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The Tufts Daily
Where you read it first | Sunday, May 26, 2024

Confessions of a Cooking Fanatic: Cheesus Christ

This week, Elizabeth tries out some vegan cheese substitutes.

Confessions of a Cooking Fanatic

Graphic by Rachel Wong

Now, I have colloquially described my college house as “The Cheese House,” firstly, because my roommate (now abroad) is Coby Formaggio, founder of the current Tufts Cheese Club, and because I am from the grate state of Wisconsin. Refusing cheese feels a little blasphemous, and yet, I blaspheme.

In my search for substitutes, I’ve thus far found that all replacements compromise in some form, be it texture or taste. My roommates and I have reached for our most familiar recipes this semester and attempted to veganize them. Luckily, we’ve mostly been cooking vegetarian for the last two years, so we are well prepared for the process of cheese-swapping.

  1. Pearl couscous with creamy feta and chickpeas

We begin with a Melissa Clark classic. Don’t be afraid to scale up on this one — we made a quadruple batch. This is the ideal meal prep meal: leftovers can be eaten hot or cold, drizzled with olive oil and balsamic vinegar. My house attempted two versions of this: one with Trader Joe’s Vegan Feta Cheese Alternative and one with a homemade Greek-style vegan feta.

Trader Joe’s Feta Cheese Alternative is highly ranked in vegan circles, so we had high hopes. Upon a little nibble, we found the taste less than ideal. A second taste yielded a better opinion. But where this cheese really shone was in its melting capacity.

The homemade feta is essentially a tofu marinated in vinegar and Greek spices. To our surprise, this genuinely tasted like a dairy feta, and texture-wise was very similar. It even crumbled into the dish. However, tofu does not melt into a dish at 450 F, so we’d recommend this feta for salads and bowls.

  1. Buffalo cauliflower dip

I made this vegetarian dip for last year’s Super Bowl, and in preparation for this year’s face-off, have been debating how to de-dairify it. What makes this dish good (besides the guise of eating a vegetable) is the biting tang of Frank’s RedHot sauce and the cooling of sour cream, cream cheese and cheddar cheese. With half of this equation removed, I was not confident in my abilities to pull off a melty dip. In fact, I wasn’t even going to try until I found myself at Neighborhood Produce (a block away from 574 Boston Ave) with all of the dairy alternatives I had dreamed of using for this recipe.

I trusted the Violife Just Like Cheddar Shreds to melt because I recently had 3 Little Figs’ Vegan Egg Cheddar with Violife cheddar cheese. Is the cheese good enough to eat out of the bag? No, but it was good enough to melt on top of the dip. I’ve also heard that Miyoko’s butter stands up to browning, so I was willing to test out how their cream cheese handled the heat. I concluded that I would be okay without vegan sour cream and would just scale the cream cheese to a point that felt right (and for the amount of cauliflower I was using, that was, 8 oz.).