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Indulgent, creamy, and beautifully versatile, dairy-free alternatives to cream cheese have now been made accessible to the masses thanks to a few ingenious vegan cream cheese brands. Hoorah! Join us as we delve into the delights of plant-based cream cheese: namely what ingredients it’s usually made of, what’s the best vegan cream cheese on the market, as well as useful suggestions for creative ways to use the heavenly stuff!
So… what is vegan cream cheese?
Remember the unctuous lick creaminess you’d find on a Christmas blini? Well, that’s cream cheese alright. We’re sure you’d agree that dairy has had quite enough time in the limelight, it’s time for the post-milk generation to charge forth! That’s why we reckon it’s time to give non-dairy cream cheese its well deserved five minutes of fame.
You’ve got it, vegan cream cheese is made of plant-based ingredients only. This means no milk or any other animal products. It follows that all vegan cream cheeses are lactose-free and generally tend to be gluten-free, although always check the packaging if you have allergies or intolerences. Soft, spreadable, creamy and perfect on toast or crackers, dairy-free cream cheese is a killer addition to your fridge at home.
How vegan cream cheese is different from normal cream cheese
Aside from containing no animal products, vegan cream cheese is not all that different from regular cream cheese that you’d find in the supermarket. In fact, the top vegan cream cheese brands have done a stellar job of simulating a pretty authentic cream cheese experience with the texture and flavours out there. However, due to the fact that non-dairy cream cheese spread, well, doesn’t contain dairy, it tends to be lower in fat and cholesterol content than its dairy counterparts. It’s a pretty good reason to buy vegan cream cheese!
For example, the popular dairy cream cheese brand Philadelphia contains 35g of fat per 100g, whereas Bute Island’s Original Creamy Sheese (dairy-free cream cheese) contains a lower 24.1g of fat per 100g. Similarly, Violife’s Creamy Cheddar Flavour Spread contains 24.5g of fat per 100g, again lower than the dairy option. Additionally, dairy Philadelphia contains 101.5mg of cholesterol in 100g, whereas Violife and Sheese are both completely cholesterol-free. We know what we’d rather choose…
How vegan cream cheese is made
Vegan cream cheese brands use broadly similar ingredients to deliver their top-notch non-dairy cream cheese spread to the masses. For example, Bute Island’s Creamy Sheese Spread in all its titillating varieties is based on a foundation of coconut oil, soya, tapioca starch, and potato starch. Similarly, Violife’s Creamy Cheddar Flavour Spread is comprised of coconut oil, starch, and olive extract.
Some vegan cream cheese brands use a base of nut milk to work from as opposed to coconut oil. Nush is an expert in whipping up deliciously rich and creamy dairy-free alternatives to cream cheese from almond milk. Take their Nush Almond Chive Cream Cheese - made from 93% almond milk, but also texturised with potato starch and carob gum. Yum! If you’re chomping at the bit to know more about how vegan cheese is made, check out our blog post The Perfect Guide To Vegan Cheeses for greater detail!
Top vegan cream cheese brands to try
So then, who is the creme de la creme of the vegan cream cheese brands? We’ve got a couple of PlantX favourites to share with you.
You can’t say you’ve tried plant-based cream cheese if you haven’t dipped into Bute Island’s Creamy Sheese selection. Coming in a glorious range of flavours, this solid dairy-free alternative to cream cheese is smooth, rich, flavoursome and made in Bute Island’s legendary vegan creamery. Flavour variations include Garlic & Herb, Chives, Cheddar Style, and Original Creamy.
Another fail-safe option if you’re looking for a non-dairy cream cheese spread is pretty much any offering from Violife. We particularly love this Violife Creamy Garlic & Herb Spread, it’s an excellent lactose and gluten-free cream cheese that is packed with flavour and added vitamin B12! Violife also boasts a Creamy Cheddar Flavour Spread as well as a Creamy Original Spread if you’re after something simpler.
