“I can’t give up cheese.”
You’ve heard it a million times.
You might have even said it yourself at one time.
Cheese, for the zero of you who have never heard of it, is coagulated milk extracted from a lactating cow’s udders. It’s sometimes known as ‘cow breast milk’ because it’s generated by mother cows to feed their baby cows. Dairy farmers intervene in this process and take the cow breast milk and then turn it into products like cheese and Greek yogurt. Why? Because people love cheese! It’s salty, and fatty, and it’s a classic example of a food that triggers the “savory” or “umami” taste sense.
In the US, we seem to sprinkle or melt it on…everything. And that hasn’t been an easy thing for vegan food makers to respond to. That is, until now. Thanks to some brilliant chefs and food companies.
Look, a lot of dairy-free people (myself included) spent most of their lives eating dairy cheese. We’ve seen it all. We’ve had it all. We enjoyed cheese very much. It tastes really good. And we still want it, albeit without the cow. Nowadays there are several vegan cheeses that truly hit those salty, melty, cheesy, creamy notes. And I can genuinely say that many of the store-bought vegan cheeses, especially the newer varieties, are legitimately really good.
Now, to the reason you probably wound up on this page.
This is The Avocadbro’s Official State of the Vegan Cheese Union.
It’s categorized by what you should use each product for. Some are better eaten melted. Some are better cold. Some are good in both situations. Some companies specialize in cream cheese. Others have great mac and cheese options.
I love the taste of dairy and cheese. I’m cool with “foodie” and “fancy” cheeses, but the cheese I really, really like is whatever that golden, creamy amazingness that I grew up eating on macaroni and cheese, in a grilled cheese sandwich, and wedged between two slices of cold cuts. Don’t worry, this guide will cover the whole spectrum.
Each product is listed in order of how good I think it is (the best products are at the top of each category). And if a product is lackluster, I’ll mention that too. I think it’s worth knowing which ones to avoid as much as it’s useful to know which ones are great. Some products might be in more than one category. All products are from the US / North American market. Europe’s got their own vegan cheese scene, some of which apparently is really good. More on that below.
I’m going to come back and update this post from time to time as I come across anything new. I’ve done a lot of trial and error and read a lot of reviews on vegan cheese. This post is the result of that. Let’s do this.
COLD SANDWICH SLICES
These are for cold sandwiches.
1. FIELD ROAST CHAO slices
- best flavor? Creamy Original
- do they have any other flavors? Tomato Cayenne; Coconut Herb
- does it melt? Yes, but it tastes so good chilled (not melted). See below for the best melted cheese.
- should you recommend it to others? YES!
- what’s in it? mainly coconut oil and potato starch. No gluten. No palm oil.
- anything else? Get these now. They are brand new as of late 2014. The reviews are nearly unanimous. They’re are a game-changer.
2. FOLLOW YOUR HEART slices—These Follow Your Heart slices are a new product as of 2015. And they’re great.
- flavors? American, Provolone, Mozzarella, Garden Herb
- does it melt? Yes, but in my experience this doesn’t taste as good melted as the Field Roast Chao, for whatever reason. See below for the best meltable vegan cheese.
- should you recommend it to others? Sure.
- what’s in it? mainly coconut oil and potato starch. No soy. No gluten. No palm oil.
- anything else? These are not the same as the Follow Your Heart “Vegan Gourmet” blocks of cheese that have been in stores for years. They’re produced the same company (Follow Your Heart), but they’re very much different.
- I am not a big fan of those Vegan Gourmet blocks, but for whatever reason, they seem to be the most widely available vegan cheese.
- I want to thank Follow Your Heart for making a good “American” flavored cheese slice. Fancy cheese snobs rip on American cheese because it’s not “real” cheese, but so what? This is the flavor I grew up eating and it’s one of the most popular cheese flavors in the whole USA. What flavor cheese do local diners use on their burgers? American. What about the cheese on breakfast sandwiches? American. What flavor is Kraft’s “original” mac and cheese? American. What is George Washington? American. Yet barely any vegan cheese brand makes American cheese. So thank you, Follow Your Heart. I will follow my heart, and it’s taken me straight to your product. (Tofutti and Go Veggie!/Galaxy also make American cheese–more on that below).
- Follow Your Heart also makes Vegan Caesar Salad Dressing. And yeah, its delicious.
