Sometimes referred to as analog cheese, imitation cheese is one of the many varieties of processed cheese that is found on the market today. Characterized by a long shelf life and a relatively inexpensive cost, it is used in many homes around the world. It is primarily made of vegetable oil.
Imitation cheese is often thought to be the same as substitute cheese, but actually, there is a difference between the two. Substitute cheese is usually still made with a low content of milk solids. Imitation, by contrast, relies on a combination of vegetable oil and casein, a protein found in milk, that is used instead of milk solids. While the taste of the two types of cheese products is very similar, there is often a slight difference in texture, with imitation cheese being slightly less supple.
This product tends to lack the same level of nutrition that is found with real cheese or even with substitute cheese. The main advantages of imitation cheese have to do with the price and the shelf life. The low cost of the ingredients help to make the finished product very affordable. Also, the lack of dairy products other than casein in the cheese also helps the product to last a very long time.
While the nutritional value of imitation cheese may be low, the flavor is often very acceptable, especially when used as part of a recipe. For instance, a cheese sauce made with it works very well over broccoli or other steamed vegetables. A slice also works very well on a grilled hamburger patty. Pasta dishes can benefit from a creamy cheese sauce made using imitation cheese as well.
Imitation cheese can be purchased in just about any supermarket. Typically, it will be offered as slices that are appropriate for use on sandwiches or burgers. In some instances, bags of grated imitation cheese are also available, making the cheese ready for use in salads, tacos, or as a cheesy topping to a casserole. Quick and easy to store, it helps to fill a niche in the food market. When the budget is a little tight and there is still a desire to have the look and taste of cheese as part of the meal, this product may be the ideal solution.