We’re tasting our way through the cheese substitutes! We’ve covered dairy-free mozzarella, dairy-free cream cheese, and vegan queso. Now it’s time to explore the best dairy-free cheddar cheese and American cheese! We tested them in grilled cheese sandwiches, on cheeseburgers, and cold. You can use these links to jump ahead in our review:
The Best Dairy-Free Cheddar Alternative Taste Test
We purchased all of the dairy-free cheddar cheese alternative brands we could find in our local area, and picked up the American or “Original” cheese alternatives when cheddar wasn’t available. We gave preference to slices, but did need to get shreds for one brand. For the most part, these brands are widely available across the U.S. and some are also in Canada. We ended up with a total of eight brands, including three budget-friendly store brands!
We had a total of 10 taste testers. Our group included vegan, dairy-free, lactose intolerant, dairy flexitarians, and dairy-loving tasters. We had nearly every category covered, from those who haven’t tasted dairy in 20+ years, to those who remember what it tasted like yesterday.
For the primary tasting, we made dairy-free grilled cheese sandwiches. We used Silver Hills Bakery Sprouted Soft Wheat Bread and Little Northern Bakehouse Gluten-Free Bread. Both brands are made by the same parent company, but in separate dairy-free facilities. We lightly buttered the bread with Country Crock Plant Butter Sticks.
Each taster also had the opportunity to taste test the dairy-free cheddar and American cheese cold. After the official tasting, we tested these cheddar cheese alternatives on dairy-free cheeseburgers.
Summary of Our Findings
The Ingredient Pool is Limited. These dairy-free cheddar alternatives are all remarkably similar. They’re emulsions of starch and coconut oil, with very slight formula variations. Yet, the only brand that veered just a bit from the standard recipe landed squarely in last place.
These are Condiments. Please, no food police! These dairy-free cheddar alternatives are not classified as health food. They’re intended to add some rich, flavorful umami to dairy-free eats, and most succeed, at least a little.
Some Were a Pleasant Surprise. We all had a bit of trepidation going into this taste test, especially me! Vegan cheese slices have a bad reputation, and I didn’t want to lose my tasting group. Fortunately, everyone agreed all were edible and at least “okay.” Many tasters even went back for a second testing round.
They’re Better Warm. The consensus was these are all better heated than cold. There were just a couple varieties with some cold cheese preference, as noted.
Yes, They Do Melt! They all melt inside dairy-free grilled cheese. We used a George Forman grill press to keep things moving quickly, and it worked well. You will get the best melt if you press a little as you cook or use the microwave.
It’s Almost All Greek. At least half of the following cheese alternatives are produced in Greece, which leads me to believe they are made by Violife. But there do seem to be tiny differences in the formulations, which help to vary the taste and texture a little.
The Bread & Butter are Important. The dairy-free cheddar alternatives had some mixed reviews, but the “buttered” bread was loved by all. Several declared it the “best bread for grilled cheese” and the saltiness of the butter alternative boosted the flavor of everything.
The Top-Selling Dairy-Free Cheddar Cheese Alternatives Ranked
The ratings are averaged, but don’t get too hung up on the numbers. I encourage you to read the tasting notes to help find your perfect dairy-free cheddar or American cheese. All of the dairy-free cheese alternatives below are also vegan, plant-based, and gluten-free. All are also soy-free, except for one brand as noted. And all are nut-free, except for the last brand, as noted. But always verify before purchasing.
The following products were dairy-free by ingredients at our time of review. All food products are at some degree of risk for potential cross-contamination with allergens. It is up to you to decide what is safe for your needs. Our choice for the best dairy-free sour cream alternative might not be yours. All of these products have been on the market for a while because some people like them. This is just a guide based on our findings and opinions. You can leave your own review and star rating on each of these products via the title links.
365 by Whole Foods Market (7.7/10) (Best Dairy-Free Cheeseburger & Best Cold )
Our overall dairy-free cheddar champion also won our dairy-free mozzarella taste test! This brand had more of an American cheese vibe than cheddar, but it was well balanced and received top marks. Two tasters gave it a 10/10 and 6 was the lowest rating. The melt was even, with a creamy and just slightly sticky consistency. But this was also one of the only brands that several tasters liked cold.
- “This has a nice texture with more of an American slices flavor. It was good grilled, but I liked it even better cold.”
- “I can’t believe it’s not cheese! It’s Velveeta like and really creamy.”
- “First impression, yummy nice texture, and very similar to Kraft American cheese. I would buy this. It tastes more like cheddar cold! This is my favorite.”
