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The type of imitation cheese that is best for you depends on your cooking needs as well as whether you follow a vegan diet. Although all types of imitation cheese are made from non-dairy sources, some do contain dairy ingredients. Some imitation cheeses are designed to imitate Parmesan or non-melting cheeses, while others are made specifically for melting on foods such as pizza. Texture and taste are other things to look for in an imitation cheese.
The ingredients used in imitation cheeses differ. Some are made from nuts, while others are made from tofu or soy beans. Imitation cheese that is designed to melt is typically made from a starch, such as tapioca. If you have any allergies to the ingredients in an imitation cheese, that will rule it out. For example, nut-based "cheeses" aren't suitable for people allergic to nuts.
Texture is another concern with non-dairy cheese. Some imitation cheeses have the consistency of paste, which can be off-putting. Others are dry and chalky, while others are too soft when they melt. As the role of certain imitation cheeses is to melt and be used on pizza or grilled cheese, they are too soft and oily to eat unmelted. Some non-dairy cheeses will refuse to melt, even at very high temperatures.
The taste of imitation cheese will never be quite like the real thing, though some do come very close. Choose an imitation cheese that has a mild flavor so that it doesn't leave too much of an aftertaste in your mouth or impact the flavor of a dish you are preparing. Typically, imitation cheeses made from nuts are meant to have a strong flavor, similar to an expensive blue or other aged cheese.
Some imitation cheeses are meant to be sprinkled over pasta as a person might sprinkle grated Parmesan. Others are sold in individually wrapped slices, much like American cheese singles. Melting cheeses are commonly sold as grated shreds, though they may also be sold in a log shape.
If you follow a vegan diet, an important consideration when choosing an imitation cheese is picking one that is completely dairy-free. A few brands of fake cheese contain casein, which is a dairy protein and is not vegan. Scan the ingredients list to make sure the cheese is vegan. It may also be specifically labeled as vegan. If you're picking up imitation cheese because you are lactose intolerant or want a lower fat option, you don't need to worry as much about casein.