Fake cheese that’ll make vegans swoon

Some can’t contain their excitement about a new, meltable (invented in Canada!) cheese alternative

Photograph by Liz Sullivan

Oprah tried it. Ellen talked it up. Alex Jamieson, wife of Super Size Me’s Morgan Spurlock, calls it “crack for vegans.” Daiya (pronounced day-a) is a new non-dairy cheese alternative that’s causing such a sensation that one vegan blogger in L.A. described it as “the sort of stuff that’s going to start a revolution.” For vegans who don’t eat dairy but grew up loving grilled cheese and gooey mozzarella on pizza, cheese is often the thing they crave most on their dairy-forbidden diets. “The cheese flavour is dead-on, and even more remarkably, Daiya melts like real cheese. No joke. It melts and stretches and actually makes you want to eat it,” writes the L.A. blogger at toliveandeatinla.com.

“It’s revolutionary in that now people can have pizza and mac and cheese,” writes Kishari Sing on her blog The Food Allergy Queen. When Sing taste-tested Daiya, she declared it “delicious,” then listed its ingredients: no dairy, no soy, no eggs, no nuts, no gluten, no casein, no wheat, no barley, none of the usual allergy suspects. Tapioca and water are the top ingredients. Everything else is plant-based. The company claims Daiya contains 33 per cent less fat than regular cheddar cheese. “It’s probably the best vegan cheese substitute out there,” Sing told Maclean’s. “Mostly because the previous versions have all been so hideous!”

Toronto filmmaker Anthony Grani’s search for the best vegan cheese began four years ago when he fined-tuned his vegetarian diet to vegan. He even launched a blog called Vegan Cheese Reviews: The Ongoing Search for the Best Vegan Cheese. “Really, anything my wife and I saw we’d buy. Nothing tasted right. Nothing melted right. The first time we’d try something new, we’d try to convince ourselves it was good. Then you’d try it again for the second meal and it was, ‘You know what? No. This is terrible.’ ”

Grani read in a magazine called VegNews that Daiya had been named 2009 vegetarian product of the year at a huge trade show in California. “I was like, ‘How did I miss this? I have to find this.’ ” Not only that but the inventors were Canadian. “I thought, ‘It’s weird that it’s so hard to get here.’ ” When he began looking, “it was only in stores in the States. It looked like it was going to be a giant pain to get it across the border.”

Then Grani and his wife read on the Daiya website that it was available in a little health food store in Watkins Glen, N.Y. In November 2009, Grani and his wife made the five-hour trip, “and the first thing we did before we checked into the B & B, we went straight [there] and bought out their supply of Daiya. We bought five pounds of cheddar and five pounds of the white.”

Back in Canada, Grani titled his next post “The Game Changer,” telling readers, “I’m not sure how many of you have tried to shred other brands of vegan cheese, but if you have, you’ve surely experienced the wet slimy mess that is the usual result. Not Daiya. For a long-time vegan just wanting to have a pizza that tastes like it has cheap, melty mozzarella, or a grilled cheese sandwich with bright orange cheddar like from your childhood, then Daiya is like manna from heaven.” In a later conversation with Maclean’s, Grani still can’t contain his enthusiasm: “You know those bags of pre-shredded Kraft nacho cheese? That’s the hit it gives. I hesitate to use the word umami because I don’t want to come off like a pretentious jerk, but it’s got that warm-your-heart, hard-to-explain flavour.”

As it turns out, the Canadian inventors are two vegan Vancouverites, Greg Blake and Andre Kroecher. In the U.S., Daiya is widely available for retail sale in half-pound bags. Blake explains why it’s so hard to find here: “There were label considerations in Canada. We’re not allowed to say the word cheese. We can’t say alternative cheese. We can’t say vegan cheese. I’ve been meaning to learn the whole story but I’ve been too busy making fake cheese,” he laughs.

