December 12, 2016
Plant-based cheese that's sure to please
Miyoko Schinner creates vegan cheese to rival its dairy-based counterparts
Cheese can be a deal breaker when it comes to going all-in on a plant-based diet. The creamy flavors and complex textures can be tough for some folks to forgo.
That’s how it was for Miyoko Schinner, who at 12 years old cut meat from her diet after a couple of vegetarian friends inspired her to think deeper about what she ate. Even as a little girl, Schinner had always found food and the experience of sharing it meaningful. So she studied classic culinary techniques (braising, marinating, sautéing) and began replacing the meat in recipes with other foods like tofu and vegetables.
But the one thing Schinner especially loved was cheese. “I liked the wine and cheese experience, the pairings and parties,” she says. After converting to a plant-based diet in her 20s, she went on to own a vegan restaurant and a natural food company. “But there was always this nagging question in my mind, ‘Where is that great cheese platter? Why haven’t I developed it yet?’ ”
In the mid-2000s, she started recreating the flavors and textures in dairy cheeses that she missed. “Once I set out on a path, I get very determined,” she says. Her repertoire soon included cheddar, brie, gruyere and chèvre, made with ingredients such as nuts, nondairy yogurt, oats, nutritional yeast and butternut squash.
Fans encouraged Schinner to share her recipes. In 2012, her cookbook Artisan Vegan Cheese hit the stands to rave reviews, empowering readers to make their own plant-based cheeses. More requests from her growing fan base inspired the founding of Miyoko’s Kitchen, which sells artisan vegan cheeses online and in natural grocers. Folks wanting the convenience of premade products can buy cheeses such as double cream chive, winter truffle and rustic alpine. The company also offers a less expensive select line that includes creamy mozzarella and palm oil-free butter. Soon, it will roll out an everyday line at an even lower price point.
Schinner says that although she didn’t initially cut out eggs and dairy for ethical reasons, she’s since learned about the animal cruelty rife in those industries. “It’s made me more of an activist,” she says. In 2010, she founded Rancho Compasión, a farm sanctuary with rescued goats, chickens, ducks and other animals.
Her creamy, delicious, cruelty-free cheeses are another form of advocacy. “One of my favorite things is when someone comes up to me and says, ‘Thank you so much. Now I can give up dairy!’ ”
Low-Fat Chipotle Cheese Sauce
Makes three cups. Recipe by Miyoko Schinner.
1 cup cooked and mashed butternut squash
3/4 cup plain, unsweetened nondairy yogurt
3/4 cup water
1/2 white onion, quartered
5 tablespoons nutritional yeast flakes
1/2 cup raw cashews
3 tablespoons tapioca flour
1/2 chipotle chile in adobo sauce, plus more if desired
1 teaspoon salt
1. Place all the ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth and creamy.
2. Transfer the mixture to a medium saucepan and cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until thick and gooey, 2 to 5 minutes. If spicier cheese is desired, stir in additional minced chipotle.
3. Store in a covered container in the refrigerator.
PER SERVING (1/4 cup): Calories: 59; fat: 2 g; protein: 3 g; sodium: 182mg.