Many people are turning to vegan diets for different reasons while others are just including more vegan dishes in their weekly fare.
Regardless of your reason, there are vegan options for dishes that have traditionally used animal-based ingredients; case in point cheesecake.
As the name implies, cheesecake recipes use dairy products such as cream cheese. Cream cheese is a soft cheese made from milk and cream with some type of stabilizer such as carob bean and/or carrageenan.
Cream cheese does have protein, but in many ways, it’s more fat than a protein-rich cheese such as cheddar.
100 g (3.5 oz) of regular cream cheese has:
- 342 calories
- 4 g carb
- 34 g fat
- 6 g protein
- versus about 28 g for other cheeses
- 98 mg calcium
Vegan cream cheese
If you’re skipping the cream cheese, you’ll need a vegan alternative that has a similar texture that can hold up to reproduce the mouthfeel you’re familiar with when eating traditional cream cheese.
One such product is “Better Than Cream Cheese” by Toffuti. While I want to respect people’s right to choose, it’s important to be informed. This product claims to be better than the real thing so what do the ingredients reveal?
Water, partially hydrogenated soybean oil, isolated soy protein, maltodextrin, tofu, lactic acid, sugar, locust bean, guar and carrageenan, salt, vegetable mono, and diglycerides.
2 Tbsp has 2 g of trans fats from the hydrogenated soybean oil. So this recipe will have 17 g trans fat.
You can also get vegan yogurts made from various milk alternatives such as Plain Yoso Soygo.
This particular brand is made from organic soybeans, dextrose (glucose), bacterial culture, corn starch, natural flavours, chicory inulin, fructose, tricalcium phosphate (to fortify with calcium and phosphorus) and carob bean gum.
What is the health halo?
The health halo effect refers to the act of overestimating the healthfulness of an item based on a single claim, such as being low in calories or low in fat or in this case, vegan.
It’s beyond the scope of this recipe post to discuss the who, what, when, where and how, but in the name of including more plant foods in one’s diet because of their healthfulness, veganism and or vegan dishes carry a sense of nutritional superiority.
But the reality is, the healthiness of a meal, diet, etc is based on the quality of the foods and not just because it’s vegan or has animal foods.
From a purely nutritional perspective, this vegan cheesecake is a highly processed item and while it may meet one’s dietary ideology or philosophy, it needs to be viewed for what it is a dessert. Because it’s vegan, it doesn’t automatically means it’s better for you.
You can eat this cheesecake as is or top with your favourite topping such as fruit compote, sliced fresh fruit or a homemade sauce such as caramel.
- 24 oz vegan cream cheese Tofutti
- 2 cups plain, vegan yogurt Such as coconut milk, almond, soy, or cashew yogurt
- 2 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
- 1 tbsp lemon juice
- 1/2 cup sugar or maple syrup or xylitol for sugar-free
- 4 tsp cornstarch OR arrowroot
- 1 1/2 cup raw nuts of choice cashews or almonds
- 1 cup pitted dates If dates aren't soft, soak in boiling water until soft
- 1/8 tsp salt
To make the crust
- Blend all ingredients in a food processor until fine crumbles form.
Add water very slowly (1 tsp at a time) only if needed to help it blend
Pour into a lined 9-inch springform pan, press down evenly, then set aside while you make the filling.
To make the filling
- Preheat oven to 350 F. Fill any baking pan about halfway with water and place it on the oven’s lower rack.
- Bring cream cheese to room temp. Beat all cheesecake ingredients with a blender or food processor just until smooth. (Do not overbeat, which would introduce air bubbles that might burst in the oven and cause cracking.)
- Smooth on top of the prepared crust. Place on the middle rack, above the rack that has the water pan. Bake 30 minutes, and do not open the oven door during this time. When the time is up, still do not open the oven even a crack, but turn off the heat. Leave in the closed oven for an additional 5 minutes.
- Then remove the cake—it will still look underdone—and let cool at least 20 minutes before placing the still-underdone cheesecake in the fridge. It’s important to let it cool before refrigerating, because you want it to cool gradually so it doesn’t crack.
- Chill at least 6 hours or overnight, during which time it firms up. Store leftovers covered in the fridge 3-4 days, or you can also freeze slices if desired.