Kite Hill Plain Almond Milk Cream Cheese


I’ve been unable to find an acceptable dairy-free cream cheese. This one, made by Kite Hill, uses almond milk, and although I wouldn’t call it inedible, it’s not good. A long time ago I tried their chive cream cheese and gave it a somewhat positive review. So it’s surprising how much I disliked the plain version.


First I tasted it straight up — the best test for any dairy-free alternative. There was nothing to mask its pasty texture and odd, artificial aftertaste. Thankfully, it has no detectable almond flavor, but it also lacks the sharpness that is the hallmark of cream cheese. Overall, epic fail.


Spread on a toasted poppy seed bagel, Kite Hill Almond Milk Cream Cheese was slightly more tolerable. Still, I could only stomach a few bites before deciding it wasn’t worth the calories.

Now, re-reading my review of their chive cream cheese, I realize that even though I didn’t hate it at the time, I never bought it again. So there you go.

The search for a decent dairy-free cream cheese continues…


Go Veggie Vegan Cream Cheese


In my perpetual search for the perfect dairy-free (and soy-free) cream cheese, I picked up a tub of Go Veggie Vegan Cream Cheese Alternative. I liked Go Veggie’s American cheese slices, so I thought their cream cheese might be decent, and its main ingredient is coconut, which I have no trouble digesting.

I spread it on a freshly toasted everything bagel from Bagel Factory, a bagel shop on National and Sepulveda that makes a pretty convincing approximation of a New York bagel.


The texture of Go Veggie’s cream cheese is quite good: smooth and dense, as a cream cheese should be. The taste is unoffensive: not too sour like Miyoko’s, not reminiscent of bleu cheese like Daiya’s. I was halfway through my dairy-free bagel and the Calendar section of the Sunday paper when I thought, This may be the One.

Then I reached over to my husband’s plate and took a bite of his bagel, spread with actual cream cheese, the classic Philadelphia stuff with onions and chives. And my dreams were shattered. My vegan cream cheese tasted nothing like the real thing. In comparison, it was bland, lacking that essential tanginess. Eating my Go Veggie was like the first fifteen minutes of The Wizard of Oz that’s in black-and-white, and tasting his Philadelphia cream cheese was like when Dorothy steps into Oz and everything is in Technicolor.


For me, it’s not a worthwhile tradeoff to eat vegan cream cheese when its flavor is so inferior to the real thing. I would rather forego bagels altogether.

Here’s a recap of the dairy-free cream cheeses I’ve reviewed so far. I’m listing them in order of good to bad. Technically the first one is not dairy-free, only lactose-free, but if you’re just lactose-intolerant this is your best bet.

  1. Green Valley Organics Lactose-Free
  2. Kite Hill Vegan
  3. Trader Joe’s Vegan (contains soy)
  4. Miyoko’s Vegan
  5. Daiya Vegan

If there’s a dairy-free cream cheese you love, please let me know in the comments!

Daiya Vegan Cream Cheese


Searching for a dairy-free cream cheese that tastes like the real thing? Me too.

Unfortunately, Daiya Cream Cheeze Style Spread isn’t it. After trying it a long time ago and hating it, I was hoodwinked into trying it again because the label claimed this recipe was “new and improved.”

Here’s what it’s made of: Filtered water, coconut oil, tapioca starch, coconut cream, vegan natural flavors, pea protein isolate, sea salt, chives, white onion, xanthan gum, potato protein isolate, lactic acid (vegan), vegan enzyme, lemon juice concentrate, guar gum, locust bean gum.

Here’s what it looks like on a bagel.


Its texture isn’t bad. Less creamy than real cream cheese, but not too grainy.

The problem is the flavor. Simply put, it tastes like bleu cheese. This is the same problem that Daiya Caesar Salad Dressing has. Bleu cheese is fine in certain contexts, but on a bagel? Uh, no.

So I’m going to make this short. Daiya vegan cream cheese: Don’t do it.

For more of my reviews of dairy-free cream cheese products, click on the “cream cheese” tag below. The search continues…

Pumpkin-Shaped Nacho Cheese Ball

Halloween 2014

Halloween is coming up, and you know what that means: MORE PUMPKIN STUFF! At Halloween parties, no one can resist this spicy nacho-flavored cheese ball that is shaped like a pumpkin. I have a thing for food that looks like other food — cupcakes that look like spaghetti, for instance. Want to make something look like a pumpkin? Make it round and orange. Done.

