First let’s start with the rules
1. Dairy free cheese will never taste or melt like real cheese.
There are tons of great products out there that should satisfy your cravings for cheese, but it’s really important to remember that vegan cheese products are basically doing the impossible, so prepare to be disappointed, especially in the beginning.
2. Don’t try dairy free cheese for at least one month after giving up dairy.
Ideally, I’d recommend waiting two months, but I know that giving up dairy can be really hard, so if experimenting with alternative products helps your through, go for it. Just make sure you keep your expectations low.
3. Everyone’s tastes are different, so try different brands for yourself.
There are tons of products on the market for a reason, and opinions of them vary from person to person. I recommend sampling as many products as you can to see what works for your unique tastebuds.
Natural alternatives to cheese
Before you start trying out dairy free cheese products, I always recommend trying “natural” alternatives first. There are so many ways to get that satisfying cheesy flavor without actual cheese. There are so many options out there, but these are some of my favorites:
- For creaminess: avocado, mayonnaise
- For saltiness: capers, anchovy paste
- For umami: nutritional yeast, miso paste
The ultimate dairy free cheese taste test
We wanted to keep things super simple for our taste test, so we broke it up into four main groups: cheddar shreds, mozzarella shreds, slices and parmesan.
For control purposes, all of our melted cheeses were heated in the oven for 5 minutes at 400˚F (200˚C), but I have found that the microwave does a better job of melting dairy free cheese.
We also sampled the cheeses straight from the package, mostly because we were curious. I really wouldn’t recommend any of them this way, but it was a great reference for the overall taste.
There are obviously so many more options that don’t fall within these categories, and I’ll list some of our favorites below, but let’s start with the basics.
For our cheddar sample, I decided to melt the shreds on tortilla chips because I needed to know which ones would be best for nachos.
All of them melted pretty well – with the exception of Go Veggie! – even though you can’t tell in the photos. Generally dairy free cheese doesn’t spread as much as dairy cheese, so even though it looks very much intact, it still had a melty, creamy texture to it.
Our favorite: Violife. Both flavors were great but the colby jack melted incredibly well and tastes great.
Runner up: Moocho. This new cheese from the people who make Tofurkey is actually cultured. It had by far the most “real” cheese flavor and it melted pretty well, too (even though you can’t tell in the photo).
I’d say this ties with Violife, but since I’m not sure how widely available it is, I’m naming it runner up for now.
What better way to test mozzarella than on an actual pizza? Since I didn’t feel like making real ones, I bought some mini pizza crusts and pizza sauce to make it super easy. Just like the rest, we melted at 400˚F for 5 minutes.
Our favorite: Earth Grown (Aldi) was already our favorite, but this test really solidified by opinion. It melts really well and has the best overall flavor.
Runner up: Follow Your Heart doesn’t melt as well, but I really like the texture of the cheese, which reminds me of pizza cheese.
Slices are great for making things like cheeseburgers or grilled cheese. Most of the time, we just skip the cheese on top and reach for a good burger sauce, but I know sometimes, that just isn’t enough.
For our sample, I cooked some burgers and then melted the cheese in the 400˚F oven for our control 5 minutes. None of them were terrible, most of them did melt a little.
Our favorite: Chao was a clear winner, and it has a really great unique flavor. It’s definitely not cheddar-inspired, but it tasted the most real to me. It also melted nicely and tasted really good raw.
Runner up: This one was a tie between Tofutti and Violife. The flavor of Violife is similar to – if not the same as – their cheddar shreds, but I’ve always had a soft spot for the Tofutti and we’ve been using them for years so I just couldn’t decide between them.
Recipes that use vegan cheese slices: baked hamburgers
For parmesan, we sampled two brands that are available at several local groceries stores. We’ve tried other brands in the past, and I really felt like these were the only two worth talking about, but I still recommend trying other products for yourself.
Our favorite: Follow Your Heart had the best overall flavor, and while I don’t love the texture of the shreds, we really like it grated. It actually comes grated, just not in our area, so I run a few packages of the shreds through my food processor.
Runner up: Violife is the most versatile for texture. I like that I can use my microplane to get really nice, light shreds or my vegetable peeler to get thicker flakes. This is definitely my favorite option for salads.
More store bought dairy free cheeses we love:
- Treeline Soft-French Style – This cheese spread is phenomenal and reminds me of Boursin. Plus, it’s cultured so it has that real cheese tang.
- Violife Just Like Feta – Even though I don’t think it’s quite salty or hard enough to pass for feta, I still love this vegan feta. I think it’s a great dupe for goat cheese substitute and we use it in salads all the time.
- Daiya cheese sauce – This cheese sauce is like a magic vegan version of Velveeta. We love to mix in some pico de gallo and cilantro for a quick and easy vegan queso dip.
Homemade dairy free cheese recipes:
More dairy free resources:
- Are eggs dairy?
- Dairy Free Halloween Candy
- Dairy Free Substitutes for Butter
- Our Favorite Dairy Free Swaps
- Our Favorite Vegan Wine Brands Under $20
Published: January 15, 2021. Updated: November 15, 2021.
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