With more people than ever following a vegan diet, demand for plant-based alternatives to meat and dairy products continues to grow. In fact, according to Google Trends data, searches for ‘vegan cheese’ increased by 350% between 2013 and 2018.
These days you can find dairy-free alternatives to all kinds of cheese varieties, made from a wide range of different plant-based ingredients such as coconut oil, soy and nuts. But how do they compare to the real deal? We conducted a blind taste test to find the best vegan alternatives to cheddar, parmesan, mozzarella, feta and cream cheese.
Best vegan cheddar ‘cheese’
WINNER: Asda free from mature cheddar alternative
By far the most popular of all the entries in this category, our panel were impressed by this cheddar alternative for its creamy taste and crumbly bite. It had the same milk-like smell and lactic acidity of a cheddar cheese and was definitely the closest representative of a block of regular cheddar cheese of them all, although we did feel the flavour was more mild than mature.
This could be eaten alone, on a cracker or in a sandwich. When cooking, it doesn’t melt incredibly well, but we found when using it with other vegan ‘cheeses’ in a sauce that adding a little water to emulsify it was effective.
Ingredients: Water, Coconut Oil (21%), Modified Potato Starch, Maize Starch, Gluten Free Oat Fibre, Modified Maize Starch, Thickeners (Carrageenan, Guar Gum), Salt, Yeast Extract, Flavouring, Acidity Regulators (Lactic Acid, Sodium Lactate), Colour (Carotenes).
HIGHLY COMMENDED: Ocado cheddar-style coconut-based alternative to cheese
Soft, mild and creamy, this had the slightly milky-tasting sourness needed to mimic cheese, but some of our tasters thought it had an unusual aftertaste. A good level of salt and very subtle mushroom-like smell also led us to believe that this would work well with a mushroom burger.
Ingredients: Water, Coconut Oil (23%), Modified Potato Starch, Gluten Free Oat Fibre, Maize Starch, Salt, Modified Maize Starch, Thickeners (Carrageenan, Guar Gum), Yeast Extract, Flavourings, Acidity Regulators (Lactic Acid, Sodium Lactate), Colour (Mixed Carotenes).
Best vegan mozzarella alternative for eating uncooked
WINNER: Green Vie with mozzarella flavour
If you’re looking for a vegan ‘mozzarella’ to use in salads and sandwiches, this is our top choice. It has the creamiest, cheesiest flavour when eaten raw, with a good level of salt.
Ingredients: Water, Coconut Oil (Non-hydrogenated) (24%), Modified Starch, Starch, Maltodextrin, Sea Salt, Vegan Flavourings, Colour: Natural Beta Carotene, Olive extract, Vitamin B12.
Best vegan mozzarella alternative for melting/eating cooked
WINNER: Violife mozzarella grated non-dairy cheese alternative
A good mozzarella for using on pizzas or in paninis needs to melt into a gooey texture with a bit of stretch. It’s for that reason that we put all the entries in this category on a piece of bread under the grill to see how they acted. This was by far the most mozzarella-like texture when melted and, flavour-wise, it’s mild and agreeable.
Ingredients: Water, Coconut Oil (24%), Modified Starch, Starch, Sea Salt, Mozzarella Flavour, Olive Extract, Colour: B-Carotene, Vitamin B12
Best vegan parmesan
WINNER: Follow Your Heart dairy free Italian-style shredded hard cheese alternative
This was the resounding winner in its category. Our panel deemed it ‘the cheesiest of the bunch’ and thought it did a really good job of mimicking pre-grated parmesan in its appearance. It has an intensely savoury, salty flavour and a texture that melts on the tongue. It would be great sprinkled over pastas and risottos.
