The 5 Best Vegan Cheeses to Try in 2020
There are plenty of reasons why people avoid eating dairy products like milk and cheese. Luckily, the vegan cheese industry has really upped its game in recent years, so you don’t have to give up nachos, pizza, or even grilled cheese sandwiches. (That’s right. Not all vegan food is healthy!) Most supermarkets carry a variety of delicious “cheezes” and cheese-like products made from plants. In some cases, it is nearly impossible to tell the difference.
So, if you haven’t tried vegan cheese in awhile (and think it’s all still plastic-y, greasy, and gross), you’re in for a treat. Today’s vegan “cheese” will hit the spot whether you’re actually vegan or passing on dairy for another reason. It may even impress your cheeseaholic friends.
What Is Vegan Cheese?
Vegan cheese is usually made from plant-based fats like nuts or oils. Some of the purest (and tastiest) vegan cheeses contain only cashews, water, and salt. (See our vegan cashew cheese recipe below.)
Others contain a few more ingredients, like nutritional yeast, beans, tofu, or coconut and olive oils. These tend to taste and perform more like dairy cheeses.
Often, the most flavorful vegan cheeses rely on umami-rich ingredients like aged miso paste and fermented tofu, which help mimic the flavors of stronger cheeses like sharp Cheddar and goat cheese.
Vegan cheese is not very high in protein, so if you don’t eat meat, opt for these vegan and vegetarian proteins instead. Some vegan cheese (the ones made with coconut oil) can pack a heavy dose of saturated fat, so be sure to read the label and consume accordingly. (Just because it’s vegan doesn’t mean it’s “healthy.”)
The Top 5 Vegan Cheeses in 2020
Not all vegan cheese is created equal. Flavor, texture, melt quality, and mouthfeel are essential factors to consider when choosing a vegan cheese. In addition, some contain vegetable oils, fillers, and starches you may want to avoid.
We’ve put together a list of our top five vegan cheeses and why we love them (and you will, too).
1. Violife Just Like Cheddar Shreds
The shredded Violife cheese comes in both cheddar and mozzarella. We love the cheddar shreds in recipes like gooey vegan mac and cheese, vegan grilled cheese sandwiches, and vegan cheese sauce. The melt and mouthfeel of Violife cheeses are their best qualities. Grab it at your local grocery store!
Ingredients: Filtered Water, Coconut Oil, Food Starch-Modified (Potato & Corn), Corn Starch, Salt (Sea Salt), Cheddar Flavor (Vegan Sources), Olive Extract, Paprika Extract & Beta Carotene (Color), Vitamin B12, Powdered Cellulose Added to Prevent Caking.
Nutrition info (per 1/4 cup serving): 80 calories, 0g protein, 7g fat, 6g carbs.
2. Miyoko’s Plainly Classic Vegan Cream Cheese
Making vegan cream cheese is tricky. It can end up too greasy or missing that signature “tang.” Miyoko’s Creamery has totally nailed it. Their Plainly Classic Organic Vegan Cream Cheese is light and airy. It spreads like a dream. If it feels like we’re going overboard here, we are. After all of the lousy vegan cream cheese we have tried, finding one that looks, tastes, and spreads like the real deal is heavenly. Spread it on bagels or mix in fresh herbs for a dip.
Ingredients: Organic cashews, filtered water, organic coconut cream, sea salt, and cultures.
Nutrition info (per 1 ounce serving): 90 calories, 3g protein, 7g fat, 4g carbs.
3. Field Roast Creamy Original Chao Slices
This coconut-based cheese from Field Roast makes bomb nachos. Like the best dairy cheeses, this one gets extra stringy and gooey, giving your vegan cheeseburgers an authentic look and flavor.
Vegan cheese can take longer to melt, so be patient, because this one is worth the wait. Seasoned with fermented tofu, Chao has a flavor similar to provolone, making it perfect for sandwiches and burgers.
Ingredients: Filtered water, coconut oil, modified corn and potato starch, potato starch, fermented tofu (soybeans, water, salt, sesame oil, calcium sulfate), sea salt, natural flavor, olive extract (antioxidant used as a preservative), and beta carotene.
Nutrition info (per slice): 60 calories, 0g protein, 4.5g fat, 4g carbs.
4. Follow Your Heart Dairy-Free Mozzarella Shreds
Homemade pizza made using Follow Your Heart dairy-free mozzarella shreds is a must for vegans. Among plant-based cheeses, they melt the best, and their mozzarella flavor is on point.
Again, give this vegan cheese a little extra time to melt. A good rule of thumb when making homemade vegan pizza is lower and slower in the oven.
Ingredients: Filtered water, organic palm fruit oil, modified corn and potato starches, natural flavors (plant sources), less than 2% of: pea fiber, pea starch, bamboo fiber, calcium phosphate, rice flour, organic vegetable glycerin, cellulose, sunflower lecithin, sea salt, carrageenan (vegetable source), calcium sulfate, citric acid, xanthan gum, disodium phosphate, and sodium citrate.
Nutrition info (per 1 ounce serving): 80 calories, 0g protein, 6g fat, 6g carbs.
5. Miyoko’s Double Cream Garlic Herb Wheel
Some days, you just need a fancy cheese plate. For those days, whether you’re vegan, hosting vegan friends, or a cheese fanatic (like me), you need this creamy, decadent herbed cashew cheese.
This double-cream garlic and herb cheese wheel from Miyoko’s is not only made from plants, but it’s also perfectly spreadable and delicious.
Ingredients: Organic cashews, filtered water, organic coconut oil, organic chives, organic rice miso (organic rice, water, salt, alcohol, koji culture), sea salt, nutritional yeast, and cultures.
Nutrition info (per 1 ounce serving): 110 calories, 3g protein, 11g fat, 5g carbs.
Make your own vegan cheese at home
Want to make your own vegan cheese at home? Try this simple, delicious recipe made from cashews, from personal chef Kulvinder Kala of Labba’s Healthy Kitchen in the Atlanta area.
Vegan Cheese Recipe
- 2 cups raw, unsalted cashews
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 tablespoon miso paste
- 1 ½ teaspoons white vinegar
- ½ cup filtered water, plus more for blending
Pepper Jack Seasoning (optional)
- 1 teaspoon chile flakes
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1 teaspoon dried onion flakes or onion powder
1. Soak the cashews in filtered water for at least two hours to soften, then drain and rinse.
2. Add the cashews, salt, miso, vinegar, and ½ cup of water to a blender. Process until the mixture has the consistency of sour cream.
3. Add the Pepper Jack Seasoning if desired.
4. Transfer the mixture to cheesecloth and wrap loosely, then place in a colander.
5. Refrigerate the cheese for 36 to 48 hours, occasionally checking for desired “ripeness.”
6. Once “ripe,” consume within three days.
- [HISTORICAL RECORD]: PLAINLY CLASSIC ORGANIC CULTURED VEGAN CREAM CHEESE, PLAINLY CLASSIC fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/682172/nutrients
- [HISTORICAL RECORD]: CREAMY ORIGINAL CHAO SLICES WITH CHAO TOFU fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/772820/nutrients
- [HISTORICAL RECORD]: SEMI SOFT DOUBLE CREAM GARLIC HERB CHEESE WHEEL MADE FROM PLANTS fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/773554/nutrients