- One more thing: These have almost the same ingredients as Field Roast slices. And they’re both made in Greece. Weird coincidence? I did a little digging, and there is a popular, widely liked brand of vegan cheese in Europe called VioLife. VioLife is based in Greece. It looks like VioLife licensed out its formula to Field Roast and Follow Your Heart. So that explains that. If you’ve ever wanted to try VioLife in the U.S., apparently you can.
3. TOFUTTI slices
- flavors? American; Mozzarella
- does it melt? Yup.
- should you recommend it to others? I’d recommend it to other vegans, but I’m not sure I’d have a non-vegan try it.
- what’s in it? Contains soy and may contain palm oil. The ingredients list is a little more extensive than other more naturally sourced brands.
- anything else? Try these. Tofutti doesn’t get the same attention as other companies. It’s been around longer. But, for some reason these slices are harder to find in stores. Reviews for these are largely very good, although some dislike it.
- Go Veggie! slices (Galaxy Foods): (see below on why I’m not a fan).
- Daiya slices, sauce, and blocks: (see below–Daiya is amazing, but only if melted.).
MELTABLE SANDWICH SLICES
These are for melts, quesadillas, grilled cheese, mac and cheese and so on.
DAIYA slices and blocks
- flavors? Cheddar; Swiss; Provolone; Jack; Smoked Gouda; Jalapeno Havarti
- does it melt? Yup.
- should you recommend it to others? Yes, but only for melting. It tastes better when melted. Most people who do not like Daiya, seem to dislike eating it cold. I like eating the blocks cold, but I didn’t include this in the chilled category. Try it melted.
- what’s in it? mainly tapioca starch; the slices have palm oil; the blocks have coconut oil.
- anything else? Daiya also makes frozen pizzas, mac and cheese, cream cheese, and ranch dressing. The pizzas are good, but the cream cheese is not. And I’m not huge on the mac and cheese. See my thoughts on those below.
- Field Roast Chao slices: I like them melted, but they’re great straight out of the fridge. (see above). Field Roast is the same company that makes my favorite sausages ever.
- Follow Your Heart slices: Pretty good melted, but better straight out of the fridge. (see above).
- Vegan Gourmet blocks (Follow Your Heart): As I mentioned above, these are different from (and not as good as) the Follow Your Heart slices and blocks, which are a brand new product. Same company makes them, but they are very much different. And hey, a lot of people like the Vegan Gourmet blocks. I’m not much of a fan, but you should try for yourself.
- Tofutti slices: Also pretty good melted from what I remember. (see above).
- Teese: this brand is no longer available in supermarkets. It apparently still exists, but it’s only sold directly to restaurants who use it.
- Go Veggie! slices (Galaxy Foods): For most purposes, this brand is not my favorite. I just don’t find them as good as some of the other vegan cheese brands. But you should trial and error for yourself. They make a ton of vegan cheeses, including shreds, slices, cream cheese, and parmesan cheese (their best product). Their slices come in American (respect), Mozzarella and Pepper Jack. But their product line can be confusing. Their products are either lactose free (not vegan); soy and lactose free (again, not vegan); or dairy free (yes vegan; their dairy free is also soy and lactose free).
- Good luck sorting that out and be sure to look out for labeling that says they are “dairy free.” I imagine a lot of their customers mistakenly buy some of their non-dairy products thinking they are all dairy free. Website.
- Beyond Better, a new vegan company from Colorado, recently launched some make-your-own meltable cheese spreads. Basically, you add hot water to the mix, boil it, mix it, and then melt it on top of sandwiches and nachos. I tried this out at New York City Veg Fest, and although it tasted really good, personally – I’m not willing to put in that level of effort whenever I want to melt some cheese on my Beyond Burger. But, if you are – its definitely worth trying. It comes in four flavors: original cashew, spicy queso, zesty black bean, and savory sunflower. They’re also relatively low calorie (140 per 1/4 cup dry), and high in protein (6g/serving) and fiber (5g/serving).
This for pizzas, chili, quesadillas, and other foods you want shredded cheese on. Daiya is probably the top, and it’s best when melted.
1. DAIYA shreds: This is my go-to for shreds. Like other daiya varieties, only eat these when melted. Comes in cheddar, mozzarella and pepperjack. They’ve been in the game for a few years now. Use the shreds within a few days after opening the package. I’d freeze them if the bag is open longer than a few days. Website.
