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Reviews of Plant-Based Foods
From delicious bubbly pizzas to straight out of the bag snacking, this mozzarella gets the job done. They're not all winner's though...
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The Best Plant-Based Mozzarella Cheese
Clockwise from top left: Daiya Mozzarella Style Shreds, Parmela Aged Nut Cheese Mozzarella Style, Miyokos's Fresh VeganMozz, Miyoko's Smoked VeganMozz
Note: This is part 1 of the mozzarella cheese series. This part focuses on cheeses available in many local grocery stores. In part 2, the hunt continues, but we extend our buying to the internet and start ordering every specialty variety we can get our hands on. 📝
A convincing vegan cheese is the holy grail of the faux food market. But, as with many vegan food analogues, the true test isn't with the looks, or the even texture. It's the taste. This point is contended within the vegan community and as a result, there are two schools of thought on the matter. Some people believe that in order to win over as many people to the vegan side of the equation, we must exactly match the flavor profile of the food we're attempting to recreate. The other side of the argument states that the food should stand on its own as a separate food group. There's no need to have it taste exactly like the food it's dressed up to be, it has its own identity and taste profile. We're looking for the best of both worlds. The vegan mozzarellas may not hit all the same notes as the dairy-based products, but if they do the job in a convincing way, even if they taste a bit different than a standard mozzarella, then we're happy.
Dairy-based mozzarella is produced from a milk that has been left to ripen for bacteria to multiply upon. After coagulating, the newly-formed curd is cut, heated and the whey is separated.Then the product is rolled until it forms the shiny balls of mozzarella we're all familiar with. This is largely the standardized process that most manufacturers seem to follow, with some steps having different levels of automation.
The process for creating vegan mozzarella is still in its formative years. There are some cheeses based on traditional cheese-making practices and others that are forging new paths. Behemoths like Daiya have emerged as the vegan cheese most likely to be present in your local grocery store, regardless of area. It's refrigerator-stable for long periods of time and has a unique blend of ingredients based around a tapioca starch. Due to its ubiquity, it is also the one you may already be familiar. It is often people's first, and last, taste of vegan cheese.
There are a few new contenders in this product category though. One of the most promising is Miyoko's. Miyoko Schinner literally wrote the book on Vegan cheeses and uses a nut based formula for all her products. The cheese is also made using traditional cheese making methods, with the dairy based ingredients swapped for a nut-based alternative. Parmela is another nut-based cheese maker with a competitive line-up of shredded products aimed squarely at disrupting Daisy's current market supremacy.
We've been eager to recreate our weekly pizza nights, but it has been hard to recreate the perfect slice topped with gooey mozzarella. So we're headed to the local grocers and grabbing four vegan mozzarella cheeses, to find the best vegan mozzarella.
So what are we looking for?
Flavor: It should be equally delicious on a hot pizza as it is on a cracker or even eaten plain. Texture: Does it hold up under high heat like a typical mozzarella? Can it be eaten without any prep and taste like a mozzarella cheese? Looks: Would it look out of place next to other pizzas with dairy cheeses? Special Properties: It would be amazing if we could pull off that stringy, gooey, cheesy goodness present in pizzas from New York to Chicago.
We decided to try the cheese two ways: raw and cooked. Ideally, a good mozzarella should be versatile and equally delicious across multiple dishes. Unfortunately, Daiya and Paremella only make shredded mozzarella varieties, so we weren’t able to get quite the decadent mozzarella experience we had hoped for. That means the caprices salad was out of the question as a test. Miyoko’s on the other hand, ships mozzarella in a standard shiny orb package, befitting its traditional makings and would have been a lovely accompaniment to a fresh tomato slice, but it wouldn’t have been fair to the shredded varieties.
The Raw Taste Test
🌱 Our Pick
Miyoko's Creamery Fresh Vegan Mozzarella Cheese
Yeah, it's as good as it looks. Reasonably priced compared and a truly great approximation of mozzarella cheese.
This may not be too much of a surprise, but both the Plain Mozz and the Smoked Mozz by Miyoko’s came out far above the competition. The plain offered a tangy taste with an unexpectedly creamy texture that made it the most pleasant to eat and the most versatile product in our line up. The smooth texture and flavor allowed it to even be eaten raw spread on a cracker, something that could not be said for the other cheeses, which relied very heavily on melting in order to magically become edible (I’m looking at you, Diaya!).
The “Fresh VeganMozz” was unexpectedly creamy, almost to a fault. It was so creamy that shredding would have been impossible. On the flip side, it was so easy to spread on a cracker and on a fresh slice of rosemary bread we really enjoyed the experience. However, a traditional mozzarella couldn’t be spread, so as far as stacking up to a traditional texture, it definitely left something to be desired. The overly soft texture could possibly be remedied by freezing the cheese for 15 minutes or so ahead of use to firm it up, but fresh out of the fridge like the rest of the cheeses, it definitely was closer to a solidified spread in block form than an easily sliced and eaten mozzarella. However, the flavor was exceptional. It was tangy with a nice balance of saltiness, which quenched the cheese craving early on in the process. It was also not as smooth or “liquidy” as a traditional mozzarella would be, which is actually a plus in our book.
Miyoko's Creamery Smoked Vegan Mozzarella Cheese
Great shape and appearance with a disappointing texture.
The Smoked Mozzarella was much firmer than the plain variety, and almost holds up to being sliced like its traditional counterparts. The mouth feel left a bit to be desired though, with an almost sand-like feel on the tongue. Not great. The smoky flavor also overpowered any cheesy flavors that might have been present, with none of the tang from the plan mozzarella coming through. The aftertaste also lingered, even with a few sips of water.
Parmela Creamery Mozzarella Style Cheese
Your standard shredded mozzarella. Fine in a pinch if the only other option is Daiya.
