More people than ever are following a vegan diet but vegan ‘cheese’ has always been one of the most difficult alternatives to match up to the real deal. According to Sainsbury’s, sales of its vegan cheeses surpassed the company’s predictions by more than 300%, so there is demand but does the quality match? Whether it is the briny tang of feta or the soft melt of mozzarella on a pizza, dairy cheese is hard to beat. Yet there have been incredible strides made in the taste and texture of vegan cheese, as well as new additions such as vegan camembert. But what is vegan cheese actually made of? Most commonly, it’s made from coconut oil which replicates the fattiness of dairy rounded up with thickeners such as xanthan gum or starch, which helps to bind it together. Nuts, such as cashews or almonds, are often used as they contain a lot of natural fat that gives a creamy texture once blended. Many brands also use a vegan lactic acid to add the tang and umami that gives that quintessential cheese flavour.
In terms of health, vegan cheese is generally considered better for you than dairy cheese as it’s lower in saturated fat and often has added vitamin B12, which contributes to a healthy nervous system. However, do watch out for a higher sodium content and it doesn’t contain the same amount of protein as regular dairy cheese.
Here, we’ve taste tested top brands from Violife to Follow your Heart, available in major supermarkets and online, to find the best cheese alternatives available. So whether you’re looking for the perfect cheddar cheese for a vegan toastie or the best vegan feta for a classic Greek salad, we’re sure to have something for you. We’ve also rounded up the best vegan crackers for the dairy-free cheeseboard of your dreams.
Best vegan cheese at a glance
- Best vegan cheddar (block): Sheese Mature Cheddar Style, £2.30
- Best vegan cheddar (grated): Violife Epic Mature Cheddar Flavour grated, £2.20
- Best vegan mozzarella: Green Vie Mozarella cheese block, £3.19
- Best vegan soft ‘cheese’ (plain): Nush cream cheese-style spread, £2.75
- Best vegan soft ‘cheese’ (flavoured): Nush Chive cream cheese-style spread, £2.50
- Best vegan parmesan: Follow Your Heart Dairy-free Italian-style Shredded Hard Cheese Alternative, £4.69
- Best vegan feta: Green Vie Greek style block with oregano and olive oil, £2.75
- Best vegan camembert: Violife Le Rond Camembert Flavour , £3.15
Best vegan cheddar (block)
WINNER: Sheese Mature Cheddar Style
Good on its own, this cheddar has a smooth, creamy taste with a distinctive tang thanks to the added lactic acid. It also has an aged flavour from the yeast extract without an odd aftertaste. Its slightly crumbly texture mirrors dairy cheddar, as does its neutral yellow colour.
This could be eaten alone, on a cracker or in a sandwich. When cooking, it melted well and the more ‘aged’ flavour intensified.
Best vegan cheddar (grated)
WINNER: Violife Epic Mature Cheddar Flavour grated
A slightly smokey taste with a good salty flavour, this grated vegan cheddar from Violife melted quickly and quite evenly, which is good for when you’re making a toastie or nachos. It has a slight stickiness but was by far the least cloying of the bunch.
Best vegan mozzarella
WINNER: Green Vie Mozzarella cheese block
If you’re looking for a vegan ‘mozzarella’ to use in salads and sandwiches, this is our top choice. It has a super creamy, cheesy flavour when eaten raw, but it’s not overpowering. It also has a good level of salt. When melted, it still stayed unified, so we think it would work well on a vegan pizza or toastie as it didn’t run thin or turn to liquid like the other alternatives.
Best vegan soft 'cheese' plain
WINNER: Nush cream cheese-style spread
Packed with over 60 almonds per pot for a fantastic source of protein, it’s hard to believe this spread is vegan. It’s creamy, a tiny bit tangy thanks to the live cultures in it, and simply delicious. Perfect on crackers, as a dip or even as a sauce base for a white pizza.
Best vegan soft 'cheese' flavoured
Winner: Nush Chive cream cheese-style spread
This has a creamy texture and the sharp tang of regular cream cheese. Like it’s plain counterpart, it didn’t split when cooked, so it could be stirred through risottos and pastas or used in sauces. The chive flavour is delicious and slightly salty; it mirrors a garlic and sour cream flavour so it could work well in a bagel or as a dip for tortilla chips.
Best vegan parmesan
WINNER: Follow Your Heart Dairy-free Italian-style Shredded Hard Cheese Alternative
The resounding winner in its category, this vegan parmesan did a really good job of mimicking pre-grated parmesan in 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.
Best vegan feta
WINNER: Green Vie Greek style block with oregano and olive oil
There is a classic brininess and soft texture to this vegan feta and it easily crumbles, which impressed us. It’s salty but perhaps milder than a regular feta and when it firsts hits the tongue, the acidity is a bit intense but that quickly fades to replicate a very good dairy feta. The olive oil and oregano flavour is lovely and does a good job at covering any potential synthetic taste.
Best vegan camembert
Winner: Violife Le Rond Camembert Flavour
At room temperature, this vegan camembert has a remarkably similar taste to the regular kind. It has a slightly salty but mild, tangy flavour with a characteristic sour odour that’s weaker than the dairy variety but still present. It’s quite a solid, creamy cheese and lacks a typical wax, which may distract non-vegans. When melted, it stayed quite liquid for longer than regular camembert, but the flavour is strong and it has a nice runny rather than sticky texture.
How we tested
A range of nationally available vegan ‘cheeses’ was tested. The products were 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 water and a cracker were given between tastings in order to cleanse the palate. All the vegan cheeses were tasted with a plain cracker, so only the cheese could be judged. Any cheese we judged when cooked was heated in a ceramic container under the grill for 5 minutes in order to see how quickly it melted. This was then tasted with a plain corn tortilla chip.
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 and camembert alternatives were melted under the grill to see how they behaved when cooked. We looked for a texture as close to melted cheese as possible, and for the flavour to remain unaffected or improved after cooking.
Best vegan crackers
Nairn’s Fine Milled Oatcakes
Nairn’s oatcakes have a strong, thick base and are a softer cracker than most, which means they’re good with a thick layer of vegan cream cheese or a chunk of vegan cheddar.
Jacob's Savours Salt & Cracked Black Pepper Bakes
These crackers are packed with seasoning and are best paired with a more mild, unsalted cheese like a vegan mozzarella or cheddar. They also have a nice crumble and crack, so a soft vegan cheese might be too salty and too thick for them.
Ryvita Dark Rye crispbread
These rye crackers are the crunchiest of the bunch as well as being high in fibre and a natural source of iron, magnesium and zinc. Pair with a softer cheese like a vegan cream cheese or camembert.
Carr's Table Water biscuits
A classic for a reason, these thin table water crackers are a great all-rounder. They’re sturdy and plain enough to dip into a flavoured vegan cream cheese but also contrast well with a mature vegan cheddar.
Vegan recipes and buyer's guides
For more product picks, visit our reviews section.
This review was last updated in April 2022. 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.
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