“I used to make a really killer cheese ball,” says Carolynne Kreutzer, a retired loan officer and mom of three. But after the consummate host developed lactose intolerance in the early 2000s, she decided to go vegan with encouragement from her kids, including daughter Karin Kreutzer, now senior art director for the Humane Society of the United States. Then she got to work veganizing longtime favorites—including the classic cheese ball.
For those wary of “fake” animal products, Carolynne refers to a classic ad: “Just try it, you’ll like it!”
Thankfully for today’s vegans and veg-curious, the days of suffering through jelly-like “cheese” and tasteless “burger” patties are long gone (remember the ’80s?). “The landscape of vegan food has absolutely exploded, which is so exciting and so fun,” says Alicia Bell, HSUS culinary program manager. The plethora of plant-based substitutes means there’s no reason for vegans to miss out on one of life’s greatest pleasures: making, eating and sharing purely-for-fun foods.
The cheese ball
A friend shared the original dairy-based recipe with Carolynne in the ’80s, but since veganizing the ball, it remains a fan favorite on holidays. Karin adds that it’s best when you grate a block of plant-based cheese rather than using a pre-shredded variety. After the Kreutzers passed the recipe along, friends have discovered new ways to enjoy “the ball:” One uses leftovers as a sandwich spread.
- 8 oz. shredded vegan pepper jack
- 8 oz. shredded vegan cheddar
- 8 oz. vegan cream cheese, room temperature (Tofutti preferred)
- ½ cup vegan sour cream; 1 small yellow onion, diced
- 1 heaping tablespoon horseradish
- 1 cup chopped walnuts or slivered almonds (optional)
1. Place first six ingredients in a large mixing bowl and thoroughly combine.
2. Roll into one large ball (or two small).
3. Spread nuts on a nonstick baking mat or parchment paper and carefully roll the cheese ball until covered.
4. Place the ball in a dish and serve with crackers and veggies.
Makes one extra-large ball or two medium balls.
Karin says this classic dip would’ve fit in perfectly at the Kreutzers’ card table, where “for as long as I can remember,” Carolynne held monthly games of Hearts with Karin on her lap and an abundance of “snacky things” in bowls. Other classic dips are easily veganized in the same way: Just swap out sour cream and mayonnaise for their animal-friendly counterparts.
Buffalo chicken sliders
At sports parties, these colorful buffalo “chicken” sliders are convenient to eat with one hand while holding a beer or gesticulating at the field with the other. Chicken is an easy meat to replicate with plants, and we’re betting (no pun intended) that game spectators won’t notice the difference.
The Kreutzers were the only family at the campground eating pizza from the grill instead of burgers—but for Karin, mini pizzas are a fond childhood memory and still in the family’s meal rotation today. Easily customizable, kids will enjoy making their own at sleepovers and parties—or even while camping.
“Once you start eating it, you can’t stop,” says Carolynne of party toffee, which she’s served as a holiday treat for decades. Using just a few pantry staples, it’s “easy to whip together last minute,” notes Karin. “You just have to wait for it to harden. You have to be patient. That’s the only downside!” Since veganizing the recipe, the pair have noticed that plant-based butter sticks, not tubs, work best.
The average American vegan spares an estimated 116 animals each year—and reduces their water footprint by 37% over a lifetime.
Plant-based made easy
Accidentally vegan treats
An easy way to determine whether something’s vegan is to skip to the “allergens” list and look for milk, eggs, fish or shellfish—or simply look for cholesterol in the nutrition panel: Even 1% cholesterol means it isn’t vegan. But you might be surprised by the number of ready-made products that are “accidentally vegan!”
- Arnold Bread and Cobblestone Mill baked goods (most products), Thomas’ bagels
- BelVita crunchy breakfast biscuits and Nature Valley crunchy granola bars (most flavors)
- Betty Crocker Bac-O’s bacon flavor bits
- Late July Sea Salt and Lime chips and Spicy Sweet Chili Doritos
- Most store-bought pastry and dough
- Most original flavor potato chips
- Oreos and unfrosted Pop-Tarts
- Sour Patch Kids (U.S. only), Swedish Fish and Twizzlers
- Most dark chocolate (check for dairy)