Vegan cheese and dairy in France
It’s not easy for cheese lovers to give up cheese and creamy dairy products but for the French, it’s especially hard because cheese is such an integral part of French culture and the French mealtime.
Giving up cheese, butter, crème fraîche and other dairy products that make French food deliciously French is one of the main reasons why so many French vegetarians never make the leap to full-blown vegan.
But veganism is slowly but surely growing in France and those that do brave the vegan way of life do just fine without meat but often end up missing cheese and dairy products the most.
Fortunately, there are more and more artisanal and specialty vegan crémerie’s which use the care, craftsmanship and traditional cheese-making methods of the finest cheesemakers to create plant-based cheeses with the goal of mimicking not only the taste of real cheese but also the look, smell and feel of real cheese.
Jay and joy in Paris is one of the more well known vegan creameries that produce some delicious artisanal vegan cheeses and most French vegans know or have heard of this little shop.
So if the French are not all thumbing their noses at vegan cheeses, then it can’t be all that bad.
French Vegan cheese vocabulary
Here are a few ways vegan and plant based cheeses are referred to in the French language.
- Le fromage végétal= Vegan cheese or plant-based cheese
- Vromage = A play on the French word for cheese, “fromage” by replacing the “F” for a “V” which stands for both végetal and végan.
- Fauxmage= A play on the French word for cheese “fromage” by replacing “fro” with “faux” which means false or fake.
- Vegan cheese = vegancheese
An intro to vegan cheeses
Vegan and plant-based cheeses used to confuse me. I just couldn’t wrap my head around how a plant-based cheese could ever look, taste or behave even remotely similar to real cheese.
If you’re new to the vegan cheese world too, here is a quick primer on what vegan cheese is and is not. Otherwise just skip to the French vegan cheese recipes below.
What is vegan cheese and what is it made of?
“Real cheese”, the way it’s been made for thousands of years is made with dairy derived from an animal such as a cow or a goat.
Vegan cheese is actually not cheese at all, just like almond milk, is not actually milk because they DO NOT contain any animal derived dairy.
vegan cheeses are entirely plant-based and are usually made with nuts, these are “nut cheeses” but there are plenty of vegan cheeses made with tofu and soy yoghurt.
A popular choice for vegan nut cheeses are cashews because it emulates the creamy texture of real cheese but other nuts such as almonds and pine nuts can also be used.
Many nut cheese recipes will require you to use nut milk which you can always buy but can easily make at home in a flash.
Watch this video which shows you how easy it is to make your own almond milk.
If you have a tree nut allergy, there are nut free cheeses which use other ingredients such as oats or sesame as their main ingredient.
How long does it take to make vegan cheese at home?
Depending on the recipe, it can take a couple of hours from start to finish to make a vegan cheese however if you follow a recipe which uses cultures or other traditional cheese-making methods, it can take a few days, up to a month because you have to allow the vegan cheese to ferment and age.
Does vegan cheese taste like real dairy cheese?
There’s good news and bad news.
The bad news first. Unfortunately, If you’re looking for a vegan cheese that tastes exactly like the real deal, you’re out of luck. Most cheese fanatics say NO, vegan plant-based cheeses don’t taste exactly like real cheese and I agree, although some nut-based vegan cheeses come pretty close. I think soy-based vegan cheeses tend to lack the depth of flavour of dairy cheese but they still taste pretty good.
The good news is that non-dairy cheeses have been around for years and although there haven’t been very good alternatives in the past, scientists and adventurous home cooks are figuring out more and more ways to make vegan cheeses taste and act like real cheese.
Some common ingredients found in vegan cheeses
Some common ingredients home chefs use to make vegan cheese recipes taste or act like real cheese are:
- Dijon mustard (without the grains)- gives a sharp flavour
- Lemon juice or apple cider- brings that slightly sour flavour that you get from dairy-based cheeses.
- Granulated or powdered Garlic & onion- adds a savoury taste
- Nutritional yeast- Is a deactivated yeast and a favourite vegan food product with a cheesy, nutty and savoury flavour. Sold as either a powder or flakes. Make sure to get the non-fortified nutritional yeast because it tastes better than fortified which tend to have a chemical aftertaste due to the synthetic vitamins added.
- Tahini- is simply sesame seeds pureed into a paste. Has a slightly nutty flavour to it.
- Turmeric- mostly for colour
Adding cultures can take your vegan cheeses to the next level:
Adding live cultures to your plant-based cheese will not only make your vegan cheese taste more tangy like real cheese, it also makes it nutritionally rich with beneficial bacteria.
Here’s a little information about some of the live cultures that vegan cheesemongers and hobbyists often use in their plant-based cheese recipes.
Rejuvelac- A fermented liquid full of enzymes and good bacteria which is made by soaking sprouted grain such as quinoa in water for about two days at room temperature and then reserving the liquid. It’s usually added to a fat base such as cashew paste, where it sits for at least a day to allow the cultures to grow and flavours to impregnate the vegan cheese. You can learn how to sprout your own rejuvelac by watching this video.
Miso paste–This fermented soybean paste can help add a salty savoury flavour to vegan cheeses.
Spirulina – blue-green algae that nutritionists call the superfood of the future.
Penicillium Roqueforti– Mould cultures used for making blue cheese
Eight French vegan cheese recipes you can make at home.
On with the recipes.
You can easily make vegan cheese with surprisingly few ingredients, many of which you can usually find at your local grocery store or online.
You’ll either love vegan cheese or hate it but if you’re trying to go vegan and you love cheese, it’s you’re only alternative to the real thing other than going cold turkey.
