A few weeks ago I received a Facebook message on my Cadry’s Kitchen page asking about my favorite plant-based cheeses. After getting this message, I realized it had been a long time since I’d shared my favorite vegan cheeses in one easy-to-find place. (Plus, it gave me an opportunity to work a Depeche Mode pun into my title…)
These are exciting times! It seems that every month there’s a new vegan cheese on the market. But truth be told, my favorite plant-based cheeses are made at home. I love having control over the ingredients and being able to tweak a recipe to fit my mood. Plus, it tends to be a lot less expensive when you make it yourself!
As I’ve mentioned before, I 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.”)
For fatty, rich queso, I love this Cashew Queso from Post Punk Kitchen and Isa Does It. It has a wonderful mouth feel and just the right amount of spices to have you licking your fingers after you’re done. (Another cashew-based queso that I really enjoy is from Practically Raw.)
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.)
Favorite Cream Cheese:
My favorite cream cheese is from Miyoko Schinner’s book, Artisan Vegan Cheese. It’s made from raw cashews, water, non-dairy yogurt, and a pinch of salt. The key to the pungent bite of this cashew cheese is not to store it in the refrigerator until it has that telltale cream cheese flavor. (I taste it regularly as it sits on the counter, and it usually gets that perfect cream cheese bite after two days.)
I love it on bagels or crackers, and it also works really well as a sour cream on tacos. (You can see my full review of Artisan Vegan Cheese here, and the recipe for the vegan cream cheese was printed with permission on Your Vegan Mom.)
Favorite “wine & cheese night” cheeses:
I’ve been making Kristy’s Tofu Chèvre regularly ever since she posted it. It’s terrific exactly as written, and it’s also delicious with added garlic powder or topped with fresh herbs. (I used fresh rosemary here.)
It makes me feel like I’m on my honeymoon again, spreading the tofu chèvre onto bread for breakfast. It also makes for a filling lunch with a salad and some crackers. Kristy has several recipes using the tofu chèvre on Keepin’ It Kind, including a pizza, a kale salad, and this grilled cheese sandwich with pesto that looks amazing.
This holiday cheddar cheese ball from Vedged Out completely takes me back to holiday parties in my childhood, when I’d try to nab as much of the cheese ball on the appetizer table as I could. This rich cheese was a huge hit at my husband’s birthday party this past winter and had all of the guests talking about it.
Favorite cheesy appetizers:
For a salty, smoky, and sweet appetizer, these seitan bacon wrapped cashew-cheese stuffed dates tick all of the boxes.
When squash blossoms pop up at the farmers market again, you can bet I’ll be making these cashew cheese stuffed squash blossoms again. They are one of my favorite foods ever. Plus, if a prettier appetizer exists, I have never seen it.
Favorite purchased cheeses:
If you don’t feel like making your own, my favorite purchased cheeses are from Punk Rawk and Treeline. The cheeses for both brands are nut-based and artisan quality. Unfortunately, neither brand is available locally, but when I’ve had the opportunity to enjoy them, both brands have really impressed me.
Daiya is not my favorite vegan cheese, but it’s probably the most popular one on the market. It also has wide availability. Once or twice a year, I’ll get a bag of Daiya cheddar shreds for tacos. They freeze well, and you can just pull out a pinch or two as needed. Since we don’t go through a bag very fast, that works out well for us.
I’m also a big fan of just adding avocado in places where cheese might be commonplace (i.e. on sandwiches, tacos, pizza, etc.). And for pizza, I tend to prefer mine cheeseless. For extra oomph on a pizza, I’ll add jalapeno slices, hot sauce, forkfuls of sauerkraut, or the aforementioned avocado slices. Finally, when I want the ease of a wine and cheese night but don’t want to go to a lot of effort, I love a simple Nibbly Night instead.
Obviously I haven’t tried or made every vegan cheese in existence. So please share… What are your favorite vegan cheeses?