Oh, I could never go vegan. I just love cheese too much!
When someone’s not asking about how you get protein on a vegan diet, it’s usually reasons why they could never go vegan. Spoiler alert- the top reason is because of cheese. No judgment here from me, I was vegetarian for a while because I was in the same boat. The idea of completely eliminating cheese from my diet seemed insane. Why would someone willingly give up cheese? I put cheese on everything from tacos to pasta so it was a significant change. So it took me a while to make the switch and one of the major blockers ended up being the cheese alternatives I was trying.
Once I actually tried good cheese alternatives, I knew that I would never have to go back. The 3 options that changed my mind not only were consistently great, they also melted really well and reminded me of real cheese the most. To me, they’re all great options for people who are considering going dairy free but can’t seem to find any alternatives to help them make that jump. So here’s a little bit about them and even how I combine two of them to make a great sandwich.
Miyoko’s is the priciest of the 3 options but when you’re looking for a mozzarella for a vegan pizza, this is by far the best brand to get. The mozzarella is also great paired with Violife for a tasty grilled cheese. The founder of Miyoko’s Creamery, Miyoko Schinner, has been known as the pioneer for “Artisan” vegan cheeses and she does not fail to deliver. Her butter is fantastic and really reminded me of actual butter. Her mozzarella, while you wouldn’t get the stretch of real mozzarella, still cooks down just like the real thing.
Because mozzarella is 9.99 where I’m at in Austin, Texas, I wouldn’t use it to make something like mozzarella sticks. For her cheese, they’re great on pizzas and I wouldn’t doubt they’d be wonderful as additions to a vegan chili or stuffed mushrooms. The shredded cheese would be great on tacos or even sprinkled on vegan chili.
Like Miyoko’s, Violife has almost the same variety of dairy free foods, but significantly cheaper. My favorite type of cheese from them is the sliced ‘Mature Cheddar’ because it makes the perfect grilled cheese! If you want to be a little extra like me, I make a grilled cheese with a slice of Violife, and add pieces of mozzarella from Miyoko’s. Slap some vegan butter on the bread and just cook the grilled cheese like your normally would. It melts down perfectly and if you had given it to me without telling me it was vegan, I would have totally believed it was real cheese.
I absolutely love grilled cheese sandwiches so I was happy that I didn’t have to give them up! Violife also has other dairy free options like cream cheese, grated Parmesan, and shredded cheese. They’re a little more expensive than something like Kraft would be but worth it! If you have a gluten sensitivity or soy allergy, these would also be a great option! They’re great on burgers, the previously mentioned grilled cheese, or even with a little bit of tomato and guac as a sandwich.
Follow Your Heart
You won’t miss real cheese on a burger if you use the cheese slices from Follow Your Heart. And they are big on sustainability if that’s your thing(it’s mine!). The first time I tried their cheese was at a food truck that sold vegan fast food and I had to do a double take on the entire burger, especially the cheese. It was not only melted but had the complexity of cheese- slightly tangy with a rich flavor profile.
Unfortunately for me, I haven’t found a big variety of this brand at my local store but you may be able to find it at a Whole Foods. Availability is the only reason I rank this company at the bottom of my top 3. Otherwise, the flavor of their cheeses is great and I didn’t get the bloated feeling after eating a greasy cheeseburger like I usually do and that’s a major win for me!
The 3 that failed me..but you should still try
The cheeses on this list weren’t necessarily bad, they just didn’t get the same level of creaminess and taste that I was expecting. The flavors were what I had anticipated a cheese alternative to taste like which as a skeptical omnivore, weren’t enough to make me go dairy free.
Field Roast is a brand that is in almost every grocery store, even the ones with few vegan options. There’s just a couple of things that I didn’t quite like with this brand though, specifically their sliced ‘Chao’ cheeses. With their smokey cheese, you can definitely taste the separation of the cheese and the liquid smoke that was added to it. And the cheeses in general had trouble melting, staying flimsy and hard. But with such a low price point and a high availability, there are some things you can do to make these cheeses taste better. My biggest tip is don’t expect them to stand out on their own so grilled cheeses are out of the question. I would say to definitely have these in a burger and while the burger is cooking, have the cheese warming up on it to get the level of melt you’re expecting. Also, I found that with the smokey cheeses, adding a lot of pickles rounded out the flavor a lot better.
If you attempted going dairy free back in the day, your only option was probably Daiya. They dominated the market for all kinds of vegan alternatives to popular foods and they’re still doing it! I’ve eaten their products a lot and their frozen pizzas are actually pretty good. But as someone who was looking into going dairy free a couple of years ago, I tried them and was unimpressed. The cheeses had an oily texture and it rough as a grilled cheese or even in tacos. Now, I’ve been almost 3 months without cheese, Daiya tastes pretty good to me, but definitely nothing I would recommend to a curious omnivore. Their selection of products is so vast that even though I don’t recommend their cheeses, I’d still check out their frozen pizzas or meals.
So Delicious has a nice variety of dairy free products, including ice cream and coconut milk. So when I saw they had an alternative to shredded cheese, I snatched them up immediately. Unfortunately, these had absolutely no melt and tasted like paper after being cooked. When thrown on to a taco or onto pasta, the shreds are okay but when given the option, I would leave them off as they didn’t provide anything to the dish. They’re highly available and cheap though, they were both at Target and at HEB here in Austin, Texas. But I would recommend seeking out their milks or ice creams if you’re scoping out dairy free alternatives.
Navigating the vegan world of cheese alternatives can seem like a daunting task but these vegan brands make it a lot easier. Making swaps every now and then in burgers would be a great first step to going dairy free but if you love grilled cheese sandwiches as much as me, definitely make one with the blend of Miyoko’s mozzarella and Violife, it’s a game changer.