No, cheese is not dairy-free. Cheese is a dairy product made from milk, which is produced by mammals such as cows, goats, and sheep. However, there are dairy-free cheese alternatives available, made from plant-based sources such as nuts, seeds, and soy. These alternatives are suitable for people with lactose intolerance, milk allergies, or those following a vegan or dairy-free diet.
Best Dairy-Free Cheese Brands
Daiya: Known for its meltable and stretchy texture, Daiya offers a range of dairy-free cheese shreds, slices, and blocks made from plant-based ingredients.
Follow Your Heart: This brand offers a variety of flavors and textures, with cheeses that have a creamy, rich taste and are great for sandwiches, salads, and pizzas.
Violife: Violife’s dairy-free cheeses are known for their authentic taste and texture, making them a popular choice for vegans and those with dairy allergies or intolerances.
Miyoko’s Creamery: Made primarily from cashews and other natural ingredients, Miyoko’s cheeses have a rich, artisanal quality that appeals to cheese connoisseurs.
Chao Creamery: Chao offers dairy-free cheese slices made from coconut and fermented tofu, known for their unique, savory taste and impressive melting capabilities.
Kite Hill: Focused on almond-based cheese products, Kite Hill’s dairy-free cheeses are known for their smooth, spreadable texture, making them an excellent option for crackers, bagels, and sandwiches.
Tips to Select Dairy-Free Cheese
Check ingredients: Read the label to ensure the cheese is made from plant-based sources, such as nuts, seeds, or soy, rather than milk.
Allergen awareness: Be aware of any allergies or sensitivities you may have to specific ingredients, like nuts or soy, before choosing a dairy-free cheese.
Melting capabilities: Look for a product that melts well if you plan to use the cheese in recipes requiring melted cheese, such as pizza or grilled sandwiches.
Flavor profile: Consider the intended use and select a flavor that complements your dish, as dairy-free cheese comes in various flavors like cheddar, mozzarella, and smoked gouda.
Texture preference: Choose a cheese with a texture that suits your preferences, whether you’re looking for a soft, spreadable cheese or a firmer, sliceable option.
Nutritional content: Compare the nutritional information to find a dairy-free cheese that aligns with your dietary goals or preferences, such as low-fat or high-protein options.
Brand reputation: Go for well-reviewed brands with a good reputation for quality and taste to increase your chances of finding a dairy-free cheese that you enjoy.
Eating out: Ask restaurant staff about the cheese type in the recipe before ordering. Request if they can make your meal dairy-free.
Dairy-Free Cheese Recipe – Delicious Cashew Cheese
- 1 cup raw cashews (soaked for 4-6 hours or overnight, then drained)
- 1/4 cup water
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice
- 2 tablespoons nutritional yeast
- 1 small garlic clove, minced
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- Optional: herbs or spices of your choice, like chives, dill, or smoked paprika
- Soak the cashews in water for 4-6 hours or overnight. This will help soften them, making blending into a smooth consistency easier.
- Drain the soaked cashews and place them in a high-speed blender or food processor.
- Add the water, lemon juice, nutritional yeast, minced garlic, and salt to the blender or food processor.
- Blend the mixture until it becomes smooth and creamy. You may need to pause and scrape down the sides of the blender or food processor to ensure an even consistency. If needed, add more water, a tablespoon at a time, to achieve the desired texture.
- Taste the cheese and adjust the seasonings as needed. If desired, add your choice of herbs or spices and blend again to incorporate them evenly.
- Transfer the cashew cheese to a small bowl or container and refrigerate for at least an hour to firm up the texture. The cheese will become firmer and more spreadable as it chills.
- Enjoy homemade dairy-free cashew cheese as a spread, dip, or in your favorite recipes!
Keep in mind that this recipe creates a soft, spreadable cheese. For a firmer cheese, additional steps and ingredients, such as agar-agar, are required.
Cheese Types for Lactose Intolerant People
If you are lactose intolerant, certain types of cheese may be easier for you to digest due to their lower lactose content. Aged and hard cheeses generally have less lactose than soft or fresh cheeses. Some options to consider include.
Cheddar: This popular cheese has a low lactose content due to the aging process, which reduces lactose levels as it matures.
Swiss: Another aged cheese with low lactose content, Swiss cheese is known for its characteristic holes and mild, nutty flavor.
Parmesan: Aged for a longer period, Parmesan cheese has very low lactose levels and a hard, granular texture.
Gouda: As it ages, Gouda loses most of its lactose, making it suitable for those with lactose intolerance.
Pecorino Romano: Made from sheep’s milk, this hard, salty cheese has low lactose levels due to its extended aging process.
Aged Gruyère: This Swiss cheese is also low in lactose, thanks to its aging process.
Blue cheese: Some blue cheeses, like Roquefort and Gorgonzola, may have reduced lactose content due to the aging and fermentation.
Remember that lactose tolerance varies from person to person, so it’s essential to test your tolerance levels and consult with a healthcare professional if you’re unsure about which cheeses to consume. If you prefer to avoid dairy altogether, try dairy-free cheese alternatives from plant-based sources.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is Vegan Cheese Dairy-Free?
Yes. Vegan cheese is always dairy-free. Vegans don’t eat animal products like milk, honey, eggs, or animal rennet.
Hence, vegan-certified cheese will always be dairy-free. You can eat it without any worries while on a dairy-free diet.
Is Dairy-Free Cheese Always Vegan?
No. It is not necessary. A dairy-free cheese may be vegan, but you can’t be 100% sure about it. A dairy-free cheese may not have milk but may still contain animal-derived ingredients to give the cheese a special flavor.
You must always check the labels when buying cheese if you are following a particular diet.
Is Cheese Vegetarian?
Traditional cheese is made with animal rennet, milk, salt, and bacteria. Many vegetarians are okay with cheese, and some don’t eat it. It depends on how strictly you follow vegetarianism and whether you are fine with a small amount of animal rennet in your diet.
Which type of Cheese is Dairy-Free? Major Varieties Answered
- Cottage: Not dairy-free, made from cow’s milk.
- Cream Cheese: Not dairy-free, made from cow’s milk.
- Feta: Not dairy-free, made from sheep or goat milk.
- Cheddar: It is made from cow’s milk.
- Ricotta: It is traditional cheese made from cow milk.
- Parmesan: Not dairy-free, made from cow’s milk.
- Grana Padano: A famous Italian cheese, it is also made from cow’s milk.
- Mozzarella: One of the commonly used cheeses, it is not dairy-free because it is also made from cow’s milk.
- Goat Cheese: Not dairy-free, made from goat’s milk.
Is Mac and Cheese Dairy-Free?
Traditional mac and cheese is not dairy-free, as it typically contains cheese and milk or cream. However, there are dairy-free versions available, made with plant-based cheese alternatives and dairy-free milk substitutes, catering to those with lactose intolerance, milk allergies, or following a vegan diet.