Along with bacon, cheese is the greatest hurdle to overcome when reducing animal products in your diet. Or it was, B.C. – before Chao.
There are many vegan cheese options, but Chao slices are my absolute favorite. They come in 3 flavours, including Creamy Original, Coconut Herb and Tomato Cayenne.
I bought this package at Amaranth grocery in downtown Calgary. I’d wanted to try the Creamy Original slices, but they were out, so I opted for Coconut Herb. Yes, I’m basing this entire review on a flavoured version of the cheese. It was THAT GOOD.
I wasn’t sure what to expect, but the coconut herb was delicious. Fortunately, it didn’t taste like coconut at all (which sounded odd in cheese). It’s flavoured with black pepper and oregano, giving it a mild herb flavour.
The slices were great both cold and hot. My husband and oldest daughter loved them cold and heated. Chao makes an incredible grilled cheese. It doesn’t melt all over the place, but softens perfectly, kind of like a good mozzarella. It’s also exactly the right size for a slice of bread (my pet peeve with traditional cheese). It’s 60 calories per slice, with zero cholesterol and great flavour. In fact, because it’s just the right size, one slice is plenty for a grilled cheese sandwich, which isn’t necessarily the case with regular cheese.
Interestingly, Chao comes pre-sliced, but doesn’t require any material between the slices to keep them separated. Instead, they separate easily on their own.
Field Roast – which makes Chao – has figured out how to mimic the texture of cheese. Quite honestly, it’s so much better than Daiya* (the other big player in vegan cheese) that I can’t figure out why it’s taken this long to come up with an awesome vegan cheese. It even has a short list of ingredients! Perhaps the secret is the fermented tofu? (chao, in Vietnamese).
Don’t get me wrong, Daiya cheese is good on pizza, and I’m grateful it’s available in so many places. But they need to up their game. The flavour is not quite right, and neither is the texture. Daiya is a bit more starchy than smooth, a problem that remains when it’s melted. Maybe they can take some of the money they’ve made over the past few years and invest it into reformulating their product.
For now, Chao is the first and only vegan cheese I can say is as good as “real” cheese. Except it’s better, because it’s free from cholesterol, hormones, antibiotics, GMOs and suffering.
Here in Canada, Chao retails for between $8-9.99 – I imagine it cost $5-7 in the US. It’s a bit pricier than store brand cows’ milk cheese, but it’s truly delicious and deserves comparison with pricier deli cheeses.
*Please note, when I disparage Daiya, I’m only referring to the slices and shreds. I haven’t tried their cream cheese, yogurt or cheesecake, and I’m looking forward to sampling them. Daiya has been around since 2008, and they’ve made life easier for a lot of vegans. I’m just suggesting that they have some catching up to do.