Real cheese is a dairy product, but a vegan option tastes similar to a typical cheese to some people. Well, is vegan cheese dairy or not? This question is usually asked by both vegan and lactose intolerant persons, whether it is suitable for them.
Is it dairy-free? Yes, vegan cheese is dairy-free. There are some copycat cheeses available in the market that are dairy-based. But such types of cheeses are not sold as a vegan. They are positioned as a cheaper option for our regular spreadable cheese.
Please note that if milk products are present in imitation cheese, such a product cannot be allowed to be sold as a vegan.
The federal guidelines have no regulations on the use of vegan labeling. Still, many companies won’t approve their trusted label for use on any product which does not meet its criteria.
Now, we will check the different reasons for vegan cheese not being a dairy product.
Table of Contents
Why Vegan Cheese Is Dairy-Free
Vegan Cheese Is Only One Type of Imitation Cheese
Some imitation cheeses like Easy Cheese, sprays, squirts, and spreads are non-vegan.
Such cheeses are products similar to regular cheese, where the milk fat is replaced with vegetable oil.
Vegan cheeses are not derived from milkfats, but this definition was created before vegan cheeses came into the market.
Analog cheeses are now available for a long time and suitable for manufacturers because they are less costly than regular cheese and are easier to spread or squirt.
Such non-vegan cheeses manufacturers mix different milk proteins like calcium caseinate with vegetable fat, water, salt, lactic acid, and emulsifiers, and then heated for some time to purify.
The texture, flavor, melting properties, and nutrition value of imitation cheese are almost the same as regular cheese.
Some cheeses are lactose-free but still not dairy-free as most of them have milk proteins and are not advertised to vegans or people with dairy allergies. Such types of cheeses still contained dairy proteins.
The 100% dairy-free cheeses were introduced for those with milk allergies.
Some of the companies positioning them for vegan cheese were initially targeting people with milk allergies but were later on advertising to vegans as well.
Lactose intolerance is known as a simple intolerance, where the proteins in milk, mostly non-vegan part of analog cheese, could start a life-threatening allergic reaction.
Therefore, the dairy-free alternatives to cheese were more in demand
Later, the positioning of these 100% dairy-free cheeses was also extended to vegans.
The Proteins In Vegan Cheese Are Non-Casein
The central part of the cheese is the presence of coagulated proteins. Dairy cheese manufacturers react the acid to Casein.
This is done either to create a soft and high moisture cheeselike cottage and ricotta or to create a firm cheese like cheddar with the help of enzymes and bacterial cultures. That Is why latter cheese has a more complex flavor.
Some ultra-processed cheese products like Velveeta use whey protein (the second most abundant milk protein), which coagulates due to heat leading to an extra creamy texture.
Vegan cheesemakers, however, thicken different plant protein from other sources like cashews and use some substances to enhance their flavor.
Vegan Cheeses Don’t Use Rennin
It was mentioned earlier that enzymes might be used to coagulate casein protein. Rennin is one such enzyme derived from animals. But how do we find out that plant proteins are not coagulated with Rennin?
There are four types of Casein or phosphoproteins: alpha, beta, kappa, and gamma caseins.These molecules get mixed with calcium and phosphate to form clusters or small spherical structures called micelles.
Rennin is particularly helpful in processing regular dairy cheese. On adding it to milk, it breaks kappa casein in two specific amino acid molecules, which causes the micelles to either cut apart or coagulate to make cheese.
Since Rennin can not do this with plant proteins, it is never used for non-dairy cheeses.
Any Phosphorus In Vegan Cheese Is Not from Dairy Fat
Non-vegan people who like cheese also want to know if plant-based cheeses contain phosphorus. They want to manage their phosphorus intakes due to kidney disease but don’t want to give up consuming cheese.
The answer is generally no.
Phosphorus is always there in a real cheese because dairy cheese uses milk proteins to thicken and then form the cheese. In this process, milk is used, which has fat suspended as droplets inside water surrounded by membranes. Since fat and water don’t mix, those lipid droplets need membranes for making an emulsion.
The membranes are full of phospholipids and are the favorite emulsifiers in nature.
Hence, we get the phosphate element of milk and cheese.
Phosphorus can be added to analog cheeses to make them vegan.
E.g., calcium phosphate is mostly added to boost the consistency, texture, and spreading characteristics of processed cheese products. Sodium phosphate is used to emulsify, stabilize, and thicken the cheese products.
It means that calcium and sodium phosphate may be used in imitation cheese to achieve the same purpose.
That explains it all. That was the fact file of as to why vegan cheese is non-dairy. Thanks for reading.
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