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Some vegan hard cheeses or cheese-like spreads made from nuts like Almond or Cashew are often marketed as "Greek style" or other "Balkan style".

Were nut-cheeses developed in Greece/Bulgaria/Turkey/Balkans, traditionally (i.e prior to demand from modern-day vegan consumers)?

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    Since cashew trees are tropical originating from South America, it seems somewhat unlikely in that case. OTOH, I'd expect almond/sesame/... pastes to be very traditional. I don't know these languages, so I have no idea whether such pastes (/"cakes"/pomace that one gets e.g. after producing oils) have cheese-like names - in my native language (German) cheese basically implies curdled animal milk, I'd tend to use e.g. cake or paste or puree/mush depending on the texture for the more traditional plant/seed based foods/ingredients. Not sure whether that matches your vegan cheese, though. Dec 14, 2023 at 23:42
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    who is making those claims in the first place? Dec 15, 2023 at 17:58
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    @ItalianPhilosophers4Monica that's a good question which is hard to answer because you may often see "Greek style vegan salad cheese" or "Greek style creamy almond paste" and it's often vague or hard to know what is authentic and by what source. Dec 15, 2023 at 18:12
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    "Greek style" may just mean thick (e.g. what American companies call greek-style yogurt) or it may mean that an attempt was made to imitate feta. "Greek-style salad cheese" sounds very much like the latter.
    – Yorik
    Dec 15, 2023 at 19:10
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    @FuzzyChef I have tried to edit the question as concise as I could. Dec 15, 2023 at 20:22

2 Answers 2

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Regarding Greece, nut cheeses are produced mainly for people who participate in religious fasting, rather than vegans.

There are multiple fasting periods on the Greek orthodox calendar, including Lent, the 40 days before Christmas, and also Wednesdays and Fridays of each week. Since fasting requires abstaining from milk and dairy products, nut cheeses were developed and marketed as "fasting cheese" rather than "vegan cheese". (e.g. one of the biggest producers of vegan cheeses is Evlogimeno, literally translated as "blessed").

That said, Greek-style cheese probably refers to some imitation of Feta.

Source: I'm greek : )

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without demand from modern-day vegan consumers

No, they weren't.

I grew up in Bulgaria, and these products are entirely new. They appeared basically at the same time as they started becoming common in supermarkets in Western Europe, so after 2015 or so. I'm quite certain that my grandmother or mother wouldn't know what they are even if I tried explaining them.

Some somewhat related products have been around for longer, but never as a local delicacy.

  • Tofu might have become available with the first Western supermarket chains in the early 2000s, although these took until the end of the decade to get a decent market share, so most of the population may never have noticed it in the beginning. Today, it's recognizable, but regarded as an exotic import.
  • Manufacturers in the 90s started using large amounts of vegetable fat (and I suppose other kinds of plant-derived matter) when making standard kinds of cheese. This was a cost-cutting measure, the flavor was intended to mimic all-dairy cheese, the product was not vegan or suitable for people with dairy alergies, and when the news outlets made a point of reporting about this, the labeling laws were changed. In that sense, there used to be a common cheese-like product containing a lot of plant matter, but not as a food in its own right, but rather as an imitation product which the public considered a deceptive practice.
  • Traditionally, any use of non-cultured cream was rare in Bulgaria. In the 90s, stores started carrying liquid "cream" which was in fact a non-dairy substitute that kinda works like half-and-half in sauces. This remained the only kind of "cream" available for a long time. As late as 2018, I knew of exactly one supermarket chain in Sofia which carried exactly one (imported) brand of real dairy cream. So the substitute product is still very common, but not as a local delicacy, but rather because people don't even realize that the "cream" they read about in Western recipes is supposed to be dairy-based.

Nuts and legumes are widely eaten in Bulgaria, including some uses which aren't widespread in the West (e.g. dry roasted chickpeas as a snack), but I have never encountered anybody processing them into a nut milk, much less curdling them.

As others have said, the labeling on these products has nothing to do with local food customs. Rather, the producers wanted to provide a dairy-free imitation of the dairy cheese that Western customers know under the moniker "Balkan style" or "Greek style", so they put that name on the packaging.

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