How to Substitute Cheese


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.


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.

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. 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.

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.

*Photo with the two cheese recipes above by Hannah Kaminsky

About Author

Alisa is the founder of, 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.


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  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. 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.

  5. 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.

  6. 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.

  7. 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


    • 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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  10. 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.

  11. 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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