Vegan Cheese – 5 Chef-Approved Brands and How to Use Them

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When the topic of veganism comes up, the one thing I hear most often is, “I think I can, but cheese would be really hard to give up.” And quite frankly, most vegan cheeses don’t quite reflect the same satisfaction that dairy cheese can so easily provide. Dairy cheeses can be very complex in flavor and texture, and most plant-based companies are still chasing a good-looking “cheese train.”

The majority of vegan cheese products rely heavily on starch to recreate that stretchy texture we all love, but that’s really hard on the stomach. I once took part in a vegan pizza challenge, which involved a 24-inch pizza topped with a certain popular brand of vegan cheese. By the end of the challenge, my stomach felt like it was full of Play Doh. Since then I’ve been very critical of what types of vegan cheese brands I buy. I find myself leaning more towards nut-based options, which I find to be easier to digest in general.

In my experience most of the time the step to get the best vegan cheese result lies in manipulating the product. Nothing complex, just little additions and hacks to make your resulting dish that much better.

The five best vegan cheese picks – and how to use them

Miyoko’s Creamery – Double Cream Garlic Herb Cashew Milk Cheese

Miyoko’s Creamery is definitely a fan favorite. When I first tried this, I knew right away it would go well as an alfredo sauce for fettuccine. Most vegan recipes call for cashew cheese for the sauce, and that’s exactly what this cheese is. I cooked half a pound of pasta and diluted the whole wheel with 2 cups of pasta water in a saucepan over medium-high heat. Mixed into the cooked pasta and made a really quick and easy dinner.

Misha’s Kind Foods – JOI Dairy Free Cheese

Misha’s cheese is really smooth and easy to spread, perfect for arranging on a board or in a bowl and dipping on pita chips or bread. (Yes, you could use this as an alternative “butter platter.”) This vegan cheese is based on cashews, almonds, and shallots and comes in a handful of flavors. What I tried was their JOI flavor: jalapeno, oregano, and thyme. I spread the cheese in a bowl and make a few indentations in the surface. I drizzled a mixture of olive oil, chopped garlic, and a squeeze of lemon over the bowl, then sprinkled chopped pumpkin seeds and fresh cilantro on top. Fast, elegant appetizer. Any oil-based sauces would go perfectly with this; Try chimichurri, salsa macha, chilli crisp or tapenade. Mix and match with the different Misha’s flavors to create your signature bowl.

Violife Foods – Just like feta block

Violife is a European brand that has been around since the 1990s but has recently been popping up in more US grocery stores — including supermarkets that don’t just stock Whole Foods and Sprouts. I’ve had most of their products but the feta cheese is my favorite. It’s very salty and flavorful, something that works well in a salad. I cut the block of feta into small cubes and marinate it with olive oil, chopped garlic and two bay leaves. I let it sit at room temperature for an hour before dressing the salad. Prepare a wedge salad with iceberg lettuce, red onions and tomatoes and drizzle with the feta oil mixture. t drizzled with oil on top of the wedges. Improvise the formula with your favorite combination of marinated feta and lettuce.

Miyoko’s Creamery – Liquid Vegan Pizza Mozzarella

I don’t know about you, but I had never heard of liquid cheese in a bottle before Miyoko launched this product. This vegan mozzarella was created to be poured onto a pizza before baking so it browns like milk cheese. But for me I use it a little differently than intended. This product has a salty, tangy taste – something about it almost reminds me of a blue cheese – and I realized that this “cheese sauce” would be perfect in a potato salad. Think about it: Potato salad is based on mayonnaise for greasiness and vinegar for a sour taste, two things already present in this cultured cashew-based vegan cheese. Follow your favorite recipe, swap it out for mayonnaise and vinegar, and you’ve got a creamy, vegan potato salad ready.

Field Roast Chao Creamery – Creamy original cutlets

Although this brand of vegan cheese falls into the starch-based category, it deserves a spot on my list because it came out on top of all the packaged shredded cheeses I tested. Sometimes we need a no-frills cheese to toss in a tortilla for a quesadilla or in some bread for a quick grilled cheese. This cheese is just as good as it is. The best flavor of any shred I’ve tried and I don’t feel bloated. I’ve always been a fan of the Chao discs too.

RELATED: The best vegan eggs for your favorite breakfast recipes

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