Ingredients: Filtered Water, Palm Fruit Oil† (20%), Modified Potato Starch (20%), Rapeseed Oil, Natural Flavourings (Plant Sources [Contains Autolyzed Yeast]), Emulsifiers: (Vegetable Glycerin, Sunflower Lecithin), Less than 2% of: Sea Salt, Acidity Regulators: (Calcium Phosphate, Sodium Phosphate, Lactic Acid [Vegetable Source], Calcium Lactate [Vegetable Source], Citric Acid), Bamboo Fibre, Stabilisers: (Carrageenan [Vegetable Source]), Nutritional Yeast, Chickpea Miso (Handmade Rice Koji, Whole Chickpeas, Sea Salt, Water, Koji Spores), Annatto.
†Rainforest Alliance Certified
Best vegan feta
WINNER: Sainsbury’s deliciously free from Greek style alternative to cheese
This was the only entry in this category which managed to achieve both the crumbly texture and salty hit of feta cheese. At first taste, the flavour is cheesy and salty, but some did find that this was followed by a slightly synthetic aftertaste.
Our panel felt confident that they would to serve this in place of feta in a vegan Greek salad or crumbled over roasted veg.
Ingredients: Water, Coconut Oil (24%), Modified Potato Starch, Maize Starch, Salt, Flavourings, Gluten Free Oat Fibre, Thickeners: Carrageenan, Guar Gum; Modified Maize Starch, Acidity Regulators: Lactic Acid, Sodium lactate; Colour: Mixed Carotenes.
Best vegan soft ‘cheese’
WINNER: Sheese creamy 100% dairy free original
Our stand-out product of the entire taste test, this impressed us with its near-perfect imitation of regular cream cheese. It has the same thick, creamy and smooth texture, as well as the slightly sour flavour.
Not only would it be great on toast, oatcakes or in sandwiches, it also doesn’t split when cooking so could be stirred through risottos and pastas or used in sauces.
Ingredients: Water, Coconut Oil (24%), Soya Protein Concentrate (9%), Salt, Acidity Regulator: Lactic Acid (Dairy-Free), Sugar, Thickener (Carrageenan), Natural Flavourings.
HIGHLY COMMENDED: Asda free from soft cheese alternative
Another impressive contender, this had a creamy texture and the sharp tang of cream cheese but was slightly grainier and more watery in texture than our winner.
This would still be a great vegan option for spreading on toasted bagels or using in cooking.
Ingredients: Water, Coconut Oil (24%), Soya Protein Concentrate (9%), Salt, Acidity Regulator (Lactic Acid), Sugar, Thickener (Carrageenan), Flavouring
HIGHLY COMMENDED: Sainsbury’s deliciously free from original coconut-based alternative to soft cheese
Our judges described this as having a pleasing mouth-feel and thick, creamy texture, as well as that lactic sourness which is essential when replicating cheese. However, some found it a little too acidic. It could be used in cooking or spread on toast.
Ingredients: Water, Coconut Oil (24%), Soya Protein Concentrate (9%), Acidity Regulators: Lactic Acid, Sodium lactate; Salt, Humectant: Glycerine; Sugar, Inulin, Thickener: Carrageenan; Flavourings, Fructose.
What we looked for…
Vegan: All entries were strictly free from dairy and animal products.
Taste: We looked for a vegan cheese alternative that tasted as close to the dairy version of each cheese type as possible. Specifically, we looked for creaminess, saltiness and acidity, as well as a cheesy aroma.
Texture: We looked for a vegan cheese alternative that was as close in texture as its dairy version. We looked at whether they cut or grated the same as regular cheese, and how they felt on the tongue.
Cooking: All the vegan mozzarella alternatives were melted under the grill to see how they acted when cooked. We looked for a texture as close to melted mozzarella as possible, and for the flavour to remain unaffected after cooking.
How we tested: A range of nationally available vegan ‘cheeses’ were tested by a panel made up of members of BBC Good Food’s cookery and editorial team. The products were all served out of their packaging, so that no brand prejudice could play a part in the judging. The cheese alternatives were served at room temperature, and tasters were encouraged to cleanse their palate between tastings.
Vegan recipes and buyer’s guides
For more product picks, visit our reviews section.
This review was last updated in January 2020. If you have any questions, suggestions for future reviews or spot anything that has changed in price or availability please get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Have you found a vegan ‘cheese’ that you love? Leave a comment below…