To be fair vegan cheese has come a long way in the last few years. Go back to the beginning of the last decade and it was invariably really dry and rather tasteless.
Now there are some fine examples of vegan cheese from larger brands like Violife, Sheeze and Applewood as well as the burgeoning artisan vegan cheese world which is best explored via the brilliant retailer La Fauxmagerie.
But does all this new vegan cheese really taste like cheese? One person who is not convinced is Marité Cárdenas, a professor at Biofilms Research Center for Biointerfaces at Malmö University.
She believes that vegan cheese can get a lot more like the real thing, but only if the process in which it is constructed is re-thought.
“If we are going to make it from scratch, we don’t need to do it the way nature does it. Nature designed milk because it needed the milk, it didn’t need cheese! We can make it the perfect milk for cheese making. There are a lot of dairy products, which of course are produced from milk, and milk is a difficult material to mimic. So the idea is to work out how to mimic it so we can produce dairy products that are plant-based.”
Cárdenas is hoping to use her knowledge as a physical chemist to formulate milk from the plant-based proteins.
Milk is assembled from proteins which are formed in a special way. Cheese is made when bacteria or enzymes react with the proteins in such a way that curd is formed
“This process is difficult to mimic if you do not have these specific proteins, which only exist in animals,” Cárdenas told News-Medical.net.
In the same way that lab-processed meat is created with additional health-giving minerals and vitamins, Cárdenas believes that a similar process should be constructed for vegan cheese.
“We can add things in the milk which are good for the body, such as vitamins and minerals which are lacking in a vegan diet, and formulate them in such a way that they will remain in the cheese. This increases their chance to actually be absorbed in the body.”
It will be interesting to see how Cárdenas and her team progress.