If you ask anyone what is the one thing they miss the most after transitioning to a plant-based diet, almost everyone will say cheese. People of Asian or African origin don’t miss it because cheese is not consumed in Asia and Africa. Actually, most Asians are allergic to dairy products. For everyone else, butter, cheese, cream are the glue that holds most of the food they eat. I was one of them!
I have been asked so many times which vegan cheese is worth buying that I thought I would put together a list of my favorites and explain why. I have to say that we have come a long way baby! For almost 20 years, plant-based cheese in America was mostly bland, rubbery processed cheese, either yellow or orange colored, that didn’t really melt and as a result was pretty disappointing. Now being French, I admit that I do hold a high bar. After all, France produces around 400 different types of cheese! We do take our cheese so seriously that it should be featured on our national flag! We love cheese so much that a tray with an assortment of cheese is part of the menu in most French restaurants! We wouldn’t want to have a meal without it! But I digress!
In the early days, most plant-based cheeses were made with soy milk, until people realized that most of the soybeans cultivated in the US were GMO grown for farm animals. Then several companies experimented with almond milk, cashew milk, coconut milk, hazelnut milk, and combinations thereof. Artisan cheesemakers were hired and started to incorporate various cheese bacteria and enzymes to age the cheese. This was the beginning of a whole new generation of vegan cheese that packed stronger flavors and offered richer textures.
It has taken almost a decade for vegan cheese manufacturers to crack the secret of truly meltable plant-based cheese. As a result, we can now all enjoy grilled sandwiches, quesadillas, Mac’n cheese, and much more. Fast forward to today, the global vegan cheese market is now worth over 3 billion dollars and still growing!
Here is the great news, an incredible array of plant-based cheese can now be bought in mainstream grocery stores. They are healthier, tastier, affordable and a total game-changer. And there are more that are only available online, so if you like cheese, you are in for a treat!
I have tried every kind of vegan cheese I could find over the years both in the US and in Europe. Here are my favorites. Note that I have focused on brands that can be bought in mainstream grocery stores in the US. There are others brands that are only available online but that will be the subject of another article. So without further ado, here are the winners. Drumroll, please!
VEGAN FETA CHEESE:
Feta is usually made with sheep or goat cheese. It is salty and tangy and the reason why it is perfect on a Greek salad. Now you can enjoy it dairy-free! I have to say that these 2 brands are so good that no one will know they are plant-based. I have converted many friends that eat dairy products to make the switch, it is that good!
- Violife (comes in a block in brine that can be diced or sliced).
It is the best. No competition!
I have had the real Italian mozzarella buffa in Italy and to be honest, it isn’t one of my favorite types of cheese. Kind of bland and a little too rubbery in my taste. If you love mozzarella cheese there is, in my opinion, only one real contender in this category. Miyoko’s Creamery Mozz – it has the perfect balance of semi-elastic texture and buttery flavor. Perfect for tomato caprese salad, pizza toppings, sandwiches…
DAIRY-FREE CHEESE SLICES:
Two of my favorites are Violife and Chao. They come in different flavors that are unique and perfect for sandwiches, canapes. They are also very affordable.
Violife slices (Mature Cheddar slices, Smoked provolone),
Chao Slices (Creamy, smokey, tomato cayenne, Spicy)
PLANT-BASED SPREADABLE CHEESE:
Who doesn’t like creamy cheesy spreads? I have 3 winners. If you are on a budget, the first two deliver on taste and texture without breaking the bank. I also love Miyoko’s Creamery spreads because they are aged and come in more unique flavors.
Tree Line: Herb Garlic, Scallion, Chipotle-Serrano
Kite Hill: Garlic, cracked black pepper
Miyoko’s Creamery: Garlic herbs, Chives, Sundried tomato, Black truffles, Black ashes.
VEGAN NACHO CHEESE:
This is the type of cheese you pour on Nachos, pasta, potatoes, sandwiches.
Our favorites are Yumm Sauce, and Siete Cashew Queso (only online).
VEGAN SHREDDED CHEESE:
Super practical, dairy-free cheese shreds come in different styles: mozzarella, cheddar, Mexican mix, etc. There are three brands that are tasty and affordable and can easily be found in mainstream grocery stores, they are:
There is another brand that I love even more but I have only been able to find it at Grocery’s Outlet. It is made by Good Planet. It has a buttery/dairy taste to it and it melt beautifully. You can always ask your local grocery store to order it and they should be able to get it.
There are a few good options when it comes to plant-based parmesan.
Follow Your Heart has grated or shredded vegan parmesan that has a nice tang to it. Sprinkle on pasta, salads, roasted vegies, etc.
But if you want something that’s even closer to real parmesan, you have to try Violife’s parmesan. It comes in a block so that you can grate it as needed and it has even more flavor. That’s a keeper!
Trader Joe’s has a real good one too. It is less dry than Follow Your Heart and it melts too!
If you like stuffed manicotti, creamy pasta, you will love Kite Hill’s ricotta cheese. It has a nice texture, is lightly sweet so that you can use it in savory dishes and for desserts.
VEGAN CREAM CHEESE:
Kite Hill (almond base): Plain, Chives, Everything.
Miyoko’s Creamery (cashew base):
Plain, Scallions, Everything, Fish-free lox, Cinnamon raisin.
VEGAN SOUR CREAM:
if you love baked potatoes, creamy pasta, you have two great dairy-free sour cream options:
Tofutti (soy base)
Kite Hill (almond base)
This type of cheese can take anywhere from 3-6 weeks for the aging process depending on the type (brie, blue, etc). It is an art and a science that requires the use of specific enzymes to create rinds and unique cultured flavors. As a result, there are very few companies that make them in the US. You can find some at Natural Groceries like Whole Foods, Chuck’s. They are a little more expensive but if you love aged cheese, they are worth it.
I bought my first vegan brie online (Jule’s Cheese) but I am sad to report that they recently closed shop. As a result, I have learned to make my own plant-based brie. Life is an adventure so you have to keep on learning, and trying new things! It is so good!
Miyoko’s Creamery is the top contender in the US with multiple selections of aged wheel cheese with exterior rinds and creamy inner.