For all the progress made in creating better tasting, readily available, and even more affordable vegan cheeses, it’s surprising that one company still has a near monopoly on the meltable “cheese” market. The greatest test of any cheesy substitute, it’s a true feat of food engineering that not many achieve with flying colors. Happily, that doesn’t mean that all the other players are out of the game- Far from it, as evidenced by Galaxy Foods‘ latest bold entry to the arena, Vegan Shreds. Proclaiming that it “Melts and Stretches” right on the package in no uncertain terms, highlighted in red for maximum impact, such a statement clearly issues a challenge to consumers, daring them to try for themselves. Putting these new shreds to the test, I was more than willing to take on that challenge.
Far from new to the field, Galaxy has been pumping out the cheesy imposters for decades, ranging from blocks to slices to “Parmesan” sprinkles, but the shreds are their most noteworthy creation yet. No bones about it, I was not impressed by previous product lines. Though slowly improving throughout the years, I couldn’t shake a certain waxy aftertaste that seemed to plague every sliceable or pre-sliced option. So it was with great trepidation that I approached the two new available flavors: Mozzarella and Mexican-Style Shreds.
Classic French onion soup made an ideal canvas to test both flavor and true meltability of the Mozzarella shreds. Popping the “cheese”-covered wedges of baguette under the broiler, it was a true delight to see pale beige ribbons effortlessly collapse into a bubbling layer of molten lava-like goo. No careful cajoling necessary to prevent premature burns, it behaved admirably and lived up to its lofty assertions of melting with ease. Providing genuinely cheesy flavor, it deserves high marks for the actual taste as well, but I could hardly suggest that it would fool a true dairy devotee.
Cheddar is usually the second standard, but much to my surprise, Galaxy threw a true curve ball for their next move. Submitting a Mexican-Style shred instead, there’s nothing else on the market that attempts to fill such a void. Blending brighter orange-tinted strips into the mix, it’s a pleasing color combination on top of any food, such as my Cincinnati-style chili*, but I’m afraid to say that I couldn’t detect much difference in flavor from the Mozzarella shreds. If eaten carefully, piece by piece, the orange shreds might have a slightly sharper taste, almost like a mild cheddar… But who really eats their food like that? It would take hours to get through a meal if we were all separating the tiny pieces of “cheese” on top of a dish.
Though I can’t necessarily recommend one flavor over the other, I can enthusiastically recommend the Vegan Shreds on the whole. Performing just as promised, it’s an excellent alternative to Daiya, which is a very welcome change of pace. I can’t declare a winner to this battle just yet, but it’s good to see them both on a level playing ground at last.
With a good amount of extra cheese leftover from this trial run, I knew immediately what to do with it. A comforting indulgence that I’ve been making for myself for years now, it’s finally become something worthy of serving to others, now that these shreds no longer scream “fake vegan substitute!” from the rooftops. Filed under my favorite recipe digital folder, “Junky Eats,” this Broccoli and “Cheese” Hummus truthfully isn’t deserving of such categorization, but it certainly tastes suitably indulgent. Pure comfort food, I love eating it warm with toasty pitas, but it also makes an ideal party dip, chilled and ready to please for summer soirees. Chill and serve it on ice- the cheesy shreds won’t seize or become gritty once blended, leaving the texture lusciously smooth. Plus, you get to painlessly sneak another green vegetable into your daily diet.
*By no means would I ever claim my rendition is authentic Cincinnati chili, as true Ohio natives often shun the inclusion of beans. Also, note that the chili was almost completely cool by the time I took the picture, and thus the shreds didn’t have enough heat to melt and this is the correct look for classic Cininatti chili regardless.
Broccoli and “Cheese” Hummus
2 – 2 1/2 Cups Frozen Broccoli
2.5 Ounces Vegan Mexican-Style Shreds, or Any Vegan Cheddar-Style “Cheese”
1 Tablespoon Water
1 15-Ounce Can Chickpeas, Drained
2 Tablespoons Lemon Juice
1 Tablespoon Braggs Liquid Aminos
1/8 Teaspoon Ground Cumin
3/4 Teaspoon Garlic Powder
1/4 Teaspoon Smoked Paprika
1 1/2 Tablespoons Vegetable Broth Powder
2 Tablespoons Nutritional Yeast
1/3 Cup Olive Oil
Place the frozen broccoli in a microwave-safe dish, and drizzle in the tablespoon of water to allow it to steam properly. Sprinkle the “cheese” shreds evenly over the veggies, and lightly cover the dish with a piece of parchment paper. Heat at full power for 2 – 3 minutes, until the broccoli has thawed and cheese melted. Set aside.
Meanwhile, combine all of the remaining ingredients, except for the oil, in your food processor. Pulse to combine, and with the motor running, slowly drizzle in the oil to incorporate and emulsify. Pause to scrape down the sides of the bowl periodically, to ensure there are no tricky chickpeas or pockets of seasoning escaping the blades. Puree thoroughly, until completely smooth. For the best texture, you really can’t cut any corners here: It may take as long as 10 minutes of straight blending until the mixture is perfectly silky. Just keep a close eye on it, and stop when you’re satisfied.
Scrape all of the cooked broccoli and melted “cheese” into the food processor, and pulse lightly to incorporate. You don’t want to completely blend it in, but have small chunks of broccoli for texture. Eat right away, or store in an air-tight container for up to a week.
Makes 3 – 4 Cups Hummus