In a recent survey, 47% of Americans self-identified as “flexitarians” who are actively trying to reduce their meat and dairy consumption. The food and beverage industry is working to meet this demand as well, with 56% of manufacturers planning to invest in plant-based products in 2022.
If you’re looking to expand your foodservice establishment’s plant-based offerings, adding plant-based cheese to the menu is a great place to start. If you’re looking to delight your customers while also boosting your bottom line, here are five easy tips for cooking with plant-based cheese.
1. Know how to melt plant-based cheese With the right knowledge and techniques, plant-based cheese can melt just as well (if not better!) than its dairy counterpart. The first step is determining the base ingredient of your cheese. Most plant-based cheeses are derived from either oils or nuts; oil-based cheeses tend to melt more easily, while nut-based cheeses will often maintain at least some of their structural integrity. Oddlygood’s plant-based cheese products have a base of shea and coconut fat, making it an ideal choice for melting.
The method for melting your plant-based cheese will depend on the dish being served:
● If you’re melting cheese over the stovetop, you will need both your plant-based cheese of choice and non-dairy milk. (If your primary cheese is nut-based, you may want to add a second oil-based cheese.) Shred and add the cheese to a nonstick pan over medium heat, with a splash of the milk. Stir together until they form a smooth sauce, adding cheese and/or milk for texture as needed.
● For oven-based dishes, simply top the food with cheese, then bake at 350 degrees until the cheese appears bubbly and melted. Keep an eye on the cheese throughout the process, as it can burn if left unattended to overcook.
2. Add shredded cheese for creamy sauces/recipes Once you’ve mastered the art of melting plant-based cheese, your next step is to determine which type of cheese you should use for each recipe. Shredded cheese is the best choice when making creamy sauces and recipes — like mac and cheese, bechamel sauce, or queso dip. Whereas a block of cheddar might not melt properly in a hot pan, the thin and uniform shape of the shreds allows it to melt quickly and evenly. Oddlygood offers shredded cheese alternatives in both mozzarella and cheddar varieties, making it a perfect solution for any creamy dish.
3. Use as toppings Plant-based cheese doesn’t have to be just limited to sauces; it also makes a great standalone topping for your customers’ favorite plates. Sprinkle some shredded mozzarella alternative on top of pizzas and baked pasta dishes, or pull out the plant-based cheddar shreds to melt over nachos and tater tots. Oddlygood’s plant-based cheddar cheese slices are also a perfect topper for burgers, grilled cheese, or any other hot or cold sandwich.
4. Understand that less is more When it comes to cooking with plant-based cheese, keep in mind that less is more. Some chefs may add more cheese products in an effort to improve its meltability. However, adopting the right technique and type of cheese is more important than the quantity of cheese in this process! Another common mistake is adding high volumes of cheese to enhance the flavor of the dish. Just as with dairy-based cheese, too much of a good thing can overwhelm the palette. Stick to the usual ratio of cheese and taste as you go. You can also experiment with different seasonings, like nutritional yeast, to boost the “cheesy” flavor.
5. Get creative with other plant-based ingredients As you’re cooking with plant-based cheese, consider exploring other plant-based ingredients as well to expand your menu even further. Dairy substitutes, like almond milk and plant-based butter, are popular options for both sweet and savory dishes alike. Many restaurants are also using plant-based meat products or vegetables as a substitute for animal meat. By taking the extra effort to explore other plant-based substitutes, you’ll be able to accommodate a wider range of dietary needs and preferences — a move your customers will be sure to appreciate.