Brie is a soft cow’s milk cheese that originated in France. The mild, creamy flavor and soft texture make it a popular choice for appetizers, sandwiches, salads and more. However, some people need or prefer to avoid dairy due to food allergies, intolerances or lifestyle choices. This raises the question – is there a good dairy-free alternative to traditional Brie cheese?
The short answer is yes, there are several plant-based options that simulate the taste and texture of Brie quite well. Many brands now produce nut-based “Brie” using cashews, almonds or other nuts as the main ingredient. There are also options made from coconut oil or other plant-based fats. With the right techniques and seasonings, these non-dairy cheeses capture the distinctive flavor and spreadable texture of the real thing.
What Makes Brie Cheese Unique?
To understand the appeal of dairy-free Brie options, it helps to first examine what gives traditional Brie its characteristic properties. Here are some of the key attributes that non-dairy alternatives aim to mimic:
Mild, Buttery Flavor – Brie has a very mild, somewhat sweet flavor profile. The buttery notes come from the high fat content. Quality Brie should taste rich and creamy without strong cheese funkiness.
Soft, Spreadable Texture – The edible rind encloses an interior that starts out firm but ripens from the outside in to become supple and spreadable. When perfectly ripe, Brie can be scooped and spread easily.
White, Fuzzy Rind – The rind is a distinguishing feature of Brie. It develops a distinctive white, downy coating thanks to the mold Penicillium camemberti used in production.
French Origin – As a French cheese, Brie carries prestige and appeal for many consumers. Non-dairy alternatives often pay homage through branding and packaging.
These characteristics – especially the rich, spreadable texture and mild flavor – are what dairy-free brands aim to achieve with plant-based ingredients and techniques.
Ingredients in Dairy-Free Brie
While the specific ingredients vary by brand, most dairy-free Brie alternatives rely on similar base components:
Nuts – Cashews are a very common base for plant-based Brie because they offer a fatty, creamy texture when blended. Almonds, macadamia nuts or a combination may also be used.
Starches – Starch helps establish the spreadable texture. Tapioca, arrowroot and potato starch are often used.
Plant-based oils – Oils like coconut oil or olive oil contribute to the rich mouthfeel. Some versions also use vegan butter.
Culture agents – Cultures are added to develop tangy, cheese-like flavors during fermentation. Common choices are nutritional yeast and probiotic capsules.
Seasonings – Sea salt, garlic, onion and white pepper add subtle flavor notes reminiscent of Brie.
When these components are skillfully blended and cultured, the end result closely mimics the indulgent taste and texture of dairy Brie.
Popular Brands of Dairy-Free Brie
Many companies now produce plant-based alternatives to traditional Brie cheese. Here are some leading brands to look for:
Kite Hill – This popular brand offers a almond milk-based soft ripened cheese called Cream Cheese Style Wheel. It has a bloomy rind and spreadable texture like Brie.
Miyoko’s – Their Double Cream Chive Cheese has a soft, creamy interior encased in a rind that develops a white coating as it ripens. It is made from cashews.
Treeline – The Soft French-Style Cheeses from Treeline are cashew-based and available in round discs or wedges. Their smooth, creamy paste tastes remarkably like Brie.
Daiya – The Daiya Deluxe Cheeze Style Slices offer individually wrapped slices with a rich, spreadable texture and robust flavor.
Violife – This brand’s Just Like Brie wedge has a silky, savory interior in a rind that gets an attractive white bloomy rind as it ripens.
Along with these major brands, many smaller makers also offer baked or aged nut-based Brie styles. Local specialty stores and cheese shops may carry options from local producers.
How Dairy-Free Brie Is Made
Creating plant-based alternatives that truly mimic the taste and texture of Brie cheese requires some special techniques. Here is an overview of the production process:
1. Mixing – The base ingredients (nuts, starches, oils, etc.) are blended together into a thick paste. Exact proportions vary by brand and recipe.
2. Culture additions – Probiotic cultures are added to start the fermentation process which will develop tangy flavor compounds.
3. Aging – The cheese is packed into rounds or wedges to age. Aging can take weeks to allow flavors to develop and textures to ripen.
4. Rind formation – As it ages, the exterior is exposed to Penicillium mold spores which form the distinctive white, fuzzy rind.
5. Wrapping – Once fully ripened, the cheese is wrapped for individual sale.
The fine-tuning required to achieve the perfect texture and flavor is a true artisanship. Skilled plant-based cheesemakers leverage their knowledge to elevate dairy-free Brie to gourmet status.
How To Use Dairy-Free Brie
Dairy-free Brie can be used in all the same ways as traditional Brie made from cow’s milk. Here are some of the most popular ways to enjoy this cheese alternative:
– On cheese boards – Serve wedges or slices along with crackers, nuts, fruit and wine.
– In sandwiches – Smear on baguettes, croissants or panini.
– Baked – Top bread or pizza crusts with Brie and bake until melted and gooey.
– In salads – Crumble Brie over lettuce salads or grains.
– As a sauce – Gently melt into a warm sauce for topping vegetables, pasta or potatoes.
– For snacking – Spread on apple slices or pair with fruit preserves.
The meltability and mild flavor make dairy-free Brie endlessly versatile in recipes. It brings richness and appeal to appetizers, main dishes, snacks and more.
Nutrition Comparison of Dairy and Dairy-Free Brie
People often opt for dairy-free cheese alternatives due to nutritional advantages over their traditional counterparts. Here is a general comparison between regular and dairy-free Brie:
|Low to Moderate
|Low to Moderate
As shown above, dairy-free Brie is free of cholesterol and lactose, lower in saturated fat and sodium, but also lower in protein and bioavailable calcium versus dairy Brie. Fats, protein, sodium and nutrients vary depending on specific ingredients. Many opt for plant-based cheese to cut down on saturated fats, sodium and calories while avoiding milk allergens.
