by Hannah Sentenac
Cheese is the sticking point for many a well-intentioned vegetarian. And while store-bought vegan cheese is making the transition easier than ever — it turns out you can whip up miraculous dairy-free cheeses in just minutes in your home kitchen … all thanks to the genius of The Gentle Chef, Skye Michael Conroy.
Conroy’s recipes have earned him a cult following of people devoted to his recipes for cheeses, sauces, and other popular foodstuffs. His Non-Dairy Evolution Cookbook, for example, has recipes for cream cheese, bleu cheese, chevre, muenster, pepper jack, hard parmesan — and almost every other cheese you can imagine. Not to mention non-dairy milks, butters, desserts, and more.
His mission is to recreate familiar textures and flavors for those who miss the taste of their favorite animal-based foods. Enthusiastic fans agree: he’s seriously onto something.
“Many people who embrace a plant-based diet do so for ethical reasons and not because they dislike the flavor and/or texture of meat, eggs and dairy products,” Conroy tells Latest Vegan News. “But finding satisfying plant-based alternatives is not always easy for individuals who once enjoyed the flavors and textures associated with these foods, or for individuals who grew up with meat-based dishes as a traditional part of their family or ethnic heritage. My work focuses on approximating the appearance, flavors and textures of meat, egg and dairy products that many of us grew up with: foods that are familiar and represent tradition and foods that evoke a feeling of nostalgia.”
In order to create the recipes for his cookbooks: The Gentle Chef Cookbook, The Non-Dairy Evolution Cookbook, and Seitan and Beyond, he’s done extensive research.
“My recipes are the result of a great deal of study of food science related to dairy cheeses and an understanding of how to replicate those flavors and textures using plant-based ingredients,” he says. “Countless hours of experimentation went into each recipe with many failures before achieving success with a particular cheese.”
Conroy also shares lots of recipes on his blog, from cheddar and sour cream potato chip seasoning, to spicy Italian pancetta. If you want to make his epic recipes for cheddar, mozzarella, and other amazing re-creations, you’ll have to buy his cookbook. While the recipes are generally pretty simple, they do require some explicit instructions — and a few specialty ingredients (though most are easily available in stores or online).
In the meantime, here’s an easy recipe to tide you over:
Golden Cheddar Sauce
This velvety cheese sauce has a mild cheddar flavor that will please the entire family. It’s ideal for preparing macaroni and cheese and cheesy rice. Try pouring over freshly steamed vegetables or baked potatoes too. This recipe yields about 2 cups of sauce.
1 and ¾ cup organic plain unsweetened soymilk or almond milk
¼ cup tapioca starc
¼ cup mild vegetable oil
¼ cup nutritional yeast flakes
1 T mellow white miso paste
1 T tomato paste or 2 tsp tomato powder
2 tsp raw apple cider vinegar
1 tsp fine sea salt or kosher salt
½ tsp dry ground mustard
½ tsp onion powder
Tip: For a tangier sauce, add 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice.
Whisk the ingredients together in a small saucepan until smooth. Place over medium-low heat and stir slowly and continually with a flexible spatula until the mixture becomes bubbly, thickened, smooth and glossy. Please note that the golden color will develop as the cheese sauce cooks. Taste and add salt as desired and/or additional soymilk or almond milk to lighten the consistency to your preference. Reduce the heat to low to keep warm until ready to serve, stirring occasionally.
So what’s The Gentle Chef’s latest project? Eggs.
“I’m currently working on egg analogues that capture the appearance, flavor and texture of real eggs. I think this will be a game-changer for many who miss eggs.”