6 Vegan Cheese Substitutes for When You Go Dairy-Free
I remember constantly trying to give up cheese but always caving in as my auntie cooked me a big delicious pile of fried cheese or an entire block of garlic roasted brie. It took a heck of a lot of trying but eventually, I learned some really good reasons which I will cover next week that helped me give it up. I knew when I finally gave it up that I needed to fill this cheese void so I started experimenting on ways I would fill it that wouldn’t leave me in a cheese induced stupor followed by intense stomach pain. Turns out, there are plenty of mighty fine ways to make things extra cheesy without using dairy and I’m gonna tell you about my favorite ones today!
#1 – Nutritional yeast
Nutritional yeast is a very affordable product that’s seriously a game-changer for making plant-based food taste cheesy . It’s a yellow flake thing that honestly looks a lot like fish food but it gives your food a cheesy flavor. It does not give it the cheesy texture though, just the flavor, so don’t expect to sprinkle this on nachos and have a gooey cheese-like concoction. I use this to sprinkle on top of popcorn, or on top of my pasta sauce, or pizza! I use it within sauces to make them taste like cheese, while the other ingredients in the sauce give it the cheesy texture – like in vegan nacho cheese sauce or vegan spinach dip. Or I’ll use it in tofu scrambles to make my tofu taste cheesy like scrambled eggs.
Nutritional yeast is usually fortified with B12 which is awesome because this is one of the vitamins you need to make sure you take when you go plant-based.
You can find it at your natural food store or in the natural food section of the grocery store. If you have a Bulk Barnor other sorts of bulk stores I recommend trying there because it is usually the cheapest option! Shopping around because some stores are way cheaper than others.
#2 – nut cheeses
Nut cheeses are really good to fill the cheese void if you want something that’s more similar to the taste and texture of actual cheese.
I tend to use nut cheeses on occasion rather than keeping them in my house on the regular. This is not only because I eat a pretty low-fat plant-based diet (10-15% of daily calories) and nuts are typically high in fat…..but mostly because they can be pretty expensive in Canada. However, if you live in the USA nut cheeses are so affordable, and when I make a trip down there I go ham on the nut cheese that is for sure. Nowadays they make them in all sorts of flavors. If you are in the US, Kite Hill makes a lot of cheese spreads and dips, and in Canada, I really like Spread Em’s cheese spreads and blocks as well as Le Grand which is a little bit more affordable.
There are always tons of new nut cheese brands popping up so always keep your eyes out for new ones. If you go to your ‘natural’ food store there are likely to be a few brands of local nut cheese spreads available too. I usually buy these for girls nights or special dinners!
If you’re really into making things from scratch you can make your own nut cheeses too – they are a little bit more time consuming which is why I haven’t started to do it yet . Check out this article, it literally tells you how to make 25 different kinds of vegan cheeses .
Let me know in the comments (or msg me on insta @thenewnormco if you make one and how it turns out!
photo by: Sweet Simple Vegan
I love using tofu because it’s much cheaper than nuts or pre-made nut cheeses. You can make a tofu cheese-like spread, feta, ricotta, or even crumble it up and use it in place of cheese – you just have to add a few extra ingredients and that trusty nutritional yeast to make it delicious!
Here are a few examples below:
Using firm tofu is the most affordable way I have found to replace ricotta in cooking. If you drain a package of firm tofu and blend it up with ½ lemon, 2 garlic cloves, a pinch of salt, a handful of fresh basil, and a bunch of nutritional yeast it is so delicious. Take this nicely blended ricotta and use it in plant-based lasagna or dollop it on top of pasta dishes.
Tofu Feta :
This one requires a little bit of prep but is fairly simple. Check out this recipe on the super awesome Simple Vegan Blog to give it a go. She uses miso paste and olive oil but you can omit them and it will still be delicious!
I literally just blend firm tofu (first try to squeeze out as much water as possible, they say to press it but that’s too time-consuming and requires planning), half a lemon, a dash of apple cider vinegar, garlic, and nutritional yeast together in a blender and then I’ll add in salt, pepper, and sometimes onion powder and garlic powder to flavor it up. It’s your spread! Add in whatever kind of spices you like until YOU think it tastes good.
This is a super-easy way to get a cheese-like texture on nachos or pizza. Simply drain a block of firm tofu, crumble it up, and put it on top of a nice plate of vegan nachos or pizza then top with a layer of nutritional yeast and salt and pepper. Throw your nachos or pizza into the oven and bake it.
