“Have you heard the good news Sir?”
No, really, Veganism isn’t a religion or a cult, promise. But there is still good news to share on the vegan front! Specifically for us on the Craggy isle of Europe. You see Tesco have introduced their vegan cheese range to Ireland.
After the great success Sainsburys had with their cheese alternatives, Tesco decided to hop on the vegan bandwagon that has been sweeping across the UK (and most of the Western world really). They contracted Bute Island Foods, who are also responsible for the Sainsbury’s and Sheese range, to create their own vegan cheese line up which hit UK stores in April 2017.
Those of us in Ireland couldn’t help but feel a little left out. Irish vegans were witnessed clambering across the border to get in on all that vegan cheese goodness. But we clamber no more! With the gleeful squeal of a 6 year old we discovered an abundance of own brand vegan cheeses on the shelf in our local Tesco, finally. It was a long year and a bit!
We tested out the range as any sane person would, with the greatest cheese test of all, a vegan wine and cheeseboard night. We were quite fond (maybe a little too fond) of wine and cheese board nights before going vegan. In fact that, along with my Cadburys chocolate addiction (I kid you not) were the main reasons we didn’t go vegan sooner. The Tesco range is very similar to the Sheese brand and Sainsbury’s own brand vegan cheeses. They are coconut oil based and as they all have the same base ingredients and manufacturing process, there is a similarity to them which can get a bit boring if you’re trying to really make an experience out of it. And that is probably the one thing I missed in the cheeseboard experience, a contrast in texture and flavour that tells me “yes, this is a very different cheese altogether”. In the past we’ve solved this problem by buying cheese alternatives of different brands, for instance mixing some Violife, Nature & Moi, Little Green Leaf and Sheese products together on a board. This approach gives a better variation in cheeses.
But sadly I must add that properly matured nut cheeses are better. It is a pity that the vegan cheeses widely available are highly processed rather than being matured as dairy cheese is. You really can’t compare these alternative cheeses to artisan dairy cheese as they are more akin to cheese singles or dairylea triangles. It is particularly evident in any vegan blue cheese I have tried, which is usually completely lacking or decorated with fake mold. I find this element disappointing because the public is getting an unfair comparison between dairy cheese and vegan cheese. I have had homemade nut cheeses that are indistinguishable from high quality artisan dairy cheese, but they require a good deal of effort to make at home and can go horribly wrong if the process is not perfect. In the future I would love to see a vegan competitor produce high quality traditionally matured nut cheeses (including true blue cheese!) which are widely available and reasonably priced. I think such a progression would be a complete game changer within the cheese industry and I do think it will happen eventually.
In truth much of my excitement about this range comes not from my delight in eating it, but from what it tells me about the world, and how it is changing. Veganism used to be seen as an extreme fringe in society. Even I myself saw vegetarianism as the rational choice for an animal and people lover. Veganism seemed too alienating, too difficult, you couldn’t go anywhere and would make every situation difficult for hosts by requesting vegan food. It was reasonable to ask for vegetarian food I thought, even meat eaters could grasp your reasoning, but explaining veganism would be much less black and white, more difficult to comprehend. But the thing is all of this used to be true of vegetarianism too. It was too easy to forget that when I went vegetarian as a child, it was not common or easily understood. There was one vegetarian cheese available in Tesco, in smaller shops – none. There were less vegetarian meat alternatives, and “suitable for vegetarians” was not typically printed on food packaging, so labels had to be read. If I went to a cafe that had a vegetarian lasagne it was a lucky day, more often I was stuck with a side of chips. So for anyone who like me, has been a long term vegetarian or vegan, it is easy to see the significance of changes like this. There is now a full range of vegan cheese alternatives, available countrywide, at prices that are comparable to dairy cheese. Compare this to the one vegetarian cheese available 20 years ago at an inflated cost. Supply meets demand and clearly the demand for vegetarian and vegan products has increased dramatically in recent years. These changes I delight in not for what they are but for what they signify. That significance brings out that little girl squeal in me, and I hope you will join me in supporting societies turn towards compassion by trying some of Tescos new vegan cheeses for yourself.
