Earth Grown Vegan Mozzarella Style Sticks (Aldi)

 

Packaging for Earth Grown Vegan Mozzarella Style Sticks
Tastewise, they're good, but a snotlike texture knocks them back down to Earth.

Oh man, I don't know why I do these things...vegan mozzarella cheese sticks? Oh wait, excuse me...mozzarella “style” sticks, because there is, of course, no actual cheese in them. Why would I grab a package of these when regular cheese sticks exist? Those succulent, breaded beauties stuffed with delicious cheese...it's enough to make my mouth water. And yet, here I find myself staring at a bag of cheese sticks, only with no actual cheese in them, that I myself purchased with the intent to try. The “why's” just keep slapping me in the face at every turn.

For $3.49, you get a bag containing roughly ten small mozzarella “style” sticks, which seem to be about half the size of mozzarella “actual” sticks. However, these do appear to be a little bit thicker, so that might even things out a little bit. At any rate, it's a price that's higher than most “normal” cheese sticks, but at about the right markup for what you would expect to pay for a vegan version of any product.

I have to say, right out of the bag these actually look pretty good. The breading has the same parsley, or basil flecks that are featured in some of the better mozzarella “actual” sticks that I've had, and that actually got me a little more excited to give these a try. Also cool: these take just 10 minutes in the oven (at 400 degrees fahrenheit), with no flipping required. That's pretty quick! 

Earth Grown Vegan Mozzarella Style Sticks laying out on a cookie sheet
Okay, maybe these won't suck after all.

After the ten minutes were up, I pulled them out of the oven, and noticed one had even “exploded”, leaking a white gooey substance that I wanted to believe was actual cheese, from its open cavity. The effect is actually pretty convincing, and I found my mouth was starting to water despite a voice in the very back of my head reassuring me that I was in for nothing other than severe disappointment. “But, it looks so real,” I stammered, trying to not only convince myself, but also the voice lodged in the nether regions of my brain. “So do holograms,” it retorted, in a response that was apt, but not nearly as intelligent as it thought it was. Still, my brain's nether regions had a point...no matter how good these looked, there was no way they could touch the real thing.

And they don't. The star of the show, though, is the breading, which is appropriately crunchy, and tastes like the breading in just about every standard mozzarella “actual” stick out there. I have to admit, at the risk of sounding like a completely ignorant moron, that I have no idea if the typical cheese stick breading is already vegan...if so, that would explain why these taste so on-point. If not, then it's quite an impressive feat.

The same, however, cannot be said for the cheese, which, as expected, is the weakest point. However, the flavor isn't really its biggest offense: that's actually close enough to the “real thing” to earn some points from me, with a taste kind of akin to a white cheddar cheese byproduct—kind of like Kraft white cheddar cheese singles. I know, that's not really a taste you would equate with a $3.49 cheese stick—and it's not something that's going to fool a non-vegan person—but in the world of veganism, just the fact it slightly tastes like real cheese at all is quite a decent feat.

Instead, the most disappointing thing about the cheese is actually the texture: it's kind of slimy, like white snot. I mean, I don't expect the texture of a vegan product to be exact to the “real” thing, but this is almost off-puttingly...well, “off”. Did it have to be slimy? I really would have liked to have been in on tastings in the Earth Grown test kitchen to see what other potential textures there were. Sandpaper? Yes, take that one! Dry? Sure! I would imagine there would have been at least one or two other possibilities that were better than “slug”...and somehow, they decided to go with “slug”. 

Overall: 5.5/10. As someone who really has no interest in vegan products, nor any need to really get them, you can take my opinions with a grain of salt (and probably should). However, I found these to be a pretty decent knockoff of “actual” cheese sticks, with excellent breading that's very close to the real thing, and a cheese flavor that's passably realistic, although not one that will fool anyone. However, the whole facade is partially done in by the texture of the cheese, which is unappetizingly snot-like. I mean, I don't expect it to be as stringy as real cheese, nor did I require it to be the exact same texture, but of all the possibilities, I did not expect it to be slimy. It's not a big enough deal to ruin the entire experience, but it does take what was a surprisingly decent vegan alternative down a notch or two, and makes me second guess the idea of recommending it at all. Unless, of course, you have to eat these for some (likely medical) reason, in which case, they are probably your only option inside Aldi stores.

NOTE: Just to get a second opinion, I asked my wife to try one without giving any verbal or visual clues whatsoever as to what I thought about them (she wasn't even home at the time I cooked them). She took one bite, seemed to enjoy it for a second, then put the remaining cheese "style" stick back on the tray, slightly distorting her face in disgust. The word she used to describe it? "Slimy". She even said if the texture were different, she could have eaten them because the flavor is pretty good overall. So there you have it...opinion validated!

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