On April 23, 34-year-old Ottawa civil servant Jennifer Whiteland was excited to be trying Daiya for the first time. She’d read about it but, “I had no idea it was Canadian. You can’t find it here.” But then Whiteland’s friend, Jill of The Vegan Backpacker blog, found it for her at Panacea, a health food store in Toronto that’s started buying Daiya in bulk, and repackaging it without the company’s official label.

Blake promises retail is coming “soon” to Canada. He’s sorry he can’t be more specific. Everyone wants to know. They’re inundated with calls. “I was trying to find out from our VP in marketing sales but he’s not answering his damn phone. I can’t blame him.”




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Fake cheese that’ll make vegans swoon

  1. Well, this is good news for those making the transition from an omnivorous to plants based diet.
    Having undergone the change myself some 14 years age, cheese and sardines were the last to go.
    Now I do not want anything that resembles the old diet in any way, cheese included.
    For me the whole idea was to eliminate the cravings that were associated with eating anything derived from an animal.
    A year ago, I began a further transition to raw vegan and am enjoying surprising health benefits, such as improved mental acuity, weight loss, enriched sleep and loss of yearnings for sweets.

    • Doesn't it worry you that that there has NEVER been a successful multi-generational vegetarian population on earth? Doesn't it also worry you that your ancestors ate meat for millions of years? I get the whole animal cruelty argument but if you are meant to eat meat — don't be surprised when your body reacts to the missing nutritional requirements…

      • India has been vegetarian (a HUGE portion of the population as well) for CENTURIES

      • Ignorance at its best.

      • LOL take a multi-vitamin…good grief. I’ve been vegan for 2 years and have never felt healthier… ps. peer into my medical files, it will also show I’m healthier. Blood levels are where they should be and OMG!!!! My cholesterol is amazingly lower. :p

      • As mentioned by Foodie99 India who has a population of 1 billion plus, has a large portion who are vegetarian. Certain animals themselves only eat plants, and have been alive longer than humans. So what are you talking about? You make it seem that humanity cannot survive on a vegetation diet. If man can walk on the moon, man can survive on a vegetation diet. It comes as no surprise that you are called “Basic man”.

  2. Don't tease us with "a health food store in Toronto"!!! Where is it?!!! We need a name, please!!!

    • Of crap, it's there in the article! Thanks!!!

    • The Big Carrot has it!

  3. You can also buy it in 5 lb bags at Karmavore out here on the West Coast (in New Westminster, just outside Vancouver).http://www.karmavore.ca

    It's fantastic. It fools all my non-vegan friends when I use it!

  4. love it! we are not vegans, but we're wheat and dairy free. we had no alternatives that did not have casien in them until daiya! Grilled cheese is so good with Daiya! At Karmavore (mentioned above) you can buy the "cheddar" or italian.. which i haven't tried yet!
    Crazy about the labeling problems here in canada.. i wondered why some of the other products said "cheddar style loaf"

  5. This stuff is the ultimate. I think the nice folks at Panacea must be annoyed with me because I buy an awful lot of this stuff.

    I think Mr. Grani nailed it when calling it a game changer – I've run into many vegetarians who have said they couldn't go vegan because they'd miss cheese to much. That will no longer be the case once Daiya is more widely available – especially in Canada!

    • There are more than health issues at stake when avoiding dairy. Get a clue!

    • It’s really more of an animal protein issue for a lot of people. I love meat and milk and grew up on a farm that produced both , but there are too many pitfalls in a animal heavy diet to ignore. I refuse to give up cheese altogether but having a substitute is comforting.

  6. I bought some of this for a group of kids who I was making pizza with. Most of the kids are dairy-free and have a lot of experience with non-dairy cheeses. Unfortunately, the Daiya didn't melt for us. And the kids didn't like the taste. So, thumbs down from my group of kids, unfortunately.

