How do you live without cheese? If you are vegan-curious and a cheese lover, fear not! There are many plant-based alternatives that fill the role of cheese in meals. To pick the right option for any dish, think about what cheese brings to the party and use another food that would fill the same role. These tips are also for you if you want to shift towards a more plant-based diet.
My Taster says it took him about six months to quit craving meat when we went vegetarian, but surprisingly only two weeks to stop missing cheese. With the increasingly delicious alt-cheeses available, you might not miss it at all!
Creamy, Salty Cheese for Pizza
When I make pizza at home, sometimes I spread a layer of hummus under the tomato sauce before baking. Sometimes I make a more traditional pizza with tomato sauce right on the dough, topped with Miyoko’s Pourable Plant-Milk Mozzeralla or Violife Just Like Mozzarella Shreds. For Detroit Pizza, I use Violife Just Like Cheddar slices instead of brick cheese. We usually order takeout pizza with no cheese, but lots of tomato sauce and veg toppings. Then we spoon line of hummus and guacamole up the center of each slice. Delicious! Sometimes we go with whatever alt-cheese the pizzeria offers.
I used to heap grated Parmesan on pastas and grated Cheddar on Mexican-style dishes. Now I use:
- Nutritional yeast aka nooch. It sounds terrible, but let Jon Stewart show you how wonderful nooch is. Nooch is key for vegan mac & cheese and queso recipes.
- Garlicky Bread Crumbs (one of my something-for-nothing recipes, shown above)
- Hemp seeds
- Toasted pine nuts
- Violife Just Like Parmesan (great for making pesto too)
- Violife Mexican Style shreds
Melting Cheese (for Grilled Sandwiches and Cheese Toast)
We love grilled sandwiches and toast. Avocado toast is famously delicious. I also make a light version of a Reuben by toasting slices of rye spread with Follow Your Heart Thousand Island Dressing, with Unreal Deli’s Corn’d Beef on one side and sliced avocado on the other. After the toaster oven dings, I add a layer of sauerkraut. Yum! Avocado is much more flavorful than Swiss cheese. (Note: I buy five-ounce packs of the Unreal Deli’s Corn’d Beef at Wegman’s for less than six dollars. That’s enough for three or four sandwiches. It’s a lot more expensive to mail-order it.)
For other grilled sandwiches, we use:
Queso Sauce and Mac & Cheese
Kathy Hester’s Spicy Instant Pot Cauliflower Queso rocked my world with I first tried it. I ate it out of the blender, used it as a dip, put it on noodles to serve as mac & cheese, and layered it into burritos. If you don’t have an Instant Pot, you can steam the veggies for this sauce on the stove.
Sometimes you want something cheesy on crackers or bread. Try:
- Peanut butter
- Whipped Tofu (recipe from Bon Appetite). I add the juice from half a lemon and a small garlic clove.
- Artisan plant-based cheeses from Miyoko’s, which come in many flavors
Ricotta for Lasagna and Cheesecake
Soak raw cashews and blend them in a high-speed blender. Depending on the amount of water you add, the results resemble anything from cream cheese and ricotta to heavy cream or milk. For the “cheesecake” below, I blended up a batch of raw cashews, then added blueberries to one half and lemon juice to the other to make a layered dessert. You can also use pre-blended nut bases like the ones made by JOI.
Sticking Other Ingredients Together
- Flaxseed “egg” — Mix one tablespoon ground flaxseed with three tablespoons water, microwave on high for 20 seconds, stir. A flaxseed egg almost no taste. Use them with more flavorful cheese alternatives when you also want to hold together casseroles, bean burgers, and baked goods.
I’m looking forward to trying Darë Vegan Cheese, especially the fig balsamic variety. Some day someone will come up with a plant-based brie or blue cheese, which I still miss a little sometimes. I hope the people who took over Miyoko’s Creamery bring back her fabulous Farmhouse Cheddar. Mostly, I’m happy to switch cows’ milk cheese for avocadoes, raw cashews, peanut butter, hummus, and other minimally processed foods.