- “It’s creamy. Definitely, okay for grilled cheese. I would buy it. But it’s a bit rubbery when uncooked.”
Produced In: Greece
Ingredients: filtered water, high refined coconut oil, modified potato starch, modified tapioca starch, sea salt, olive extract, natural flavor, paprika extract (color), beta carotene (color).
Chao Creamery (7.7/10) (Best Dairy-Free Grilled Cheese)
Yes I know, “Creamy Original” isn’t technically cheddar. Chao doesn’t offer a cheddar, but I thought they still needed to be in this taste test as a cheddar alternative for grilled cheese, cheeseburgers, etc. Their slices are popular, readily available, and used often in place of cheddar. Plus, we won’t be doing an “original” cheese tasting. And our tasters were glad I included them! 365 was the winner cold and with burgers, but Chao edged out the others to grab the “best dairy-free grilled cheese” spot. And overall, they tied for first! These slices are more provolone in flavor with a saltiness that everyone enjoyed. But unlike 365, everyone preferred Chao melted. Cold, it isn’t bad – moist and slightly springy with a bite of saltiness. But melted, the flavor is more cohesive.
- “It’s really cheese-like! As a dairy cheese lover, this is so close! I love it for grilled cheese. But it’s better melted than cold.”
- “It’s creamy and salty. I like salt.”
- “Somewhat tasty, but a little mild. It would be a nice addition to sandwiches, and is okay cold.”
- “Good texture and I like it in the grilled cheese. However, it tastes very bland when cold. No real flavor.”
Produced In: Greece
Ingredients: filtered water, coconut oil, corn and potato starch, modified potato starch, fermented chao tofu (soybeans, water, salt, seasme oil, calcium sulfate), sea salt, natural flavor, olive extract(antioxidant used as a preservative), beta carotene(color), powdered cellulose(to prevent caking). contains: soy
When cold, this is a quite firm and springy cheese alternative, which appealed to a couple tasters, but not most. However, almost everyone thought it had a nice texture when melted. As you can see in the photo, it becomes meltier than most. It also had a pleasing flavor overall that was milder, more like American than Cheddar.
- “Creamy and okay flavor. I think it’s pleasant for grilled cheese and the best cold option.”
- “Pretty good melted, but like others, it’s kind of plastic-like when cold.”
- “Tasty, nice texture, no aftertaste, but more like American cheese.”
- “Tastes about equal to Chao, Daiya, and Follow Your heart. Not good cold.”
Produced In: Greece
Ingredients: filtered water, coconut oil, food starch-modified (potato & corn), potato starch, salt (sea salt), cheddar flavor (vegan sources), olive extract, paprika extract & beta carotene (color), vitamin b12.
Open Nature (6.7/10)
This is a house brand that you will find at the Albertsons family of stores (includes about 20 supermarket chains). Open Nature pursued that cheddar flavor a little more than most, and many thought they succeeded. In fact, the individual comments were mostly good. There were simply some mixed feelings about the aftertaste and for most of our tasters this brand was a solid “like,” not a “love.” That said, this is one of the only options in our taste test that is fortified. It contains 130 milligrams of calcium per slice, and also contains 20% of the RDA for vitamin D and vitamin A.
- “It has a more of a cheddar flavor, and is good melted and cold. But it has a slight aftertaste that I don’t love.”
- “Nice flavor. No real cons to the grilled cheese flavor, and it melts nicely. But it tastes more like cheddar when cold.”
- “There’s bitterness in the aftertaste. Cold it’s a little mushy. I think it’s just okay.”
- “This is my second favorite for melted flavor and it’s almost as good when cold. This one and 365 are most similar to cheddar when cold. I would buy this!”
Produced In: Not Listed
Ingredients: water, modified potato starch, coconut oil, salt, 2% or less of tricalcium phosphate, natural flavor, cultured dextrose, disodium phosphate, annatto extract (color), vitamin a palmitate, paprika oleoresin (color), vitamin d3.
We could only find the Daiya American, not the Cheddar, in our local area. But since this is a well-distributed brand, we simply had to include it. We assume the cheddar has a similar texture but slightly bolder flavor. Nevertheless, our ratings are really on overall likeability, which does carry over to the other flavors. Some of our reviewers were surprised they liked this brand since they aren’t fans of Daiya’s pizza shreds. This is the other fortified option, with 140 milligrams of calcium per slice and 40% of the RDA for vitamin B12.
- “This is good for grilled cheese and melts well, but not as good cold. It does taste like American.”
- “It’s very creamy and flavorful. Very nice for grilled cheese.”
- “Melted it’s a little too sticky. Cold it starts off firm but is then mushy and a little plastic-y. The flavor is mild, and not bad”
- “It’s similar to 365, but not good cold!”
