The Complete Guide to the Best Vegan Cheeses

Health Disclosure: This post is meant to be educational in nature and not a replacement for medical advice. Please consult your physician before making any dietary changes or taking any vitamin supplements.

Vegan and plant-based cheese brands all have one thing in common; they are created to better meet evolving human food preferences, whether they be environmental, animal welfare, or health driven. Vegan and plant-based products are on the rise, with vegan cheeses growing significantly in popularity in recent years.

As of 2018, the market for vegan cheese notably grew on a global scale. With the largest market share in Europe, other regions are starting to consume more vegan cheese products as well – including North America, Asia-Pacific, South America and Middle East & Africa. As the global vegan cheese market continues to grow, as does the ever-expanding options of vegan cheese product types and flavors. We’ve put together this complete guide to the best vegan cheeses to give you the rundown on the most delicious types and flavors for every occasion.

What is Vegan Cheese Made From?

Vegan and plant-based cheeses can contain many diverse, animal-free ingredients, but there are a few primary ingredients that are found in most store-bought vegan cheeses. The below ingredients are often the base of vegan brand cheeses, influencing the texture, taste, and nutrition.

Cashews, Nuts & Seeds

Cashews, almonds, and other seeds and nuts are often found in store-bought vegan cheeses. Cashews are a favorite plant-based cheese ingredient used in store-bought brands and DIY recipes because their high protein and fat content creates a creamy, cheese-like texture without the dairy. Pumpkin, sesame, and sunflower seeds are also popular in many DIY cheese recipes. They also have a mild, neutral flavor and slightly sweet taste, similar to dairy-cheeses due to the presence of lactose. 

Many vegan cheese lovers prefer cashew and nut-based cheeses because they rely on the natural texture and fat content of the nuts to simulate dairy cheese without the need for lots of additives or processed ingredients. Vegan cheese brands often combine cashews with probiotics for creamy, tangy dairy cheese alternatives.

Soy & Tofu

Soybeans and tofu, which is made from soybean curd, are also common ingredients in store-bought and DIY vegan cheeses. The soybean is a protein-rich legume, with a very mild flavor that easily adopts other flavor profiles. Their ability to adopt other flavors and their sponge-like yet creamy texture make both soybeans and tofu excellent base ingredients in vegan cheese products. 

Soybean-based vegan cheeses often pair soybeans or tofu with vegetable starches, gum-based thickening agents, and other flavors to create a cheese-like end product. As a result, soybean-based, store-bought cheeses are usually more processed than nut-based cheeses.

Chickpeas

Another legume often used in vegan cheese is the chickpea. Chickpeas are protein-packed and incredibly versatile, with a texture that acts as a great thickening agent in plant-based cheese recipes. Additionally, chickpeas have a very mild taste, allowing them to pair nicely with other spices and tastes to create the perfect vegan cheese. 

Chickpeas can be added to plant-based cheese recipes or products in a number of different forms – whole chickpeas, chickpea protein powder, and even chickpea aquafaba. Aquafaba is the viscous water that chickpeas have been cooked or canned in. Because of their versatility, chickpeas are often found in homemade vegan cheese recipes and also some store-bought plant-based cheeses.

Vegetable Starches

Vegetable starches like corn, potato, tapioca, and arrowroot are popular in vegan cheese products because they act as thickening agents when combined with softer or liquid ingredients like coconut oil or milk, water, and soybeans. Vegetable starches create a silky, smooth texture when added to other vegan cheese base products while helping to thicken the product without changing the taste.

Coconut Oil, Milk, & Cream

The high fat content in coconut products helps produce a creamy, cheese-like end product when combined with a thickening agent like vegetable starch or plant-based gelatin like agar-agar. The silky, waxy mouthfeel of coconut oil, coconut milk, and coconut cream make for great plant-based alternatives that mimic the density and texture of real cheese.

Because coconut has a unique flavor that’s very different from that of cheese, other seasonings are added to modify the flavor profile to resemble dairy cheese more closely – including salt, garlic, onion powder, lemon juice, nutritional yeast, and more.

Nutritional Yeast

Nutritional yeast is an inactive type of yeast that is highly nutritious, with a delightfully tangy flavor that closely emulates that of dairy cheese. High in protein and fiber, nutritional yeast is a complete protein, which means it contains all essential amino acids. The rich, nutty taste adds low fat, low sodium flavor to many vegan cheese products, including both store bought brands and DIY recipes.