#4 – store-bought shredded cheese
There are plant-based shredded cheeses out there. I personally am not a huge fan of them because they tend to be quite processed and full of oil and like I said, I’m not a big oil fan – you can check out why here.
That being said, they are an easy way to straight-up replace shredded cheese on nachos, pizzas, or in things like spinach dip. The most popular brand out here in Canada is Daiya. I would recommend never eating Daiya shreds without heating/cooking them first. The flavor changes drastically once it’s heated and if you try it raw you’ll defs be turned off, but it’s actually pretty decent once cooked. So head to your grocery store and check out the ‘natural section’ in the fridge aisle and give these a try. And remember if you hate one brand you might like another so don’t give up after the first one!
#5- Cheesey Nacho Dip or Pasta Sauce
This is a huge go-to in my house. I love making a big batch and then using it as a dip for tortilla chips or drizzling it over a plate of nachos with all the fixings or using it as a cheesy plant-based mac and cheese sauce. I honestly make it once every week or two because you can keep it in the fridge and heat it up when you need it. It’s basically made from potatoes and carrots but you would never know, because it’s so freakin good, it reminds me of Tostitos cheese dip!
I’m not a big lover of recipes, cooking is so much more fun when you kinda wing it so here’s my ‘instructions’. I chop up and boil a few potatoes and a carrot or two. Once they are nice and soft I drain them and then put them in the blender or food processor. Then I’ll add in a clove of garlic or two, salt, garlic powder, onion powder, a dash of paprika (to make it look orange), and a bunch (like a lot, like probably ¼- ⅓ cup of nutritional yeast). Try this! Play with it yourself and keep adding these spices/yeast till you reach your desired taste! If your blender is having a hard time add in some unsweetened plant-milk to get it to blend.
If you’re all likey heyyy hooooo Stormy, come on now, I need an exact recipe, I’ve attached this very popular Hot for Food Nacho cheese dip recipe .
It’s where I got the idea from the first time and then since then, I leave ingredients out to make it more simple! Remember you don’t always need all the ingredients to make something taste delish!
#6 – white bean pasta sauce
I only learned how to make this pasta sauce a few months ago and I’ve been plant-based for 4 years! I swear the joy of it is that it never gets old, you always find out new tricks and recipe ideas! This one is so simple. You literally open a can of white kidney beans (also called navy beans or cannellini beans) and drain out half of the liquid. Then you pop this in your blender/food processor, toss in a clove or two of garlic, salt, pepper, and a bunch of nutritional yeast and a little splash of plant-milk and blitz until smooth and bam, there you have it, a tasty cheesy dairy-free pasta sauce! Toss it on some pasta shells with some fried mushrooms, peas and onions and you got yourself a tasty tasty meal.
That’s that, 6 easy cheese alternatives to fill that cheesy hole. Make sure to browse your ‘natural foods’ section of the store and pick yourself up some tofu, nutritional yeast, and maybe even a nut cheese and try incorporating them into your meals. Try sprinkling some nutritional yeast on your hot savory meals to see what you like it with! Then the following week perhaps get yourself some potatoes and carrots to try to make the cheesy nacho dip! Use half as a dip for nachos and pour the other half on some macaroni noodles. Then lastly get a can of white beans and make yourself a tasty pasta dish. Definitely let me know how you’re going to try them and send me a pic on insta @thenewnormco !
If you want another easy way to incorporate more plant-based meals check out my smoothie bowl how-to guide below. I promise you, they are the most tasty, easy, and healthy thing you’ll ever make!
Hiiyaa! I'm Stormy!
I'm a Plant-Based Lifestyle Coach.
In my twenties, I decided to start eating more plants and to my surprise found that my life long battle with IBS, chronic fatigue, and candida overgrowth went away. I went from feeling like crap to feeling better than I even knew was possible! I created New Norm Co. to teach you how to use plants to feel the good too!
This free guide is perfect for teaching beginners how to make a tasty, delicious, nutritious plant-filled meal. Start eating smoothie bowls today!
This 10-step guide covers how I used a plant-based approach to finally fix my chronic fatigue, candida and IBS problems!
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I am not a doctor or dietitian. The information on here is based on what worked for me. There is a lot of research out there on plant-based diets and the positive impact this diet has on health which really made me comfortable with my plant- based lifestyle choice! If you want to dive more into the science/evidence side of things check out our resources section. Any statements made on these platforms are not intended to diagnose, cure, treat or prevent any disease or illness. Please consult with your medical practitioner before making any changes to your current diet and lifestyle.