New Foods: Earth Balance Vegan Cheez-Its

Earth Balance is a pretty darn awesome company. You probably know them now from their buttery spreads, which many people prefer to dairy butters or margarine. On top of being vegan, they are lactose, casein, and gluten free, contain no trans fats (one of the unhealthy kinds of fats), and can now be found in stores other than mom-and-pop health food stores! There are also several kinds of these buttery spreads, from soy-free to organic whipped. To my delight, the company has been expanding their vegan food repertoire in the past few years to include delicious culinary spreads, chips, MACARONI AND CHEESE, nut butters, flavored popcorn, and…

Cheez its! Did you used to love these as a kid? I know a ton of people who did and who still swear by them. I didn’t. I was partial to Cheese NIPS myself. Not sure why. They are essentially the same. Cheese Nips used to come in cool shapes, though (I remember a limited edition kind was shaped like characters from the cartoon, Rocket Power). Nonetheless, everyone loves cheesey snacks that may or may not have much nutritive power. But when you go vegan, the options have famously been quite limited. Despite the fact that many of the mainstream brands of cheesey snacks contain artificial or imitation cheese flavors (we know this thanks to the now-necessary label/marketing perk of “Now made with REAL CHEESE” on these products), they still contained dairy derivatives such as casein or lactose. Any seasoned vegan knows this, and can likely name a thousand other animal-derived ingredients that the untrained eye may glaze over.

Enter the Savior that is Earth Balance, with their innovative ideas for making the vegan world a more welcoming place, and you have these babies. By golly, they are so good. Although I clearly love to eat, I habitually don’t eat very much in one sitting. Let me tell you, I ate the box of these within two days. Every non-vegan has heard a vegan try to pressure them to eat some vegan equivalent to a non-vegan food, and heard the insistent, “It is EXACTLY the same as the non-vegan [cheese, ice cream, bacon]” only to have the thought that “Yeaaaaaa, but I can tell the difference.” There is some truth to this, as most vegans probably haven’t eaten dairy or meat for a while and have forgotten that unique umami which separates the animal from non-animal derived product.

HOWWEEVVVERRRRRRR I really mean it. These taste identical to those cheesey snacks from our favorite lunch box Its/Nips/Goldfish. These aren’t “NOW MADE WITH REAL CHEESE” (obviously) yet they taste more like real cheese than those artificially flavored cheese products that contain dairy derivatives.

Is it not enough to just taste good, realistic or not? Is that the most important thing, that they taste just like the “real thing”? To some vegans, yes! It is very important.

But why? Because, as I bet a lot of hardcore vegans and vegetarians will not admit, dairy and meat do taste delicious. It is the bane of many vegan endeavors, the longing for something that tastes just as good as real dairy or real meat, but that does not carry the negative impacts of eating them. I personally think it is very important, too. When it boils down to it, animal cruelty and environmental impact are not going to be enough to motivate many people to be vegan if it means giving up the taste of real meat and real cheese, even if they do not agree with these negative impacts themselves. With companies like Earth Balance, making alternatives to dairy both delicious and familiar, we come closer to motivating those that have the understandable fear of having to give up on the foods they most love.

Maybe I am delving too far into this, since these are just crackers. But it is an interesting topic, one that should be discussed as the vegan world is changing!
In short, these crackers are the bomb. They are super satisfying, not too salty or greasy, and are enough to make a non-vegan wonder if being vegan is not so bad after all.

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