Is Vegan Cheese Healthy?

Following a plant-based approach to eating can offer many health benefits, including lower blood pressure and reduced risk of cancer, heart disease, and type 2 diabetes. Vegan cheeses may contain a variety of healthy plant-based ingredients that add nutritional value to the end product. The most nutritious plant-based ingredients often found in vegan cheese products include nuts, nutritional yeast, and legumes like chickpeas and soybeans.

Vegan Cheese Vs. Dairy Cheese Nutrition

In comparison to dairy cheeses, less processed vegan cheeses are usually the healthiest alternative to their dairy counterpart. Vegan cheeses with nut or cashew bases usually have higher protein and lower fat, and those with coconut ingredients are often higher in fat, cholesterol but lower in protein. Some vegan cheese brands and types are heavily processed to achieve unique taste and texture profiles that mimic the characteristics of dairy cheese, so make sure to pay attention to labels and product ingredients when shopping for vegan cheese. Vegan cheeses, just like all other foods in a human diet, should be consumed in moderation. The most healthy vegan cheese products will contain only a handful of ingredients, all nutritious and easy to understand.

Here’s how vegan cheese brand Treeline stacks up against dairy cheese brand Philadelphia regarding nutrition for their respective cream cheese products. Note that Treeline has simple, nutritious ingredients and is not heavily processed with hard to understand ingredients.

For the same serving size, Treeline cashew cream cheese has more protein AND less, calories, fat, saturated fat, cholesterol and sodium than Philadelphia cream cheese.

Treeline Cashew Cream
Cheese (Plain)
Philadelphia Original Cream Cheese
IngredientsCashew nuts, filtered water,
sea salt, lemon juice,
vegan L. Acidophilus.
Pasteurized Milk And Cream,
Salt, Carob Bean Gum,
Cheese Culture
Serving Size28g28g
Calories90100
Total Fat7g10g
Saturated Fat1g6g
Trans Fat0grm0grm
Cholesterol0mg30mg
Sodium75mg110mg
Total Carb3g1g
Fiber0g0g
Total Sugars0g0g
Protein4g2g
Vitamin D0mcg0mcg
Calcium0mg0mg
Iron0.7mg0mg
Potassium50mg0mg

What are the best Vegan Cheese Brands?

Vegan cheese brands specialize in different types of plant-based cheese that shreds, spreads, and slices to closely resemble the taste and texture of dairy cheeses. There are a number of plant-based cheese brands now available for the vegan food market, and we’ve done the research to help you identify the best vegan cheese brands for any situation.

Miyokos

Miyokos is a favorite among the vegan cheese community, offering mostly cashew-based cheeses in a variety of types and flavors available in many private and chain grocery stores. Based out of Sonoma, California, Miyoko was founded by award-winning vegan chef Miyoko Schinner. Miyoko’s artisan, 100% plant-based cheese options include vegan cream cheese, vegan cheese wheels, as well as vegan mozzarella (mozz) products. Miyokos cheeses are organic, Non-GMO and free of cholesterol, lactose, gluten and soy.

Daiya

Daiya is a market leader in plant-based innovations with over 30, 100% plant-based alternatives to dairy products. Daiya products are 100% vegan – no dairy, gluten, soy, eggs, peanuts, tree nuts, fish, or shellfish. After first entering the vegan cheese market in 2009 with their dairy-free shreds, Daiya’s 100% plant-based cheese selection now includes a variety of flavors across many products: shreds, blocks, slices, and even cream “cheeze”.

Kite Hill

Kite Hill’s set out to create plant-based cheeses with all the taste, texture, and integrity of dairy varieties, first going to market with almond-based soft cheese alternatives in 2014 and has now expanded their product line to plant-based yogurts, ricotta, pasta, dips, and more. Kite Hill is known for their delicious, plant-based cream cheese flavor options. Kite Hill’s products are: non-GMO, dairy-free, soy-free, gluten-free, vegan, kosher, no artificial preservatives, no added sugar.

Violife

Based in Greece, Violife’s mission is to offer tasty dairy alternatives to Vegans, Vegetarians and Flexitarians. Violife’s plant-based foods are 100% vegan, free from common allergens lactose and gluten, and they are also soy and nut free. They’ve been around since the 90’s, with a number of plant-based cheese products in different flavors to meet all of your vegan cheese needs. Violife is another brand offering tasty, vegan shredded cheese alternatives, with mozzarella and cheddar flavors available at grocery stores around the world.

