Shining a spotlight on the San Diego artisans that are setting the standards for Southern California’s best vegan cheeses
Plant-based cheese is making major strides with innovative recipes and delicious flavor. Gone are the days of rubbery, dairy-free cheese that feels like plastic with claims to melt just like the real stuff. Not only are there some great options on the shelf, but we have our own local plant-based cheesemongers whipping up artisan cheeses perfect for pizza, grilled cheese, and charcuterie board.
The market for plant-based cheese is appealing to more than just vegans and vegetarians. Those who avoid eating dairy, are lactose intolerant, have a family member who is, or simply want to try something new, will want to check out this guide too. Here’s a look at our favorite plant-based cheeses made right here in San Diego.
Incredible cashew-based brie aged for two to three weeks in three different flavors: classic, truffle, and black garlic.
O.M.G. Just wait until you taste these beautiful rounds of creamy lusciousness from founder Jules Van Dam. The cheeses are completely plant-based, and that means lactose, milk allergens, and even soy-free. Slice a wedge to adorn a cheese board or consider wrapping with a vegan puff pastry topped with jam for a baked version as these babies will melt. Jules also offers a cashew-based artichoke and ranch dip.
Founded by Amanda Zollinger and built with the desire to create a tasty cheese that is not only meltable but sliceable and grateable, Double Batch offers four kinds of cheese that are so good you might find yourself addicted. Hand-crafted with California almonds, DoubleBatch cheeses contain no lactose or artificial ingredients and come wrapped in sustainable packaging. Pepper jack, American, dill Havarti, and smoked provolone are the mainstays of the brand but they also offer seasonal specials like truffle Harvati, almond ricotta, and muenster. Sounds too good to be true? Try for yourself!
Nestled inside the popular plant-based restaurant Donna Jean is a case of exquisite vegan cheeses, each made with intention from the creative mind of chef Tony Howe. Scratch House evolved from the need for plant-based cheese to complete Donna Jean’s pizzas. Specialties include smoked gouda, shredded mozzarella, fire honey, and Fresno jack. You can purchase Scratch House Specialty Goods at Donna Jean Restaurant during regular business hours and get an order of the hot shrooms while you are there.
In addition to their grain-free crackers and tortillas, this botanical kitchen inspired by nature and founded by Gaby Castro led to products that are plant-based and gluten-, lactose-, egg-, and soy-free. With four different flavors of creamy cultured almond spread and their famous cashew-based nacho cheeze, expect full flavor and natural ingredients. They also provide some great recipes based on classic dishes like alfredo and Melanzane alla Parmigiana.
Ok, so not actually based in San Diego but they are in California. We could not skip this popular brand because their early beginnings are inspiring as they started with just four employees out of a home kitchen (much like many of our San Diego-based artisans) and have evolved into a household name in the world of plant-based dairy products. From cream cheese and artisan cheese wheels to cultured cheddar and pepper jack, you will not believe these options are dairy-free. Three words: Try their butter. It’s been debated by our team to possibly be even better than real butter.
Hero image: Jule's Food.
This article was originally published February 9, 2021 exclusively on Edible San Diego Weekly. Want to join the club? Support the region's only dedicated, local, and independently-owned food media company by signing up for a digital membership or subscription today.