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The Culture Team Goes Vegan

Miyoko's Kitchen vegan cheese

While researching nuts for our recent Cheese+ special issue, we were lucky enough to catch up with Miyoko Schinner, founder of Miyoko’s Kitchen. Based in Fairfax, Calif., Schinner’s company makes vegan cheeses from a base of organic cashew milk. She’s always been inspired by a love for cheese; “I’ve been a vegan for 30 years, but prior to that I was a huge stinky, luscious, unctuous cheese aficionado,” she says. “To me a glass of wine with a beautiful cheese platter was the epitome of the good life. When I went vegan, it was the thing I missed the most.”

To make these cheese-inspired disks, she cultures creamy, protein-packed cashew milk using lactic acid fermentation. “Cashews are kind of the cow’s milk equivalent in the nut world, a very neutral flavor profile,” Schinner explains.

After our interview, Miyoko’s Kitchen sent us a selection of “cultured nut products” to feature in one of our weekly cheese tastings. Here’s our feedback:

Miyoko’s vegan cheeses, clockwise from top left: Classic Double Cream Chive, Aged English Smoked Farmhouse, Country Style Herbes de Provence, Mt. Vesuvius Black Ash, French Style Winter Truffle

  1. Classic Double Cream Chive: We love the ricotta-like, spreadable texture of this addicting chive-forward round. Smells like veggie cream cheese and tastes like veggie soup—brothy and bright. Try dipping cucumbers and carrots into it, or spread it onto a bagel.
  1. Aged English Smoked Farmhouse: It’s true: this crumbly, soft vegan cheese exudes aromas reminiscent of ham. Built to please the staunchest lovers of smoked foods.
  1. Country Style Herbes de Provence: Like the ash-coated version this flavor, which is graced with a generous dusting of Herbes de Provence, gets a hit of umami for an extra savory flavor. Herbs—particularly rosemary—balance that out, resulting in a combo reminiscent of roasted meat and soup broth.
  1. Mt. Vesuvius Black Ash: This disk’s contrast between super-black ash and cream-colored paste is gorgeous and striking. All salt and bouillon on the nose, its taste yields an initial tang followed by a concentrated, salty miso flavor. We’d smear this on a sandwich.
  1. French Style Winter Truffle: Super-light in texture, this one reminds us of a fluffy mushroom pâté just waiting to be scooped up by a cracker. An earthy flavor is boosted slightly—but not overpowered—by a hit of added truffle oil.

Molly McDonough

Former Senior Editor Molly McDonough worked for cheesemakers in Switzerland and the US before earning a Master's degree in Agriculture and Food Science at the Ecole Supérieure d'Agriculture in Angers, France. After spending a year in Romania working on rural development projects with Heifer International, she returned home to Boston and joined the culture team in 2015.