Veganized Cheeses From Around the World

Traveling had become more challenging during the Covid pandemic and I found myself with a lot more extra time at home. So, I decided to attempt making vegan cheeses from places I’ve traveled around the world. In every case below, I traveled to the featured locations before becoming vegan. So, I am very excited to revisit some of my favorite memories, but veganized!

Vegan Feta (Greece)

The first vegan cheese I attempted to make was a vegan feta. After exploring recipe after recipe of repurposing tofu as the main ingredient, I finally found one that I found more intriguing. The recipe from Yup, it’s Vegan uses almonds as a base and it gets baked.

Baked vegan feta from Yup, It’s Vegan

This would also be the first time that I used a cheese cloth. But before we even get to that, the recipe starts with soaking raw almonds for two hours. The author of this recipe promised that the next step would provide childlike fun and it did: popping off the skins of the almonds.

I found the recipe rather strait forward even for a novice like me and I must say it took a few times for me to cut a big enough piece of the cheese cloth to hold the pulp. (Who knew that cheese cloth came in a spindle like fabric at the fabric store!)

Once the vegan feta was in the oven, I began working on the other parts of the meal. The feta was to go on top of a traditional Greek salad like I had many times on the Greek Isle of Lesbos. One of my favorite memories was eating a Greek salad on Melinda Beach (in June 2011 before going vegan) overlooking the beautifully blue Aegean Sea.

Melinda Beach on the Greek Island of Lesbos

I remember that there was a large piece of feta on top, instead of crumbled up and mixed in the salad as one might see in the USA. I attempted to do the same with the vegan feta.

I also made a rosemary and olive loaf of bread and made a fava spread from scratch, starting with soaking the dried fava beans. I got the recipe from The Greek Vegan, a really great resource for authentic vegan Greek recipes.

Vegan rosemary and olive loaf from The Greek Vegan

I also bought Greek dolmas (stuffed grape leaves). Sorry, but my culinary skills are not at the level of making these from scratch yet.

I decided to enjoy this meal the way I had on Melinda Beach, by the sea. So I packed a picnic and headed for Honeymoon Island in Dunedin, Florida.

I had lots of the vegan feta leftover so I bought some crackers and enjoyed an evening snack topped with a kalamata pitted olives. It was delicious and a great combination.

Cheese Curds (Canada)

For over 5 years, I lived in Canada, where a comfort food dish called poutine is very popular. From what I’ve read online, it seems to have originated in the Canadian province of Quebec, but is known throughout the entire country.

Celebrating Quebec City’s 400th anniversary in Quebec, Canada in 2008

Poutine consists of three parts: the fries, the gravy and the cheese curds. While there are many variations on this theme, the three basic elements remain the same. Vegan gravies can be either mushroom-based or onion-based. I chose a recipe with that later. The cheese curds can be veganized by making a vegan mozzarella, which is made from raw cashews.

I came across the website It’s Doesn’t Taste Like Chicken, run by a vegan Canadian. Seemed like the perfect place to get a recipe for a Canadian dish.

This was my first time trying poutine and it was absolutely delicious! I can certainly see why so many Canadians love it with it’s hearty rich flavors. I loved the vegan cheese curds (excellent recipe) and I decided to use the leftover cheese for a vegan pizza the next night. I also added some fresh thyme to the top of the poutine simply because I had some and I thought it would highlight the earthy flavors in the gravy, which it did.

Vegan Canadian poutine from It Doesn’t Taste Like Chicken

And speaking of the gravy, I found that it wasn’t thickening the way it should so after 15 minutes of stirring, so I decided to add a little corn starch which helped thicken it up a bit. Overall, what a great Canadian experience!

Chura (Tibet)

To date, my trip to Tibet was one of the most memorable! From the incredible scenery in and around the Himalayas to the people-watching in Llasa to learning about Tibetan Buddhism, my Tibetan adventure was simply unforgettable! One of my favorite culinary experiences was eating momos every chance I got!

Scenic Yamdrok Tso Lake in Tibet

The effort to make vegan Tibetan momos first involved having to do research as to what kind of cheese momos were actually made of. I remember seeing lots of food involving the meat and/or secretions of the yak, including yak meat, yak milk, yak butter, yak cheese and the traditional yak butter tea. After considerable investigation, I learned quite a lot about the momo, including its origin, how Tibetans eat them and common ingredients. As for the cheese (called chura in Tibetan), it appears that a wide variety of soft and hard cheeses can be used.

Ingredients needed for vegan parmesan from Vegan In the Freezer

I chose this recipe for the momos, except instead of artichoke hearts, I made mine with vegan parmesan and carrots, yellow squash, potato and onions. One of the fun aspects of making momos is that I finally got to use my bamboo steamer.

Rather poorly shaped vegan Tibetan momos in a bamboo steamer

After making all the ingredients and watching a video (over and over) of Tibetan women forming the momos, I quickly realized that I was not Tibetan. DNA was not going to help me with this skill at all! Although my momos did not look anything like the pictures in the recipes, I was pretty impressed for my first time. And, more importantly, the momos tasted great!