    • That's odd I use it for Pizza, lasagna, whatever and it melts and tastes wonderful

  7. I've tried Daiya, and it has been a real treat in my vegan diet. It melts and stretches like cheese. My husband who wouldn't eat any of the "fake" cheeses loves Daiya (perhaps more than I do). We've made pizza, lasagne, nachos, grilled cheese, and it has been amazing. I get my 5 lb bags from karmavore in Vancouver and freeze it. It's brilliant.

  8. Love Daiya! I get it at Karmavore too. Love that place! They have all kinds of goodies for vegans. A vegan wonderland.

  9. I really appreciate Daiya trying, and I'm glad that many people seem to like it, but I think it's terrible. I do agree that it melts quite well, but the taste is horrendous and nothing like regular cheese:/. I miss cheese, but veganism is completely worth it. Hopefully the recipe will continue to improve and other companies will try making vegan cheese!

  10. Lauren – Totally agree with you. I tried it on pizza and it was terrible. It made me want to bag trying to eat anything cheeselike. So next time, I'll just have a tomato pie.

  11. Just because it really bothered me, I must clear up that you do NOT make grilled cheese with cheddar. Trust me, I’ve tried it and cheddar is way too high in fat, it doesn’t melt quite right, and it tastes pretty bad on the sandwhich to boot. American cheese is the only real way to make grilled cheese. The guy who said cheddar is retarded.

    • I like cheddar on grilled cheese : (

    • There's no such thing as "American Cheese" – it's a crap made up name for crappy cheese

    • WHAT cheddar cheese is the BEST grilled cheese cheese…. And I have had quite a few grilled cheeses in my time!!

  12. You can get it at The Big Carrot!! 348 Danforth Avenue Toronto

  13. Hey Jessica: Some of the best grilled cheese sandwiches I've ever had were made with cheddar. If you're ever in Kingston, Ontario, stop by Chez Piggy for lunch and try theirs. Takes the grilled cheese sandwich to a whole new level.

    • Hey, I found a fellow Kingstonian! Unfortunately I can't try the grilled cheese as it is not vegan, but it's nice that you put that out there!

      J

  14. As a huge lover of cheese (literally the only thing keeping me vegetarian and not vegan) this is awesome news. Can't wait to try it out!

  15. consuming that fake cheese , to me , iz like eating a veggie burger or tofurkey. in the sense that, all i can think about iz "who the hell am i trying to fool?" if you are truly vegan, why eat something that remindz you of feasting on flesh or devouring dairy? if you love that shit so freakin' much, stop denying yourself and eat a cheese steak already, you poserz . unless of course you are lactose intolerant and love ingesting coagulated cow juice. mmmmmmmm. not!!

  16. Reading this article has given me a real hankering for foie gras.

  17. For a food product to have 'cheese' on the label it has to contain the same nutrient content (%fat, protein, calcium, etc.) as cheese products regulated by Health Canadat. I wonder if they'd get away with calling it "Vegan Cheeze"

  18. Call it whatever you want!
    Just put your brand on there somewhere and sell it! I want to try this stuff out!

    PS- I think Cheeze or Cheez would be perfect.

  19. Thank you for the article! Good to know!! :D

  20. Our daughter can't have any dairy and really misses her cheese. She lives in Gravenhurst Ont. and we live in Madoc Ont. Is there any place around either of these place that we can get daiya cheese?

  21. This sounds great. I would love to see the full list of ingredients — and try it for myself — before making a judgement on it but I can say this: Vegan or Meat eater: stop consuming dairy products. If this product helps – great!

  22. I just had two grilled cheese two because it is so tasty
    I've been dairy free because of casein allergies for three years and soy free (except for miso) for one year
    I am excited to have found this product – all the other faux cheeses have soy and the one without casein tastes terrible
    This cheese is wonderful – high fat content but if you're already on a vegan diet you're not getting a lot of fat anyway right?
    Thank you Daiya

  23. http://daiyafoods.com/
    it has nutritional information, recipies, the ingredients.. pretty much everything you want.

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