Nowadays, there are so many vegan cheeses on the market, it can be hard to choose! Well, I’m here to help with this round-up of the best vegan cheese for your every need. I’ve got you covered from tacos and pizza through melty dips and dressings.
Eleven years ago when I went vegan, the non-dairy cheese options were nothing to write home about. I tried a few gelatinous yellow blocks. Then I decided that I’d have my pizzas cheeseless and my tacos with guacamole instead of cheese or sour cream.
And that was okay. Even now, I still prefer a cheeseless pizza nine times out of ten, because you can really taste all of the toppings. Having something creamy over the top of everything tends to mask the flavor.
(Did you know that there are 3 stages of cheeseless pizza? It’s true. Check out this video.)
The three stages of cheeseless pizza
Since that time, the vegan cheese world has exploded. (That sounds deliciously messy!) In my local grocery store smack dab in Middle America, there’s a huge section devoted to non-dairy cheese.
There are vegan cheeses that work well for wine & cheese nights, some for smearing on a bagel, and others that beg to be shredded onto a burrito. There’s never been a better time to be vegan!
There are lots of vegan cheeses out there I love, including plenty that I make at home.
Today I’m going to share some of my favorites… Or as Depeche Mode would call them, my “own personal cheeses.”
Does vegan cheese taste like dairy-based cheese?
There are some vegan cheeses that taste a whole lot like dairy-based cheese. However, I personally don’t need vegan cheeses to mimic dairy-based cheeses exactly. I just need them to be delicious.
I use them in the same way that I used to use dairy-based cheese (i.e. poured over nachos or slathered onto crackers). These serve the same place and purpose, but obviously there are going to be differences since they are made with different ingredients.
Just as cheese made from sheep’s milk, goat’s milk, or cow’s milk all have different consistencies and flavors, so do cheeses made from cashews, beans, or nutritional yeast all have different qualities.
To people who are trying plant-based cheeses for the first time, I would say – don’t expect them to be exactly the same. Just come with an open mind and as long as it tastes good, who cares?
(Curious about why I would call a plant-based food cheese? Check out this post called My Take on Fake: Plant Based Milks & Meats. There I address the complaint, “Vegans should come up with their own names for these things. Their plant-based versions are not real.”)
Favorite vegan queso-style cheese
One kind of cheese that I always make at home is queso. It’s so easy to make really good queso, and there are loads of options for bases.
Cashew is my preferred queso base, but I also have recipes for flour-based queso and a cauliflower & bean based queso. Both of those are nut-free!
This vegan chili cheese dip is packed with three bean chili, seitan chorizo, and creamy cashew queso. It’s great for parties, games nights, and get-togethers.
Nothing says messy indulgence like a gargantuan pile of vegan nachos. Every bite brings a different flavor – cashew queso, spicy seitan, black beans, chunks of ripe avocado, the peppery bite of jalapeño…
These vegan chili cheese tater tots are a real crowd pleaser. Topped with 3 bean chili and cashew queso, it’s a treat for the senses.
A spicy scramble with hearty refried beans and creamy queso on a bed of tortilla chips is a beautiful way to start the day.
These nests were inspired by a dish that I got at A.N.D. Café in Portland. They’re made with a layer of hash browns and topped with tofu scramble dotted with onions, bell pepper, garlic, and kale. They are then drizzled with a creamy vegan queso.
For a nut-free queso that uses pantry-friendly ingredients, I am a big fan of this Vegan Nacho Cheese Sauce. It comes together in just one pan and is ready in no time flat. It reminds me of the simple queso that was served at my favorite taco shop in high school. Serve it on fried, puffy nachos for an indulgent treat.
Finally, for a healthy, whole foods take on queso, you’ll never believe this light, whippy Creamy Cauliflower Queso is made with cauliflower and Great Northern beans. It’s great in burritos, on quesadillas, poured over potatoes, or of course, layered on chips. (Watch a video on how to make this queso here.)
Shredded vegan cheese
I have yet to find a shredded vegan cheese that I really love. However, when I shred my own Daiya cheddar-style farmhouse block by hand, it’s terrific on vegan 7 layer dip, tacos, and more.
I realize that Daiya and lots of other brands already make cheese that’s pre-shredded, but for me the flavor isn’t quite there. I don’t know what the difference is in the formula, but it’s so much better when you shred the block by hand.
The block also tastes great on its own for a wine & cheese night with pickles, Herbivorous Butcher pepperoni, and mustard on crackers.
(The jalapeño havarti is also really good. I haven’t tried the other flavors above.)
Put shredded non-dairy cheese on the following dishes:
There’s a reason it’s a fan favorite. Who doesn’t love 7 layer dip? The homemade refried beans in this 7 layer dip really take it up a notch. Remember it for your next party or get together.
These inviting quesadillas are stuffed with all of the pierogi flavors you crave. Potatoes with onions, melty non-dairy cheese, and tangy sauerkraut are encased in tortillas and served with yogurt ranch dip. It’s the perfect party crowd pleaser.
This hearty & warming vegan baked potato soup is piled high with seitan bacon, non-dairy cheese, and green onions. When the weather outside is frightful, this cozy soup will keep the chills away.
This hearty 3 bean chili is packed with pinto, black, and Great Northern beans. It’s wonderful on a rainy afternoon with crackers or crusty bread, or ladle it over veggie dogs cooked on the grill.
There are some days when only a vegan chili dog will do. When that urge strikes, do it up right with homemade three bean chili, a browned frankfurter, non-dairy cheese, plus pickle & mustard for good measure.