Treeline

Treeline focuses on simplicity and natural, wholesome ingredients in its artisanal treenut cheeses, including a collection of creamy french-style and aged nut vegan cheeses. They are also planning on offering a new line of plant-based cream cheese in the near future. All Treeline cheeses are 100% vegan and free from dairy, lactose, casein, gluten or soy. They don’t add any gums, thickeners, artificial preservatives/oils, or palm oil. All Treeline products are certified non-GMO and Kosher Parve by KOF-K.

Follow Your Heart

Best known for its Vegenaise product, Follow Your Heart has been creating vegan and vegetarian products out of California since the 1970’s. Since then, they have over 60 dairy-free products, including a number of vegan cheese flavors, including plant-based shreds, slices, and more. Follow Your Heart is also well known in the plant-based community, with broad presence in grocery stores. Follow Your Heart vegan cheese products are vegan, gluten-free, dairy-free, non-GMO, and soy-free.

Toffutti

Tofutti’s first vegan product was dairy-free ice cream, but they also now have a collection of creamy soy-based cheeses, offering plant-based cream cheese, sour cream, ricotta, and slices. Tofutti cheese are vegan, dairy-free, kosher parve, gluten free, lactose free, milk free, no butterfat, no cholesterol, non-GMO, and halal.

Field Roast

Known for their wide selection of plant-based meats and Chao Cheese products, Field Roast has been creating flavorful, high quality vegan products using grains, vegetables, legumes and spices since 1997. Their Chao Cheese slices use fermented tofu, which adds a buttery texture and umami bite to their Chao cheeses.

So Delicious

So Delicious has been creating coconut plant-based products for over 30 years. While they specialize in dairy-free beverages, creamers, and yogurts, So Delicious also carries plant-based, cheese alternative shreds. So Delicious products are 100% vegan, soy-free and verified by the Non-GMO Project.

Blode Kuh

Another cashew-based vegan cheese company, Blode Kuh is a smaller brand based in Los Angeles, CA offering soft and cream cheese alternatives in a handful of flavors. Blode Kuh focuses on using high-quality, natural ingredients in its vegan cheeses, avoiding preservatives and highly processed ingredients.

Private Label Vegan Cheeses

Private label, store brand vegan cheeses are also available, with plant-based shreds and vegan sliced cheese being the most common. Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s offer their own private label vegan cheese products, which have a strong following in their grocery community.

Best Shredded Vegan Cheese Brands

Shredded vegan cheese is ideal for dishes or recipes where you want to add a creamy, melty texture; the small shreds melt and stretch easily with heat and provide a great plant-based cheese alternative. Shredded vegan cheese has all sorts of delicious uses: sprinkle it on pizza, nachos, pasta, quesadillas, tacos, burritos, mac and cheese, sandwiches – you name it! Shredded vegan cheese is also an excellent topping and vegan alternative for oven-baked dishes because of its melting characteristics. Sprinkle some shreds as a topping on a casserole dish or baked spaghetti and watch the melting magic happen!

Plant-based shreds are available from many vegan cheese brands, and they have similar ingredients in common that help simulate that stretchy, melty texture of a dairy cheese. Coconut oil or coconut milk is usually a primary ingredient, combined with a vegetable or root starch and other flavors to add thickness, taste, and texture. 

THE WINNER: Follow Your Heart Shreds

Follow Your Heart Shreds

Known for its wide selection of melty, stretchy vegan shreds, Follow Your Heart offers a delicious variety of meltable vegan cheese shreds, with unique flavors like pizzeria and fiesta blends. You can find Follow Your Heart products in a grocery store near you. Flavors include: parmesan, pizzeria, fiesta, mozzarella, cheddar.

Other Top Vegan Shredded Cheese Brands

Daiya, So Delicious, and Violife’s vegan cheese shreds are also melty favorites in the vegan and plant-based community. With a wide variety of flavors across all brands and wide grocery store availability, these brands make for great dairy cheese alternatives.

Best Spreadable Vegan Cheese Brands

Spreadable vegan cheese is available in all sorts of flavors through many different plant-based cheese brands. The most common uses for spreadable vegan cheese are as cream or soft cheese alternatives, making it incredibly versatile for recipes that would normally include a softer dairy cheese. Spread it on bagels, crackers, bread, sandwiches, or use it in dips and appetizer type dishes. Spreadable cheese has a thick yet creamy consistency, also great for use in vegan cheesecake, dairy-free cheese balls, or other appetizer recipes.

