There are certain staples of vegan cooking available in North America that we just don’t get here in the UK. Even still, there are some things that you can find here, but aren’t nearly as commonplace as they are in the US and Canada. Slowly but surely, however, more and more products are making their way across the pond, much to my excitement.
One thing that used to be hard to come by, for example, was almond milk (pictured above). In the average American supermarket there’s like 5000 varieties of non-dairy milk available. Yeah, 5000, I counted. Regular, unsweetened, coffee flavored, chocolate, coconut, egg nog flavored… While here only one brand made almond milk that was widely available and I’m pretty sure it has more sugar in it than actual almond milk.
Now, however, to my extreme excitement, you can get Almond Breeze here which, mercifully, comes in an unsweetened variety.
Vegan cheese, however, seems to be making its way here at a much slower pace. In the US there are 2 fantastic brands of vegan cheese (Daiya and Galaxy). We don’t have either here, although we do have Tofutti, who make an amazing vegan cream cheese and a decent mozarella style cheese (I’ve never tried their Kraft-style singles so I can’t say much about them). The Tofutti cheese, along with a few other brands, can be bought at Holland and Barrett, a chain of health food stores. Daiya insists that they will eventually sell in the UK, but they’ve been saying that for like three years, so I have low hopes. I think there’s a bigger likelihood that a UK company will knock off their recipe before they get a chance to expand here.
Tesco recently came out with a variety of non-dairy milk, butter, and cheese alternatives as part of their “Free From” line. It is worth noting that there is no Holland and Barrett where I live in Thornton Heath, so I never get to treat myself to the kinds of things they sell there. There IS a Tesco, so I was excited to try some vegan goodies from a place that I could actually shop at. None of their non-dairy milks besides soya are unsweetened, so I passed on those, but the cheese alternatives, I was interested in. They have four varieties that I could find – two spreadable kinds and two kinds to cook with. I decided to try the cheddar spread and “soya mild” for this review.
Keep in mind here that I’m on a very limited food budget and these cheeses were not cheap, so I was going to be livid if they weren’t good.
Tesco Spreadable Cheddar Variety
I’m actually not sure what non-vegan cheese this is supposed to be the equivalent to, as I was certainly no cheese aficionado when I was an omnivore. I guess you spread it on crackers or something. So that’s what I did.
It WAS really good! It kind of reminded me of cream cheese, only not. I’m not sure how it’d be in a recipe or anything but just on crackers it was great.
Tesco “Soya Mild”
Judging by the picture on the package, I guess this is supposed to be mozzarella, even though it doesn’t say that. Since that’s the “serving suggestion”, I went ahead and made a pizza with it.
Now, Daiya cheese is the ultimate vegan cheese for making pizza, so I had really low expectations for how this was going to come out. In the past, when I made pizza here in the UK, I either made my own tofu cheese, or used tofutti’s mozzarella kind – which is not bad, but its not amazing either. The main aspect of the tofutti kind that I don’t like is that it gets “watery” in the oven, so you have to cook it for longer to thicken it, which makes the crust crispy. And I prefer a non-crispy crust, so this annoys me. There are other brands that make vegan cheese here in the UK, which are more popular amongst vegans who are not me, but I personally feel as though the tofutti is superior on pizza.
Un-cooked, the taste of it was good, though the texture was a bit sticky. It was hard to grate.
Unfortunately, I TOTALLY forgot to buy toppings, and I didn’t have any olives or mushrooms or anything, so I just made a regular cheese pizza. I used the pizza dough and pizza sauce recipe from Vegan with a Vengeance. I actually probably could have got away with only using half the block for one pizza, especially if I had other toppings, but I used the whole thing.
Well, it certainly didn’t look as good as the pizza on the package (I used that toaster filter on instagram to make it less ugly). But the taste?
I felt as far as pizza goes, while it was certainly no Daiya, I thought it was quite good. It would have probably been better with actual toppings, but I enjoyed it more than the tofutti kind. I would say the only slight downside to it was the texture – it had sort of a floury texture to it sometimes, but it wasn’t terribly noticeable. It reminded me a little bit of the mozzarella cheese recipe from The Ultimate Uncheese Cookbook, except better. I don’t think it would work that well for, say, grilled cheese – but it was fine on pizza.
Nutritionally, I’m afraid neither variety have much to offer. Like Daiya, they are not calcium fortified or anything and are, for the most part, just empty calories. But as far as just an occasional treat, I’m grateful to Tesco for making them readily available. I’m also grateful that they have unsweetened almond milk.
Next week I am going to try the other two kinds of cheese they sell!