In an ever-changing world wherein consumers become more aware and knowledgeable about the food being served to them, particularly when it comes to its nutritional benefits and sustainability, and animal welfare, the push for a vegan-eating population, has become more and more prevalent in today’s society.
The vegan movement has taken root in the culinary industry, from initiatives to uphold animal welfare in food processing to feeding a populace with more nutritious dishes.
You can see it in the grocery stores and menus—vegan meat, vegan bread, vegan burgers, vegan sushi, vegan cakes, vegan milk, vegan cheese, and many more!
Indeed, the innovations in vegan food technology have produced countless non-vegan dishes to plant-based, non-dairy—and even gluten-free—food.
For example, the typical cream cheese, whose very nomenclature screams non-vegan food, as the words “cream” and “cheese” means they are dairy-sourced products, a direct opposite of what vegan food should be.
But what if I told you that you could buy vegan cream cheese in the market and make it in the confines of your kitchen?
If your curiosity has been piqued, then allow us to discuss what is vegan cream cheese, what is vegan cream cheese made of, how to make vegan cream cheese, how to make cream cheese frosting, and what is a vegan substitute for cream cheese.
What is Vegan Cream Cheese?
So what is the difference between your usual non-vegan cream cheese and vegan-friendly cream cheese?
For starters, a typical piece of non-vegan cream cheese is a soft and mild-flavored fresh cheese made of milk and cream.
On the other hand, the vegan cream cheese we are talking about is cream cheese without any traces of dairy products sourced from animals. Hence, vegan cream cheese is a version of your regular cream cheese, just this time devoid of milk and cream—the two defining ingredients that make an actual cheese!
Hence, vegan cream cheese can be plant-based, non-dairy, or both.
What is Vegan Cream Cheese Made Of?
After reading the previous paragraph, you are probably wondering what is vegan cream cheese—sans the dairy products that usually compose it—made of.
To answer this, chefs and cooks usually make vegan cream cheese using dairy-free yogurt and salt as the central ingredients making this sweet yet tangy non-dairy cheese.
However, if you want to get into the nitty-gritty, then vegan cream cheese, mainly those found in grocery stores, is usually made of water, coconut oil, modified potato starch, sugar, sodium citrate, activated yeast, lactic acid, yeast extract, guar gum, xantham gum, and nisin.
Some vegan cream cheese is also made by mixing cashews and water, like making vegan sour cream!
If you are very particular about the nutritional contents of your vegan cream cheese, note that the variants that use coconut oil contain more saturated fats (but taste more similar to the regular cream cheese). In contrast, cashew-centric vegan cream cheese recipes have lower levels of saturated fat (but higher amounts of vegan protein).
Furthermore, if you want to add flavors to your vegan cream cheese, some home cooks and chefs use other legumes, lemons (and other fruits), onion and chives, chilis, and tomatoes.
How To Make Vegan Cream Cheese?
For the non-dairy yogurt and salt approach to this recipe, you first need a thick kitchen napkin to filter your yogurt and a jar, plus an elastic band to seal it.
The first step is to ensure that the kitchen napkin is well-placed in the jar’s mouth. Then, slowly dump your dairy-free yogurt into the make-shift apparatus and allow it to slowly and gradually drip and filter.
Once all of this is done, transfer the freshly-dripped yogurt to a bowl and sprinkle it with mineral salt (if you are feeling fancy, you could substitute the mineral salt with Himalayan salt).
You could also use a food processor to blend your ingredients in making vegan cream cheese.
As for the recipe primarily involving cashews, you must soften your cashews first by soaking them for ten minutes in hot water (you could also soak them overnight.
After doing so, dump the cashews and the other ingredients (water, lemon, apple cider vinegar, and salt) into a food processor and blend until it has a creamy consistency.
You can enhance your vegan cream cheese by adding the flavorings above.
How to Make Vegan Cream Cheese Frosting?
If you’re in the mood for some vegan desserts, you could also try making this vegan cream cheese frosting to add to your cakes and cupcakes.
Just follow the abovementioned recipe and procedure for making vegan cream cheese.
However, since it will be used for pastries, you must alter the recipe by adding sweet ingredients like coconut cream, citrus juice, powdered sugar, vanilla extract, and vegan butter.
Once the cream cheese has settled, start stirring it in its bowl from a slow pace to a faster speed until it forms into a smooth frosting.
You could also use an electric mixer.
Chill the smooth frosting and lather it on your fresh vegan cakes and pastries.
What is a Vegan Substitute for Cream Cheese?
Even though the recipes and procedures above have been designed to be particularly easy and quick to prepare, some might still not have the luxury of time when it comes to creating vegan cream cheese from scratch.
That is why we have also enumerated a couple of other vegan substitutes for cream cheese: hummus (which is a very healthy option as it is packed with proteins; can be best used for spreads or sauces in savory dishes), nut cream cheese (for desserts), greek yogurt (as a sauce/dip alternative), and pureed tofu (as an additive in other dishes).