The Best Dairy-Free Brie
My personal favorite dairy-free Brie is the Double Cream Chive Cheese from Miyoko’s Creamery. It most closely mimics the flavor, texture and appearance of a fine French Brie. Here’s why I think it stands out:
– Velvety smooth texture – The cashew base blends into a luscious, spreadable paste.
– Perfectly bloomed rind – The naturally developed Penicillium candidum rind looks just like a traditional Brie rind.
– Complex flavor – Hints of garlic and chives cut through the mild nuttiness.
– Gourmet quality – This could fool cheese experts in a blind taste test.
While pricier than other options, Miyoko’s Brie is worth it for special occasions or to impress guests. I always keep a wheel in my fridge when I’m entertaining other vegans and vegetarians. It makes an amazing addition to any cheese plate.
Is Dairy-Free Brie Healthy?
Compared to regular dairy Brie, plant-based alternatives made from nuts, vegetables oils and starches are lower in saturated fat, sodium and cholesterol. Avoiding dairy also appeals to those with lactose intolerance or milk allergies. However, healthy eaters should still watch their portion sizes.
Some factors to consider regarding dairy-free Brie health impacts:
– Fat content – While not as high as dairy Brie, some versions can be high in fat from nuts and oils.
– Sodium content – Salt is used to flavor many plant-based cheeses. Check labels if limiting sodium.
– Allergens – Tree nuts, soy or gluten flours may be present for some nut or grain allergies.
– Preservatives – Some use food additives like potassium sorbate or calcium propionate.
As with any food, moderation and smart choices are key for health. Reading nutrition labels helps identify any potential concerns. Those following special diets can consult their healthcare provider if needed.
Price Comparison of Dairy and Dairy-Free Brie
One downside to quality dairy-free Brie alternatives is the higher price point. Specialty plant-based cheeses are typically priced at a premium versus their dairy counterparts. Here is a general price comparison:
– Budget supermarket Brie: $3 to $6 per 8 oz wheel
– Artisanal French imports: $15+ per 8 oz wheel
– Mainstream brands: $6 to $10 per 8 oz wheel
– Gourmet plant-based brands: $12 to $16+ per 8 oz wheel
The higher cost comes from the increased labor, specialized ingredients like cashews and small-scale artisanal production methods. As demand and manufacturing scale increases, prices may gradually come down. For now, plant-based Brie remains a bit of an upscale splurge for most.
Where To Buy Dairy-Free Brie
Dairy-free Brie was once hard to find, but is now widely available at many major grocery chains and online:
Grocery stores – Brands like Daiya and Treeline offer dairy-free Brie at well-stocked supermarkets, usually in the specialty vegan section.
Whole Foods and similar stores – Natural food chains have an extensive selection including artisanal nut-based cheeses.
Cheese shops – Specialty fromageries increasingly stock plant-based options alongside regular cheese.
Online ordering – Miyoko’s, Treeline and other brands can be ordered online and shipped if unavailable locally.
Availability continues to grow with natural foods expanding mainstream. If you don’t see dairy-free Brie at your local market, don’t hesitate to ask store management to consider stocking it.
Homemade Dairy-Free Brie Recipes
While store-bought is convenient, homemade dairy-free Brie can be rewarding for seasoned DIY plant-based cheesemakers. It allows customizing flavors and yields a truly farmhouse artisanal product.
Recipes generally take 2-3 days for culturing and ripening. Here are some top-rated recipes to try:
– Cashew Camembert from It Doesn’t Taste Like Chicken – a baked round cashew cheese
– Miyoko Schinner’s Double Cream Crackers and Baked Brie from The Vegan Stoner – cashew-based
– Epic Vegan Bloomy Rind Cheese from Vegan Blue Cheese – with coconut oil and agar
– Cultured Cashew Cream Cheese from Mary’s Test Kitchen – makes a log shape
If tackling DIY Brie, be meticulous about sanitization, accurate ingredient measurements and ideal ambient ripening temperatures around 55°F to encourage the rind blooming. Homemade Brie requires some trial and error but brings huge satisfaction.
Common Questions about Dairy-Free Brie
For those new to plant-based Brie, here are answers to some frequently asked questions:
Is it really cheese if dairy-free?
While technically “cheese” refers to dairy products, dairy-free Brie mimics the sensory experience of cheese quite convincingly. Many prefer to call it plant-based or nut-based cheese.
Does it melt well?
Yes, the oils and starches give dairy-free Brie excellent meltability. It performs well melted on pizzas, pastas, toast or other dishes.
What’s the shelf life?
Unopened, about 1 month refrigerated. Once cut, around 7-10 days is best for quality.
Can it be cooked or baked?
Absolutely! Dairy-free Brie bakes beautifully to a gooey, molten state while retaining its flavor.
Is it good for grilled cheese sandwiches?
The meltability makes dairy-free Brie an awesome choice for grilled cheese. I recommend using it along with stretchy plant-based cheese slices.
For cheese aficionados who want the experience of a sensuous triple cream cheese but need or want to avoid dairy, quality plant-based Brie cheese alternatives are a godsend. Brands like Miyoko’s, Treeline and Kite Hill lead the way in innovating nut-based and other vegan cheeses that capture the soul of traditional Brie. Seek them out at natural grocers, online or even make your own for the perfect finish to a cheese plate or sandwich. Dairy-free Brie has come a long way and will only continue improving as more people discover its indulgent taste and texture.