- Go Veggie! shreds (Galaxy Foods) (see above).
- Trader Joe’s vegan shreds (see below).
1. KITE HILL cream cheese: This is the best vegan cream cheese, and it’s brand new as of 2015. It’s made from almonds. Also comes in chive flavor. The only bad news is, right now, it’s only sold in select Whole Foods. Seriously, get this if you can, it’s the best. Kite Hill also makes fancy cheeses which all have really good reviews. Website.
2. TOFUTTI cream cheese: Tofutti has been in the cheese game for a while and this product is the easiest to find. Word of caution, they make 2 types. One has trans fats and is sold in a white container. The trans fat variety is apparently more creamy and delicious than the non-trans fat kind. I mistakenly bought it once and personally don’t recall a difference. It’s probably best to seek out the trans-fat free version (yellow containers) if you’re going to eat this regularly. It comes in Plain, French Onion, Garlic & Herb, and Herb & Chives. Tofutti’s packaging is lousy. Double check the lid to make sure you’re getting the variety you want.
3. Miyokos cream cheese: Miyokos is one of my all time favorite brands of vegan cheese products. Their stuff is flavorful, has a nice, thick consistency, and can go head-to-head on deliciousness with any cheese out there (vegan or not). I was recently really excited to discover their cream cheese at my local Trader Joe’s. Not only do they make an incredible Philadelphia-style plain cream cheese flavor, but they also have scallion and lox flavored spreads. Website.
- Daiya cream cheese: Pass on this. Their cream cheese tastes like frosting without any sugar. Which makes it bad for bagels, but I’d imagine really great as a base for frosting (assuming you add a sweetener). Comes in Plain, Strawberry, and Chive & Onion.
- Go Veggie cream chesse (Galaxy Foods): It gets the job done, but I don’t think it’s up to par with Tofutti and certainly not Kite Hill.
- Vegan Gourmet cream cheese (Follow Your Heart): I haven’t had this one in a while, so I don’t want to comment on my own opinion too much. I remember not liking it as much as Tofutti, but maybe things have improved. It’s also made with palm oil.
- Trader Joe’s vegan cream cheese: A lot of people are really into Trader Joe’s products. I’m a fan myself. But an interesting thing about them–most (if not all) of their products are just popular brand name products that are simply repackaged under the Trader Joe’s name and sold at a lower price. The lower price is awesome. With that in mind, and based on a quick comparison of ingredients information I found online, it looks like Trader Joe’s non-dairy cream cheese is actually just Go Veggie / Galaxy cream cheese. The same goes for Trader Joe’s vegan cheese shreds–basically the same ingredients as Go Veggie brand.
CHEESE SPREADS (OTHER THAN TRADITIONAL CREAM CHEESE)
1. TREELINE cheese spreads: French style cheese. It’s really, really good and addictive. Schedule 1 Narcotic level. It’s also pricey, but a little goes a long way. Non-vegans seem to unanimously love this stuff. Website.
2. WAYFARE cheese spreads: Tasty cheese spreads. Good stuff. Comes in Cheddar, Hickory Smoked Cheddar, Mexi Cheddar. Website.
- Dr. Cow: They make a cashew cream cheese spread, which I tried once a few years ago, not my favorite, but who knows I might have judged it too harshly. See below for more info because they are a ‘fancy’ cheese company.
1. TOFUTTI sour cream: They make the best vegan sour cream. Like their cream cheese, they make 2 types: one with trans fat (again, in a white container), and one without (blue container). The one without trans fat is great.
- Vegan Gourmet sour cream (Follow Your Heart): Pass on this. It just doesn’t taste good. I’m mentioning it to be comprehensive and warn you to pass (although apparently some people like it). Then again, if you try this first, hate it, you might like Tofutti even more than you otherwise would in comparison.
- WayFare sour cream: Make sure to stir this one a bunch before serving it. I haven’t been able to get into this brand, but maybe you’ll like it.
These are the fancier vegan cheese companies. I’ve heard incredible things about all of them. Seriously, rave reviews. Unhelpfully, I’ve only tried a couple of these. That makes it hard to sort these in any coherent way. Also, there are so many varieties from each company. For most of these, you can buy them online. They all tend to be pricey.
