Much of this information on how to substitute cheese is from my book, Go Dairy Free: The Guide and Cookbook. However, I’ve also added some product reviews and a few fun recipes that are here on the website.
Tips to Substitute Cheese
Cheese is definitely a sensitive subject when you mention going dairy free. Fortunately, if you opt to remove it from your diet (completely, not a dairy trace!), the cravings will usually subside within about a month (give or take, depending on the person). In the mean time, you may need to substitute cheese to hold back the addiction.
The name may sound horrible, but nutritional yeast is actually a fairly simple ingredient that offers a cheesy vibe to foods like no other dairy-free ingredient. Loaded with B vitamins (including B12), many people love the taste of nutritional yeast sprinkled on like Parmesan. If the flavor seems to strong for your taste buds, don’t cast it aside without trialing it in full blown recipes first. Nutritional yeast can be used in very small amounts to add a delicious savory flavor to many meals and recipes.
To find nutritional yeast, check the baking goods aisle and the bulk food section of mainstream and natural grocers. If you can’t find it in store, it is readily available online.
Sliced smoked tofu mimics mozzarella or provolone on sandwiches or with crackers. Also, in some American-style recipes I have added cubes (or a mash) of extra-firm tofu, and noticed a cheesy taste and texture. Not cheese by any means, but the basic tasty vibe.
For a very simple cottage cheese or ricotta substitute, you can blend or mash some Firm Silken Tofu with a dash of lemon juice. Silken Tofu can substitute cheese in many recipes, replacing cottage cheese or ricotta in dips, sauces, smoothies, pies, and pasta dishes. For more “complex” ways to substitute cheese, see the recipe and product ideas below.
If you are a self-proclaimed “cheese addict” then you may need an arsenal of recipes to get you over the hump. But, even if you are okay without cheese, cheesy recipes can offer fulfilling bold and pungent flavors. Two good cookbooks that are dedicated to homemade dairy-free cheese alternatives are The Ultimate Uncheese Cookbook, by Joanne Stepaniak and Artisan Vegan Cheese, by Miyoko Schinner.
Recipes: Homemade Dairy-Free Cheese Alternatives
Expanding culinary limits, the following dairy-free recipes offer one or more cheesy characteristics, from meltability to pungency.
- Basic Parmesan Substitute (Vegan, Gluten-Free, Soy-Free)
- Bold & Raw Cheese Sauce (Vegan, Gluten-Free, Nut-Free)
- Cashew Chipotle Raw Vegan “Cheese”
- Cashew Pimiento “Cheese” Sauce (Vegan, Gluten-Free, Soy-Free)
- Fresh Herb Seed Cheese (Vegan, Gluten-Free, Soy-Free)
- Healthy Nacho Cheez Sauce (Vegan, Soy-Free)
- Lessarella Cheez (Vegan, Nut-Free, Wheat-Free, Soy-Free)
- Meltable Mozzarella Vegan Cheese Alternative
- Meltable Muenster Vegan Cheese Alternative
- Melty Cheese I (Vegan, Gluten-Free, Nut-Free, Soy-Free)
- Melty Cheese II (Vegan, Gluten-Free)
- Mexican Spice Seed Cheese (Vegan, Gluten-Free, Soy-Free)
- Non-Dairy Swiss Style Cheese (Vegan, Gluten-Free)
- Pimento Cheese (Vegan, Gluten-Free, Nut-Free, Soy-Free)
- Sharp Vegan Cheddar Cheese Alternative
- Simple Melty Cheese Sauce (Vegan, Gluten-Free, Nut-Free, Soy-Free)
- Sprouted Sunflower Almond Seed Cheese (Vegan, Gluten-Free, Soy-Free)
- Sunflower Seed Cheese with Dairy Free Kefir (Vegan, Gluten-Free, Soy-Free)
- Tofu Cream Cheese Alternative Recipe (Vegan, Gluten-Free, Nut-Free)
- Tofu Cream Cheese Alternative Recipe II (plus flavors) (Vegan, Gluten-Free, Nut-Free)
Products: Cheese Alternatives at the Store
When shopping for a cheese alternative, be sure to read the label carefully. Although some soy cheeses have passed flavor and texture tests, many of these do contain casein (milk protein). Below are the products we’ve had a chance to taste-test and review here on Go Dairy Free, which were completely dairy-free at our time of review.
Stay Tuned – We’re still updating this page!
For more cheese substitute recipes and tips from my kitchen, see Go Dairy Free: The Guide and Cookbook for Milk Allergies, Lactose Intolerance, and Casein-Free Living.
*Photo with the two cheese recipes above by Hannah Kaminsky