Can you believe it? The day is finally here … “Cheeses” that are not only dairy-free and vegan, but soy-free too! These food pioneers never cease to amaze me with their ever-increasing innovation. Yet, the most interesting part is that the products are improving as companies actually move backward in the evolutionary scale of production.
Take Ste. Martaen for example. Their new “cheeses” contain just purified water, agar (from algae), organic cashews, nutritional yeast, lemon juice, tahini, sea salt, spices, and citric acid. There aren’t any manufactured or overly-processed ingredients to attempt to mimic the taste and texture of cheese. But rather, they use whole food ingredients to simply create a good tasting, top quality product.
I had the opportunity to taste each of the five flavors from this up and coming vegan “cheese” maker, and it really was a delight. This is a solid cheese that shreds and slices beautifully. It is softer than a cheddar, and perhaps most comparable in thickness to fresh mozzarella …
The taste was excellent. Not spot on with cheese, and slightly milder, but there were definitely some cheesy influences in there. I actually found this “cheese” rather addictive, especially after the official taste-testing was done, and I stopped trying to relate it to cheese, but actually enjoyed it for what it is. It is really quite tasty and flavorful …
Colby – When tasted straight, the Colby has a very mild and slightly cheddar-like flavor that eventually (after several bites) began to remind me more and more of Jack cheese. Of the lot, I actually preferred this one after a few seconds in the microwave; the cheesy flavors literally came alive with some heat.
Muenster – This cheese had a richer, deeper flavor than the others that I really enjoyed. I confess that my memories of dairy Muenster are so distant that I can’t compare. Regardless, I found this variety very pleasing.
Pepper Jack – I simply adored the flavor of this cheese. It was nice and spicy (jazzing up anything I paired it with), but just hinted at cheesiness.
With Olive – Care must be taken in slicing this one as the olives are rather sizable and can cause some misshapen slices since knives don’t cut through them as smoothly as the cheese. If you go for too thin of a slice, then you may not get a clean cut. Looks aside, the olives make this an excellent pimento-style loaf. The cheese is mild and slightly tangy, but the olives add a flavor pop.
Gouda – The taste starts out quite mild and almost cheddar-like, but the aftertaste hints at the smokiness of gouda cheese.
Like all vegan cheeses that I have tasted to date, there are some limitations. I could not get this cheese to really melt, except in the microwave. I even tried cooking it into a sauce on the stovetop. It broke apart and generally melted with a lot of consistent whisking, but not to a purely creamy consistency (as you can see in the pictures below of the “gouda sauce” and “colby sauce” that I made for my veggies) and it quickly re-solidified as I snapped some photos. It wouldn’t budge atop my pizza, whether baked or broiled. However, when spread in a thin layer in a dish and placed in the microwave for just 15 seconds or so, it did melt and even start to bubble.
In relation to this, the texture was a touch too gelatin-y for my taste. Since the images and recipes on the Ste. Martaen website show a cheese that melts fairly easily, I am thinking that the batch I received may have been a bit heavy in agar, which is great at solidifying and gives a gelatin-like texture. I am actually okay with a slightly softer cheese with less agar, even if it doesn’t slice as well – but that may just be my personal preference. To note, I have always preferred cheesy spreads and sauces over solid cheeses.
That said, I thought Ste. Martaen vegan cheese alternative worked perfectly when thickly sliced and placed atop crackers, when thinly sliced for sandwiches, and grated atop salads. It just didn’t function as well in the melting department. I would really love to see them come out with a “cream cheese” actually. I could really taste the potential for this.
For those seeking a cheesy flavor boost that is dairy-free, soy-free, gluten-free, and vegan … a tasty option has finally arrived! Thanks for letting me have a taste of this great new product Ste. Martaen.
This is a third party review by Alisa Fleming, author of Go Dairy Free: The Guide & Cookbook. Since this is a relatively new product, distribution is not expansive as of yet, but you can actually purchase the cheese alternatives direct from the Ste. Martaen's website, to be shipped to your front door.