Now we're getting the "mozzarella style" cheeses. Here’s all you need to know. Don’t try and eat these raw. Seriously.
Of the shredded variates Parmela came out on top, but it isn't something to brag about. Parmela was saltier than any of the other cheeses and also had a very strong tang not quite reminiscent of cheese, unfortunately. The shreds were moist and oily, with a waxy texture, very similar to a grocery store brand shredded mozzarella. On the plus side, there was no strong after taste present with Parmela but it was a different story with the Daiya brand.
Daiya Mozzarella Style Shreds
Inedible when eaten straight from the bag. The signature "daiya-tang" flavor really works against the product ahead of any cooking.
Where do we start? Daiya gets a bad rap out there, and usually when non-vegans have tried a plant-based cheese and had a bad experience, they’re remembering a Daiya experience. With that being said, they’ve also broken major ground as a company and championed plant-based foods into most major supermarkets in the US. They’re everywhere. So, how's it taste?
With this one, we had to coin a new term, “Daiya-tang”. The shredded slices were chemically smelling and tasting. The first time you open the bag and take a whiff, a noxious and pungent mist rushes out. It’s like someone who has never smelled cheese decided to play with a lab set to try and concept their best guess at what cheese smells like. That applies to the taste as well. The Daiya-tang is overpowering and tastes nothing like cheese any of us is familiar with. It also breaks and dissolves into pieces as you’re trying to pick it up, not even maintaining it’s cheese-link structure till you eat it. It’s also an off-putting, off-white color for some reason. Don’t eat it raw.
Time for some pizza.
The Pizza Test
🌱 Our Pick
Miyoko's Creamery Smoked Vegan Mozzarella Cheese
Fantastic flavor when cooked, great texture. Don't buy if you're not already a fan of smoked flavors though.
Everything we had done with the cheese was truly leading to this moment. A great tasting raw or melted cheese would not mean anything if did not stand up to the Pizza test.
The "Fresh VeganMozz" retained it's higher moisture and oil content on the pizza, giving it a very convincing gooey, glisteny appearance on the pie. It was a bit too moist however, and moisture beaded up and out of the mozzarella when cooked, similar to what a dairy-based mozzarella with high moisture content would do. The difference is that with a traditional mozz, you have the opportunity to press out the moisture. If we had attempted to press the Miyoko's Fresh Mozz, it would have turned into a paste.
The tangy taste was delicious but the creamy texture was possibly almost, dare we say it, too creamy? It instantly melted in the mouth and created a creamy, saucy blend. (On that note, it may be great blended into a sauce for a pasta dish.) It did not have the stringy pull of a normal melted cheese, but overall the taste and appearance was what one would want from mozz.
The Smoked Mozz continued to give off a strong smokey fragrance and retained it's overall texture and shape much better than its plain counterpart. The added bite on the cheese and the sharp, smokey flavor complimented the pizza with out overpowering it or getting lost in the sauce. It held its own in the dish without screaming "I'm not real!" or being chemically uncomfortable like so many other faux products (ahem, Diaya). This was a our favorite from the pizza test but both of these products satisfied our cheesy pizza craving and made our pizza experience feel complete.
While it is unlikely that anyone would be completely fooled into thinking these products were the real thing, I doubt anyone would turn away a slice featuring these cheeses.
Expectations were very high for the Parmela cheese, and it did in fact end up being quite delicious once melted on our pizza. However, getting it to that melty place is difficult to achieve. The product seems to need an exceptionally long time to melt. We definitely would have burnt our pizza waiting for this to look melted to our satisfaction. Even in a 550 degree oven it never quite attained the desired gooeyness and ended up looking more like semitransparent rice noodles than cheese. Thankfully, it ended up tasting much better than it looked with a very pleasant nutty, cheesy flavor. It is probably worth noting that the Parmela was the first cheese to be finished once the test was over and these cheeses were put into our normal ingredient rotation. It has the "advantage" of being conveniently shredded for pizza use, just like Diaya, but was much more palatable overall. Miyokos, though extremely delicious, does come in a squishy blob that can be less than appealing when preparing meals on a time crunch.
We had already experienced Daiya on a pizza. It's a pretty popular cheese to find in pizzerias dabbling in vegan options, and in the course of our test it became obvious why it has attained this go-to vegan pizza status. It clearly achieved the most commercially pleasing, cheese-like appearance on our pizza. It melted and coated the top of the pizza beautifully, and as mentioned previously, the taste once melted is actually not too bad. The taste, however, remained distinctly its own thanks to the "Diaya Tang." The lemony notes made it taste fresh and bright on the pizza, triggering cheesy sensations in the brain without actually hitting the same flavor notes as cheese. Very clever, Daiya, but we're on to you now.
If we had tried this with dairy-based cheeses, we would still be in a food coma. To all the cheese maker's credit, we never got that "too full on dairy need water but also sleep" feeling with any of the products. It is easier than ever to try out a plant-based diet. The choices are plentiful, and if you're willing to look, there are plenty of "good eats" around.
If you can find Miyoko's near you, give it a try. We're looking forward to trying more of her products, just maybe not for a while. I think we finally satiated that cheese craving. 🧀
Mozzarella Cheeses Ranked
1) Miyoko's Fresh Vegan Mozz
2) Miyoko's Smoked Vegan Mozz
3) Parmela Creamery Mozzarella Style Cheese
4) Diaya Mozzarella Style Shreds
1) Miyoko's Smoked Vegan Mozz
2) Miyoko's Fresh Vegan Mozz
3) Parmela Creamery Mozzarella Style Cheese
4) Diaya Mozzarella Style Shreds
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We're on a journey for delicious plant-based vegan food. The goal is delicious 🍕 or 🥛, cruelty free.
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