A Vegan’s Guide to Cheese
Don’t worry, we totally understand! Cheese addiction is real and once you break free from it, the cravings stop. But why is cheese addictive?
What makes cheese so addictive is the extremely high concentration of the milk protein casein that, when digested, results in casomorphins. Casomorphins are addictive and if you suddenly stop eating cheese, you might experience uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms and strong cravings.
Cheese contains an extremely high concentration of the milk protein casein that, when digested, results in casomorphins. Casomorphins are opioids, belonging to the same chemical family as morphine and opium, inducing euphoric feelings and lowering pain.
It takes about ten pounds of milk to make a pound of cheese and it’s mostly water that’s lost in the process. That means cheese is very high in protein (casein) compared to other dairy products. The more casein you eat, the more casomorphins are produced and the harder it is to give it up. Cheese isn’t as strong as other opiates but science shows casomorphins can cross the intestinal wall and enter the bloodstream so eating cheese will have noticeable effects – especially if you suddenly decide to stop.
In nature, it’s only the very young offspring of mammals that drink their mother’s milk and it’s been suggested that casomorphins are a nature’s way for breast milk to have a light calming effect and aid the mother-infant bond.
Opiates in general also slow down bowel movements, which can be a desirable effect in newborns prone to diarrhoea, but they almost always cause constipation in people. I’m sure many cheese lovers would agree.
Of course a huge part of our cheese cravings is also the fact that cheese is high in fat and salt, which is the magical combination that humans respond to with voracious appetite. Think crisps, chips, bacon, everything cheesy, salted nuts and fried savoury foods (basically all junk food). This is because for a long time in humankind’s history, food wasn’t always abundant, so our bodies evolved to recognise fatty foods as good energy sources and developed a taste for them. Even though most of us now have more than enough food on a daily basis, our bodies still crave fats and cheese is a prime example of it backfiring.
All you need is willpower!
- If you can’t go cold turkey don’t worry,just try weaning yourself off slowly and pick a few days where you’ll go without cheese. Increase these days over a period of time and eventually you’ll be happily cheese-free!
- Try adding nutritional yeast to your food. It Gives a lovely, cheesy, nutty flavour and can be sprinkled over soups, salads, pasta,pizza… pretty much anything (one of the Viva! team eats it straight from the tub!)
- You don’t have to switch immediately to vegan cheese. Vegan cheese now has incredible flavour and texture and there’s an amazing selection out there that you’ll almost certainly grow to love. This can take time when you’re used to the flavour of dairy cheese and it might be worth having a period without any cheese for a few months. You can actually retrain your brain to like certain tastes by eating them more frequently.
- Try making your own nut-based cheeses: this can be lots of fun and the flavours are great!
- Try some delicious cheese-free recipes from our site.
So there you have it! If you stay away from cheese for a few weeks, one day you’ll realise the desperate craving’s gone. If it’s the naughty salty fat taste you’re after in the meantime, go for chips or crisps (within reason!), olives or anything with a strong flavour.
Vegan cheese gets better all the time. While vegan artisan cheeses are still pretty niche, they are on the cusp of moving into the mainstream. Home-made nut cheeses are pretty easy to make too and very tasty but if that’s too much of an effort, there are plenty on offer in the supermarkets and health food shops!
Bute Island generally makes all of the supermarket own brands which currently supply a wide range for Tesco, Sainsbury’s, Asda, Ocado and occasionally Lidl. Here are some of our favourites but to be honest it was a tough job choosing as they’re all really good!
Best on bagels
The Tofutti cream cheeses are amazing! They come in a wide range of flavours and are available from most independents, online and now in some supermarkets. If you like cream cheese, also try Violife Creamy, Creamy Sheese, Tesco peppercorn cream cheese and Sainsbury’s.
Best bit of blue
BlueRisella is soft, creamy, delicious and subtly ‘blue’. It’s available in some independents and online. Other blues we love are Violife, Bute Island and always Nutcrafter!
Best in burgers
Violife original slices are really good and can be enjoyed in a burger, sandwich or on their own! They can be found in some supermarkets, independents and online. Other good slices are Tofutti slices, Tesco Red Leicester slices and Sainsbury’s Cheddar Style.
Best on crackers
Tesco Jalapeno & Chilli cheese alternative is delicious… team up with some chutney and it’s the winning combo. Other ones we love are Sainsbury’s Wensleydale Style with Cranberry and Sheese Cheddar Style Caramelised Onion.
Best ‘Halloumi’ style
Violife Mediterranean Style Block is a brilliant ‘Halloumi’ style… it doesn’t melt when you heat it and has a full rich flavour. It tastes best when heated on a griddle! Our other favourite ‘Halloumi’ style is Nutcrafter Creamery’s version… a truly incredible resemblance!
Best on jacket potato
Asda Grated Mozzarella is delicious and melts really well! Perfect for jacket potatoes and anything else melty. We also love Grated Sheese Mild Cheddar Style, Tesco Free-From Grated Mozzarella and Violife for Pizza.
Best on pasta
Violife Prosociano Wedge is delicious… a solid, high quality block which can be grated or shaved onto pasta or anything else you fancy. Also can be used in cooking as a ‘Parmesan’ alternative. We also really like Vegusto No-Moo Piquant and Angel Food Parmesan Alternative.
Best on pizza
Love MozzaRisella… it melts really well and tastes amazing! Find it in lots of independents and online. We also really like Daiya Mozzarella Style Shreds, Violife Original, Violife Mozzarella Grated and Sheese Greek Style (sounds strange but it melts really well and tastes great!)… There’s also a Sainsbury’s version of this one.
Best bit of posh
Nutcrafter Creamery is the hands down winner! Every cheese in their range is top quality, super delicious and exactly as described. Buy straight from their website.
Best for melting
Sainsbury’s Greek Style… an unusual choice but melts so well and tastes really nice – also sold by Tesco and Bute Island (Sheese). We also really like Veganic Pizza Melty.
Best in a toastie
We love Sheese Strong Cheddar Style… full of flavour, easy to find and melts really well! We also really like Violife Organic Slices along with Sheese and Tesco Smoked Cheddar!