vegan cheese

Ditch the Dairy, Not the Flavour: Is Vegan Cheese Lactose-Free?

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Updated on March 27, 2024

Ever found yourself in a bit of a pickle because of lactose intolerance? It is quite a juggling act, particularly when you are confronted with an irresistible cheese-loaded dish. Fear no, cheese lovers! Gone are the days of needing dairy to enjoy that rich, tangy flavour. Vegan cheese has arrived, and it is taking the plant-based world by storm. 

Whether you are lactose intolerant, vegan, or simply looking for a delicious new option, vegan cheese offers a mouthwatering alternative without sacrificing taste or texture. From creamy mozzarella shreds blanketing your pizza to sharp cheddar gracing your pasta, vegan cheese is here to prove you can have your cheese and eat it, too (without the dairy).

This blog post aims to uncover the real score of its reputation as a delicious and dependable lactose-free alternative. So, brace yourself for an eye-opening exploration into vegan cheese, the most common dairy substitutes.

What Is Lactose Intolerance?

vegan cheese

Before we dive deep into vegan cheese, let’s look at the condition that influenced the invention of vegan cheese in the first place, and that is lactose intolerance.

Lactose intolerance is a very common digestive disorder where the body is not able to fully digest lactose, a kind of sugar found in cow’s milk and other dairy products. This condition happens when the small intestine does not produce enough of an enzyme called lactase, which is in charge of breaking down lactose into much simpler sugars that can be absorbed into the bloodstream.

When someone with lactose intolerance consumes dairy products or foods containing lactose, they may experience symptoms such as bloating, abdominal pain, gas, diarrhoea, and nausea. The severity of symptoms often varies depending on the person’s level of lactase deficiency and the amount of lactose consumed.

So, yes. This lactose intolerance thing is kind of a big deal, and those who suffer from it should replace all food containing dairy with dairy-free products. Those products typically contain milk alternatives that give a similar taste to cow’s milk without having any inside them, such as almond milk, soy cheese, coconut yoghurt and lots more.

Such dairy-free products are also referred to as vegan for those who adopt a vegan diet, many of whom are not necessarily lactose-intolerant, consume them. One of the most famous products, the one we are addressing in this article, is vegan cheese.

Vegan Cheese

vegan cheese

Vegan cheese is a non-dairy alternative to traditional cheese that is made entirely from plant-based ingredients and crafted to mimic the taste, texture, and melting properties of dairy cheese while being free from animal products.

Instead of milk, vegan cheese is typically made from various plant sources such as nuts (like cashews, almonds, or macadamias), seeds (such as sesame or sunflower seeds), oils like coconut oil or palm oil, soybeans, tapioca starch, and nutritional yeast, which help thicken up the cheese.

Vegan cheeses are becoming increasingly popular and can easily be found in most grocery stores’ health food sections or speciality stores catering to vegetarian/vegan diets. They are also available for purchase online on various websites.

Nutritional Comparison With Dairy Cheese

vegan cheese

Compared to dairy cheese, vegan cheese, being plant-based, can contribute to better gut health. It may reduce the risk of intestinal permeability, which is when substances leak from the digestive tract into the bloodstream. It also does not contain does cholesterol, unlike dairy cheese. This can be beneficial for those looking to manage their cholesterol levels or follow a heart-healthy diet.

When comparing the nutrition of vegan cheese to traditional dairy cheese, there are several key differences to be aware of. Below is a basic comparison chart for the average nutritional values of dairy cheese and vegan cheese per ounce (28.3 grams).

Dairy CheeseVegan Cheese
ProteinGood source of protein, with approximately 7-9 grams per ounce, depending on the variety. Protein content varies depending on the base ingredients used with nuts and seeds providing around 4-6 grams per ounce.
FatHigh in saturated fat.Often has a lower total fat content and may include healthier fats from nuts, seeds, or plant oils.
CalciumA significant source of calcium, providing about 200-300 milligrams per ounce. Naturally has a low calcium content.
Vitamin B12Contains vitamin B12.Does not contain vitamin B12.
SodiumHigh in sodium.High in sodium.
AllergenContains dairy proteins such as casein and whey, which may trigger some allergic reactions in some individuals. May contain allergens like nuts, soy, or gluten.

From this comparison, it is clear that while vegan cheese is a healthier option in terms of saturated fats and cholesterol, it often lacks the calcium, protein, and vitamins found in regular dairy cheese. Therefore, it is important to supplement your diet with these nutrients when consuming vegan cheese.