1. Gruyère Style Vegan Cheese (Cultured Almond Cheese)
Gruyere is probably one of the most important French cheeses in the French kitchen. It can be found in so many French dishes like Croque Monsieur, French onion soup, Gratin Dauphinoise and Fondue.
Traditional French Gruyere is a hard cheese with a slightly salty, nutty flavour that is sweeter than Swiss Gruyere. Comté and Beaufort are also considered French Gruyere style cheeses.
This vegan cheese recipe tries to mimic the taste of French Gruyere using 5 ingredients including almonds and cultures. It’s also gluten-free.
How long does it take to make?
Once you combine all the ingredients, you’ll have to air dry it in a cheesecloth for about 1 to three days.
- nutritional yeast
- yellow organic miso paste
Watch the video to see how it’s done.
2. Vegan Boursin (a household name in France)
Boursin is a soft crumbly and creamy cheese similar to cream cheese which comes in many flavours such as garlic & fine herbs.
Originally developed in Normandy France back in 1963 by François Boursin, today Boursin is a household name and is regularly served at celebrations, parties and dinner tables throughout France.
How long to make?
Once you have all the ingredients for this vegan version of Boursin, it will take you less than an hour to make but you’ll have to let it sit and chill for 24 hours.
The main ingredients are…
- cashew nuts- to make cashew milk
- nutritional yeast
- granulated garlic
- granulated onion
- Dijon mustard
- Sriracha (optional).
You can get the recipe for this vegan Boursin over at My culinary confessions.
Check out this commercial for Boursin below. Makes me hungry.
3. Vegan style blue cheese
Here’s a blue cheese recipe you can make in an afternoon. Chill overnight and voila!
The mould in this cheese isn’t real mould. It’s achieved by mixing some of the cashew cheese with dry herbs and spirulina.
Ingredients in this recipe are…
- cup water
- lemon juice
- ume plum vinegar (she tells you how to make this)
- nutritional yeast
- A pinch of salt
Get the recipe for this vegan style blue cheese over at one green planet.
4. Aged Vegan roquefort cheese (using traditional cheesemaking methods)
It’s hard to believe you can make a vegan blue cheese using traditional cheese making methods at home but you can if you have the patience—about a month worth of patience.
Roquefort is a type of French blue cheese traditionally made with sheep’s milk and adding cultures of a mould called Penicillium Roqueforti, named after the French town of Roquefort France which has caves full of naturally occurring mould spores. The end result is a white cheese with blue spots and veins throughout the cheese.
This vegan recipe replicates the taste, feel and look of Roquefort blue cheese better than other vegan blue cheese recipes because instead of using nutritional yeast or other cheese flavourings to replicate a cheese flavour along with something acidic like vinegar or lemon juice, this recipe requires cultures and actual moulds like Penicillium Candidum or Penicillium Roqueforti.
Just take a look at the photo below. That’s the end result. Looks just like dairy blue cheese, doesn’t it?
How long does it take to make this cheese?:
You’ll need to allow this cheese to age for three to five weeks to allow the mould to grow which is what gives this vegan blue cheese recipe it’s complex flavours you just can’t replicate with flavourings.
- Raw cashews
- refined coconut oil
- sea salt
- vegan probiotics (vegan starter culture). Renew life is a popular brand which contains acidophilus
- penicillium roqueforti
Try serving this vegan blue cheese at your next dinner party— It’s soft, creamy and spreadable but firm enough to cut into slices. You’ll impress the heck out of your friends too.
5. Vegan aged camembert cheese
Like the blue cheese recipe above, this one uses some traditional cheese making methods.
Traditional camembert uses a live mould called penicillium candidum and so does this recipe. The end result is this vegan Camembert which looks and feels almost like the real thing. Taste wise it comes pretty close. Just check out the photo helow.
How long does it take to make this vegan aged camembert cheese?
It’s not too complicated to make but you’ll need to be diligent and patient because you have to let it age for 3 weeks, flipping it once a day.
- raw cashews
- penicillium candidum
- filtered water
- vegan probiotics (vegan starter culture) Renew life is a popular brand Acidophilus
- sea salt
6. Chevre/ Mock Goat cheese (Basil Pesto Raw Vegan)
Most goat cheeses are called Chevre which is the French word for Goats and this mock goat cheese recipe is perfect if you’re in a rush and don’t have the time or patience to make a cheese using traditional cheese making methods. It’s a raw vegan cheese recipe with basil pesto, pine nuts and sun dried tomatoes, perfect for a party.
You’ll need six ingredients then chill for an hour.
- Raw cashews
- Juice from a lemon
- Coconut oil
- Apple cider vinegar
You can get the recipe by Cara over at Fork & Beans here.
7. Vegan cheese spread (fromage frais à tartiner)
In France, “fromage frais à tartiner ” is a soft, smooth and creamy fresh cheese spread, similar in taste to cream cheese but much softer and lower in fat. It’s popular as a party aperitif or on toast in the morning.
What I like about this recipe is you can use it as a base and add whatever flavours you like to it. Garlic and onion, oregano, fine herbs etc. You also don’t have to use nuts in this recipe.
By the way, this recipe is in French. I couldn’t find a decent recipe in English but you can easily translate the page into English by using google page translate.
- soy yogurt- (you can buy this at the store)
- cashew purée or coconut oil (your choice)
If you want to add a fine herb taste:
- powdered garlic
- chopped green onions
You can get this vegan fromage frais à tartiner over at Déliacious
8- Vegan Brie cheese
Everyone knows Brie cheese is a French cheese. This next recipe uses almond milk to mimic this iconic French cheese.
Here is a video showing you the entire process from start to finish.
- Almond milk
- tapioca starch
- nutritional yeast
- lime juice
- kappa carrageenan
- dehydrated onions
- white miso
- refined and cold press coconut oil