In the last couple of years, perhaps no aisle in the grocery store has seen more innovation than the dairy-free cheese aisle. As more and more people eschew dairy for health or ethical reasons, a slew of new products have hit the market after decades of dairy-free cheese enthusiasts being forced to stick to only a few options (looking at you, Daiya) that just weren’t as satisfying as the real thing.
Things are totally different now. At even the most generic of grocery stores, there’s a dizzying array of vegan cheeses. From shredded to slices to the perfect cream cheese schmear, these dairy-free cheese options are actually good.
Best Shredded Cheese: Violife
Replicating shredded cheese can be tricky without dairy, largely because many of the original vegan shredded cheese replacements stubbornly refused to melt. The shreds from Violife, available in cheddar, Colby Jack, and Mexican-style flavors, look almost startlingly like real cheese once they’ve been underneath the oven broiler or stirred into a sauce, melting smoothly and boasting a solid, cheesy flavor. It’s also pretty great for snacking out of the bag at midnight when an insatiable cheese craving strikes.
Best Cheese Slices: Field Roast Vegan Chao
Field Roast is a staple in the world of vegan meat replacements, known for its veggie-based sausages and other proteins. In 2015, the company introduced its Vegan Chao slices, which are perfect for a veggie-based sandwich and boast a nice, light funkiness that comes from fermented soybeans. Chao slices have a slightly firm texture when served cold, and melt nicely into a classic grilled cheese.
Best Snacking Cheese: Vegan Babybel
Long beloved for their portability and cheery red wax wrappers, Babybel went plant-based in 2022, introducing a vegan version of its most classic snack. The wrapper on this cheese is green, a nice nod to the idea that dairy-free cheese is more environmentally friendly than its non-vegan counterpart. The cheese itself is soft and chewy, with a mild flavor that’s slightly reminiscent of cream cheese. Pro tip: Add a shake of everything bagel seasoning to really drive home that vibe.
Best Cream Cheese: Kite Hill
California-based Kite Hill makes a vegan cream cheese that’s almost better than the original. With almonds as the base, this dairy-free alternative is light and fluffy, ideal for a wide range of cream cheese uses, from schmearing onto a bagel to mixing into a dip. It’s also available in flavors like chive and garden vegetable, both of which are worth trying.
Best Vegan Cheese Subscription: Rebel Cheese Club
Austin’s Rebel Cheese curates the country’s most compelling vegan cheese subscription. Starting at $50 per month, cheese enthusiasts can score four wheels of cheesemonger-selected options from the country’s best vegan cheese producers, ranging from funky blue cheese dupes colored with spirulina to truffle chevre and classic mozzarella.
Best Fancy Cheese: Miyoko’s Creamery
When you’re trying to build a chic charcuterie board, boring ol’ slices of cheese just won’t do. Based in Sonoma, California, Miyoko’s Creamery takes vegan cheese to a seriously luxe level. Using traditional culturing techniques, Miyoko’s produces double-cream cheese wheels, both fresh and aged, spiked with flavors like herbes de provence, black ash, and smoky farmhouse cheddar.
Best Garnish Cheese: Bragg Nutritional Yeast
Though there are plenty of vegan Parmesan alternatives on the market now, none will be able to replace the funky simplicity of nutritional yeast. Known as “nooch” by its acolytes, nutritional yeast is a type of deactivated yeast (read: it won’t leaven a loaf of bread) that’s been used for years as a vegan cheese substitute. Sold by brands like Bragg, it’s endlessly versatile, capable of being whipped into a vegan queso or sprinkled over popcorn. You also don’t have to store it in your refrigerator, it takes forever to expire, and can be purchased much more cheaply than many other vegan cheese options.
Best Trader Joe’s Cheese: Vegan Feta Cheese Alternative
If Trader Joe’s is your regular grocery store, you likely know that there aren’t as many vegan cheese alternatives on offer. But keep an eye out for the grocer’s vegan feta alternative, which is made in Greece and sold in brine just like the real thing. It cuts nicely into cubes for snacking purposes, and crumbles well into a Greek salad.
Nicole Miles is an illustrator from the Bahamas living in West Yorkshire, UK.