Whether you’re vegan, allergic to dairy, lactose intolerant, or just looking for a healthier alternative to dairy cheese you’re living in a magical time for tasty alternatives. (Also, if you’re thinking to yourself “why would anyone NOT eat dairy cheese? This is why.) I decided to put this post together on the heels of the sad news that Chicago Vegan Foods is discontinuing their retail line of Teese Vegan Cheese.
While Teese Nacho Cheese will be missed, there are still a lot of great options – here are my favorites that you can buy in stores or make yourself, in no particular order:
- Miyoko’s Kitchen – Miyoko Schinner is the unequivocal queen of vegan cheese. Her book Artisan Vegan Cheese is one of my most prized possessions, but more on that later. If you’re lucky enough to live near the select retail locations that carry Miyoko’s Creamery products then load up, for the love of all things cheesy. If like me, you live in the Midwest where you can’t yet buy her products in stores, you can order them online. The cost of shipping is a bit prohibitive, but if you make a group order with your friends or office mates it’s not so bad, and if you follow her on Facebook, you’ll get the occasional coupon code, too. My two favorites are the Double Cream Chive, which mimics the homemade chive cream cheese from my favorite Jewish deli in Chicago, and the Fresh Loire Valley in a Fig Leaf, which is a soft, aromatic cheese that’s delicious with fruit.
- Chao Cheese – Field Roast went from being, “Hm, want to try this thing instead of Tofurkey for Thanksgiving this year?” to being a major player in the vegan food scene. Chao Cheese is a revelation – it’s soft and creamy even when cold, and when you heat it up, it melts just like the real thing. Rather than trying to mimic well-known flavors like cheddar and Swiss, they created new ones like Coconut Herb and Tomato Cayenne. I love the latter flavor in vegan deep dish pizza.
- Treeline Cheese – I’d seen Treeline in the vegan section at Whole Foods quite a few times, but at nearly $10 a pop, I never bothered to give it a try. Then I sampled the Herb Garlic soft cheese at VeganMania and between the tangy, creamy flavor thanks to cultured cashews and the handsome gentleman doing their sampling that say I was sold. Treeline Cheese is available in more than 1,000 stores, including 200 Whole Foods and 250 Hy-Vee supermarkets!
- Heidi Ho Organics – Yep, the one that was on Shark Tank. Heidi Ho plant-based cheeses are delicious, but if you’re looking to really sell a cheese-eater, they might not be where you want to start. Don’t get me wrong, the smoky chia cheese sauce is as tasty over a baked potato as any cheese sauce I’ve ever had, but it doesn’t quite have that creamy, fatty quality that some of the cheeses I mentioned above do. If you’re a seasoned vegan cheese eater, or looking for an alternative as opposed to a “replacement” definitely look for it in Whole Foods and online.
- DIY Butternut Squash Queso – Speaking of plant-based cheeses, inventive vegans have been finding ways to blend veggies and nuts together to make creamy, unctuous cheeses. This recipe from Crave, Eat, Heal: Plant-based, Whole-food Recipes to Satisfy Every Appetite blends cheesy heavy hitters like cashews, nutritional yeast, miso paste and roasted butternut squash to make a flavorful dip suitable for any chip or veggie.
- Daiya Blocks – Vegans have nailed soft cheeses and sauces – but the elusive hard cheese has been, um… elusive. While Daiya’s shreds and cream cheese aren’t my personal faves, their block cheeses are. When you want the classic cheese-and-cracker experience, reach for their cheddar-style block. I was going to go on and on about their cheesecakes here, too, but I’ll add a couple shout-outs at the end of this post about my favorite vegan cheese-filled products.
- DIY Italian Grandma Cheeses – My grandma Sharon Rigazio is dedicated to the art of spaghetti. Her sauce is famous not just in our own family, but among all her friends and neighbors. My gram lent her name to one of my favorite recipes from my book – Spaghetti Cake with Grandma Sharon’s Hater-Proof Sauce. The recipe calls for Cashew Ricotta and Not Parm, two Italian cheese staples that are super cheap and easy to make. Now hurry up and eat, my grandma thinks you look too thin.
- DIY Almost Alfredo – This simple recipe from Julie Hasson’s Vegan Casseroles: Pasta Bakes, Gratins, Pot Pies, and More calls on oat flour as an unusual thickening agent. Traditionally made with butter and Parmesan cheese, this substantially healthier sauce is perfect when tossed with pasta or baked into a casserole with loads of veggies.
- Nooch – Nutritional yeast is one of the more polarizing ingredients in vegan cooking. Either you love it so much your pee is permanently fluorescent, or the smell of it makes your nose crinkle. I personally love it, and use it to make a classic orange cheese sauce for mac n’ cheese, and to make a zesty nacho cheese sauce for nachos and of course, Taco Lasagna. It’s cheapest when purchased from bulk bins!
- Avocado – C’mon, don’t look at me like that. Avocado is a legitimately awesome substitute for soft, creamy cheeses in so many recipes. You can serve it with hot pasta, you can use it in caprice salads and bruschetta, you can put some salt on it and eat it with a spoon. Rich, creamy, and full of “good fats” that help keep you full. Avocados, Nature’s Cheese™. (Not actually trademarked to my knowledge.)
OK, so it was really hard for me not to blather on and on about some of my other favorite cheesy products up there, so I’m going to do it here:
- Cheesecake – There are currently two store-bought options that hit the spot for me. Eli’s Vegan Cheesecake (yeah, I almost died when I saw it, too) and Daiya Cheezecake. If you’d like to make your own, try this Strawberry Mint Cacao Cheesecake or my Chick-O-Cheesecake.
- Mac n’ Cheese – I prefer to make my own, but if I’m feeling lazy, Earth Balance makes a pretty good packaged version – we add a little nooch and yellow mustard to ours to boost the flavor.
- Cream Cheese – Honestly, I can’t stand any of the products being marketed as vegan cream cheese right now, but I do like to use some of the soft cheeses I mentioned above like Miyoko’s Creamery and Treeline. I also have a block of Dill Havarti from Herbivorous Butcher in my fridge right now that’s been jazzing up my bagels all week. Oh, and you can make our own, too.
- Pizza – I’ve officially given up on vegan cheese shreds – not that they’re bad, per say, but I don’t like to eat “not bad” pizza, I like to eat good pizza. For that reason, I skip the cheese all together a lot of times, and just load up on veggies and olive oil. But, if I’m in the mood for something more traditional I make Miyoko’s meltable cheese, which is awesome. I also like Daiya’s vegan, gluten-free frozen pizzas.
Son’t see your favorite on my list? It’s probably just because I haven’t tried it yet! What are your favorite vegan cheeses and cheesy products? Tell me in the comments!