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The Book of Vegan

[Foods] Vegan Cheese Is Ready to Compete With Dairy. Is the World Ready to Eat It?

Long considered a punchline, vegan cheese has quietly but steadily infiltrated mainstream supermarket shelves.

When Isa Chandra Moskowitz became a vegan, most of the vegan cheese she was able to find on store shelves was “really processed, really stiff, and not melty,” she says. “I just tasted melted crayons.”

So, like many vegans, Moskowitz, a cookbook author and the chef-owner of the vegan restaurant Modern Love Brooklyn, learned to live without cheese. Even today, 32 years after she became a vegan, she isn’t all that interested in trying to replicate it. “We’re doing it the lazy way, like most people, probably, if they want to do homemade,” she admits of the vegan cheese on her menu. “We’re using things that are already fermented and umami and, like, acidic and nuanced,” such as miso, nutritional yeast, and lemon juice.

But for every vegan like Moskowitz who doesn’t miss cheese, there are plenty who do, and for them, the last decade has been nothing short of a vegan cheese renaissance. Today, many grocery stores offer a variety of ersatz dairy products unimaginable even five years ago: While the old-school melted-crayon stuff hasn’t gone anywhere, you can also find soft and hard non-dairy cheeses, yogurt, and even butter. There are now entire stores devoted to vegan dairy, such as Riverdel, a New York City operation that boasts numerous varieties of plant-based cheese sold mainly by weight.

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