Last month I started hearing of this new cheese-substitute that was not only vegan, but also free of casein (which is the protein in dairy that I cannot digest) AND soy AND all the other primary food allergens. I did some quick research and discovered that yes, it did exist and the reviews were excellent...one blogger claimed that it would turn the vegan community on its collective head! Well, I'm not vegan, but when it comes to everything but meat, I might as well be, so I got excited. REALLY excited. Then I learned there was a vegan convenience store here in Portland (unsurprising) who had gotten their first shipment in of Daiya Vegan Cheese. Garen swung by while shopping for bike parts and because he loves me a lot, bought the last bag of mozzarella style shreds. Thankfully he didn't have to hurt any vegans in the process. When he brought it home, I immediately thought...PIZZA!
A few days passed and I hadn't yet felt like making pizza, but I found the Daiya Cheddar Shreds at Whole Foods when I stopped in for my bi-monthly Earth Balance purchase. They also had some of the new So Delicious Coconut yogurt in flavors that Fred Meyer's didn't carry and of course I had to grab some Original Tings on my way out; I honestly only meant to get one thing, but it's kind of nice to have so many more options now.
The cheddar shreds didn't last long, in fact the next night for dinner I made myself the BEST mac 'n cheese I've had in a long long time. What made it even better was that I didn't have to worry about getting sick from eating it! Aside from the psychological factor, the Daiya cheddar really did come amazingly close to mimicking real cheese: it melted beautifully without having to be microwaved, it was both gooey and stringy, it tasted fabulous (not like a sharp cheddar, but more of a mix between cheddar, colby and American), it reheated great, and it went on my favorite products list after just one use. When I showed the leftover mac 'n cheese to Garen, he agreed that it looked just like real mac 'n cheese.
While very sad to see the last of the mac 'n cheese, I consoled myself with the fact that I still had the mozzarella shreds to try. This weekend we had both kids, so it seemed to be a good opportunity to try making a pizza with the Daiya cheese while simultaneously resisting the siren call of regular pizza (a hitherto impossible feat).
After preparing the crust, and adding sauce, I sprinkled a light layer of cheese that did end up melting with absolute perfection. The toppings went on next and since the pizza was a Chicago-style, they were super chunky and thick, plus the entire thing needed to bake for 20 minutes. If I had read the website more carefully, I would have seen that it would have been best to add the top layer of cheese half-way through cooking to avoid over-browning. Instead, I layered on the cheese very thickly and baked the pizza for the full 20 minutes, which resulted in a rather un-cheese like top crust. Fortunately, it still tasted great and since I'd layered it on so thick, most of it was just as melty and stringy as the bottom layer. Even Garen and the kids thought it was good! This may make it possible for us to completely stop buying regular pizza. Amazing.
While I'm not sure about Daiya turning the vegan community on its head, I do know that it has added some joy back into my life with its dairy-free deliciousness. I am absolutely certain that this product will continue to grow in popularity and if I had some extra cash, I'd be buying their stock! I give it five stars and it's going on my list of regular Whole Foods purchases. Hopefully they come out with slices and other flavors SOON!
Item Name: Daiya Cheddar-Style and Mozzarella-Style Shreds
Company Name: Daiya Foods Inc.
Retail Price: approx $5.50 per 8 oz bag
Pros: taste, texture, overall cheesiness
Cons: unit cost, flavor options