Year after year Trader Joe’s keeps pushing the boundaries of food innovation with their vegan and gluten free products that are becoming so good that you can’t tell that they aren’t the original foods. A good example is this review of Trader Joe’s Dairy Free Cheddar Style Slices made with Cashews.
What are Trader Joe’s Dairy Free Cheddar Style Slices?
Fake cheese has been around for decades, but it wasn’t until recently that cheese makers (actually we can’t call it cheese or milk now because it doesn’t come from cows). It’s a fairly simple process to make. Just grind up the nuts, in this case, cashews, and add some water to dilute it a bit and maybe add some coloring (from natural sources, of course) and possibly some yeast extract and or “cultures” (like yogurt cultures) to give the fake cheese some real flavor so it tastes like cow’s milk cheese. That was the big change, the techniques of using cashews to make cheese and have it age and develop some nice cheesy flavors are where things have really progressed to match the real flavors of cow’s milk cheese.
Is vegan “cheese” sustainable?
One thing that people worry about is how sustainable are cashews. First, compared to cow’s milk, there is no comparison. Most cashews are harvested in the Tropics from cashew tree forests that don’t use supplemental irrigation, unlike Almonds grown in a very dry place like California using precious water from the Colorado River. For that reason alone, I would use cashews over almonds for this purpose. I doubt you could tell the difference between a fake cheese made with almonds versus Cashews.
Back to Trader Joe’s Dairy Free Cheddar Style slices
Let’s back to the
Cheddar Cheese, I mean “Dairy Free Cheddar Style Slices”. These came out a couple of years ago and with so many Trader Joe’s products, they just blend into the background on the shelf, and sometimes I never notice them until I stand and stare at the displays until something clicks in my brain. (If you see a tall guy staring at the frozen food section for too long, it’s probably me!)
How I tasted Trader Joe’s Dairy Free Cheddar Style Slices
I ate these Trader Joe’s Dairy Free Cheddar Style Slices (whew that’s long!) two different ways. I wanted to taste the raw straight out of the packaging flavor. If you’ve done any serious cheese tasting before you’ll want to let the cheese come up to room temperature first because that allows the flavors to really come out. This is what I did. I left a slice on a plate for about five minutes to let it warm up a bit. I took a bite of the slice and it kind of reminded me of the other fake cheese everyone is so fond of, Velveeta but with more flavor. Which in my mind isn’t a bad thing. I read a lot of reviews on these vegan cheese products online and a lot of people are expecting too much from them I think. They want farmhouse, cave-aged cheddar cheese with a real bite to it but I am happy with something that even resembles cheese and this is it.
The next thing I did was make a breakfast sandwich so I could melt some of the “Cheddar Style Slices” on something because we all love melted cheese more than anything else, right? It was a pretty basic sandwich, bread, egg, and fake cheese. I popped it under the broiler for a minute to get it to melt. Eating it, I couldn’t really tell that it wasn’t real cow’s milk cheese. It doesn’t have the cheddar bite that I would’ve liked, but as I said I am happy that it doesn’t suck. I guess my bar for this product is pretty low. But I think products like this just point to the way forward with less animal products in all our diets is good for everyone.
At 60 calories a slice, this is very similar to regular cheese, if a little less. But the weird thing is that these contain no protein, which you always get in cow’s milk cheese.
I am going to rate Trader Joe’s Cheddar Style Slices a solid 7 Bells!
CASHEW BASE (WATER, CASHEWS), COCONUT OIL, MODIFIED FOOD STARCH (MODIFIED POTATO STARCH, MODIFIED CORNSTARCH), POTATO STARCH, SEA SALT, NATURAL FLAVORS, NUTRITIONAL YEAST (DRIED YEAST, NIACIN (VITAMIN B3), PYRIDOXINE HYDROCHLORIDE (VITAMIN B6), THIAMINE HYDROCHLORIDE (VITAMIN B1), RIBOFLAVIN (VITAMIN B2), FOLIC ACID, VITAMIN B12), NATURAL FLAVOR, ANNATTO EXTRACT (FOR COLOR), LACTIC ACID, YEAST EXTRACT, CULTURES.
CONTAINS CASHEW, AND COCONUT.