When Daiya (pronounced day-a) vegan cheese first arrived in the non-dairy section of our local Whole Foods it seemed a bit odd because it was sold in the containers usually reserved for Whole Foods’ own prepared foods – hand packed and sold by individual weight. This didn’t seem like an ideal retail distribution strategy to me. Last week, Daiya started appearing in actual retail packaging, signaling a broader distribution of the product, which can only mean good things for vegans who still want a little melty cheesy goodness in their lives.
(Photo borrowed from Vegansaurus)
I first heard about Daiya from the Quarry Girl blog and was intrigued.
Not only was it vegan, but it was also:
* Cholesterol free
* Trans Fat free
* Dairy free
* Free of all animal products (Vegan)
* Free of common allergens including: Soy, Casein, Lactose, Gluten, Egg, Wheat, Barley, Whey, Rice, and Nuts
* Free of Artificial Ingredients
* Free of Preservatives
* Free of Hormones & Antibiotics
It seemed like the miracle vegan cheese. Kicking cheese was the hardest part of going vegan for me. I’ve tried other vegan cheese but they either had the texture of plastic, or wouldn’t melt. My palate may have changed enough that I wouldn’t like real cheese now at all, but Daiya fills a major gap in my diet.
First we tried the mozzarella style white cheese, which was perfect for pizza and my Italian noodle casserole (which my family calls goulash but couldn’t be farther from it – it’s more like hamburger helper). After one of my husband’s homemade pizza pies I was sold. It melted so well, and even browned on the edges and bubbled up appropriately.
Then the cheddar style started showing up. Our immediate thought of where to put Daiya cheddar was tacos. Taco night is a big thing in my house. We had tried other vegan cheddars but we were very “meh” about them. With Daiya, our tacos had an added dimension of yum. All of the sudden my mind started opening up to all the things I used to make with cheddar cheese. Cheese crisps, grilled cheeses, quesadillas, enchiladas, chili, bagels with cheese, nachos… and made them all in like, one week. Daiya overload!
Yes, it really melts:
Then came the true test for Daiya cheddar: mac and cheese. Daiya not only passed, it was exceptionally good. Okay, maybe not quite as good as Velveeta (my family’s cheese of choice when I was growing up), but for a person who lived on mac and cheese throughout the majority of her life, it was revolutionary.
I’m hoping that with Daiya’s new retail distribution, more grocery stores and local restaurants will start carrying it. I think Green offers it as an option for their food. zpizza makes its Berkeley Vegan pies with it, but we think they need to refine the prep a bit. They tend to put too much on and not cook it enough, so we usually bring the pie home and cook it a little more in our oven to get it to the right texture. Amy’s Kitchen frozen foods makes a (not exactly healthy) mac and cheese with Daiya that I got from a Whole Foods in Texas but I haven’t found in Phoenix yet. It was so good I scraped the burnt-on cheese off the side of the carton (even after reading that it had 520 calories and 22 grams of fat, which is more than their standard cheese version).
The new Daiya retail packs are a bit more expensive than the hand-packed containers at Whole Foods, but the shelf life is longer so it should help it to gain broader distribution. I believe Whole Foods wills still carry block (not shredded) hand-packed Daiya cheddar too, for those who want to shred it or slice it themselves.
If you’re happy eating dairy, Daiya may not be for you. But if you’re looking for an alternative to dairy-based cheese that can be used in a variety of recipes, give it a try. Daiya is on Facebook if you want to learn more or become a “fan.”
For a shot at trying it for free, PETA is running a contest. Winners receive two 5-pound bags of Daiya that they are supposed to use to host a party. I’ve been trying to figure out what to do for my husband’s 50th. A Daiya cheese party sounds like a great idea!