written by Mia Montalvo
As our culture evolves and continuously develops more knowledge about the ways in which we walk through the world, it is important that our thoughts align with our actions. Many choose a vegan lifestyle for a variety of reasons, yet there is no doubt that eliminating animal products from one’s life is better for the earth, the animals and your body.
Yet, one of the main components holding many back to take the initial plunge, is the addictive culprit of dairy products, but mostly cheese. Many Americans grew up with cheese on pizza, in gooey mozzarella sticks, cheddar loaded nachos, and other classic foods. Cheese has been a staple in different cultural cuisines for centuries, and therefore our addiction to it has considerably grown.
Cheese from all different animal sources contain one commonality — the presence of “casein” proteins in their makeup. For young animals receiving milk from their mother’s this is an important nutrient to receive in developmental stages. However, in the human health system and through digestion, the protein is broken down into compounds called “casomorphins” that have significant effects on our minds. According to Healthline, “Casomorphins can cross the blood-brain barrier and attach to dopamine receptors in your brain. This causes your brain to release dopamine, a neurotransmitter related to feelings of pleasure and reward.” And the more cheese and casomorphins our bodies absorb, the more likely our brain is able to create an unnatural craving for this ingredient.
So first things first, if you are trying to go vegan, and just cannot seem to cut out cheese — it’s not entirely your fault. Learning about casomorphins and how our bodies become addicted to them is something you should consider in slowly trying to transition these products out of your diet. Secondly, take it slow! In comparison to people adopting a vegan lifestyle twenty years ago, we have the technology to try so many different alternatives to cheese. Whereas “back in the day” brands like “tofutti” and “vegan rella” were the only options, tasting like play-doh and plastic. Now there is an infinity of brands, kinds of vegan cheeses, and even restaurants offering or dedicated to having their own vegan cheeses. So instead of quitting cheese or dairy products all together overnight, we definitely recommend exploring the different vegan cheese substitutes that the market has to offer first, finding your favorites, and slowly making the transition!
In this round up, we’ll go through not only our top favorite vegan cheese substitutes, but also the best ways to use them and some suggested recipes for tried and tested favorites! Don’t worry, these vegan cheeses are surely going to become your favorites in no time.
1) So Delicious Dairy Free Mozzarella Style Shreds
A vegan cheese substitute that can be found in almost every food market, the So Delicious Dairy Free Mozzarella Style Shreds are made from a coconut base, which may sound a bit surprising for a cheese alternative, yet, we can attest that these shreds are not sweet in the slightest. So Delicious has perfected a “mozzarella-inspired” flavor that is delicious for topping on homemade vegan pizzas, on pastas, or even in panini’s. When you want a little extra cheesiness for your meal, this alternative doesn’t skip on melting. This alternative is also gluten-free, and is definitely a great option for newer vegans who are looking to dabble in plant-based cheeses.
Best For: Pizza
Recipe We’d Recommend: Moderna Margherita Pizza from So Delicious
Easy for after work, after school, or to slice up as party appetizers this margherita style pizza is soooo delicious, no pun intended!
2) Kite Hill Dairy Free Cream Cheese Alternative
If bagels and cream cheese were your thing, do not fret, Kite Hill’s Dairy Free Cream Cheese Alternative will have you never looking back to the full-fat milk cream cheeses of the past. It’s flavor is classic made from almonds, texture creamy and smooth, and is incredibly spreadable. Plus, Kite Hill has made more than just a plain flavor if that’s not your thing. It is available in “Chive,” “Everything,” and “Garden Veggie” for endless combinations of bagels (or recipe) of choice!
Best For: Toasted Bagels with Everything Seasoning
Recipe We’d Recommend: Vegan Cream Cheese Swirl Brownies by The Conscientious Eater
“With a fudgy brownie base, and sweet cream cheese swirl, these Vegan Cream Cheese Swirl Brownies are a decadent treat that won’t last long!” We’re sold.
3) Daiya Deluxe Cheddar Style Cheezy Mac
A fan favorite, we just know that Daiya drew their inspiration from childhood dreams to conspire this vegan cheezy mac. The amazing thing about this non-traditional vegan mac, is that unlike usual boxed mac and cheeses this comes with a packet of vegan cheese, instead of the powdered substance that most usually do. So there is no need for vegan milk or butter when making this, everything you need is in the box already!
4) Miyoko's Double Cream Classic Chive Cashew Milk Cheese
Flavor profile: buttery, creamy, and savory with classic chives. Miyoko’s Creamery has truly achieved what we think we all dream of in “fancy” cheese. Growing up, every time I would go over to my aunt’s house for a holiday, she would always have a beautiful platter of assorted cheeses and crackers. So, it was a bit of a bummer when I went vegan and had to sit back from partaking in all the goodness. BUT — that’s why Miyoko’s has truly been heaven sent. It’s the perfect cheese alternative for a holiday, small gathering, or dinner party and will have your guests raving over how delicious it tastes.
Best For: Cheese Block with Whole Grain/Herb-Flavored Crackers
5) Mother Raw Lizzo Approved Spicy Vegan Queso
Yes you read that right, Lizzo has approved and raved over this spicy vegan queso. On the star’s famous Tik Tok channel, she details a baked brussels sprouts nacho recipe with this prized vegan queso, and ever since it has become an obsession. Hot and fiery, with notes of chipotle, this cheese-style sauce is made almost entirely of all-natural and organic ingredients. It’s great for nachos, or topping on tacos or a rice and veggies bowl. We’d definitely approve of this alternative.
Best For: Cheesy Nachos
Recipe We’d Recommend: Lizzo’s Brussels Sprouts Nachos
6) Chao Creamy Original Slices
Last but certainly not least, we have to give it up for Chao slices. Amazing for topping on sandwiches, these vegan cheese slices are our absolute favorite in the “realness” factor. Many have complained about some vegan cheeses tasting artificial, or plastic-like and we can assure you that Chao is the complete opposite. We opt for using these in grilled cheese because they melt super easily and welcome a delicious gooey-factor. The brand also offers several other flavors, in “Tomato Cayenne,” “Spicy Original,” “Smoked Original,” and “Garden Herb!”
Best For: Grilled Cheese!
Recipe We’d Recommend: Grilled Cayenne Tomato Chao Cheese Panini
We understand that going vegan is a journey that is individual to each person, yet, we hope that this guide to vegan cheese alternatives will help aid you along your way to eating less dairy products!