Does Vegan Cheese Melt?
For many people, cheese is a beloved food — it’s creamy, flavorful, and versatile. However, cheese is also a dairy product, which means it isn’t suitable for those who are lactose intolerant or following a vegan diet.
Fortunately, there are now a number of plant-based cheese substitutes on the market!
Since vegan cheese is completely dairy-free, you may wonder whether it will work well in dishes like vegan lasagna or vegan cheese pizza, where melted cheese is hugely important for the texture.
Does vegan cheese melt? Vegan cheese doesn’t contain casein, the animal protein that causes dairy cheese to melt, so no, most types of vegan cheese won’t melt as regular cheese does. Some types of vegan cheese have been able to replicate the melting effect, but with varying degrees of success.
In this article, let’s take a closer look at this topic to see how you can successfully use vegan cheese in your next recipe.
What Is Vegan Cheese?
Vegan cheese is a dairy-free substitute for regular cheese. Vegan cheese is often made of plant protein from soy, cashew, macadamia, or coconut oil.
Other protein-rich plants can also be used to make vegan cheese, including chickpeas, tapioca, or arrowroot, with varying tastes and textures.
To replicate the taste and texture of dairy cheese, vegan cheese is made by separating the plant proteins from their source and then mixing it with an oil and thickener.
The cheese is then fermented to break down the vegetable proteins, which helps create a flavor profile that resembles dairy cheese. As a result, vegan cheese is completely dairy-free and can be enjoyed by everyone!
In addition to being gentle on the digestive system, vegan cheese is also environmentally friendly. Because it doesn’t require cows or other animals for production, it has a lower carbon footprint than traditional dairy cheese.
So, Does Vegan Cheese Melt?
Although vegan cheese has come a long way in recent years and can now closely replicate the taste and texture of regular cheese thanks to advances in food science, unfortunately, vegan cheese doesn’t really melt.
The key difference between vegan cheese and regular cheese is that vegan cheese won’t melt. Most types of vegan cheese will become crumbly when heated and won’t melt nearly as easily as dairy cheese.
While this can be a bit of an inconvenience, there are some easy ways to work around it! For example, you can shred or slice vegan cheese before adding it to a recipe, or you can use it as a topping for dishes that don’t require melting.
Why Doesn’t Vegan Cheese Melt?
Cheese is made from milk and shares many of its key chemical components. Lactose, or the natural sugar found in milk, is present in cheese. Casein, a type of animal protein, is also an important component of cheese.
Casein plays an important role in helping the cheese to melt. When heated, casein breaks down and forms a sort of gel that allows the cheese to flow more easily.
This protein is also essential for the production of cheese, as it helps to give the cheese its characteristic texture and flavor.
Casein is actually only found in animal milk and cannot be replicated with any other plant-based protein.
As a result, it’s very difficult to get vegan cheese to melt the same way that dairy cheese does since it is made from plant-based proteins.
But as vegan cheese continues to evolve, it is likely that we will see even more close imitations of regular cheese — including products that can melt!
Can You Melt Vegan Cheese?
If you want to replicate the melted, bubbly effect of regular cheese but use vegan cheese, you can still do so.
When you use vegan cheese, the melted effect won’t be created by the cheese itself — you have to add some more ingredients to replicate the texture.
You can melt store-bought vegan cheese by adding a bit of fat to the mix (like vegan mayonnaise or olive oil), which will allow the cheese to separate and bubble when it’s heated.
Additionally, if you want to create the stretchy texture of mozzarella cheese, you can make your own vegan mozzarella at home and replicate the stretchiness using starch.
By adding starch, the vegan cheese will become stretchy when heated!
Even with these methods, the melted texture won’t be the same as regular cheese.
Since the texture is created by added fat or starch, it may feel more crumbly or chewy compared to regular cheese.
If you are adding starch to the cheese, the starch may become quite gooey as well, so make sure to use it in moderation to perfectly recreate the melted cheese texture.