Most spreadable plant-based cream or soft cheeses are nut-based, using cashews or other nuts like almonds as their primary ingredient. The natural fat in cashews results in an exceptionally smooth, creamy texture. Nut-based cheeses also contain additional ingredients like spices, oils, nutritional yeast, probiotics, or cultures to add tanginess, texture, and flavor that imitates that of dairy cheese. Soy is also a primary ingredient in some spreadable vegan cheese.

THE WINNER: Treeline Nut Cheeses

Treeline

Offering both vegan soft french-style nut cheeses and vegan cream cheeses, Treeline has delicious, nutritious spreadable vegan cheese options. With flavor varieties like scallion, herb-garlic, sea salt & pepper, chive & onion, and plain, Treeline delivers a remarkable, diverse selection of spreadable vegan cheeses that rival that of dairy cheeses – all with simple, healthy ingredients. Treeline is available in a variety of stores and also sells their products online direct to consumer.

Other Top Vegan Spreadable Cheese Brands

Miyokos, Kite Hill, Violife, and Tofuttis have a variety of delicious vegan cream cheese, ricotta, and other spreadable cheese types with a smooth, rich texture and delicious flavor options ranging from everything to garden, herbs & chive, and more.

Best Vegan Cheese Slice Brands

There are an abundance of vegan sliced cheese products and flavors available in the plant-based cheese market. Vegan cheese slices closely resemble the texture of sliced dairy cheese and can be consumed hot or cold. Whether it be on a cold sandwich, plant-based burger, grilled cheese, or atop a portabello mushroom, vegan cheese slices are designed to maintain their sliced shape while also easily melting for a creamy, tangy addition to your favorite recipe.

In order to maintain their shape and texture, vegan cheese slices are usually more processed than a spreadable vegan cheese, for example. Vegan cheese slices often contain a base like coconut oil paired with a starch and gum additive, resulting in the sliced form and texture.

THE WINNER: Daiya

Daiya

Daiya has mastered the art of the vegan cheese slice with their diverse flavor varieties like Smoked Gouda, Mozzarella, Cheddar, American, Swiss, and Provolone. Daiya’s slices closely mirror the consistency of dairy cheese, and they taste good warmed up and melty or straight out of your fridge onto a cold sandwich. Daiya has broad grocery store availability and they consistently release new product types and flavors for the plant-based community to enjoy!

Other Top Vegan Cheese Slice Brands

Violife, Field Roast, Follow Your Heart, and Tofutti are also excellent sliced vegan cheese brands with considerable flavor options. Field Roast’s Tomato Cayenne flavor and Follow Your Heart’s Pepper Jack style are standout choices in the sliced vegan cheese category!

Best Block, Wedge, and Wheel Style Vegan Cheese Brands

Block, wedge, or wheel style vegan cheeses have redefined snacking and the vegan cheese board. Pair a block or wheel style vegan cheese with some veggies and crackers, and you’ve got a delightful, plant-based appetizer platter. Or, grab a vegan parmesan wedge and grate atop your favorite pasta dish as a finisher! Softer wheel vegan cheeses can also be mixed into recipes in lieu of a creamier dairy cheese.

THE WINNER: Miyokos

Miyokos

Miyoko’s Organic Cultured Vegan Cheese Wheel collection is a must-try! Made with cashew cream and fermented with live cultures, these artisanal vegan cheeses range from semi-soft to semi-firm and will have you hooked! This collection, including sophisticated, tasty flavors like Winter Truffle, Black Ash, Herbs De Provence, can be purchased in stores or directly on Miyoko’s website.

Other Top Vegan Cheese Block, Wedge, and Wheel Brands

When it comes to traditional block cheese options, Daiya and Violife are also favorites for vegan cheese-lovers, with Violife’s classic Just Like Parmesan wedge, and Daiya’s delicious flavor styles including Jalapeno Havarti, Medium Cheddar, Monterey Jack, and Smoked Gouda.

Conclusion

And there you have it – your complete guide to the best vegan cheeses! Whether you’re driven by environmental sustainability, animal welfare, or health/nutrition, there are a variety of vegan cheese products to fit your lifestyle, recipes, and diet. Shreddable, sliceable, spreadable, and charcuterie-ready, vegan cheese products are more accessible and tastier than ever.

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