Produced In: Canada
Ingredients: filtered water, potato starch, coconut oil, expeller pressed: canola and/or safflower oil, salt, tricalcium phosphate, vegan natural flavors, pea protein, xanthan gum, lactic acid (vegan), konjac flour, fruit and/or vegetable juice color, annatto color, vegan enzyme, vitamin b12.
Good & Gather by Target (5.4/10)
Target only offers their Non-Dairy Cheddar in shreds, not slices. Our grilled cheese chef actually preferred this for more even distribution. It melted similarly by appearance, but there were more “sticky” comments with this brand. And the taste had mixed reviews. Some felt Target’s attempts to attain more cheddar flavor were successful, while others thought their efforts back-fired.
- “Nice consistency, and more cheddar flavor than most. I like it.”
- “This does not taste like cheese. It’s difficult to swallow, not creamy, and sticks to the roof of my mouth.”
- “It’s okay if you need a non-dairy alternative melted. It’s creamy when melted. The taste is mild, but I can’t place the aftertaste.”
- “This is my least favorite so far. It tastes a bit off.”
Produced In: Not Listed
Ingredients: non-dairy cheddar cheese alternative (water, coconut oil, potato starch, modified potato starch, salt, potato protein, yeast extract, natural flavor, xanthan gum, lactic acid, annatto extract color), powdered cellulose added to prevent caking.
Follow Your Heart (4.4/10)
They didn’t have any stock of the Cheddar in store, so we grabbed their American slices. Somehow Follow Your Heart and Violife have the same ingredients, but seem different. Just to be sure, we followed up with a second side by side taste test, taking into account that one was American and one was Cheddar. Still, the consistency wasn’t the same. We were perplexed!
- “Nicely melted for grilled cheese. It’s slightly more fake cheese in taste than the others, and is not desirable as cold cheese.”
- “This is the least like cheese. It tastes like mushrooms.”
- “It melts nicely, but cold it has an unpleasant plastic-like texture. The taste is too mild.”
- “Very yummy in the grilled sandwiches, but not good cold. It’s as good as the rest when melted.”
Produced In: Greece
Ingredients: filtered water, coconut oil, modified potato and corn starches, potato starch, sea salt, natural flavor, olive extract, paprika extract and beta carotene for color.
Parmela Creamery (3.5/10)
We’ve arrived at the one semi-unique dairy-free cheddar alternative in the bunch. Most of our tasters had high hopes since it’s made with cashewmilk (we had a couple cashew “cheese” fans) and it is cultured. Sadly, it didn’t wow any of us. In fact, several rated it as their least favorite. Someone shouted “blue cheese” as they tasted it, which did influence some of the comparison comments. So we’ve highlighted notes that extract a few more details.
- “This tastes different from the others. More like blue cheese. It’s not good for a grilled cheese. The flavor is better raw, but the texture is unpleasant cold.”
- “It’s creamy when melted. I can taste the sharp in the flavor and the cashew.”
- “It has a bouquet, like wine. Strange.”
- “It’s a little more like cheddar than some, but I wouldn’t call it sharp. It’s a little too runny when melted. Cold it’s a little mushy, granular, and greasy.”
Produced In: United States
Ingredients: cashew milk (water, cashews), coconut oil, modified food starch, food starch, natural flavors, sea salt, yeast extract, konjac, potato protein, xanthan gum, annatto extract, lactic acid, cultures.
More Dairy Free Cheddar Brands
The following brands weren’t readily available for us to purchase and some have very limited distribution.
- Good Planet (coconut oil/starch/protein emulsion)
- Moocho (coconut oil/starch/protein emulsion)
- Nurishh (coconut oil/starch emulsion)
- Nuts for Cheese (cashews/coconut oil)
- Tofutti (tofu/soy)
- Trader Joe’s (cashewmilk/starch/coconut oil emulsion)
- Vevan (coconut & palm oil/starch emulsion)
- Vitalite (coconut oil/starch emulsion)
- Vtopian (cashews/coconut oil)
Homemade Dairy-Free Cheddar Alternatives
Of course, you can always make your own! These recipes offer tasty alternatives to cheddar and American cheeses.
- Sharp Vegan Cheddar Cheese Alternative Recipe – This recipe was created by the world-famous vegan cheese artisan, Miyoko Schinner. It can be sliced or shredded.
- American Dairy-Free Cheese Sauce Recipe – This delicious sauce has Velveeta-like appeal, but it’s made with whole food ingredients. It’s “pre-melted” and can be used as a quick cheesy alternative.