Let’s take a look at each of these methods below!
How To Melt Vegan Cheese
The first method to make vegan cheese melt is by adding additional fat to the mix to create the bubbling, melted effect of the cheese.
This method works best in baked dishes like lasagna and pizza. If you need to add cheese to pasta, the vegan cheese may separate from the fat and cause the texture to become crumbly.
You will need the following:
- ½ cup of grated vegan cheese of your choice (grating the cheese will make it “melt” faster)
- 1 tbsp vegan mayo
- ½ tbsp olive oil
- A dash of salt
- 1 tbsp lemon juice (to balance the fatty taste of mayo)
Here’s what to do:
- Mix all of these ingredients together before sprinkling the mixture over your dish before baking.
- Then, bake the dish per the instructions in your recipe, and you’ll find that the cheese will be able to bubble and melt beautifully without crumbling.
How To Make Stretchy Vegan Cheese
Some recipes call for stretchy, melted mozzarella cheese, but how can you replicate the same texture in vegan cheese?
By adding starch, of course! Tapioca powder is known for its thickening properties.
By adding this additional ingredient to your vegan cheese recipe, the cheese will become stretchy, resembling the texture of melted mozzarella!
You will need the following:
- 1 cup of raw cashew nuts
- 1 tbsp nutritional yeast
- 2 tbsp lemon juice
- ¼ tsp garlic powder
- Salt, to taste
- 1–2 tbsp tapioca powder
- Water, as needed
Here’s what to do:
- Rinse the cashews, then soak them in boiling water for about 30 minutes to soften them.
- Add all of the ingredients, including the cashews and hot water, to a blender and blend well until the mixture becomes completely smooth. You definitely don’t want big chunks of nuts in your cheese!
- Pour the mixture into a non-stick pan over medium to high heat, stirring constantly. As the water boils and evaporates, the mixture will start to thicken.
- If the mixture is taking a while to become stretchy, you can add a little bit more tapioca powder to help the process. Make sure to add only a little bit at a time because tapioca powder is quite a powerful thickening agent.
- When the texture starts resembling melted mozzarella, you can remove it from the heat source. You can now use this vegan mozzarella in your favorite recipe.
- Since this mozzarella is considered cooked and melted, you should add it in the last 5–10 minutes of cooking to heat it up so that you don’t dry out the moisture in the cheese.
If you don’t use all of the stretchy vegan cheese right away, you can also store it in the fridge in an airtight container for up to a week. You can also freeze the cheese for up to a month in an airtight container.
If the cheese dries out in the fridge or freezer, you can add a few drops of water to the cheese before cooking, which will rehydrate the cheese when it’s heated.
Now that we’ve learned all about whether vegan cheese can melt, and plus how to help it get there, here are some additional questions we thought you might have.
Is vegan cheese healthy?
Many people believe that vegan cheese is healthier than dairy cheese, mainly because it contains no dairy.
This isn’t necessarily true. Depending on the type of vegan cheese you are eating, it may or may not be healthier than regular dairy cheese.
If vegan cheese is highly processed, which means it contains a lot of oil and preservatives, then it definitely can’t be healthier than regular cheese from a local cheese shop!
Fortunately, it is relatively easy to make your own vegan cheese with whole ingredients like cashew nuts — in this case, vegan cheese is definitely healthier than regular cheese.
Is vegan cheese dairy-free?
Vegan cheese is made from plant-based proteins that come from nuts and seeds, so it contains no dairy.
That means every type of vegan cheese is dairy-free and can be enjoyed by people who are lactose intolerant or vegan!
Is vegan cheese gluten-free?
Vegan cheese can be gluten-free, but not every vegan cheese is gluten-free.
Some vegan cheese can include flour, which contains gluten. If you need to be on a gluten-free diet, make sure to check the ingredients in vegan cheese to make sure that it doesn’t contain any flour.