I am going to front this post with saying that I completely disagree with people who say “vegan cheese is totally the same thing!” Because, well, it’s not. Let’s get that out of the way: this is not cheese. It will never be cheese, it doesn’t even really taste super cheesy. And that’s ok. That’s even better. I am starting a series of recipes where I will take common foods that usually rely on dairy, and show you that they don’t need to. We don’t need cheese. We. Don’t. Need. Cheese.
Apparently cheese is the one thing that’s keeping millions of people from going vegan, even people who claim to be “ethical vegetarians” will say that they could “never give up cheese.” If I never hear that phrase again in my life it will still be too soon. It’s probably the single most ridiculous argument to not go vegan because dairy, of all things that I’ve stopped eating, is the easiest thing to replace. I don’t miss it at all. Actually the times I’ve smelled milk or cheese, or whatever dairy product is within smelling distance, I’ve thought that it smells bad. And not in that good stinky cheese kind of way. In a spoiled milk way. In a “no, I don’t want to put that in my mouth and yes, I’m serious kind of way.”
So then, why do people claim they can’t live without it? There is some evidence of addictive qualities in dairy, specifically cheese, due to something called casomorphins. Casomorphins are a peptide derived from casein, a milk protein. And, like the name suggests, they have an opioid effect. All you people out there that say you can’t live without cheese are probably feeling a real craving for it. That shouldn’t be ignored as it is a real struggle, but it also doesn’t mean you have to live that way!
But I also think that this reliance on dairy could be due to the fact that a lot of the foods people grew up on started with some butter, milk, or cheese. I joke about how the Milk Mafia is real because it seems like there is some sort of dairy in everything, especially processed foods! Seriously, go look at food labels on your next shopping trip (look for milk, whey, casein, or my personal favourite “modified milk ingredients” because what is that even). I really hope to empower some of you out there with the idea that you can be independent from cheese and all dairy by doing this series of typically dairy-filled meals gone vegan. Cut off those shackles, give those cows a rest, and free yourself from the lactose-induced delusions that dairy belongs in your diet. And I promise you that you won’t miss it! This doesn’t necessarily mean I will be making a bunch of faux cheeses, but I will totally be doing nachos (first up!), pizza, quesadillas, ice cream, and whatever else I can think of!
Before I begin, I want to talk about why the dairy industry is something you should want no part in. There is also the added benefit that milk is not really healthy for you anyway. The biggest claim supporting that “milk is healthy” is only due to milk products being fortified with vitamins and calcium. But guess what? So is just about every other non-dairy milk or yogurt product. Like I said, you don’t need dairy. If you are already informed about the dairy industry then feel free to scroll down and just look at pictures of nachos.
Why is dairy something to avoid? It’s not even killing anything, right? I think this idea comes from the fact that a lot of people don’t have a complete understanding of the dairy industry. It’s not our fault, really, I have seen a million and a half books, toys, and stories about farm animals and the thing that never comes up is: where does the milk come from? It seems like every cow has an endless supply of milk at all times. Along with the idea that they ‘need to be milked.’ Ok, well that is a fantasy.
Cows are mammals and mammals only produce milk when they have given birth. Dairy cows are living in a constant cycle of pregnancy, birthing, and being fertilized again to keep up with the demand for milk. These babies, especially the males, are considered a byproduct and are either killed immediately after birth and thrown in the garbage or they live for a couple weeks before being slaughtered for veal. Around age 4 or 5, dairy cows are considered “spent” and are then shipped off to be slaughtered for cheap hamburger meat. Compare this to the cow’s natural 25 year lifespan. But dairy doesn’t kill anyone, right? Clearly that is not true.
I’m not going to go furhter and into gruesome details, but I am going to say that cows die all the time because of the dairy industry. And even if the demand for meat was low, hypothetically if everyone switched to lacto-ovo vegetarian or something, cows would still be routinely killed because they could not keep up with the demand for dairy. Especially since people who give up meat, tend to increase their dairy intake! Protein tho. Ugh. Let me slam my face into my desk for a couple seconds. Before I continue….! ……! ……!