From the book Hello Cupcake.

I first found the cheese ball recipe in Food Network Magazine back in October 2012, and I made it using regular cheese. Every year it was a huge hit. But I’m lactose-intolerant, so I wanted to try making the cheese ball using lactose-free products. Guess what? It works!

I used Green Valley Lactose-Free Cream Cheese and Beemster Vlaskaas Cheese (which is naturally lactose-free). But you can use dairy-free, vegan cheeses if there are some you like.



Adapted from Food Network Magazine

16 ounces lactose-free cream cheese, at room temperature
2 cups shredded lactose-free cheese (preferably cheddar)
3 tablespoons minced onion
3 tablespoons salsa
2 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
1-2 handfuls of spicy Doritos (e.g., Tapatío, Spicy Nacho, Poppin’ Jalapeño), crushed
1 bell pepper stem
blue corn tortilla chips

In a large bowl, use an electric mixer to blend the cream cheese, cheddar, onion, salsa, and cumin. Don’t overmix or the cheese will become too soft.

Line a small bowl with plastic wrap and scoop the cheese mixture into it. Cover tightly and refrigerate for at least 2 hours.

Lift the plastic-wrapped cheese mixture from the bowl and shape it into a 5-inch ball. Unwrap it, roll it in crushed Doritos, and press a bell pepper stem into the top. Serve with blue corn tortilla chips.

Kite Hill Dairy-Free Cream Cheese


It’s almost as hard to find a decent dairy-free cream cheese as it is to find a dairy-free yogurt that doesn’t suck. Most of the nut-based cream cheese alternatives I’ve tried have been gross. But I’d heard good things about the Kite Hill brand, and I have to admit this cream cheese made from almond milk is pretty good.


This spread is tangy, but not sour — unlike the last one I tried, Miyoko’s Kitchen, which made my mouth pucker. Kite Hill’s comes close to tasting like real cream cheese.

As for the texture, it’s fairly smooth, not too grainy. It’s not as dense and heavy as cream cheese, but not as light and fluffy as whipped cream cheese. It’s sort of in between. It reminds me of Alouette, the American-made cheese that’s supposed to seem French. (I’m sure the French are laughing at us for this.) Alouette isn’t bad, but I wouldn’t spread it on a bagel. It’s better on a cracker or a slice of baguette. Same goes for Kite Hill cream cheese.

Nevertheless, I wanted something to spread on a bagel, so that’s what I did.


Overall, it was a positive breakfast experience. Did it make my day? No. But I wasn’t gagging on it, and when it comes to fake cream cheese, that’s saying a lot.

Since I’m only lactose-intolerant and not allergic to dairy, I would choose lactose-free cream cheese over this dairy-free cream cheese (if I had a really excellent bagel and absolutely had to do the cream cheese thing). Green Valley Organics makes lactose-free dairy products, such as sour cream, yogurt, and cream cheese, that all taste exactly like the regular versions.

But if you can’t have dairy (or soy) and you’re craving cream cheese, Kite Hill is a better choice than Miyoko’s Kitchen or Trader Joe’s. Slather up a toasted bagel and let me know if you agree!

Miyoko’s Vegan Cheese Wheel


The Los Angeles Times recently published an article in its “Health Happenings” section introducing some new dairy-free alternatives. One of those was Miyoko’s Kitchen vegan cheese, created by a “lifelong vegetarian” to “satisfy her love for dairy while honoring her compassion for animals.”

As I have yet to find a good dairy-free alternative to cream cheese, I thought I’d give Miyoko’s a try.


Here’s what Miyoko’s Vegan Cheese Wheel in Classic Double Cream Chive looks like out of the package. Like other nut-based cheeses I’ve tried, this one has a beige color that got darker as time wore on. Not exactly appetizing. I’ve said it before: Appearance is important when it comes to food. We eat with our eyes as well as our mouths and stomachs.

Even though Miyoko’s cream cheese alternative would presumably be better for spreading on a bagel, that one wasn’t available at the Ralphs I went to. So I tried the Classic Double Cream Chive on a bagel. You can see the beigeness more clearly here. Also, its texture was immediately dubious. Not smooth.


