The last animal product my fiance and I gave up when we decided to go vegan was cheese. We’d been using non-dairy milk and vegan butter for months, but we stubbornly clung to cheese because 1) we loved it and 2) I wasn’t a great cook, but I knew that if I slapped cheese on something that had a questionable flavor, it would be delicious.
Since going vegan, we’ve both learned a lot about flavor profiles and how to make Good Food, so cheese isn’t really something we miss. However, from time to time, we like to indulge in a vegan pizza or a vegan grilled cheese. There are local restaurants in Providence that offer these goodies, luckily, but when we crave them at home, we try to go the cheaper route and make things ourselves rather than ordering takeout or going out to eat.
We’ve tried several different types and brands of vegan cheese and have discovered that they all seem to have their own pros and cons. Also, based on flavor and texture, some of them work really well for certain recipes and foods, but not others.
I’ve compiled a list of vegan cheeses we’ve tried and their relative tastiness, as well as suggestions for how to use them. I originally wanted to number this list, but given that each cheese has its own strengths and weaknesses, that seems a little unfair. Therefore, these are in no particular order. I’m not sorry.
CRAVING: Grilled cheese, cheesy bagels, quesadillas (with or without meat substitutes)
GO-TO CHEESE: Field Roast Chao Creamy Original Slices
- A package of Chao slices costs about $6 at our local Whole Foods and gets us through 1-5 meals/snacks, depending on how we use it.
- The other two varieties of this cheese are fucking delicious, but we use the Creamy Original Slices most often because they work well in a ton of different dishes and flavor profiles, which makes them more versatile and therefore more worth the money.
- This cheese melts well in low, slow heat over a skillet (like in grilled cheese or quesadillas) and gets a little bit caramelized in an oven (like on a toasted, cheesy bagel). It has a smooth, creamy texture and a mild flavor, somewhat reminiscent of American cheese. Unmelted, this cheese still has a decent texture! Sometimes we get 11 slices instead of 10 in a package, or we mis-proportion and end up with an extra, so I’ll just eat it on its own. Yum.
- A block of Follow Your Heart cheese costs about $5 at our local Whole Foods and gets us through 1-2 meals/snacks, depending on how we use it.
- Every variety of FYH cheese we’ve had is amazing. I am eager to try them all (especially the parmesan!) but since we don’t often splurge on vegan cheese, we try to stick to the brands we know we like for the recipes we know we like them in. We usually get mozzarella because it’s so good on pizza.
- This cheese melts and stretches and packs a punch of soft, tangy mozzarella flavor. It also shreds really well and maintains its integrity when cut into blocks or strips. If you’re shredding, don’t pile it on! This cheese has the best texture when it’s used somewhat sparingly, sprinkled rather than dumped on its vehicle.
CRAVING: Gooey, uber-nostalgic, Kraft singles grilled cheese
GO-TO CHEESE: Daiya Cheddar Style Slices
- A local grilled cheese shop called UMelt uses these slices in their vegan sandwiches. I’m obsessed with their vegan veggie grilled cheese, which has sauteed kale and onions and tomato jam served on wheat bread. So. Good.
- A package of Daiya Cheddar Style Slices costs between $4-$5 at our local Stop N Shop, depending on sales, and it gets me through 5-6 meals/snacks.
- My fiance is not a fan of Daiya cheese and honestly? I usually don’t like it either. For whatever reason, the cheddar slices totally strike my fancy. As a kid, my mom used to make me Kraft singles grilled cheese with canned tomato soup and I loved it. As I got older, I became deeply obsessed with real cheese on my grilled cheese sandwiches, neither of which I would eat now. But sometimes that little bit of nostalgic wanting is just the push I need to go for some Daiya cheddar.
- This cheese melts super well! It’s delicious when it’s hot but can quickly get chalky if you let it cool too much or don’t let it melt all the way. Be careful!
CRAVING: A toasted bagel with lots of cream cheese
GO-TO CHEESE: Kite Hill Cream Cheese Style Spreads
- A container of Kite Hill Cream Cheese costs about $8 at our local Whole Foods, which means we only purchase it on Very Special Occasions (or when we can convince someone else to buy it for us, as a birthday or holiday gift). One container usually covers 4-5 bagels, depending on how much we glob on.
- I really like Follow Your Heart Cream Cheese because it’s tangy and kind of sweet, but my fiance is not about it. We tried Kite Hill’s version after seeing it recommended online and accidentally fell in love. Kite Hill makes their cream cheese spreads from almonds, which gives them a tangy taste that isn’t overwhelmingly sweet. I’m a particular fan of the kind with chives.
- The texture of Kite Hill Cream Cheese is really airy, almost like a whipped cream cheese. It melts and gets ooey-gooey delicious on toasted food, but also maintains a nice texture on untoasted food, too!
GO-TO CHEESE: Teese Vegan Creamy Cheddar Cheese Sauce
- Our local Whole Foods no longer carries Teese (my tears, they are real), but it used to cost us between $4-$5, if I recall correctly. A tube of Teese lasts for several meals, depending on usage.
- I miss nachos and am eager to look into making my own nacho cheese sauce at home (this recipe looks promising), but I bought Teese cheddar sauce once and it was amazing. It had an awesome flavor and it made my plate of tortilla chips into a pile of delicious, bad-for me cheesy nachos. I’m a big fan.
- The texture of Teese sauce is super gooey and is best served warm for maximum flavor.
I think that about wraps it up. There are lots of vegan cheeses I have yet to try, like Treeline, because I just don’t have the funds. I’m working to learn how to make vegan cheese at home to not only save money but expand my culinary prowess. As of this moment, I’ve perfected my homemade tofu ricotta (recipe soon, maybe?) and I’m starting to experiment with more basic cashew cheeses. I’m also super familiar with cream sauces, flour-based and otherwise.
Remember: “Dairy-free” does not always mean vegan! Check for ingredients like casein and gelatin in your alternative cheese products before buying and don’t be afraid to explore!
Do you have a favorite vegan cheese I haven’t listed here? Tell me about it in the comments. I’d love to check it out.