EL PASO, Texas (KTSM) — A local family-owned business has been encouraging a healthy diet in El Paso for nearly a decade, especially with their vegan cheeses made with a specific technique.
Jackie Cordova, owner of The Green Ingredient, along with her husband, started the business in 2013 by opening a restaurant that served healthy food.
Cordova said that the idea came after her good friend passed away from cancer.
“We had just lost my best friend from breast cancer and, in the process, we learned what food feeds your body and what feeds the disease,” she said, explaining how her friend was able to prolong her life by changing her diet.
After they closed down the restaurant, they continued to sell their products, which can now be found at many farmer’s markets and even some local stores.
Cordova said their most popular product is their vegan cheeses, which she explained are made differently than the ones you are able to find in the store.
“People often think they have a plasticky flavor, which ours don’t because we don’t use starch,” she said.
The cheese is made out of different types of nuts or sunflower seeds, which are first sanitized and then ground into a paste. Next, a plant-based culture is added.
“This starts the process of aging, which gives the cheese its flavor,” Cordova said.
The cheese is then tested for bacteria and pH levels are monitored until it’s aged enough, depending on the type of cheese.
Cordova said that it can take from four weeks to three months for the cheese to mature.
“Our cheese is very flavorful, but that flavor doesn’t come from the nutritional yeast, which is common with store-bought,” said Cordova. “It comes from the actual aging of the culture from the seeds or the nuts, which is the same thing that happens with the dairy cheese.”
Cordova and her husband take great pride in producing vegan cheeses with no fillers, such as additional oils or carrageenan, which helps to melt the cheese, but causes inflammation in the body.
She explained their cheeses don’t melt, but soften up, which she believes is not necessary to fully enjoy the flavors.
“We believe that flavor and the consistency that it has is enough to give the body that it needs,” she said.
Some health benefits of vegan cheese are no cholesterol and probiotics, which are non-existent in many pasteurized dairy cheeses, Cordova said.
Their most popular types of cheeses are sunflower seeds cheese with green chile and a queso fresco-equivalent made of almonds and chipotle sunflower seed cheese.