Tasty ways to use vegan cream cheese
Obviously, dairy-free cream cheese is at home on a cracker, humble slice of toast, or vegan blini, we all know that. We like to add a dash of quality dijon mustard like this one from Biona Organic or maybe even a blob of Bonsan’s Organic Vegan Hot & Fiery Chilli Sauce to our vegan cream cheese if we’re feeling daring. But how about we think outside the box on this one?
One fantastic way to use plant-based cream cheese is as the basis of a pasta sauce. If you’ve been trying to achieve that sumptuous richness that can be readily found in a bog-standard dairy carbonara, you’ve found the missing piece with vegan cream cheese! Here’s how to do it:
Vegan cream cheese carbonara
- Fry your favourite vegan bacon with some oil on medium heat
- When it’s halfway on its journey to crispy, add 1 chopped onion to the pan and let it caramelize
- Once the vegan bacon is crispy and the onion is mostly cooked, add a few roughly chopped cloves of garlic and a teaspoon of smoked paprika
- Add your pasta of choice to boiling salted water and cook for the recommended time
- Once your pasta is cooked and drained, mix the contents of the pan into the pasta as well as a generous dollop of vegan cream cheese according to how much sauce you like on your carbonara!
- Add plenty of fresh cracked black pepper and some torn sundried tomatoes, and voila!
Not confined to savoury foods, dairy-free cream cheese is also a fantastic addition to cake icing, whether it be the traditional carrot cake, or atop some salted caramel vegan brownies!
Frequently asked questions
What are the different ways to use vegan cream cheese?
We’ve already covered vegan cream cheese on crackers, toast, and blinis, as well as stirred it into pasta to make a comforting creamy sauce, but vegan cream cheese is not just confined to savoury food!
Dairy-free cream cheese is also a fantastic addition to cake icing, whether it be the traditional carrot cake, or atop some salted caramel vegan brownies! We’d also advise adding a dollop of non-dairy cream cheese spread to your brownies before they go in the oven, as the vegan cream cheese bakes into a soft river of creaminess in your sweet brownies. Highly recommend.
Vegan cream cheese is also brilliant for vegan cheesecakes. Try a crushed bourbon biscuit base, melted dark chocolate swirled into your plant-based cream cheese, a touch of agave syrup, a sprinkling of desiccated coconut, a few hours in the fridge, and bob’s your uncle!
What are the different flavours of vegan cream cheese available in the market?
Chive, Garlic & Herb, Original Creamy and Cheddar Cheese are the most common flavours of vegan cream cheese out there today. If you’re looking to funk up your plant-based cream cheese, you can add any manner of flavouring to it yourself!
Chilli sauce and mustard are die-hard favourites, but how about a smokey chipotle sauce, or a sharp dash of lime juice? You can even use vegan cream cheese as an alternative for yoghurt, and whip up a rich tzatziki with raw garlic and cubed cucumber. The world’s your oyster.
How many calories are in vegan cream cheese?
We’re going to level with you, vegan cream cheese is not a low-calorie food by any stretch of the imagination. This is due to the fact that plant-based cream cheeses are generally made from ingredients such as coconut and nuts that tend to be high in fats. Fat doesn’t necessarily mean bad, as we need healthy fats for our bodies to function properly. Foods like nuts and coconut provide us with these healthy fats along with beneficial minerals and proteins.
If you want the figures, Bute Island’s Creamy Cheese Spread Original has 253kcal per 100g, whilst Nush’s Natural Almond Cream Cheese Style Spread has a slightly lower calorie count of 215kcal per 100g, and Violife’s Creamy Original Spread comes in lower still with 210kcal per 100g.
How long does vegan cream cheese last?
Once opened, your vegan cream cheese should last up to 2 weeks if kept in the fridge, however, it’s always best to check the exact packaging of the product that you’ve got. Different plant-based cream cheeses will have different expiry lengths depending on the ingredients that they are made from. Non-dairy cream cheese spread is also safe to put in the freezer if you’re reaching the expiry date and need to buy yourself some time! The texture may not be exactly the same as before once you’ve defrosted the vegan cream cheese, but it’s better than food waste!