Not everyone feels empathy for cows, I know that. I think a lot of people have convinced themselves to not give cows a second thought because cheese/ice cream/butter tastes too good. After all, they “can’t live without it,” remember?! And even if you’ve convinced yourself that slaughtering animals isn’t bad or that they can’t feel it or whatever, I think it’s safe to say that living in terrible conditions for your entire lifetime, being forcibly impregnated, and having your offspring ripped away from you over and over again until you’re sent to a scary new place to be killed is inherently cruel. I don’t see any way around that.
When I first learned the truth about dairy it was incredibly overwhelming and I think I mourned for a veal calf I saw in one video for several weeks after watching it. Dairy was the first thing I gave up when going veg. I’m going to tell you a secret that I’ve since learned: YOU CAN ENJOY FOOD WITHOUT DAIRY. I promise. And this is what I’m going to try to show you. I want to see a world where pizza doesn’t need to be covered in cheese to be delicious, where mac can stand alone, and where people don’t look at me like I’m insane when I order something without cheese and sour cream on it (because it seems like just about everything is topped with cheese nowadays).
WELCOME TO A LIFE WITHOUT DAIRY. WE HAVE NACHOS.
THIS RECIPE IS NOT CHEESE. But it is a great nacho topping.. And it’s about a million times cheaper since it’s made with the cheapest ingredient on the planet: rice. I’ve seen cheese-like toppings made out of potatoes and I’ve made something like this with a sweet potato instead of rice and it worked out well, too!
I used it on nachos, as a cheese dip, and on pasta. It was great all 3 ways but I think the nachos were my favourite because of everything else that comes with nachos (guac, jalapenos, beans, everything).
This recipe makes a lot of this nacho topping so be advised that it will force you to experiment with ways to use it if you’re not eating this with company. I am also going to advise you to thin it out a little before storing it as it does tend to solidify in the fridge. And this is not like a gourmet type wannabe cheese topping. This is more akin to the nacho cheese you will find at a baseball stadium. You can even let it sit and watch it get a weird film over it. It’s awesome. But don’t be scared, after all, it’s mostly just rice. If you have a vitamix or more patience than me, I imagine that it would get perfectly smooth. But you don’t notice any lumps while eating it like this either, it’s really just soft bits of rice.
Also, I bet this would go really well with the lentil taco filling and tofu sour cream that I made a couple weeks ago! Find that recipe here.
NoChees (No cheese nachos)
Makes A lot. Eat liberally and share with friends.
For the No cheese topping
- 1/2 c dry brown rice
- 1 t vegetable bouillon
- 1/2 c plain, unsweetened almond milk (or your favourite nondairy milk)
- 1/3 c nutritional yeast flakes
- juice from 1/2 lemon
- 2 pinches of cayenne
- 1 T chilli powder
- 1 t ground cumin
- 1 t ground turmeric
- 2 T of your favourite salsa
- salt to taste
- tortilla chips
- some kind of beans (vegan refried beans, or black beans especially!)
- other toppings (jalapenos, salsa, guacamole, shredded lettuce, tomatoes, etc)
- Preheat your oven to 350F
- Cook your rice according to directions, add a tiny bit more water and the vegetable bouillon.
- When rice is slightly overcooked, put it in a blender with the remaining ingredients.
- In a baking pan (I used a pie pan) layer tortilla chips, beans, and nacho topping. Bake in oven for about 15 minutes, or until the chips look extra crispy and the nacho topping starts to darken.
- Use this time to prepare your other nacho toppings! Then, when you pull your dish from the oven, throw them on liberally.
- It will be hot! So please be careful while you’re scarfing them up with friends (or alone.. I totally ate a whole plate on my own…no shame!).