The Best Vegan Cheeses and How to Use Them, According to a Chef

Chef Andy Zambrano tried an array of vegan cheeses to find some favorites and explains how to use each to get the best results

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Whenever the subject of veganism comes up, the most common thing I hear is “I think I can do it, but cheese would be really hard to give up.” And in all honesty, most vegan cheeses aren’t really replicating the same satisfaction that dairy cheese can so easily deliver. Dairy cheese can be very complex in flavor and textures, and most plant-based companies are still chasing a good-looking “cheese pull.”

The majority of vegan cheese products are heavily based on starches to help replicate the stretchy texture we all love, but that sits really heavy on the stomach. I once entered a vegan pizza challenge that involved a 24-inch pizza covered in a certain, popular brand of vegan cheese. By the end of the challenge, my stomach felt like it was full of Play Doh. Ever since then, I’ve been really critical on what types of vegan cheese brands I buy. I find I tend to gravitate towards nut-based options, which I find are generally easier to digest.

In my experience, more often than not, the move for getting the best vegan cheese result comes from manipulating the product. Nothing complex, just making small additions and hacks to make your resulting dish that much better.

The Five Best Vegan Cheese Picks – and How to Use Each One

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 immediately that it would go well as an alfredo sauce for fettuccine. Most vegan recipes call for cashew cheese to make the sauce, and that’s just what this cheese is. I boiled half a pound of pasta and diluted the entire wheel with two cups of the pasta water in a saucepan on medium heat. Mixed in the cooked pasta and made a really quick and easy dinner.

Misha’s Kind Foods – J.O.I. Non-Dairy Cheese

Misha’s cheese is really smooth and easy to spread, perfect for putting out on a board or in a bowl and dipping pita chips or bread into. (Yes, you could use this as an alternative ‘butter board.’) This vegan cheese is cashew-, almond, and shallot-based and comes in a handful of flavor options. The one I tried was their J.O.I. flavor: jalapeno, oregano and thyme. I spread the cheese into a bowl, pressing a few divots into the surface. I drizzled a mixture of olive oil, minced garlic, and a squeeze of lemon over the bowl and then sprinkled chopped pumpkin seeds and fresh cilantro on top. Instant, elegant appetizer. Any oil-based sauces would go perfect with this; try chimichurri, salsa macha, chili 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 shown up in more U.S. grocery stores – including supermarkets that aren’t just Whole Foods and Sprouts. I’ve had most of their products but the feta cheese is my favorite. It’s very salty and tangy, something that works well in a salad. I cut the feta block into small cubes and marinate it with olive oil, minced garlic, and two bay leaves. I let it sit out at room temperature for an hour before dressing the salad. Build a wedge salad using iceberg lettuce, red onions, and tomatoes and then drizzle the feta-oil mixture all over. t on top of the wedges with oil drizzled all over. Improvise on the formula with your preferred marinated feta recipe and salad greens combo.

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 this Miyoko’s product hit the market. This vegan mozzarella was created to be poured onto a pizza before baking so it browns like dairy cheese would. But for me, I use it a little differently than intended. This product has a salty, tangy flavor – something about it almost reminds me of a blue cheese – and I realized this “cheese sauce” would be perfect in a potato salad. Think about it: potato salad relies on mayonnaise for fattiness and vinegar for an acidic tang, two things already present in this cultured cashew-based vegan cheese. Follow your favorite recipe, swapping this for the mayo and vinegar and you’ve got a creamy, vegan potato salad ready to go.

Chao Creamery by Field Roast – Creamy Original Shreds

While this brand of vegan cheese does fall into the starch-based category, it earns a spot on my list because, of all the packaged shredded cheeses I tested, this one came out on top. Sometimes we need a no frill cheese that we can toss into a tortilla for a quesadilla or into some bread for a quick grilled cheese. This cheese is good exactly the way it is. Best taste of any shred I’ve tried and doesn’t leave me feeling bloated. I’ve always been a fan of the Chao slices, too.


RELATED: The Best Vegan Eggs for Your Favorite Breakfast Recipes

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