walk away yet, because cheese doesn’t have to disappear from your plate. As vegans, we’re very innovative and creative when it comes to making our food, and I dare tell you that cheese has never been better (and guilt-free) thanks to a bit of vegan touch.
Vegan Alternatives: Cheese
Say cheese! Whenever people say dairy, we automatically assume fermented animal milk in a solid form, and that’s because cheese did originate when ancient peoples used to store milk in their animal-gut containers which contained enzymes, referred to as rennet, that caused the milk to coagulate, separating into curds and whey. However, milk isn’t the only substance capable of coagulating into the dairy products we know today, but protein-rich plant ingredients are also able to produce cheese.
Tillamook cheddar is their most popular cheese, of which they claim to be made from 100% organic and protein-fed cows. Therefore, we’d want to look first for a great, vegan alternative to cheddar that would mimic the sharp, tangy flavor of actual cheddar.
Cheddar possesses a distinct appearance, odor, and hardness compared to other cheeses because it’s usually shredded to top sandwiches, burgers, and tacos, and these shreds also melt well to use as a sauce. Cheddar is very flexible despite being brittle and crumbly.
So, what vegan cheese could rival original cheddar with its complex flavors, texture, and uses?
Specifically, full-fat coconut milk is perhaps the best cheddar option that most people can enjoy since others may be allergic to soy and nuts, but we’ll get to those later if you’d like to try them too.
Coconut milk usually curdles when heated, but only one of a few ingredients you’ll need for a vegan cheddar recipe that resembles the real thing. Now, it may seem daunting at first that you’d have to use “full-fat” coconut milk, but the canned coconut milk you could or usually buy are already “full-fat,” not all of the time though, and there’s no problem with that since most of the fats in coconut milk are medium-chain saturated fatty acids.
According to WebMD, coconut milk contains healthy fats that boost energy when used properly and also decrease appetite due to the feeling of constant fullness. This implies that coconut milk is actually good for weight loss and isn’t as unhealthy as most people thought.
The basic ingredients in making coconut cheddar cheese are coconut milk, agar-agar, nutritional yeast, lemon juice, miso, water, and salt. There are also a few optional ingredients that we’d discuss.
Using coconut milk as the base will make your cheese rich and creamy, as coconut milk naturally coagulates and thickens when heated, it’s much faster to prepare than nutty cheeses.
Agar-agar is vegan, seaweed-based gelatin that would give your cheese its firm texture so that it can be sliced and grated later on. Use powdered agar-agar for best results. Omitting this ingredient would leave you a cheese sauce instead.
Nutritional yeast, lemon juice, miso, and salt are necessary flavor profiles for your vegan cheese. Nutritional yeast tastes very similar to actual cheese. Lemon juice gives the tang and promotes coagulation due to its acidic properties. Miso dissolved in water would develop the sharp, cheddar flavor. Finally, salt adds more taste profile and may act as a natural preservative.
Optional ingredients are onion powder, paprika, and turmeric for a bit of spice and orange color, chickpea miso if you want this recipe to be soy-free, and tapioca starch or flour to soften your cheese and enable it to melt.
When sea salt is sprinkled in soy milk (pureed soybeans in water), the mixture coagulates, pretty much like how animal milk coagulates with enzymes. This coagulating feature of soya is what makes it a great alternative to cheese. You can already make cottage cheese from lemon juice and soy milk only, while vegan cream cheese can be easily made from soy yogurt and salt.
The acidic components in lemon juice would coagulate with the proteins in soy milk, creating a lumpy, crumbly texture that resembles the tanginess of real cheese. We found from this recent blog that soy milk coagulates when certain acidic conditions are met, so that their protein molecules which usually float around freely and repel one another, would then cross-link to each other once the pH of the mixture drops, as in becoming more acidic.
Soy milk is also a good alternative for dairy in coffee, but it takes a bit of skill and experimentation, however, it’s still a speedy and effective substitute for cheese. More so, soy milk has a lot of health benefits to offer, including omega-3 fatty acids for brain health, plant protein for building muscle, and potassium for lowering cholesterol and blood pressure levels.
If you’d like to make cheddar cheese out of soy milk, then you can follow the same recipe as the previous, but to substitute the coconut milk with soy milk, you would need to add extra oil like coconut to achieve a rich and creamy profile.
You can use fresh cashews from the get-go with this vegan cheddar recipe, but unlike the first two mentioned, you probably won’t achieve the same texture as with real cheddar. Still, it’s pretty fun and delicious, assuming you don’t have nut allergies.
Just to mention, although cashews are referred to as tree nuts, they can also be classified as seed allergens, the latter being more scientifically accurate since they’re processed from actual fruits, instead of an outer shell like hazelnuts and acorns. Almonds fit in the same category as cashews which is probably linked to how they can be processed as vegan milk substitutes.
More so, cashews contain a good amount of unsaturated fats which may help prevent premature heart diseases, antioxidants such as polyphenols and carotenoids, and protein almost equal to an equivalent amount of dairy and meat products.
To make cashew cheddar, you would need raw cashews soaked in hot water for a few minutes, agar-agar to shape the cheese in a mold, plain non-dairy milk (cashew, almond, coconut, soy, etc.), nutritional yeast for cheesy flavor, lemon juice, tomato paste, paprika, onion powder, garlic powder, dijon, turmeric, and salt.
All you need for this recipe is a blender, and you have to presoak and drain your cashews, and create an agar-agar and water mixture before you blend them with yeast, and later on the rest of the ingredients. Blend until smooth, and you can finally pour your soft cheese into a mold, and chill for a few hours.
Vegan Cheddar Cheese Brands
If cooking isn’t your style, then buying a good cheddar alternative may suit you better.
- Violife Original Flavour Slices – served as thin slices, great for your vegan burgers.
- Morrisons V Taste Mature Cheddar – a block of cheese made with coconut oil for a rich and creamy texture. Its tangy taste and slightly crumbly form mimics the real thing perfectly.
- ASDA Free From Mature Cheddar Alternative – want a vegan cheese that melts? This one’s perfect for breakfast toasts.
- Tesco Free From Coconut Oil Alternative To Mature Cheddar – tastes like real, aged cheddar and 100% gluten- and dairy-free. Good for shredding as toppings.
Tillamook Creamery is very popular for its cheese and ice cream brands, but since we’ve focused on its prized cheddar cheese product, the ice cream brands would come later.
Cheddar cheese is one of the most widely-used varieties in the world and it’s already the number one favorite cheese variant in America according to statistics. Cheddar cheese is highly-preferred due to its versatility or flexibility to cater to all tastes in various forms. Its taste depends on its age or maturity, like with good wine, the older cheddar cheese becomes, the better its complexity of flavors develops. You can slice it, shred it, and melt it as much as you want, and the taste would remain the same.
Fortunately, vegans aren’t left out nor left behind, as we’ve been able to effectively formulate our own versions of cheddar cheese using our creativity and innovation. Others may mock us for missing out on the real thing, but we’re happy with what we have and can make to help preserve our world and make it fair for all living creatures. Vegan cheddar cheese is nothing to be ashamed of!