I had lots of extra cheese, so I sprinkled some of it on my salad the next day and on the top of a lasagna I made the day after. And by the way, I also came across this yummy recipe for vegan chocolate momos that I loved and highly recommend.

Vegan Queso Oaxaca (Mexico)

Although I have traveled to various parts of Mexico numerous times, I haven’t spend nearly as much time exploring this vibrant country as I would like. How do I know what I’m missing? My best friend, Erick, grew up in Mexico and has exposed me to all kinds of amazing Mexican cultures and the cuisines that go with them. Erick gifted me the cookbook from which my next recipe came: Vegan Tacos by Jason Wyrick and I decided to make Queso Oaxaca (p. 207).

Enjoying the beautiful vistas on southern coast of Islas Mujeres, just a 20 minute ferry ride from Cancun

I decided to make quesadillas from scratch with homemade queso Oaxaca (Oaxacan cheese) and homemade corn tortillas. I love a good excuse to get out my tortilla press. My Mexican meal also included ensalada de nopales (Mexican Cactus salad). And for something to wash it all down, I turned the cantaloupe I had on hand into agua de fresca garnished with fresh mint from my garden.

The recipe called for cargeenan powder, which I learned is both carcenogenic and impossible to get in my area. (To be more precise, it was found to excelerate cancer when consumed with a carcenogen.) So, I substituted xantham gum which worked just fine.

The cheese wasn’t much to look at as I found it difficult to form the ropey bands, but as soon as I added it to the fresh tortillas, the combination was phenomenal!

Quark (Germany)

I celebrated my 30th, 31st and 32nd birthdays in Berlin, Germany, where I lived for three years volunteering with Holocaust survivors and teaching English. My stay in the country afforded me the opportunity to explore various parts of Germany. Among them included Hamburg and Juist in the north, Munich and Freiburg in the south, Cologne and Bonn in the west and Leipzig and Dresden in the east. In that time, I learned about German Abendbrot. Literally translated to “evening bread”, Abendbrot is the German term for dinner. Quark (a softer version of cream cheese) made an appearance on most German tables every night and so I set out to veganize it.

Celebrating my 31st birthday in Berlin, Germany

I first tried this very interesting recipe for vegan Quark, but unfortunately it did not work for me (the milk did not curdle). Assuredly, the reason for this was that the recommended type of plant-based milk is not available in my area of the world. But, if you do have access to Alnatura Soja Drink Natur, then I highly suggest trying this recipe as I think it has the greatest chance at coming the closest in taste and texture to the original Quark.

Vegan Quark with chives: Recipe from The Simple Sprinkle

But, I tried this ridiculously simple recipe for vegan Quark instead. How simple is it? All you do, is buy plant-based yoghurt and let is strain through a cheesecloth and sieve for 8-12 hours. At this point, I added fresh chives, in part, just so I felt like I was actually “cooking”.

My vegan Abendbrot: vegan Quark, soft German bread, Gurkensalat, sliced tomatoes, gherkins and Violife cheese slices

The bread in Abendbrot is of utmost importance. The bread sold at supermarket chains is considered a joke (and called “toast bread”). And honestly, why buy crappy bread in Germany, when there is always a German bakery not far away serving delicious good quality German bread. Not close to any good German bakeries in Clearwater, Florida, I knew I had to make my own. I found a vegan German bread recipe from One Green Planet. This recipe began with fermenting the dough for 24 hours (by covering rye flour, water and yeast). I was very proud of myself when I took the bread out of the oven! It looked so good and tasted fantastic too.

My vegan Abendbrot plate

For my Abendbrot, I also made Gurkensalat (cucumber salad with dill and a vinegar dressing), sliced fresh tomatoes and gherkin pickles and laid out VioLife cheese slices. I prepared my dining room table with candles, a vase of flowers and invited my girlfriend Chrissy to partake with me.

Gjetost (Norway)

I have traveled to Norway four times, once in each season and I can confirm that there is no bad time to visit this stunningly scenic part of the world. Traveling through this Scandinavian country is like moving through a painting.

In a traditional Norwegian Bunad

One of the nice food memories I have is eating Gjetost, a Norwegian cheese that tastes like a mix of cheese and caramel. It’s often eaten for breakfast on bread and topped with jam. Rømmegrøt, a traditional Norwegian porridge also often makes it to the breakfast table and I recall enjoying this sweet hot cereal very much.

I hiked to the top of Hattebergfossen in Rosendal, Norway in 2009

The recipe that I found for vegan Gjetost (goat cheese) called for quite a number of ingredients that are hard to find in my area (maca powder, smoked Cyprus sea salt, Queen vegetable gelatin sachets etc. I had to make my own vegan dulce de leche since I could not find this product, especially using a soy milk base. Not wanting to stand over the stove for 3+ hours just to make one ingredient, I opted to make dulce de leche with a coconut milk and cream base instead. This process only took 30 minutes. Some conversion was required to calculate how many Dr. Oetker plant-based gel packs are equivalent to the Queen packets (double the number of packets if using Dr. Oetker’s product of 6.5 grams per pack).

