‘I wish I could go vegan, but I just can’t live without cheese!’ Oh, if I had a pound for every time I heard that excuse! Charlotte Willis talks you through the fantastic vegan alternatives that are available on the market.
Take it from me, as a lactose intolerant individual for many years prior to my going vegan, being a cheese-loving vegan is now more possible than ever before. Just about every large supermarket chain, pizza restaurant and vegan shop is ready and raring to fulfil your cheesy craving with substitutes so satisfying, they’ll leave omnivores second-guessing themselves. They are cleverly crafted from coconut oils, cashew nuts, soya milk and various combinations of plant-based ingredients — a perfect substitution for animal cheeses, no cruelty (or nasty additives) necessary.
Allow me to guide you through a complete cheesy substitution: from adorning pizzas to being sprinkled over nachos, no cheese is left behind.
Best for pizzas
Substitutes: MozzaRisella, Violife Mozzarella-Style Block For Pizzas, Grated Sheese cheese, Follow Your Heart Shreds Mozzarella Style.
Our Pick: MozzaRisella gives the best melting, creamy Mozzarella-style cheese for topping your home-made pizzas, flatbreads and melting calzones. MozzaRisella is a guaranteed hit; in fact, this vegan mozzarella alternative is currently used at restaurant chains Zizzi and ASK Italian.
How to Use: If using a block, be sure to tear or cut the block into smaller slices to ensure a good, even melt. Slices thicker than 3-5cm may not melt, so if you are in doubt as to the melt-ability of your cheese, choose to grate it when you first use it, so you can judge how the cheese will fare under a higher temperature. If using in a salad, simply cut or tear into your desired size.
Not Suitable For: A cheeseboard for after-dinner treats, or when eaten on their own. These alternatives, much like animal mozzarella, are very mild, and so their flavours will be wasted when not combined into a dish. I would also recommend not to use this cheese in a cheese sauce, as the flavour is too mild to impart a cheesy taste.
Best for pasta
Substitutes: Vegusto No-Moo Piquant Parmesan Style, Violife Prosociano, Tesco Free-From Hard Italian Style Cheese, Terra Vegane Dairy-Free Parmi Topper, Follow Your Heart Italian Hard Cheese, Green Vie Block Vegan Parmeggio Style.
Our Pick: Violife Prosociano Wedge or Vegusto No-Moo Piquant Parmesan Style.
How to Use: If the cheese is in the form of a block or wedge, use a fine grater to shave the cheese over pasta, stir into cheesy sauces, layered on top of a lasagne or over a bolognaise sauce. You can also use these cheeses in risottos, provided the shavings are relatively small. You can always use a food processor to reduce and crumble the larger slices, in order to ensure melting.
Not Suitable For: These cheeses are versatile; however, they aren’t suitable for sweeter recipes due to the tangy, distinctive flavours.
Best cheddar alternatives
Substitutes: Tesco Free-From Cheddar Style Cheese Blocks (various flavours — Jalapeno pepper is incredible!), Sainsbury’s Deliciously Free-From Cheddar Style Blocks (various flavours), Sheese Vegan Cheddar Style Blocks, Daiya Cheeze Blocks, Violife Smoked Flavour Block.
Our Pick: The Tesco Free-From Cheddar Style blocks are extremely tasty and feature the closest flavour profile I have come across that matches that of traditional cheddar.
How to Use: These cheeses are incredibly versatile. You can top a cheese biscuit with a large slather, alongside some homemade chutney, or keep it classic with a cheddar-style ploughman’s baguette. These cheddar-style blocks also make fantastic additions to a post-dinner cheeseboard and you can finely grate them onto nachos, cottage/shepherd’s pies or melted into a cheese sauce.
Not Suitable For: Sweet recipes, melting on pizzas, any sauce which requires a more delicate cheesy flavour.
Best for cheeseboards
Substitutes: Sheese Greek-Style Block, Tyne Chease Blocks, Vegusto No Moo Blue Cheese, Vegusto No Moo Range, Violife After Dinner Range, Tesco Free-From Blue Cheese Alternative.
Our Pick: This is a tough choice as all these cheeses have incredible flavours! Personally, I adore the Tyne Chease Blocks and Vegusto’s No Moo range, simply because of the variety of ingredients and flavours available.
How to Use: For the ultimate cheeseboard, be sure to use a selection of 3-6 different cheeses with differing flavours and strengths of tanginess to suit your guests. Lay out a variety of chutneys, pickles, breads, oatcakes and vegan cheese biscuits, alongside a few frozen grapes and red apple slices.
Not Suitable For: Due to the strong and distinctive flavours in each cheese, I wouldn’t recommend you use these as part of a recipe, as the taste may overwhelm your dish. However, using a blue-style cheese in a veggie crumble or rich sauce would be an absolutely delicious addition to a meal. Just ensure the pieces are small enough to crumble and melt.
Best for cheesecakes and spreadables
Substitutes: Sheese Spreads (various flavours), Tofutti Creamy Smooth Cheese (various flavours), Tyne Chease (various flavours), Violife Creamy Vegan Cheese (various flavours), Tesco Free-From Soft Cheese, Sainsbury’s Deliciously Free-From Original Coconut Oil Alternative To Cream Cheese.
Our Pick: The most versatile range is by far the Sheese range of spreadable cheeses, while I really like the Sainsbury’s Alternative for everyday use.
How to Use: Original flavoured cream cheeses can be used for the base of pasta sauces, blended into a carrot cake icing, used for the centre of a cheesecake and in other sweet recipes. They also make great sandwich and bagel spreads, alongside sliced deli meat alternatives and fresh tomatoes for a perfect sandwich. Why not use one of these spreads as a crudité dip, alongside hummus and guacamole as a perfect starter or sharer platter?
Not Suitable For: Melting on pizzas or in any dish that requires a strong flavour base.
Best for cheesy sauces
Substitutes: Nutritional Yeast Flakes.
Our Pick: Engevita Nutritional Yeast Flakes with added vitamin B12.
How to Use: Nutritional yeast flakes make a fantastic store cupboard essential for every vegan. They are multipurpose and you can use them in a variety of different ways. I love to add these flakes into a cheesy macaroni cheese sauce, adding a depth of flavour to a risotto or simply sprinkled on freshly steamed green veg to heighten the absorption of B12. Simply stir into a hot liquid sauce, and these flakes melt into a delicious, thick and cheesy texture.
Not Suitable For: Using on top of a pizza or in sweet recipes.
Charlotte is a freelance journalist and health writer who has worked with the Vegan Society and other online vegan publications. Her fields of expertise and interest include vegan nutrition, holistic healthcare, mindfulness and fitness. She is currently researching and studying the various links between food and psychological health while pursuing a doctorate degree in counselling.