How to Substitute Cheese

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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.

How to Substitute Cheese for Dairy-Free Cooking, Baking and Snacking

Nutritional Yeast

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. Typically fortified 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.

Tofu

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 later in this post.

Cookbook Help

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. Some good cookbooks for making homemade dairy-free cheese alternatives are The Ultimate Uncheese CookbookArtisan Vegan Cheese, Vegan Cheese, and Go Dairy Free.

Recipes: Homemade Dairy-Free Cheese Alternatives

Expanding culinary limits, the following dairy-free recipes offer one or more cheesy characteristics, from meltability to pungency.

How to Substitute Cheese - Dairy-Free Recipes

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.

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.

Go Dairy Free 2nd Edition - The Ultimate Guide and Cookbook for Dairy-Free Living with Over 250 Recipes!

*Photo with the two cheese recipes above by Hannah Kaminsky

About Author

Alisa is the founder of GoDairyFree.org, Food Editor for Allergic Living magazine, and author of the best-selling dairy-free book, Go Dairy Free: The Guide and Cookbook for Milk Allergies, Lactose Intolerance, and Casein-Free Living, and the new cookbook, Eat Dairy Free: Your Essential Cookbook for Everyday Meals, Snacks, and Sweets. Alisa is also a professional recipe creator and product ambassador for the natural food industry.

37 Comments

  1. Hello, I am looking to replace shredded cheese in an egg casserole recipe. I don’t necessarily need something similar to substitute it with, but I’m concerned that just skipping it altogether will cause my egg casserole to burn in the office. I thinking I would put egg, sautéed portobello mushrooms with onions, spinach, and thyme in there. Most recipes call for some kind of cheese, like mozzarella, but I want to go dairy free. Any ideas?

    • I don’t believe it would burn. The cheese provides flavor, texture, and more binding (will set it up more than just eggs). If you don’t mind a softer texture, then you can omit. But I would increase the salt and seasoning of the dish to compensate for removing the salty cheese. If you want to use a cheese alternative, most shredded brands will work fine. They all tend to perform okay, it’s just a matter of personal taste preference.

  2. ???question:

    Any cheese-substitute recipes with NO

    -nuts (peanuts ok)
    -soy
    -yeast of any kind
    -legumes
    -cane sugar including molasses, brown sugar and sorgum (BEET sugar ok)
    -honey
    -onion
    -garlic

    Good luck, huh?
    Thank you so so much…
    MIKE S

    • I would search for “seed cheese” – it doesn’t taste a whole lot like cheese, but can make a nice spread.
      Also search for “coconut cream cheese” – again, it really doesn’t taste like cheese, but makes a nice spread.
      A reader mentioned to me that prepared guacamole with a pinch of baking soda makes an amazing “cheezy” spread on pizza (shared with them by a chef).
      Use ingredients like lemon, miso (if permitted on your diet), and salt to amplify flavors.

      When dealing with a highly restrictive diet, I always recommend that people write down the foods they CAN eat and craft meal and snack ideas around these foods. It’s usually much easier and tastier than trying to find or create substitutes 🙂 I hope that it helps you!

  3. Hi Alisa! I just found your website and let me tell you, WOW, I am blown away by the amount of great recipes you have. I needed to substitute dairy in my diet for my both sons who are lactose intolerant. We just started transitioning as a family since one is still nursing. My husband has pretty much no choice with this one. We were off dairy for about a month now and I already see changes in my boys and myself. My son’s eczema that was covering his whole little body is gone! I lost stubborn weight around my waist line and my joints don’t hurt me anymore. Even my husband likes it too! But we still miss cheese. So that is why I am here looking for ideas. And I think I found the answer to my prayers. Looking through your website I am convinced that we will make it without dairy from now on. I will start with basic Parmesan cheese and melty cheese. Thank you, thank you, thank you!

    • Hi Marina,

      I’m so happy I can help! As a heads up, the 2nd edition of Go Dairy Free: The Guide & Cookbook is out soon, and that has a lot more, recently created dairy alternative recipes (including cheeses among many others) that I think are the most helpful yet! It’s out in June, and I’ll be sharing it on the site when available. Happy dairy-free cooking and eating to you and your whole family!

