A world without cheese is a world we don’t want to live in. (Raise your hand if you agree.) Luckily, there’s no need to forgo the delicious, creamy cheesiness we all know and love even if you’re vegan. With more and more cheese substitutes popping up in grocery store aisles plus oodles of creative recipes that create a shockingly realistic cheesy flavor, you can easily ditch the dairy and still stay true to your love of cheese.
Whether you’re wanting to sink a spoon into some comforting mac and cheese, chow down on a classic grilled cheese sandwich, or wow your guests with a pesto or lasagna no one will ever know is dairy-free, look no further than these delicious, dairy-free cheese substitutes.
5 Cheese Substitutes You’d Never Guess Were Healthy
#1 Nutritional Yeast
Vague-sounding name aside, nutritional yeast, or nooch, as it’s affectionately known in the vegan community, is a B-12 packed powdery yeast that you’ll want to keep on hand for mastering a dairy-free cheese flavor. Nutritional yeast has a distinctly savory, Umami flavor (aka savory) that is great plain, sprinkled on top of anything you’d put parmesan cheese on, or when added into a dairy-free cheese sauce.
#2 Cashew Nut Cheese Sauce
If you’re looking to go all out with a rich, creamy cheese sauce, cashews are about to be your BFF and one of your new fav dairy-free cheese substitutes. The trick is to grab plain, unsalted, raw nuts from the grocery store, soak overnight, and then blend with garlic salt, nutritional yeast, turmeric, lemon juice, paprika, salt, and pepper in a high-speed blender. The result is a super-decadent goodness that’s perfect for mac and cheese, layered in a lasagna, enjoyed with chips or jicama for vegan nachos, or in a Mexican dip.
#3 Store-Bought Cheeses
There’s nothing worse than trying to convince yourself a rubbery faux cheese is as good as that camembert. Luckily, vegan cheese has come a long way and is only continuing to improve, so if you tried it in years past and weren’t wowed, give it a second chance. Most major grocery stores carry everything from cheddar slices to mozzarella shreds (common brands are Daiya, Violife, Follow Your Heart, Whole Foods 365 brand, and Fieldroast Chao) and even feta, cream cheese, or swiss. And for when you’re wanting to splurge, brands such as Miyokos make impressive artisanal nut-based spreads that deserve a place on any wine-night cheese board.
#4 Vegetable-Based Cheese Sauces
You’d never guess that the star ingredients of many delectable dairy-free cheese substitutes and sauces can all be picked up in the produce aisle! When you’re wanting that ooey-gooey goodness, hold the calories and fat of nuts and oils, blend (in a food processor or high-speed blender) white beans or chickpeas, boiled-until-soft carrots, onions, cauliflower, and potatoes with lemon juice, nutritional yeast, turmeric, paprika, and salt and pepper to taste. The result is a creamy, sinful-tasting sauce perfect for pasta, with zero of the guilt.
#5 Easy Dairy-Free Pesto
Think vegans have to give up pesto? Not so! Combine one cup of fresh basil (you can also toss in some spinach for extra vitamins and iron), ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil, a pinch of salt, one clove of garlic, and ¼ cup pine nuts or walnuts, and blend until smooth. If you want to top your pesto pasta with parmesan, combine plain, raw cashews with nutritional yeast and salt to taste in a food processor until fine and crumbly. Magic! You now have one of our favorite dairy-free cheese substitutes made in under 30 seconds.
Yes, You Can Have Your Cheese & Eat it Too
No one should live a life without cheese, and with these delicious dairy-free cheese substitutes, you get to ditch the excess calories and fat while enjoying healthier alternatives packed with the flavor you love.