Cheese is one of the hardest foods to give up, so I figured I would share my list of the Best Vegan Cheese Substitutes!
Personally, cheese was the most difficult food for me to give up before going vegan. Well, it was until I binge watched ~a dozen documentaries about factory farming and animal abuse on Netflix. Before that point, I had been eating a mostly plant-based diet with the exception of cheese and ice cream.
But after that fateful documentary binge, it was easy for me to say good-bye to cheese and the cheese cravings just vanished into thin air. At least, dairy cheese, that is. Because there is a whole host of non-dairy vegan cheese out there and I’m excited to share my favorites and recommendations with you.
And if you find it hard to believe that my cheese cravings disappeared, just know that I am in Paris right now as I write this blog post. Paris, home of the world’s best cheeses, where I pass a fromagerie every hour, where people are always talking (in French, of course) about how good their cheese is. And I haven’t been tempted or interested, in the least. The cravings for dairy products have disappeared!
If you want to know more about my vegan story–why I became vegan, what the transition was like, as well as the challenges–you can check out this video! And if you are a newbie vegan or interested in transitioning to a vegan diet but are nervous, I recommend watching this video! It will help you understand the importance of having a solid why–a solid, meaningful reason for going vegan–as well as beginner mistakes to avoid and tips on how to make a vegan lifestyle sustainable for you.
Okay, now let’s dive into The Best Vegan Cheese Substitutes! First, I’ll mention some homemade vegan cheese recipes and then store-bought vegan cheese alternatives.
Part 1: Homemade Vegan Cheese Recipes
Butternut Cheese Sauce / Crispy Baked Pumpkin Mac and Cheese
This Crispy Baked Vegan Mac and Cheese and this Creamy Vegan Pumpkin Mac and Cheese are two of my most popular recipes, so what are you waiting for?? The recipes are slightly different, but both taste remarkably similar to cheese and has the creamiest, dreamiest texture! Here’s a sampling of some of the reviews for these recipes.
“So good. Highly recommend. Chose this recipe over others for the excellent reviews”.” -Nicole S.
“This is by far the best vegan cheese sauce I’ve ever tried. It taste amazing! It reheats well and I’ve even tried freezing the sauce for later use and it came out great! This has now made my list for top 5 recipes.” -Danielle
- “It’s the best mac n cheese recipe I’ve ever made! I’ve been making vegan mac n cheese for the 10 years I’ve been vegan – this is the best one! – Valentina
“I have made many versions of vegan mac and cheese but is hands down the best I have ever had. Thank you so much for sharing ! -Katt
“I LOVE this recipe, omg omg omg. Thank you for the best vegan mac and cheese I’ve ever had. Best mac and cheese period. So creamy and flavorful and my whole family devoured it!” -Shannon C.
“Oh my lawd, this is good! My husband and I have full and happy bellies after DEVOURING this delicious mac and cheese. He’s not vegan but couldn’t put the fork down. Thank you from both of us!” -Lynn P.
Vegan Instant Pot Cheese Sauce + Vegan Instant Pot Queso (no soaking cashews required)
If you are a bit on the lazy side (no shade) and you have an Instant Pot, then you MUST make the Vegan Cheese Sauce and/or Vegan Queso from my cookbook, The Vegan Instant Pot Cookbook! You can order my cookbook on Amazon or find it at stores like Barnes and Noble! For basic info on my cookbook, just head to the Cookbook page on the blog or for even more info, check out this comprehensive blog post about my book.
All you need to do is dump a handful of ingredients into the Instant Pot, let the machine do its magic, and then puree with an immersion blender (or food processor). The recipe does have cashews, but they don’t require any soaking, yay!
And I promise you, the queso variation (which requires just a few more ingredients) is the BEST vegan queso you’ve ever tried!
Nut-Free Vegan Cheese Sauce
And if you’re looking for a really healthy, veggie-packed, nut-free, no-oil-added cheese sauce, then I have another option for you! Admittedly, the other two cheese sauces listed above taste a bit cheesier and more indulgent, but if you’re intolerant to nuts or looking for a low-calorie option, then this is the cheese sauce for you!
Mexican Cheese Sauce
If you are looking for something a bit different than a cheddar-like cheese sauce, I also have a Mexican-flavored cheese sauce! It’s featured in my Buffalo Chickpea Quesadillas, another popular recipe on the blog, but many of you have made the cheese sauce solo and love having it throughout the week!
It’s another easy and incredibly satisfying recipe!
Vegan Ricotta (Tofu-Based)
One of my favorite and easy cheese substitutes to make is a tofu-based ricotta. It’s incredibly creamy and almost fluffy, like traditional ricotta. It takes about 5 minutes to make and couldn’t be simpler!
I have a few variations of this ricotta on the blog as well as in my cookbook! My favorite version is in the Vegetable Lasagna from my cookbook, which I shared on the blog for free, but most of these recipes are fairly similar and all are delicious.
Vegan Feta (Tofu-Based)
Feta used to be one of my favorite cheeses, but once I went vegan, I assumed I’d never taste it again. WRONG! Though feta is very distinctive in taste and therefore harder to replicate than say, cheddar cheese, it is not impossible!
The tofu-based feta in my cookbook is (1) really simple to make (the hardest part is pressing the excess water out of the tofu and waiting for the feta to marinate), (2) has the same briny, tangy, salty flavors you love about feta, and (3) is, of course, cruelty-free!
I serve it alongside Gigantes Plaki in my cookbook for an spin on classic Greek comfort food, but you’re going to want to make this tofu feta on the regular and keep a batch in your fridge!