When I tasted the cheese, I was even more bummed out. It was tart, which I usually like, but this was way too tart. I would even say it was sour. The chives were okay but couldn’t save this cheese, which was woefully grainy and pasty. Yuck.

Here’s my half-eaten bagel thirty minutes after I abandoned it. Reminds me of the playa at Burning Man.



It’s possible this cheese would’ve fared better on a cracker, as an accompaniment to some charcuterie. But I still think the sourness of it is a deal-breaker. Now that I’ve had the vegan goat cheese from Vromage in West Hollywood, I know that nut cheese can be better than this. Vromage’s goat cheese is tart without being sour, it’s white (not beige), and its smoothness is exactly what you want in a cheese.

Let me save you from wasting your money on Miyoko’s Kitchen. If you live in L.A. and you want a nut-based vegan cheese, try Vromage instead.

Daiya New York Cheezecake


The best thing about writing a food blog is it gives me an excuse to try stuff I’d otherwise feel guilty about eating. Like cheesecake! Excuse me, I mean “cheezecake,” which is the cutesy way of saying it contains no real cheese.

Daiya Foods is a brand that makes a lot of dairy-free products — some good, some not so good. Daiya Mozzarella, for instance, is the vegan cheese that Blaze Pizza uses, and I love it. But Daiya Cream Cheeze is awful. Which is why I was skeptical about the New York Cheezecake. Add to that a gluten-free crust, and I was ready to hate it.

But I didn’t. In fact, I liked Daiya New York Cheezecake so much that I ate two servings of it. (The servings are small; don’t judge.)


Its texture is smooth and creamy. It’s tangy like cream cheese. And the crust, although nothing to write home about, is pretty decent. Actually, considering it was frozen and defrosted, the crust is pretty damn good.

Now, I haven’t eaten real cheesecake in about five years, and sometimes I wonder how much my tastebuds have skewed since I started eating fake dairy products. So just to be sure I wasn’t crazy, I made my husband — an inveterate dairy-eater — try some of this cheezecake. Even he liked it!

It also helps when you make your cheezecake look like a Pac-Man.


Here’s some good news: Daiya makes a Pumpkin Spice Cheezecake. I won’t be getting that one because after taking a stand against the Pumpkin Spice Latte (read rant here), it would seem hypocritical to embrace the Pumpkin Spice Cheezecake.

But for those of you who enjoy pumpkin-flavored things, the Daiya PSC would be a super-easy dessert to serve at your Thanksgiving gathering this year. Just keep in mind you have to defrost it a day in advance. It’s also quite small; a whole cake is only four servings. So if you’re serving a big brood, get a few.

To all my American readers, have a lovely Thanksgiving. Thanks for being you!



Daiya Dairy-Free Caesar Salad Dressing


In the summer, my husband and I tend to eat more salads at home. I like to make salad dressing from scratch, but sometimes it’s just too much work, especially when it’s a dressing that traditionally contains dairy products.

Like Caesar salad. I love Caesar salad. In fact, the first time I ate a proper Caesar salad, drenched in freshly grated Parmesan cheese and whole anchovies laid atop it, I thought, “This is the only kind of salad I will ever eat again.” That turned out not to be true, but to this day, I would rank Caesar as my favorite salad.

Which is a real bummer, since I can’t eat it anymore. I’m lactose-intolerant, so cheese is off the menu for me, and a proper Caesar salad has not only Parmesan sprinkled on top of it but also blended into the dressing itself.

So I’ve been on the hunt for a dairy-free Caesar salad dressing that will at least kind of resemble a real Caesar. I decided to try Daiya’s Creamy Caesar Dressing, even though I’ve had mixed feelings about other Daiya products.

This dressing is so thick, it took some work to even get it out of the bottle. Once I did, it looked fairy decent:


But the taste was atrocious. It had a pungent flavor, almost like blue cheese. In fact, I wondered whether they accidentally put the dairy-free “blue cheeze” dressing (also available from Daiya) into the wrong bottle. But even if it were supposed to be blue cheese, it was not good. I couldn’t make it through more than a couple of bites.

Hello, compost bin.

But I can’t say I’m surprised. This is not the first time Daiya has let me down. I used to eat their dairy-free cheddar style shreds in omelets and on nachos, until I realized it was giving me gas. Horrible gas. (Just ask my husband.)


