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What Is Dairy-Free Cream Cheese?

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  • Written By: C.B. Fox
  • Edited By: Susan Barwick
  • Last Modified Date: 25 November 2016
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Dairy-free cream cheese, which is usually eaten by vegans or people who cannot digest dairy products, can be made from a variety of different ingredients. This type of imitation cheese is made from an oil, a protein, binders, and flavorings that help it look, feel, and taste like real cream cheese, which is one of the simplest types of cheese to mimic. In order to mimic the flavor of real cream cheese, which is mild, slightly sweet and slightly tangy acids are added to make it sour and sugars to make it sweet. The texture can be recreated by blending the ingredients together thoroughly and then adding gums and binders to make the mixture very thick.

A mixture of oil and protein is the base for dairy-free cream cheese. People making this type of imitation cheese at home will often use nuts, especially cashews, because they provide a good mixture of oil and protein and also have a mild flavor reminiscent of cream cheese. Commercially made dairy-free cream cheese will usually blend palm, soy, or coconut oil with soy protein powder or tofu. Whatever oil and protein a person uses, these ingredients must be blended together until they are very creamy.

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Real cream cheese is slightly sour in flavor. The sourness is a result of the presence of lactic acid, which is waste product that is released into the cheese as certain species of bacteria consume lactose. Commercially made dairy-free cream cheese will often use non-dairy lactic acid to sour imitation cream cheese. In order to create non-dairy lactic acid, these same types of bacteria need to feed on lactose from a non-dairy source. Homemade non-dairy cream cheese usually makes use of citric acid, such as lemon juice, instead of lactic acid because citric acid is easier to find.

The natural sweetness of real cream cheese also needs to be recreated when making dairy-free cream cheese. Many recipes simply use a small amount of sugar in order to make the oils and proteins in the artificial cream cheese sweet. Artificial cream cheese recipes that use nuts as the base for the cheese do not usually require the addition of any sugar because the nuts used have enough natural sugar in them to sweeten the cheese slightly.

Mimicking the texture of cream cheese is the hardest part of making dairy-free cream cheese. In order to get the texture right, corn starch is usually used to bind the ingredients together. Gums are also added to imitation cream cheese to make the mixture soft, yet slightly chewy. Getting the proportions of the ingredients right is key in recreating the texture of cream cheese.

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Melonlity
Post 2

@Terrificli -- that's good to hear and it's not terribly surprising. After all, companies used to treat dairy free products as an afterthought rather than lucrative product lines.

Those times have changed and companies have invested more into developing dairy free items that are of much higher quality than they used to be. Of course, dairy free cream cheese has always been fairly easy to make but it has improved along with other products in the "dairy free" category.

Terrificli
Post 1

If you've tried a dairy-free cream cheese and hated it, you might want to give it another try. Technology and techniques have improved over the years and dairy-free products taste a lot better than they once did. Indeed, there are a lot of dairy-free cheeses that taste incredibly close to the real thing. Believe it.

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