Tesco Vegan Cheese Review
D steals the keyboard
Tesco Vegan Jalapeño & Chilli Cheddar
(S 8/10, D 8/10)
Very flavourful, firmness compares to mild cheddar, it does have that processed coconut oil texture characteristic of this type of vegan cheese. It has a good “cheddar” kick and is spicier than the average pepperjack, but not too spicy to handle. (Even for S)
Tesco Vegan Mature Cheddar
(S 7/10, D 5/10)
There’s an aroma from the cheese which I find decidedly unpleasant but thankfully it’s not a particularly strong smell. And unfortunately, it’s not a particularly strong cheese… Definitely not as strong as a mature cheddar. In fact, much less cheddar flavour than the Jalapeno in my opinion. And again, the texture is not like mature cheddar but more like what you’d expect from coconut oil solidified with potato starch and cornflour.
Tesco Vegan Smoked Cheese
(S 7/10, D 7/10)
It’s a good gouda substitute, but definitely wish there was a stronger smokey flavour to it.
Tesco Vegan Blue Cheese
(S 4/10, D 6/10)
Smells the part, looks the part. Flavour was a little bit of a disappointment, again very mild. It’s been a while, but I definitely think Vegusto was the superior Vegan Blue. Our 5 year old is officially the first person to take issue with our review on this particular cheese. She rates it a 10/10!
Tesco Vegan Soft Cheese
(S 10/10, D 9/10)
Here the blandness is really working in it’s favour in the best way possible. Cream cheese is meant to be very mellow and creamy and this is definitely the best dupe I’ve ever tasted. S goes so far as to declare it “indistinguishable”. Is it time for me to share my Blueberry Bagel recipe, I wonder?
Tesco Vegan Goats Cheese
(S 10/10, D 7/10)
Definitely lacking in an earthy chevre flavour. It is texturally very light and fluffy. Could definitely make for a sophisticated element in some vegan canapes. Very inoffensive. This may be marketed towards the wrong demographic altogether, because I think that there are a lot of people who do not like goat’s cheese who would like this, while goat cheese affictionados I think will unanimously agree that this is coming up short in flavour.
Tesco Vegan Grated Mozzarella Cheese
(S 8/10, D 8/10)
While it is not stringy, it does melt nicely. 16 minutes in our oven (at it’s hottest setting) was just right to give us a golden brown crust and a melted cheese with a crisped edge. This one melts white and stays white which gave us an attractive pizza. And it passed the taste test, instantly earning the top spot for our preferred vegan pizza cheese, beating out both Violife and Follow Your Heart. This is a cheese you’ll buy for melting, and only for melting. Melted, it has a nice buttery flavour.
Tesco Vegan Italian Style Hard Cheese
(S 6/10, D 5/10)
In fairness to this Parmesan dupe, no one makes pizza with only parmesan. I will definitely pick up another bag and try it out in some more typical scenarios, like sprinkling over pasta, or swap it for the Nutritional Yeast in Our Pesto Recipe. But I really wanted to put these two cheeses to the test and see what their limits are. The Tesco Italian Style Hard Cheese all but disappears when it melts, leaving only the flavour (and the flavour was not quite what I was hoping for). More tasting is needed but from what I have seen and tasted I think Violife bests Tesco on the Parmesan front.
Trial by Pizza
I made 3 pizzas, identical except in their application of cheese.
- Mozzarella Pizza
- Parmesan Pizza
- Mixed Pizza (both cheeses on the one pizza)
S declares that while neither cheese taste like your typical pizza cheese, they both tasted good. And we were both delighted to find that they do not “stick to your teeth” the way every other vegan cheese we’ve tested out on pizzas has.
I fully expected to prefer the pizza with the two cheeses melted together, and in fact S did prefer it. What surprised me is I didn’t really feel like the “Italian Hard Style” really brought anything to the table on the Mixed Cheese Pizza. I actually narrowly preferred the Mozzarella Pizza over it, although I think that is only because the Mixed Cheese Pizza had less of the Mozzarella on it. If I had the taken a slice of the Mozzarella Pizza and sprinkled a touch of the Parmesan on top, that probably would have been the ticket.