Finding it hard to live without cheese? We taste test vegan cheese alternatives to find the best vegan cheeses add to your fridge...
One of the most difficult things for new vegans is finding a substitute for cheddar, blue cheese, mozzarella or parmesan.
For years many vegans simply had to do without, and many just didn’t want to embrace ‘fake cheeses’ made from plant-based products. But there is a growth in vegan cheeses, and we taste-tested a few to find out just which ones hit the spot!
Product: Smoked and Creamed
Price: 250g jar £6.95
If you are looking for a smoky pot of goodness to tickle your taste buds, then this is the one for you! With its distinct paprika flavour, this creamed vegan cheese is the perfect spread on a bagel.
So much so that no other pickle or chutney would be needed to complement it. It has a beautifully rounded flavour and would be perfect in a crusty bread sandwich, loaded with simple salad leaves. No other spread would be required, you could slather this cheese on both slices, then tuck into a tasty lunch! It is also very smooth, so spreads easily, in fact, we ended up just eating it off the teaspoon!
If you were finding the ‘traditional’ cheese transition difficult, then this alternative will banish any doubts. Tyne Chease also does a garlic creamed cheese and an Ethiopian spiced product. It keeps for four weeks in the fridge or three months in the freezer – but we reckon it’ll all be eaten long before that!
Product: Ethiopian Spices
Price: 150g tub £7.95
This cheese had our deputy editor Lizi’s name on it for testing, as she’s definitely a spice kind of girl! It was created by the founder of Tyne Chease, who was inspired by her childhood memories of growing up in Ethiopia. It has exotic and warming notes, which comes from the unique blend of spices.
These include cumin, coriander, fenugreek, pepper, ginger, thyme, cloves, nutmeg, cayenne pepper and allspice. One of the perfect things about this mixture is that there are at least three spices in there that Lizi isn’t keen on, but blended all together, she thought the flavour was fantastic.
The spices are lightly scattered on the cheese, so when you put your knife in they scatter through the creamy cheese and naturally mix well. The cheese itself is delicious. It’s creamy, soft and could easily be eaten on its own or spread on a fresh, crusty roll.
If you wanted to have a chutney we would suggest a soft fig and onion jam, without any extra chilli! This is a fantastic cheese, we can’t recommend it highly enough.
Smoked Gouda Style Slices – Follow Your Heart
From the moment you open the packet, you know this is a good version of a smoked gouda – we think it could even be mistaken as a non-vegan version. Made from coconut oil, potato starch and vegan natural smoke flavouring, it has a delicious burnt wood aroma, a smooth, ever-so-slightly rubbery texture and a very creamy flavour.
As it comes in slices, this is definitely one that is good to use in a sandwich, but also tastes great melted in a toasty or added to a burger. It has a stronger flavour than many vegan cheeses, and will definitely delight anyone who used to be partial to smoked applewood.
Chao slices Creamy Original
Price 200g pack (10 slices) $7.69.
In terms of texture, smell and taste, this cheese is really similar to traditional dairy cheese squares. We think it would melt well, too. It has a buttery flavour, which is excellent, as it feels more like ‘real’ cheese. This makes it easier to give to all the family.
We couldn’t really tell the difference, it was similar to a really light, soft Cheddar. You could taste the flavour immediately and it also had a pleasant, slightly coconut aftertaste.
Another good point is that it comes in slices. This makes it perfect for sandwiches, whether it be for work or school lunch boxes, or for picnics and days out.
As well as tasting delicious on its own, it would go well with a range of different chutneys, including a chilli jam. This cheese is a real keeper! It also comes in tomato cayenne flavour, plus a coconut herb.
Follow Your Heart Parmesan Style
Product Parmesan Style (Shredded)
Price 113g tub £4.49.
We were amazed at just how like traditional Parmesan this is in terms of taste, smell and texture. You could easily serve this with a nice bowl of spaghetti to non-vegans, and they’d be none the wiser! It’s perfectly salty, and has a lovely deep, cheese flavour.
