When I saw this product on the shelves of our local organic market, I let out a squeal of excitement so loud the people around me were backing away. But I couldn’t help but be excited over a new “cheese” product from Daiya, makers of the best and most meltable dairy-free cheeses I’ve tried, and when I saw they had included a strawberry flavor in their “cream cheese style spread” line, it was all over. Back in my dairy-consuming days, I used to love strawberry cream cheese, and although Tofutti makes a good plain cream cheese approximation, I had yet to see a dairy-free strawberry version. Since it’s probably been about twelve years since I’ve had strawberry cream cheese, this product had a long period of fond memories to live up to, but I had to try it. So we picked up some bagels and grabbed a container.
Here is what the spread looks like after opening the package. The dark spots are bits of real strawberry, which is nice, but the aroma that you get when you open the package is a bit more artificial strawberry. This was a great sign. Artificial strawberry flavoring is true to the strawberry cream cheese experience. The consistency is like slightly warm dairy cream cheese: solid, but very easily spreadable. If you stuck a knife upright into the product, it would fall over slowly. This is an interesting contrast to the Tofutti product, which has a thicker texture. If you stuck a knife into Tofutti cream cheese, it would stand there for awhile.
You can get a better idea of the consistency of the product here, thanks to my hand model John. It’s almost more like a dip than what I remember to be the texture of cream cheese, but granted, it has been a very long time since I’ve eaten dairy cream cheese. But it still smells great, so texture is kind of secondary, right? Things are still looking good for Daiya.
As you can see in this action shot, the Daiya is highly spreadable. A plus for easy bagel application.
Cinnamon raisin bagel, post cream cheese. Looking delicious. And then I took a bite…and it only took a second to realize that this product was not for me. The texture and flavor of the spread is so highly reminiscent of dairy cheese it was slightly unsettling and more than a little unappetizing for me. The strawberry flavor was delicious, and I can recognize that part of the flavor as good, but mostly when I tried to eat this my brain was just screaming at my mouth: “Cheese! It’s cheese, get it out get it out get it ouuuut!” Not really a pleasant bagel-eating experience. However, I don’t want to fault Daiya for creating an imitation that is too realistic. If you currently eat dairy products or have stopped consuming them fairly recently, you might love this. It’s been so long since I’ve eaten dairy that my body has an aversion to anything that is too similar in flavor or texture to the real thing, but John, who only stopped eating dairy several years ago, thought this product was great. He loved the flavor and texture, so it’s likely that the visceral reaction I experienced would only be something that those who have had many years to build up a distaste for “dairy-like” products would also have. So definitely give this product a try if you currently eat dairy and are trying to cut down or eliminate it from your diet, or if you are relatively new to eating dairy-free and can still think about cheese or milk as delicious food concepts. If you eliminated dairy from your diet a long time ago and the thought of dairy is a bit nauseating, stick with Tofutti, which is close enough to the original to satisfy a craving but not too close to freak out your cheese-wary brain, or make your own.
Ingredients: Filtered Water, Coconut Oil, Tapioca Starch, non-GMO Expeller Pressed Canola and/or non-GMO Expeller Pressed Safflower Oil, Evaporated Cane Sugar, Strawberries, Potato Starch, Pea Protein Isolate, Sea Salt, Vegetable Glycerin, Xanthan Gum, Lactic Acid (for flavor), Natural Vegan Flavors, Titanium Dioxide (a naturally occurring mineral), Fruit and/or Vegetable Juice (for color), Vanilla Extract, Vegan Enzyme.