Looking to know if that cream cheese bagel is vegetarian ? Well look no further, because lots of people are wondering if cream cheese is a vegetarian food.
Given how common cream cheese is, you’re bound to run into it at some point. If you’re vegetarian you may have sim misgivings about it, so it’s best to clear thing up.
Today we’re going to see if cream cheese is vegetarian, how to tell when cheese is vegetarian in general, and what kinds of cheese vegetarians can eat.
Is cream cheese vegetarian ?
Cream cheese is vegetarian, because it only contains milk, cream, salt, and either carob bean gum or carrageenan as stabilizers. There is no animal enzyme added to this cheese, so it is completely vegetarian.
This cheese is made in a very similar way to mascarpone and can often be substitutes for one another.
As a very common spread, cream cheese is found in different flavors and some may contain animal products. For example cream cheese with bacon bits is not vegetarian. The cream cheese itself is vegetarian, but the bacon is not.
This kind of question is becoming more and more common, as more and more people are option for vegan or vegetarian foods. We think it’s important to be informed, so we’re going to help you figure out when cheese is vegetarian or not.
How do you know if cheese is vegetarian ?
Cheese (of any kind) is only vegetarian when animal enzymes are not used. Those animal enzymes come from rennet, which is derived from the stomach of slaughtered young calves.
Some cheeses that are traditionally made using rennet – like feta – can also be made using vegetal rennet. They are becoming more and more common, as vegetal rennet is easier to produce and cheaper.
Another option is to not use rennet, and use a food acid instead. The most common acids are lemon juice and vinegar, as they are very good at curdling milk.
To notice all of this you have to look at the label on the cheese packaging. It should mention ‘vegetal rennet’, or ‘lemon juice’, or ‘vinegar’. If you’re buying the cheese from a farmer’s market, be sure to ask the farmer how they made the cheese.
Is Philadephia cream cheese vegetarian ?
Yes, Philadelphia cream cheese is vegetarian as it contains the same ingredients as other cream cheese brands. Milk, cream, salt, and carob bean gum. Any other flavorings are usually vegetarian, like herbs, cream, yoghurt, tomatoes and basil, etc.
So you can rest assured that Philly cream cheese is vegetarian, and if you use it for a vegetarian recipe it will be safe.
What cheeses can vegetarians eat ?
You may be wondering what other cheeses vegetarians can eat. Like we said before, you have to look at the label on the cheese. Make sure there is no animal rennet used, and you’re fine.
We’re going to give you a few examples of cheeses that are traditionally made without rennet, so you know these are always going to be safe.
Paneer is an Indian cheese that can be made in 3-4 hours. It’s made of milk (usually cow’s milk) and lemon juice. The curds are separated from the whey by draining, and then the curds are pressed into a block of cheese for several hours.
This results in a hard, crumbly cheese that tastes mild and fresh. Salt may be used, but only in very small amounts. Paneer is traditionally used in Indian cooking, does not melt, and is meant to absorb a lot of flavors.
Cottage cheese is another white, fresh cheese. The curds are obtained via lemon juice and then there are two options. Either the curds are left dry and sold as-is, or they are mixed with light cream and become very similar to ricotta.
Ricotta is another fresh, white cheese with a very mild and fresh taste. It’s best used for sweets, like cannoli. No rennet is used, not even lemon juice. The name ricotta means ‘recooked’, so this gives us a hint as to how it’s made.
You can find ricotta in two stated: fresh and aged. Fresh ricotta is the smooth, creamy paste we all know and love.
Aged ricotta can be smoked, and is a semi-firm cheese that keeps its shape when cut.
Queso blanco is a Spanish name for any cheese that looks white. This type of cheese is always made using lemon juice or vinegar, and is in the ‘fresh and mild’ category.
You may have noticed that the only cheeses that do not use rennet are fresh, white cheeses. With the exception of feta, halloumi, and mozzarella which are all kept in a suspension or brine and use rennet.
Rennet cheese is always going to be stretchy when heated, so that’s one thing you can guide yourself by. And they will almost always be the aged, yellow-orange cheeses most people think of when it comes to cheese.
As a vegetarian, you still have a lot of options when it comes to vegetarian cheeses. You may have to look for the specific ingredients on labels, but the brands are out there.
Even cheeses that traditionally use animal rennet can be made with vegetal rennet. Some brands to look for are 365 from Whole Foods, Organic Valley, Kraft, Stella, and Laughing Cow to name a few. Not all their cheeses are vegetarian, but they have vegetarian options as well.
If you’ve got any other food curiosities be sure to check the related articles below, we’re always adding more food facts to make your life that much easier.