1. Miyoko’s Creamery: They are meltable. There are a dozen varieties. Miyoko, for those who don’t know, is a renowned vegan chef who has made some incredible innovations in the vegan culinary world like butter, cheese wheels, mozzarella blocks, and cream cheese (see above). Miyokos sells its stuff in Whole Foods, Yes! Organic Market, and most recently – Trader Joe’s. You can also find it online. Website.
2. Treeline: Their soft, spreadable cheese is amazing. They also have harder aged cheeses. See above for their cheese spreads Website.
3. Kite Hill: They make an amazing cream cheese (see above). Yet again, amazing reviews for their other products, which include soft cheeses and ricotta. Website.
4. Vromage: Amazing reviews. Never tried it. They make goat cheese, gorgonzola cheese, truffle, feta cheese, asiago, brie, cheddar, camembert, pepperjack and picorino. You can buy these online. They have a storefront in LA, too. Website.
5. Vtopian: Another fancy vegan cheese. Another fancy vegan cheese company beginning with a V followed by a consonant. What can I say? The reviews are again amazing, but I’ve never tried it. You can buy online or locally if you’re in the Eugene, Oregon area. Website.
6. Dr. Cow: A bunch of aged cheeses and spreadable cashew cream cheese, which I mentioned above. You can buy them online or in some stores and restaurants. Check their site for the deets. Website.
7. Avellana Creamery: Rave reviews. Never tried it. Made from hazelnuts. Check them out. Website.
8. Punk Rawk Labs: Yet another artisan vegan cheese maker with rave reviews. Website.
VEGAN CHEESE COOKBOOKS
These recipe books gets mentioned time and time again as the best vegan cheese recipes out there. They are all highly regarded. In no particular order:
- The Ultimate Uncheese Cookbook, by Jo Stepaniak
- Artisan Vegan Cheese, by Miyoko Schinner
- The Non-Dairy Evolution Cookbook, by Skye Michael Conroy
- The Cheesy Vegan, by John Schlimm
GONE, BUT NOT FORGOTTEN
This is a section dedicated to vegan cheese companies that had a lot of hype, but vanished before pretty much anyone got to try them.
1. Dairy Tree: In 2013, there was an absurd amount of buzz for this company on social media. Their various pages (instagram, twitter, facebook) garnered tens of thousands of fans without having released a single product to the public. A few lucky reviewers got to try their products in early 2013 and seemed to agree it was amazing. (Check out #5 on this piece on VegNews). Sadly, Dairy Tree’s social media sites have been radio silent since June 2013 when they announced they were busy finalizing their production plans. You can still visit their facebook page to see lonely commenters requesting updates, as well as some photos of what they were working on (meltable cheeses, bleu cheese, mozzarella, dips, dressings, mayo and butter).
I’m not sure what happened to Dairy Tree, but one thing is for sure: it would have been really tough to keep track of all of these vegan food companies and their pleasantly nature-sounding compound-worded names. We’ve got Treeline, Kite Hill, Hampton Creek. Dairy Tree might have been one too many.
2. Playfood: Back in the mid-2000s, there were not a lot of vegan cheese options. But a company called Playfood made a line of cashew-based cheeses that the LAist described as “[e]xtremely addicting.” It came in Cheezy Cheeze (cheddar), Nacheezmo (nacho), Cream Tang (sour cream), and Whip Cheeze (cream cheese).
If you search online for mentions of Playfood, you’ll find people saying how good the cheese was, and wondering where it went. You’ll also find out that Playfood was a joint collaboration between vegan chef Heidi Van Pelt and Taran Noah Smith, who is known for playing the youngest son on the sitcom Home Improvement, as well as for getting slimed on the panel of Nickelodeon’s Figure It Out. The couple split in 2007, according to ABC News. Today, Ms. Van Pelt appears to be running a vegan restaurant in Kansas City, Missouri. And the last iota of evidence of Playfood’s existence is an empty twitter account created in 2009 under Mr. Smith’s name.
Coming soon: This post is a work in progress. There is a lot of vegan cheese to get to. I plan on updating it with more categories and content. I’m working on Mac and cheese. Cheesy snacks. Future products I’m looking forward to. And a bunch of other categories. Stay tuned. This is only the beginning.
Know some vegan cheese things I should add to this list? Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.