There’s such a thing as dairy-free cheese? Is vegan cheese good? Is it healthy? What’s the best vegan cheese?
I’ve been asked these questions a lot when introducing plant-based cheese to reluctant friends and family. Right off the bat, many have a hard time understanding my dairy-free diet for one reason: how could I give up one of life’s greatest pleasures, cheese?!
When I discovered my allergy to lactose a few years ago, I had a hard time imagining life without this essential accompaniment to my favorite foods. What would replace the endless grated parmesan on my pasta and where was I supposed to dunk my tortilla chips?
While pizza and nachos deserve all their glory, cheese just doesn’t agree with many of us. In fact, I was shocked to learn that 65% of the human population has a reduced ability to digest lactose.
Lucky for all of us, there are tons of plant-based cheese alternatives on the market these days. When I was finally tired of settling for cheese-less charcuterie boards, bland pizzas, and dry sandwiches, I began my quest to find the best vegan cheese around. At this point, I’ve tried over 30 vegan cheeses, and I’m even whipping up my own at home.
Throughout this journey, I learned that you can go wrong when it comes to vegan cheese, just because it’s dairy-free doesn’t mean it’s healthy, and the meltiness and creaminess of real cheese are truly tough to replace. However, there are a few brands that come pretty close to the real thing, so you can enjoy cheese without the health and environmental concerns. Each of these plant-based cheeses won out in a contest of flavor, texture, and ingredients.
Keep reading and let us know: did your favorite vegan cheese make the cut?
When you’re feeling fancy, this Treeline spreadable cheese is our pick for entertaining. It’s creamy, delicious, and perfect for any grazing board to accompany your favorite crackers.
Flavor: A creamy cashew base, coupled with ingredients like scallions, garlic, and onion powders, and herbs, this plant-based cheese packs a salty, flavorful punch.
Texture: This cheese strikes the perfect balance between spreadable and dense, with a soft melt-in-your-mouth texture.
Ingredients: Cashew nuts, filtered water, L. acidophilus, dried scallions, sea salt, lemon juice, white pepper, garlic and onion powders, dried parsley, basil, oregano.
Nothing is more uniting than a warm bowl of melty cheese to dip your favorite chips in. Our pick for dipping is this cashew-based “queso” by Siete foods.
Flavor: This one feels warming and indulgent, with a distinct cheesiness from the nutritional yeast. It’s got a mild dash of spice, and is delicious for dipping or poured over enchiladas.
Texture: When heated, this dip mimics the texture of real queso, only with a slight graininess. It’s not quite as velvety as the real thing, but it’s thin enough where you won’t experience that I-broke-and-lost-half-my-chip moment that happens from time to time.
Ingredients: Water, Cashews, Tomatoes, Carrot, Green Bell Pepper, Nutritional Yeast, Sea Salt, Distilled White Vinegar, Golden Flaxseed, Fermented Extract (Oregano, Flaxseed, Plum), Coconut Milk Powder, Lactic Acid, Onion Powder, Tomato Powder, Garlic Powder.
Miyokos makes an impressive line of dairy-free cheeses, but my favorite is this vegan mozzarella.
Flavor: Creamy, filling, and incredibly smooth. This one is just as delicious melted as it is on a Caprese salad.
Texture: This one is my number one pick for pizzas because it melts the best out of any I’ve tried. When heated long enough, it gets that bubbly, smooth, browned look that can’t be beaten.
Ingredients: Organic Cashew Milk (Filtered Water, Organic Cashews), Organic Coconut Oil, Organic Tapioca Starch, Sea Salt, Organic Agar, Mushroom Extract, Organic Konjac, Cultures.
Runner up: Whole Foods 365 Plant-Based Parmesan
Violife is one of the best all-around vegan cheese brands, and while they don’t score as high on the nutritional value scale, their cheeses are a great staple to have in your fridge.
Flavor: Light and cheesy with a mild nutty flavor.
Texture: This one comes in the form of a block and grates amazingly. It also cuts, melts, and mixes well and is a great addition to vegan pesto!
Ingredients: Filtered Water, Potato & Rice Starch, Food Starch-Modified (potato), Coconut Oil, Salt (Sea Salt), Rice Protein, Parmezan Flavor (vegan sources), Olive Extract, Beta Carotene (Color), Vitamin B12.
Runner up: Kite Hill Everything Cream Cheese
Kite Hill makes the best spreadable vegan cheeses around. The ricotta won out in terms of flavor, but their everything cream cheese is also a delicious addition to any toast or bagel.
Flavor: The Kite Hill Ricotta is creamy, nutty, and deliciously savory.
Texture: It spreads nicely on anything. It’s super versatile and I always use this one in a lasagne, though it