“Many’s the night I have dreamed of cheese — toasted mostly — and woke up again and here I were,” says the cheeseless, shipwrecked Ben Gunn in the children’s classic, Treasure Island.
Many’s the vegan who’s echoed his sentiments. Until now.
Luscious, plant-based cheese is no longer a dream.• Florida now has its very own artisan vegan cheesemaker, SunRAWise. Creator Kathy Marino, a fitness competitor from a cheesemaking family, combines traditional cheesemaking techniques with plant-based ingredients, and behold: VeganSun Artisan, seven handcrafted vegan cheeses, ranging from nutty Original to a truly zesty Smoke and Spicy.
Based in Palatka, SunRAWise sells its vegan cheeses at West Palm Beach’s Bee-Organics and online, $11 for a 4-ounce package. (Brace yourself — once you factor in shipping costs, it’s possible to spend almost $20 for 4 ounces of vegan cheese.)
Made from cultured cashews, sea salt and herbs, Marino’s vegan cheeses are deep-flavored and firm, with a granular texture like aged Parmesan. All are aged, organic and raw; no cow, no cholesterol. One ounce contains 140 calories, 10 grams of fat, 220 milligrams of sodium, 1 gram of fiber and 5 grams of protein.• Awaken your inner cheesemaker with Miyoko Schinner’s Artisan Vegan Cheese ($19.95, Book Publishing Co.). Her recipes have dairy cheese’s complex flavor and rich, unctuous mouthfeel, but no dairy. They’re made with nuts, nutritional yeast, plant-based fermentation, and more than a little patience.
• Not into DIY? Daiya cheddar (7.1 ounces, $4.99) remains the gold standard for commercial vegan cheese. It’s available in both blocks and shreds, sold at Whole Foods and some supermarkets and is served up at local vegan eateries like Choices Cafe, where it appears on vegan pizzas and quesadillas.
A 1-ounce serving contains 90 calories, 6 fat grams, 220 milligrams of sodium, no fiber and 1 protein gram. It’s soy-free and made from tapioca starch, coconut and canola oils, pea protein and starch, vegan lactic acid, and B-12.• Nutritional yeast, that cheesy-tasting, golden, plant-based powder, still takes the cheesy edge off for many a vegan. Shake it on popcorn or mix into tofu scrambles.
It’s dairy-free, soy-free and über delish. Brands like Red Star (5 ounces, $5.49) are B-12-fortified, too. Find it at Whole Foods and other natural food stores.
Because plant-based cheese doesn’t have to be a dream.