Originally Posted by Dustie
There are so many good ideas here. Even though I've been a vegetarian for 26 years, it has only been in the last year that milk products have made me very sick. I'm not really upset about that but I'm looking for substitutes right now for things like sour cream and cottage cheese. I live in a rural area 80 miles from the nearest food store that sells veg*n things (although the local grocery has put in 2 Morningstar Farms products which I use). Your ideas make it less likely that I will waste money on something. Please keep the food suggestions coming.
There are two main ways to make your own vegan version of sour cream, cream cheese, or cottage cheese. One is with tofu as a base, and one is with raw cashews or blanched almonds as a base. You can go as far as you want with making various nut based cheeses, even ordering online vegan yogurt cultures and fermenting it. There are some simpler recipes for a good vegan cream cheese or sour cream using nuts or tofu. And even a number of vegan homemade "mayonnaise" recipes. A good food processor or blender does help with the nut based cheeses, but soaking the nuts for 8 to 24 hours makes blending way easier. Here are a few recipes I really like and have tried:
And this is a vegan cottage cheese recipe that I haven't yet tried:
I have also made oatgurt, which is simply a process of soaking and then fermenting whole oat groats over several days (usually found at health food stores like Trader Joes or Whole Foods Coops). This makes a very creamy but still textured concoction that has a sourish, yeasty, yogurt like taste very similar to plain dairy yogurt with no added sugar. The one and only animal based product I used to miss was Greek yogurt, the plain thick sourish kind (and like you dairy made me very ill and I avoided most of it for years before going vegan, but yogurt was my holdout). Vegan yogurts tend to be too sweet for me, though Daiya has a Greek style yogurt that comes close, if only they would make a plain one without adding flavors! At any rate, I did a lot with tofu, blending it with bananas and cocoa powder to make a breakfast pudding that is high calcium and high protein (16 grams of protein and roughly 20% DV of calcium for blending two servings of tofu with a banana and cocoa powder) and very thick and creamy like yogurt. But still something was missing. Hence my experimenting with oatgurt. Someone at a vegan meetup told me about it. It satisfies that craving for something sourish and creamy, though it is not really dairy like and is closer to a hot cereal in texture. Here is the recipe I follow to make it:
I have also experimented with making homemade vegan yogurt, usually soy or coconut based, and have had limited success but have not had consistently good results yet. I do not have a yogurt maker, which I am sure would make it so much easier. Getting the temperature right is key.
I am one who lives in a city where not a lot was available for a long time and there still isn't a whole lot up here compared to others on Veggieboards from bigger cities. The nearest Trader Joes is a three hour drive, and our Whole Foods Coop up here caters to the happy locavore meat crowd, though more and more vegan friendly products are appearing there. So anyway, when I first went vegan, and still now, my motto was if you can't find it somewhere, make it yourself! Google is your best friend for learning to make vegan homemade versions of anything...well almost, I haven't quite figured out angel food cake yet but I am very close lol. Chickpea juice (aquafaba) is a miracle as an egg white substitute. I have made many many versions of homemade vegan mayo, using tofu, or using soymilk, or using cashews or blanched almonds. I have made homemade vegan cashew cream cheese that is so awesome! and my die hard meat eating coworkers as it turns out will actually devour a waldorf salad if you add loads of vegan cashew mayo to it. They otherwise will not touch a fruit or vegetable.
As silva mentioned, the hard to find stuff I can't get around here, I make a list and keep it handy (ie stuff like oat groats, or raw cashews which are surprisingly hard to find), and those times when I can get down to the Twin Cities or somewhere else that is more vegan friendly, I bring that list and find what I am looking for and stock up! Very surprisingly though, local places like Target are starting to stock up on vegan friendly products like Just Mayo (almost identical in taste and texture/thickness to Hellmans), Just Ranch, Pea Milk, canned coconut milk, Daiya products, etc.
Another strategy is to let go of trying to find "replacements" of animal products, and learn a whole new way of eating and preparing food. My first two years vegan I didn't touch the commercial vegan cheeses at all, or the vegan "meats" aside from tofu and tempeh. In fact I had an intolerance to tofu at first so I avoided it for a while, then discovered sprouted tofu which was easier on me, then was finally able to tolerate any tofu. My staples were and still are beans, whole grains, fruits and veggies. I learned to make sauces with stuff like steamed and blended cauliflower with plant milk and spices and even ground nuts thrown in the mix for alfredo sauce. I also love sweet potato, and often blend it with pineapple juice. Because my partner doesn't like it, I started eating it for lunches at work or for a morning snack or even breakfast. Even better is a mix of peanut butter, a banana, and sweet potato all mashed together. I got over the huge focus on protein as the center of every meal, and started really enjoying far more of my favorite vegetables and grains as equal to the beans or other protein sources on my plate. Not side dishes. Instead of restrictive, I found my new plant based life very freeing and it allowed me to experiment and eat in a way that is far more satisfying to me than shoveling in food I was taught was "good for me" (ie lean meat, dairy etc). Dairy made me so sick for so long, but I was made to think I was missing out without it so I would try lactose free milk (which I hated and it didn't make my nausea, bloat, and cramps/diarrhea any better). I have made many a homemade flaxseed milk, almond milk, and coconut milk. I haven't tried homemade rice milk but that's in my near future, as is sesame seed milk.
Anyway, that's enough of my rambling. I do feel for you as I came back from visiting the inlaws in a land surrounded by farming country, awful chicken and turkey warehouses, meat dinners announced on every church and community center sign out there. Sighs. Even soy milk was impossible to find in a twenty mile radius of where I stay there, so I bring all my own food for a long weekend when I go there...usually two coolers and a large bag of dry food lol. At least they have produce and sunflower seeds and oats.