Vegan Gjetost cooling in a springform pan

After making the vegan dulce de leche and allowing for time to cool, I began combining all the ingredients, most of which arrived to my house via Amazon delivery. After mixing all the ingredients in a blender, I transferred the watery mixture to a small pot and began heating it up on medium heat. I stirred often. Because the recipe didn’t give me an approximate time table as to how long this process might take, I simply had to guess based on the texture. A few times, I poured out some of the oily liquid that seemed to separate from the rest.

I poured the thick mixture, which easily slid out of the pan in one big lop, into a springform and tried to form it best I could with a spoon. I purchased a wired-cheese slicer just for the occasion.

Vegan Gjetost

I made the Norwegian Fjellbrød to enjoy with the Gjetost. This bread calls for sesame seeds, pumpkin seeds and flaxseeds as well as over a cup of milk. I used soy milk, but I’ll bet oat milk would be very good in this recipe because one of the ingredients is rolled oats.

This was an interesting recipe for me because it involved baking the bread for 30 minutes on a very low setting (100C/212F) and then placing a dish of boiling water underneath it in the oven. The recipe then instructs to raise the temperature to 175C/345F and bake for an additional hour.

Freshly baked vegan Fjelbrød

To be perfect honest, I didn’t care for the vegan Gjetost. Not only did the salty flavor dominate, but the other ingredients didn’t compliment each other well. And instead of being a smooth, soft cheese, the controlling texture was gelatinous. But, I was happy that I tried it. I wonder how it could be altered to make it more palatable.

Camembert (France)

One of the aspects of living in Europe that I really enjoyed was being able to explore so many countries in a short period of time. As compared to my home country of the US, which is very spread out, Europe has smaller countries that are also so well connected via train.

Enjoying Lac de Malsaucy in eastern France with friends of the Maryland Camerata during our European tour. I am the one on the far left. Circa 1995.

When I was a little girl, my father got me interested in European cheeses like Brie and Camembert. One of my favorite things to do in my 20s both before and after I moved to Berlin, was to go to buy a fresh loaf of French baguette and a wheel of cheese and go to a park and simply enjoying ripping off pieces of bread and adding hunks of cheese to it. I missed my European cheese experiences when going vegan, but of course a few minutes of pleasure was never worth rape, enslavement and the death of a baby cow (and ultimately his mother as well).

Although I only visited France twice (Paris and Belfort) each time being much briefer than I would have liked, I managed to enjoy the plethora of cheese Europe has to offer. Recalling the three years that I lived in Berlin, Germany, it was quite easy to get my hands on French cheeses, like Camembert. So, I was eager to attempt to make a vegan Camembert.

While there are many vegan camembert recipes online, this recipe was the most intriguing to me because of the aging process involved, really setting it apart from all other vegan cheese recipes. The ingenuity of this recipe was incredibly alluring, as was the overall effort and commitment it would take to complete this culinary project.

After gathering all the ingredients (some of which I had to order online) and materials (I had to buy a few 4-inch springboard pans), I was motivated to get started, knowing that I would have to remain committed for at least the next three weeks.

On Day Three the recipe instructs to place the cashew mixture into three springform containers. The plastic wrap is so the mixture does not touch the metal.

I must admit that I found the recipe challenging to follow. In my opinion, it could be better written, but I managed to piece the instructions together with the lengthy notes as well as some of the responses to comments left. Sadly, my first attempt failed. This is most likely due to the fact that I hadn’t placed the cheeses in a box in the refrigerator. It seems that temperature is extremely important in this recipe and there is not a lot of room for error.

After my first failed attempt, I was traveling so much that I simple wasn’t home long enough to try again. But, when my two week trip to Japan got canceled (due to a sudden visa requirement that I didn’t qualify for), I used the opportunity to renew my passport and to try once again to make aged vegan Camembert.

Despite carefully following the instructions again and using a cardboard box this time (because I was using a refrigerator), the outside failed to age. I think it was simply too cold in my fridge. Living in Florida means that there is nowhere in my house that would be the correct temperature for the mold to grow. If you do live in a location with degrees in the 50s, it might work.

Even though the mold didn’t grow, I decided to try the cheese anyway. I purchased some other fine cheeses made by Miyoko, Good Plant, Spero and Nuts Cheese. I added some sun-dried tomatoes and the beautyberry jam that I had made from the beautyberries in my backyard.

Out of all these amazing cheeses, the Camembert that I had made was by far the best! The ingredients had blended perfectly together and it tasted fantastic on a cracker!

I very much enjoyed my international vegan cheese project that spanned two years. I found myself reminiscing about my adventures around the world and through veganizing cheeses, I felt I was recreating some of those amazing experiences.

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