I also tried Daiya’s dairy-free cream cheese. It tasted nothing like cream cheese and was so nasty that I dumped it after the first bite, just like the salad dressing.

So far, the only Daiya product I’ve been able to tolerate is their dairy-free mozzarella cheese, which Blaze Fast-Fire’d Pizza uses for their vegan and lactose-intolerant customers. I’m a big fan of Blaze; it’s the only pizza I eat these days.

Blaze Pizza

But even at Blaze, I have to make sure the person making my pizza goes easy on the Daiya or I will end up with… you guessed it, horrible gas.

In the meantime, I will continue my quest for an off-the-shelf dairy-free Caesar dressing and let you know if I find a good one, hopefully before summer salad season is over.

A Dairy-Free New Year


Let’s all admit that we make New Year’s resolutions. We may claim that we don’t do that anymore because it never works, or we may call our resolutions “intentions” to avoid the stink of inevitable failure. But it’s natural to use the start of a new calendar year as a time to reflect on our goals and values and to commit to living with more integrity. Especially when it comes to food.

My giving up dairy started with a New Year’s resolution three years ago. I knew I was lactose-intolerant for decades, but didn’t think I could ever stop eating dairy — or would ever want to. Then, during the Christmas season of 2013, I found myself indulging in so much cheese, half-and-half, ice cream, and other dairy products that my guts were screaming, “Help!”

I knew I had to make a change.

This New Year’s Day I’m having a similar revelation. Over the past ten months, since I started writing this blog, I’ve been eating more and more “imitation dairy” products. Every time I come across one of these food science miracles, I tell myself I have to try it “for the blog.” Into the cart it goes. The result is that I’ve been eating a lot of weird processed foods, most of which don’t taste very good (e.g., Soyatoo! Rice Whip) and a few of which have left my gastrointestinal system almost as unhappy as it was before I gave up dairy (e.g., Trader Joe’s Vegan Cream Cheese).

So my number one New Year’s resolution is to eat fewer processed foods. Before I put something into my cart — or my mouth — I need to ask, “How many steps away is this food from its natural form?” I suspect this litmus test will profoundly change the way I eat.

What this means for the blog is that I’ll be writing fewer reviews of dairy-free alternatives. (I mean, occasionally I’ll have to make an exception for something like a Dole Whip because it’s just so good. And by the way, I never got a stomach ache from a Dole Whip.) Instead, I’ll be focusing more on dairy-free whole foods and simple substitutions for dairy products in the foods we all know and love.

That’s the goal, anyway. I may just sleep in more and remain fat.

Trader Joe’s Vegan Cream Cheese


Looks good, doesn’t it? I haven’t been able to have a classic New York breakfast like this since I stopped eating dairy almost three years ago. Why? Because most dairy-free cream cheese alternatives, like Tofutti, are soy-based and I can’t eat soy protein.

So when I saw Trader Joe’s Vegan Cream Cheese, I got excited because it’s made from coconut oil. What I failed to realize is that this product is not soy-free. In fact, “soy protein concentrate” is the fourth ingredient listed, after “filtered water,” “coconut oil,” and “mid-oleic sunflower oil.”

I was so eager to try it that I ignored the fact that it’s essentially the same as Tofutti. I’ve tried one dairy-free cream cheese that did not contain soy (Daiya) and it tasted horrible; the texture was also all wrong. (Turns out “pea protein isolate” doesn’t do the trick.) My theory is that, thus far, food scientists haven’t been able to simulate the flavor and texture of cream cheese without using tofu.

This is bad news for me because tofu makes my guts very unhappy. About two hours after I finished my New York breakfast, I had one of the worst stomach aches of my life. I resorted to taking Pepto-Bismol and still felt awful. My stomach has been a mess all week.


That said, Trader Joe’s Vegan Cream Cheese is wonderfully smooth and tastes a lot like real cream cheese, although not quite as sharp. It was so tasty that I almost decided to give it another shot. But I just couldn’t bring myself to do it. (I’m not a masochist like L.A. Beast.) After all, I gave up dairy because it made my body feel bad… so I’m not going to eat a dairy-free alternative that has the same effect. I’ve learned my lesson: When a product contains soy protein, I need to not eat it.

If you don’t have a problem with soy, try it — at your own risk, of course.