How Vegan Cheese Is Made


Vegan cheese can be made using different ingredients, and the method varies depending on the desired outcome. The key is to combine plant-based ingredients in a way that achieves a deliciously cheesy flavour and texture without the use of dairy products. So, let’s take a basic overview of the process. 

The first step in making vegan cheese is selecting the base ingredients. As we mentioned earlier, they typically include plant-based sources such as nuts, seeds, soybeans, coconut oil, or tofu. The choice of base ingredients will influence the flavour, texture, and nutritional profile of the final product.

If using nuts or seeds as the base, they should often be soaked in water for several hours or overnight. This softens them, making them easier to blend into a smooth mixture.

Once soaked and softened, the nuts, seeds, or other base ingredients are drained and blended with water or non-dairy milk to create a creamy consistency. Additional ingredients such as nutritional yeast (for a cheesy flavour), tapioca starch (for stretchiness), agar agar (for firmness), and seasonings are often added during this stage to enhance the flavour and texture of the cheese.

The blended mixture is then heated on the stove to activate any thickening agents and ensure that the ingredients are fully incorporated. This step helps to thicken the mixture and develop a cheese-like consistency.

Vegan cheese can be flavoured and seasoned in different ways to mimic the taste of different types of dairy cheese. Common flavourings include garlic, herbs, spices, lemon juice, mustard, and miso paste, among others. These ingredients are added to the mixture and blended until well combined.

Once the desired flavour and consistency are achieved, the cheese mixture is poured into moulds or containers and allowed to set. Depending on the recipe, the cheese may need to be chilled in the refrigerator for several hours or overnight to firm up.

Some vegan cheeses, particularly those designed to mimic aged dairy cheeses like cheddar or gouda, may undergo a fermentation or ageing process to develop complex flavours. This involves allowing the cheese to rest at room temperature for a period of time, during which beneficial bacteria cultures may be added to facilitate fermentation.

Once set and, if applicable, aged, the vegan cheese can be sliced, grated, or shaped according to preference. It is then ready to be enjoyed in various dishes or on its own.

Choosing Vegan Cheese Options

vegan cheese

Choosing the right vegan cheese options can be a nice experience, offering a wide range of flavours, textures, and uses. Here is a guide to help you select the perfect vegan cheese for your palate and culinary needs:

  1. Consider Your Preferences: Think about the type of cheese you enjoy and the dishes you plan to use it in. Do you prefer soft and creamy cheeses like brie or goat cheese, or do you lean towards sharper flavours like cheddar or blue cheese? Understanding your preferences will guide your choice.
  2. Check the Ingredients: Look for vegan cheeses made from natural, whole-food ingredients with minimal processing. Avoid products with artificial additives, preservatives, or excessive amounts of refined oils and sugars. Opt for cheeses made from nuts, seeds, tofu, or other plant-based sources.
  3. Texture Matters: Vegan cheeses come in multiple textures, from soft and spreadable to firm and sliceable. Consider the texture you need for your recipe or dish. Soft cheeses are great for spreading on bread or crackers, while firmer cheeses work well for slicing, grating, or melting.
  4. Flavour Profiles: Explore the diverse flavour profiles available in vegan cheeses. Some are tangy and sharp, reminiscent of aged dairy cheeses, while others are mild and creamy. If possible, sample different vegan cheese options before committing to a purchase.
  5. Look for Melting Properties: If you plan to use vegan cheese for melting, such as on pizzas, sandwiches, or casseroles, choose options that melt well. Cheeses made with coconut oil or tapioca starch tend to have better melting properties, creating that gooey, stretchy texture you crave.
  6. Consider Allergens and Dietary Restrictions: Be mindful of any allergies or dietary restrictions when selecting vegan cheese options. Some varieties may contain common allergens like nuts, soy, or gluten, so always check the label for allergen information.
  7. Read Reviews and Recommendations: Utilise online reviews, recommendations from friends or fellow vegans, and social media platforms to discover new vegan cheese brands and products. Hearing about others’ experiences can help you narrow down your choices and find hidden gems.


The journey through the world of vegan cheese has been nothing short of a revelation. What once seemed like a distant alternative has emerged as a vibrant and delicious reality, offering a diverse range of flavours and textures to satisfy even the most discerning cheese aficionados.

As we have delved into the origins, flavours, and potential health benefits of vegan cheese, it is clear that this dairy-free delight is more than just a passing trend—it is a culinary evolution rooted in compassion, innovation, and sustainability.

So, as you explore the aisles of your local grocery store or embark on your own vegan cheese-making adventures, remember that, with vegan cheese leading the charge, we can all indulge in the joy of cheesy goodness, one delectable bite at a time. Cheers to a future filled with dairy-free delights and endless culinary exploration!

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