A Mumbai-based startup called Katharos just released a unique line of vegan cheeses made from watermelon seeds, including cheddar and mozzarella. They are the first cheese blocks manufactured using watermelon seeds, according to the business. The soft, creamy cheeses can be melted and grated on pizza, sandwiches, burgers, fondue, and other dishes. They are prepared from coconut oil, carrageenan (a seaweed extract), apple cider vinegar, maize and potato starch, and nutritional yeast.
Katharos, which means “pure” in Greek, was established in 2019 by Jasmine Bharucha with the goal of revolutionizing the vegan food market in India by utilizing cutting-edge plant biochemistry and food science to produce plant-based substitutes for dairy products. Along with the new cheese created from watermelon seeds, the company also sells pizza cheese sauce made from cashews, soft cheese spreads with tastes like peri-peri, roasted cumin, jalapeño, and nacho, feta cheeses made from almonds, and energy balls made from dates, cashews, and sunflower seeds. At the moment, Big Basket and Urban Platter, two Indian online grocery stores, as well as Katharos’ own website, all provide the company’s products.
“We are delighted to add the world’s first watermelon seed-based cheddar and mozzarella to our product line… These cheeses are not only nutritious but also rich in texture and flavor. We firmly believe in bringing healthy and affordable plant-based products to people. This is another step towards appeasing the cheese cravings of steadfast and transitioning vegans,” Bharucha stated.
What Makes Vegan Cheese?
The original vegan cheeses were frequently composed of starches and oils, but as the market developed, more attainable versions were frequently created employing cultures and a range of nuts, including cashews and almonds. Katharos is not the first to experiment with the unusual ingredient; watermelon seeds might be the key to next-level vegan cheese.
A pioneering product, cultured vegan cottage cheese produced from organic watermelon seed milk and sunflower seed milk, was introduced earlier this year by American vegan company Miyoko’s Creamery. The new Cultured Plant Milk Cottage Cheese, which is anticipated to debut in retail stores next year, has the same mild flavor and creamy, curdled texture as conventional cottage cheese made from dairy.
The innovation team at Miyoko examined numerous cultures and formulas during the research and development phase and studied how various plants’ proteins function in the production of cheese. They discovered that watermelon seeds are rich in globulin, a protein that aids in coagulation, during their research and development.
“The idea for cottage cheese originated in my home kitchen when I was playing around with various plant milks and discovered a way to form curds that resembled cottage cheese… I handed the project over to our innovation team, which developed the processes to create a consistent quality curd system, as well as best overall flavor, testing a variety of cultures and otherwise fine-tuning the formula through many iterations,” Schinner said.
Producing Vegan Cheese
Other businesses are seeking to employ other high-protein components like beans in vegan cheese while Katharos and Miyoko’s are experimenting with watermelon seeds. The first vegan cheese wheel produced from fava beans is being introduced in Amsterdam by the food technology business Mr. & Mrs. Watson. The sliceable, Gouda-style cheese employs fava beans in place of cow’s milk and is fermented in the same manner as conventional dairy cheese. It has a high protein level.
The Watsons first make plant milk from locally cultivated fava beans, ferment it using living microorganisms in the same manner as dairy cheese is made, and then pour the resulting liquid into conventional cheese molds to produce the new Gouda cheese. Nick Pia, co-founder of Mr. & Mrs. Watson, stated in a statement: “It is time that beautiful, traditional, and high-protein cheese substitutes are introduced to the market that are accessible to the general public… With our plant-based sliced cheese, we are setting a new standard in terms of nutritional value, craftsmanship and taste.”
Other companies, meanwhile, are producing vegan cheese using conventional methods of cheesemaking in an effort to mimic the taste and texture of dairy cheese and, ultimately, to completely destroy the dairy sector. In 2020, businesswoman Jen Wojtaszek, chef Craig Harding, and Maître Fromager (cheese master) Afrim Pristine created the Canadian vegan enterprise Future of Cheese. The firm creates plant-based replicas of typical ripened brie with a delicate, ripe rind that is organically aged using a cashew base.
According to Wojtaszek, “Our products are created by experts who have spent a lifetime mastering the art of cheesemaking and perfecting culinary mastery from the best in the world.” In 2021, Future of Cheese introduced their first plant-based ripened brie, which quickly sold out after going on pre-sale.
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