I’m going to be honest: when I transitioned to veganism, dairy was the last -- and hardest -- thing I gave up. First of all, it’s everywhere: eggs and milk are in a lot of breads, crusts, and pastries. Casein (the main protein in milk and coagulated cheese) and whey (the watery part of milk that remains post-curding) are hidden in tons of processed and prepackaged food. Cheese itself is a staple in many vegetarian dishes, especially when going out to eat.
I knew that I wasn’t comfortable consuming dairy on an ethical level, and I was starting to realize my body wasn’t reacting well to it on a physical level, either. When I ate dairy, I felt bloated, sluggish, and almost always woke up with a few new pimples. In spite of this, I kept slipping from my vegan lifestyle and eating cheese products, especially at restaurants or when I was craving some comfort food.
Now it’s been a few years, and I no longer slip for dairy. In this time I’ve tried a lot of faux dairy products and I want to share the best, cheesiest products (and recipes!) with all of you. I tried to choose recipes that don’t require a ton of time in the kitchen and are meat-eater friendly (because sometimes you simply can’t jive with another veggie and brown rice stir fry).
Zesty Chipotle Quesadillas
Follow Your Heart Chipotle Vegenaise Spread
Follow Your Heart Gourmet Fiesta Shreds
Follow Your Heart Sour Cream
Flour tortillas (or corn, if you dig ‘em like that)
Black beans (we seasoned ours with goya, onions, cayenne, and garlic)
Avocados (or guacamole, for which I recommend this recipe)
Salsa (we made our own using this simple recipe)
We have a quesadilla maker, so this was really foolproof. We made a few on the skillet to test the meltiness of the cheese, and we found that placing a lid over the pan helped the cheese melt faster. The shreds melt really well and have a nice kick to them on their own, but the creaminess of the Chipotle spread absolutely cinches these quesadillas by giving them a smoky, spicy taste. The sour cream is a winner, too, because the flavor is nuanced and rich. The texture is a little more runny than dairy based sour cream, but I think it worked well to balance the crispiness of the tortillas.
Grilled Chicken and Cheese Panini
2 slices Follow Your Heart Provolone
2 slices Follow Your Heart American
Follow Your Heart Chipotle Vegenaise Spread
2 slices Italian Bread
1-2 tbs Earth Balance Buttery Spread
I wanted a firm and wide bread because I knew I’d go pretty heaving with the toppings, so fresh Italian was the perfect choice for me, but I could see this working well on a thick slice of rye or multigrain, too. To prepare the Beyond Meat, I fried it lightly in a skillet with some Earth Balance buttery spread (you could also use EVOO), which gave it a nice crispy texture.
After I buttered the bread, I spread a hearty portion of the Chipotle spread on one half of the sandwich, and melted two slices each of the FYH Provolone and American on the other side. I pressed the whole thing in our quesadilla maker (rotating it a few times to cook it evenly) but you could make it on a skillet, in which case I suggest using a lid to help the cheese melt and bit of Earth Balance in the pan.
The thickness of the Beyond Meat helped balance the creaminess of the melted cheese, and again, the Chipotle provided a really nice kick of flavor and aftertaste. If you want to make the recipe a little healthier, you could definitely add some vegetables: in a later trial, I added sliced heirloom tomatoes, baby spinach, and grilled onions.
Buffalo Wings and Ranch Dip
Ingredients for dip:
1 ½ cups Follow Your Heart sour cream
2 tbs parsley, chopped
2 tbs chives, chopped
1 tbs onion powder
1 tbs garlic powder
Splashes of dairy-free milk as needed (thins out the dip)
Ingredients for wings:
1 large head of cauliflower
½ cup flour
½ cup of water
½ cup of Sriracha (or hot sauce of your choice)
1-2 tbs of Earth Balance buttery spread, melted
garlic powder, onion powder, and salt, to taste
This is the easiest thing, ever. Mix all the dip ingredients together very well and let chill for 2-3 hours (don’t freeze!). Devour. Alternative (but also simple) recipe is to substitute the sour cream with about ½ cup of vegan mayonnaise (I’m a fan of the Grapeseed Oil Vegenaise from Follow Your Heart) and about a ¼ cup unsweetened almond or cashew milk (tip: nut-based milks tend to be creamier than soy milk).
Making the wings is a little more work, though still pretty simple. I followed this recipe and made some substitutions based on what I had on hand, and still found them delicious. As a heads up, I recommend only using fresh cauliflower because I’ve tried this a few times with frozen cauliflower and it ended up a soggy mess each time. I’ve also been playing around with a recipe with shredded cauliflower to make a buffalo cauliflower dip, but I haven’t found quite the right ratio yet, so if anyone has suggestions, let me know!
What do you all think? Are you sold on dairy-free cooking? What are some of your favorite plant-based meals or products?