When you want a vegan cheese that’s spreadable, this is an easy and pantry-friendly option! Spread it on quesadillas and enjoy gooey melty cheesy heaven, use it as a dip for crackers, or spread onto toasted bread for a grilled cheese.
The base of the cashew cheese is cashews and plant-based milk, and it gets flavored with nutritional yeast for cheesiness and spices for flavor (garlic or garlic powder, onion powder, smoked paprika for a little smokiness). The thickener in this recipe that converts this from cheese sauce recipe to spreadable cheese is the tapioca flour.
Once you blend everything in a high-powered blender or food processor, you’ll have a pourable consistency. Pour the sauce into a saucepan and heat on the stove for a few minutes, whisking constantly. Thanks to the tapioca flour, you’ll notice that it quickly thickens and eventually firms up and turns almost stringy. Once you have a thick spreadable consistency, take it off the heat immediately (otherwise, it can turn somewhat gummy).
Part 2: Store-Bought Vegan Cheese Alternatives
In the beginning of your vegan transition, it can be hard to know which vegan cheeses will satisfy your cheese cravings. And to be honest, it can also be hard no store-bought vegan cheese can 100% perfectly mimic dairy cheese.
Vegan cheeses are made with entirely different ingredients, yes. But once you remind yourself that plant-based cheeses are cruelty-free and don’t harm animals, are much better for the environment (raising cattle is, by far, the biggest animal-agriculture based contributor to climate change), and almost always better for your body, it will increasingly become less important to you that vegan cheeses 100% mimic dairy cheese.
Instead, what will become important is having vegan cheese substitutes that taste good and satisfy those cravings while still doing good for the planet, animals, and your body.
With that said, here are some of my favorite store-bought vegan cheese alternatives!
Kite Hill Foods. They make almond-based cheeses, as well as yogurts, milks, etc. I love their vegan cream cheese (they have original, as well as chive and a few other flavors) because they have a subtle tang and are made with wholesome ingredients (primarily almonds, salt, cultures, and guar & xantham gums for stabilizers).
Tofutti. Decidedly less “healthy” and more processed than the above, but this stuff tastes JUST LIKE dairy cream cheese. I can’t even taste the difference. I highly recommend this when you are making a cheesecake or where you really want that authentic cream cheese tastes.
Kite Hill Foods. Unfortunately the Kite Hill Foods ricotta is quite difficult to find (sometimes Whole Foods has it, and other smaller gourmet markets might have it), but if you can find it, it is SO good. I have served it with meals to many non-vegans and they all loved it.
Tofutti. Same contenders as above and same description, more or less. Less “clean” than Kite Hill Foods but really delicious and spot on in mimicking ricotta!
Parmela Creamery. This is a smaller brand but if you can find it, their shredded cheese melts really well and tastes great! They are cashew milk-based. You can find them at some Whole Foods, Wegmans, and Sprouts.
- So Delicious. So Delicious makes shredded cheese in Mozzarella, Cheddar, and Cheddar Jack. They have a nice neutral flavor and melt quite well. These cheeses are coconut-milk based. From my conversations with the brand, they are definitely looking to expand their cheese selection so hopefully we’ll see some additional cheeses from them soon!
Daiya Foods. This one is a little more controversial because (1) their parent company Otsuka is not cruelty-free and (2) the shreds have that slightly off-kilter taste that people associate with “fake cheese.” I kept them on this list, however, since they are the easiest vegan cheese brand to find, especially outside of big cities. They have shredded mozzarella, cheddar, and pepper jack.
Block Cheese or Slice Cheese
Field Roast Chao Creamery. I am pretty obsessed with these vegan cheese slices from Field Roast/Chao Creamery, which are made from coconut and fermented tofu! They melt really well!
- Violife Mature Cheddar Slices: These are soft, flavorful, and melt well!
Daiya: same note from above about their parent company, but I find that their Swiss cheese slices taste/feel just like dairy-based sliced cheese. It’s one of the few cheeses I find easy to eat by the slice with a glass of wine (just like I used to do in my pre-vegan days)! I haven’t tried any of the other flavors.
Follow Your Heart: While their block cheese doesn’t stretch as much as traditional dairy cheese, it’s quite delicious and great with crackers, as a snack, or shredded into mac and cheese! They also have sliced cheeses.
Parmela Creamery. This is a smaller brand but if you can find it, their shredded cheese melts really well and tastes great!
Follow Your Heart. This is my go-to for vegan parmesan. It’s pre-shredded and has a nice neutral taste. The shreds are quite large, so I like to chop them up or if I’m using a lot, pop them in the food processor and pulse a few times.
Go Veggie. I quite like this grate parmesan topping. It reminds me of that weird chemically-smelling, shelf-stable parmesan we’d eat in the 90s, but better tasting and better for you!
Miyoko’s. Miyokos makes some of the highest-quality vegan cheeses out there, and I love them (made with cashews and other whole ingredients). Unfortunately they’re quite pricy, though I occasionally find them on sale at my local bodega. I love their mozzarella as well as their cheese spreads (great slathered on baguettes, crackers, crudites, etc.).
Treeline Cheese. Also makes some good, tangy nut-based cheese spreads. Rich and satisfying but made with wholesome plant-based ingredients (mostly cashews and live cultures). In addition to being vegan, they’re also paleo!
- Violife Just Like Feta: the best store-bought feta I’ve tried outside of a fancy restaurant. Salty and cheesy and tastes like a hybrid of goat cheese and feta.
Alright, that’s it for my lineup of The Best Vegan Cheese Substitutes! Hope you found this guide helpful and informative. If you did, be sure to leave a comment below :)
Hugs and kisses,