If you’re looking for a hearty lunch or dinner that will really stick with you, look no further. These vegan bean burritos with seitan chorizo and tater tots are savory and filling in all of the best ways.
These fried puffy tacos were inspired by the flour tacos sold at Tasty Tacos in Des Moines, Iowa. However, this version is completely vegan. Seitan chorizo and beans, non-dairy cheese, crunchy green leaf lettuce, and tomatoes all come together to recreate the experience beautifully.
This chili dog pizza will bring out the kid in you. Serve the slices with optional toppings, and let your guests top their pizzas as they prefer. This kid-friendly meal would also be fun for a party or game day.
Hosting a party or potluck? Vegan walking tacos (also called frito pie) are a hit with adults & kids alike. Put out a walking taco bar, and let your guests serve themselves.
Spreadable vegan cheese
There are so many good spreadable vegan cheeses out there, and it feels like a new one is popping up on the market every day.
Vegan cream cheese
For vegan cream cheese, Kite Hill is my favorite. The only flaw and benefit is that the ingredients are very natural. So it often goes bad more quickly than I can use it. The flavor is terrific, though, and I love both the plain and chive. I haven’t tried their newest flavor, jalapeño.
Use vegan cream cheese in these dishes:
These crab rangoon appetizers look surprisingly fancy for something that’s so easy to put together! They would be great for a dinner party, game night, or watching the big game if you’re into that sort of thing.
Get ready for the best baked potato of your life – made in the air fryer! This method delivers a perfectly crisp peel and pillowy interior. Stuff it with any or all of your favorite toppings.
This filling breakfast is perfectly portable for those days when you have to rush out the door. It’s packed with eggy tofu, vegan breakfast sausage, and a slathering of non-dairy cream cheese. It’s ready from start to finish in only about 15 minutes.
Worthy of a wine & cheese night
For vegan cheeses that are worthy of a wine and cheese night, there are a wealth of options.
My favorite store-bought vegan cheeses include:
- Punk Rawk – Cashew herb, cashew smoked, and cashew of the woods. (I’m also obsessed with their shishito gold mustard.)
- Heidi Ho – Pure & black lava ne chèvre
- Miyoko’s Kitchen – Sundried tomato garlic, winter truffle, Fresh Loire Valley, black ash, and mozzarella (Check out my reviews of Miyoko’s Kitchen cheeses here & here.)
- Treeline – Scallion flavor, chipotle serrano pepper, herb-garlic, and cracked pepper (Check out my review of Treeline here.)
- Herbivorous Butcher – Smoked gouda, mozzarella, and feta (Check out my review of Herbivorous Butcher here.)
In addition to putting it on a vegan cheeseboard, these cheeses go well on dishes.
Use these vegan cheeses in the following ways:
Use frozen potato & onion pierogi for this lightening fast weeknight meal. With sautéed kale & cashew cream cheese, it is packed with flavor.
Prefer to make your own?
Spreadable cashew cheese is easy to make at home!
This spread combines my love of cashews and pickled jalapeños in one mouthwatering vegan cheese. Smear it onto crackers or bread for a truly delicious snack.
Delicate squash blossoms are stuffed with cashew cheese, dredged in flour and spices, and shallow fried. What results is an appetizer that you’ll be thinking about all year long, until squash blossom season comes around again.
Vegan cheese slices
Vegan cheese slices are handy for sandwiches or throwing into a cooler for a road-trip. My favorite vegan cheese slices are from Follow Your Heart (especially the smoked gouda) and Chao by Field Roast.
Use the vegan cheese slices in the following ways:
These adorable Mini Macs are the vegan version of the Big Mac in slider form. 2 ‘no beef’ patties, special sauce, lettuce, cheese, pickles, onions on a miniature bun.
These burgers can be made on the grill or on the stove top. I give both options in the directions.
This recipe delivers all of the flavor of a diner-style Denver omelette but in handheld form. It’s stuffed with eggy tofu, diced onion, bell pepper slices, spinach leaves, and vegan cheese.
Nooch + miso
There’s something very classically vegan about using nutritional yeast flakes & miso paste in place of cheese in recipes – especially for pesto. Nutritional yeast brings the cheesy quality and miso paste adds that umami richness underneath.
What is nutritional yeast? <— Find out here!
This delicious pesto rice makes for an easy, vegan & gluten-free side dish. It also works well as a base for bowls with your favorite toppings like roasted chickpeas, cherry tomatoes, and grilled artichoke hearts.
This eye-catching dish works just as well for a romantic evening with your sweetheart as it does for a quick lunch in the afternoon. Topped with air fried or roasted chickpeas, this pasta has staying power.
Vegan blue cheese & feta
But wait, there’s more! We’ve almost covered every cheesy avenue out there. However, there are times when you need some vegan blue cheese to cut through the spicy heat of buffalo sauce, or for marinated cashews to act as feta, bringing briny goodness to a dish.
Buffalo-style grilled corn on the cob is topped with dollops of homemade vegan blue cheese dressing. This spicy side dish is a terrific addition to your barbecue or cookout.
With layers of hummus, marinated cashews, and grilled artichoke hearts, this artichoke crostini is a delightfully light & flavorful starter for summer get-togethers. Or if you’re anything like me, make a meal out of them along with a simple side salad.
The marinated cashews wouldn’t fool anyone into thinking it was feta, but it goes well in places where a person might put feta.
Here are a couple more homemade vegan cheeses I adore:
Obviously I haven’t tried or made every vegan cheese in existence. So please share… What are your favorite vegan cheeses?