Like ‘traditional’ Parmesan it’s slightly tangy, but still maintains a lovely rich, rounded flavour. As well as scoring high on the flavour side of things, it also has a lovely texture.
In fact, it’s more like a freshly grated Parmesan cheese, rather than a tub of dried. Usually, dried and grated Parmesan is like old sawdust and isn’t fit for any dinner plate! Not so with this product. It tastes good AND looks good, so it would be a welcome finishing touch to any dish.
We certainly wouldn’t restrict it to pasta dishes – it would be lovely tossed through a fresh tomato and green salad, just to add that extra flavour, without any extra effort!
Grated Sheese – Mild Cheddar Style – Bute Island Foods Ltd
Searching for the perfect cheese to melt on your pizza or top beans in a comforting jacket potato? You won’t go far wrong with this version from Bute Island Foods. The grated cheese is available either as mild Cheddar, mature Cheddar or mozzarella, and it melts just like dairy cheese to give a really even coverage and doesn’t bubble as much as some of the other vegan cheeses on the market when heated.
The flavour is mild but works well when combined with a rich tomato pizza sauce, and it does have a slight tang of its own. Although it’s made with coconut oil it doesn’t have a cloying taste, it just helps with the meltability. It’s also worth pointing out that Bute Island is also the producer behind Tesco’s own-brand free-from cheese, so if you can’t find the Bute Island versions, just pick up the Tesco ones!
Creamy Sheese – Garlic & Herb – Bute Island Foods Ltd
If you miss having cream cheese on crackers, or lashing it onto your jacket potatoes, this is the one for you! Incredibly rich, smooth and creamy, this variety packs a real punch with its added garlic and herb flavourings.
Like many vegan cheeses, it’s got a coconut oil base, which accounts for the smooth texture and the flecks of green herbs look pleasing to the eye. It has a bit of an aftertaste, so the garlic will keep the vampires away. Spread onto toast, stir into mashed potato to liven it up a little or make a simple supper by stirring it into some pasta for a lovely creamy sauce.
Smoked – Tyne Chease
This cheese will wow on the cheeseboard with its vibrant burnt orange colour and lovely round form. Completely different in flavour to the Follow Your Heart smoked cheese, smoked paprika adds a real tang to this version, which almost has a tomatoey edge.
The texture is squidgy and feels substantial, and is perfect for eating on a cracker alongside a nice glass of wine at the end of a long day.
It’s made from cashew nuts and probiotics, and follows the more artisan method for making cheese than some of the larger brands. Definitely a cheese with character.
Mozzarisella Classic – Mozzarisella
If you’re missing buffalo mozzarella, this is the choice for you. Soft and slightly squidgy in texture, it is a lovely option for recreating the classic Italian insalata Caprese, with slices of the cheese layered between sliced fresh tomatoes and plump basil leaves.
The cheese tastes quite herby itself and is packed with flavour, making it great for eating on a cracker, but it can also be melted on a pizza or into a pasta dish. This is the brand that chain restaurant ASK is currently using on its vegan pizzas. Unlike most of the cheese on the market, which is based on coconut oil, this is made from whole Italian rice germinated with Dolomiti spring water. Delicious.
Mediterranean Style Block – Violife
The news of Violife’s Mediterranean Style Block (AKA vegan halloumi) was much awaited and it was met with mixed reviews. It’s best prepared by lightly grilling it to give it the characteristic slightly rubbery texture that you’d expect from halloumi, and the firmness makes it pleasingly more substantial than some cheese on offer.
If you’re expecting the salty flavour of halloumi you’re going to be disappointed though. More like a Cheddar, it’s definitely lacking in saltiness, but it does still work well in salads, or even melted on a vegan burger. It’s not your classic halloumi that’s for sure, but still worth a try.