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  7. Using tofu is a vegan choice to replace the cheese since it resemble some kind of cheese. However,you can’t really achieve that creamy melting cheese since when you use tofu.

      • Hi Robin, I’m a little confused. You want cheese to melt on cold salads? Cheese alternatives often don’t melt in the same way as dairy cheese. They can achieve the same mouth-feel, but won’t look the same. For best results, melt it under a broiler or separately in the microwave (yes, for some reason, it will melt in the microwave!). It can usually be pre-melted on the stove with a little liquid added, too.

    • tofuisnotenough on

      Cheese and milk includes essential fats, protein and calcium. Make sure you replace healthy fats in your diet. Go Nuts, eggs, oils, fish. Mediterraneans eats lots of fish and don’t need dairy products. They don’t have the same diet as outside the Mediterranean. If your child is dairy free, make sure they eats nuts or avocado every day and fish at least 3 times a week. Fish oil can also be supplemented into tofu dishes to add a fat boost. Healthy Fats, get into it.

  8. Some great tips in here. My husband is dairy free and finding a cheese substitute, particularly that we can use on home made pizzas has always been a bit of a task. Will give some of these a go.

  9. No, nutritional yeast does not contain vitamin B12, unless, of course, it has been fortified with B12. The choices for “pure vegans” is either to 1) deal with a B12 deficiency, or 2) cheat (ovo-lacto, pescatarian, etc.).

    No plant sources of B12.

    • Yes there is. Unwashed vegetables contain vitamin B12, that’s the only reason that onminvores such as cows even have vitamin B12 in their system. It comes from bacteria, not meat.

  10. I love a fried egg on top of many things, like a hamburger. Once the yolk breaks it gives a nice creaminess reminiscent of cheese for me! I am dairy-free for my son who is exclusively breastfed so I can have eggs.

  11. Just came upon your page & am SO delighted. My 15 year old vegetarian daughter has decided to go dairy free to try clear her acne prone skin & I thought we would be so limited in our cooking options plus I’d worry about a growing girl getting all her vitamins, calcium, etc. Well judging by your 2000+ yummy recipes looks like we won’t be running out of options!!! Can’t wait to get my teeth in. Thanks X Jackie

    • Hi! I cut out dairy milk from my diet to try to eliminate my acne and had no avail. If she is struggling have her try taking a good probiotic and/or Dandelion root. So far in 6 years of struggling with acne those two things are the only things that cleared my skin completely!!!!!

      • Yes I’ve been taking a fantastic probiotic, mostly for gut health, which is where illness is created. I LOVE my probiotic. They ARE NOT all the same. Do your research.

  12. Hi I’ve just found out my 7month old daughter has allergy to wheat, cows milk and egg. Any ideas on what to feed her whilst weaning would be grateful

    Thanks
    G

    • Pick up cooking for babies. It’s what I’m doing after finding out my 8 month old is allergic to the exact same things. I found it in the library and given most foods you use as you wean are hypoallergenic, it works out great. For formula, just use nutramogen or whatever the doc said.

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  15. my daughter is highly allergic to nuts milk soya and p protein wheat egg see food fish and most dairy maize starch most veg. I am looking for an alternative for cheese as she loves pizza can anyone help please.

  16. I love this post so much I COULD CRY. Battling lactose intolerance for 6 years now and Im not very creative in the kitchen.. I had no idea what tofu even looked like, let alone how it could taste. I can’t wait to try your tips out!
    Only question.. I’m having a hard time with “healthy dairy-free” snacks.
    Most people can grab a string cheese, yogurt, cottage cheese, etc.. I wanted something quick yet healthy to eat on the go. Do you have any suggestions?
    Thanks so much!!!

    I would also like to tell everyone to beware of what you read on the Internet about “dairy free” recipes. Most aren’t truly DAIRY FREE; I think this is why I’m so so happy to have stumbled upon your page!

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