Behold, your comprehensive guide to cruelty-free queso! I’ve seriously been working on this post for almost 2 years. I’ve been chipping away at this post for so long in fact, that one of the products we reviewed was actually reformulated, and we had to go back and re-review the new version!
Part of the reason it took me so long is I just don’t eat that much processed food. My readers know that I’ve always advocated whole plant foods as the base of a mindful diet. That said, an occasional omni-sub isn’t going to kill you. They can be fun and make food more familiar; the power of nostalgia is not to be underestimated.
So with that in mind, I present The Bonzai Guide To Vegan Cheese! I’ve stuck to the most widely available and ‘top of the line’ choices, but let me know if you think I missed something important. Also, my apologies for the less-than-stellar photo quality. But I figured sub-par pics were better than none at all. So here we go!
1 – Cheezly
Notes: Cheezly is packaged in a little round, an adorable wee cheese wheel. It smells okay, not off-putting. Sampled cold it has a sort of grainy, chalky texture. I wouldn’t choose to eat it on crackers or anything. It crumbles well. It melts a bit but goes from melty to crispy real real fast. It’s not very mooshy and definitely not stretchy. As a cooked ingredient, the texture is off but the flavor is definitely decent. Soy-based.
There are lots of Cheezly flavors, including Mature Cheddar, Edam, Garlic & Herb, Gouda, Nacho, Mature White Cheddar, Mozzarella, and Added Bacon.
2 – Follow Your Heart Vegan Gourmet
Professional pie with Mozzarella, photo courtesy of The Stumptown Vegans.
Notes: Old(er) school, the original ‘game changer’. So what if the younger ones have more tricks (stretch) and schticks (clever names). Vegan Gourmet was the first real contender, way back in the day. It brought hope and for that it will always get mad respect.
Vegan Gourmet comes in a block thats a bit greasy, and oddly almost odorless. There’s a nice salty flavor but a somewhat strange, almost ‘squeaky’ texture. Eaten cold it’s palatable, it does the job on a sammie though it’s nothing to rave about. When heated it takes a while to melt. It tends to be fickle and unpredictable, but usually demands high heat. As a meal component the texture isn’t spot-on, but the flavor is really nice. Soy-based.
There are multiple flavors including Cheddar, Mozzarella, Monterey Jack (the best!) and Nacho.
3 – Sheese
Sheese also comes in a little wheel. There are pretty good flavor options, though the ones we sampled did not taste like they promised. Eaten cold it’s a powdery, chalky texture. It also tastes very strongly of citrus . . . with a bad aftertaste. I wouldn’t recommend this one plain.
It doesn’t smell great and it’s too crumbly. It barely melts at all, but instead it gets really crispy really fast. There’s no smoosh and no stretch, but there *is* a really strong flavor that overpowers whatever you put with it (we tried pizza and also burritos). Finally we gave up trying, and the rest went to the dogs. Soy-based. Gluten-free.
Sheese is available in a super wide assortment of flavors, like Strong Cheddar, Medium Cheddar, Cheddar With Chives, Smoked Cheddar, Blue, Cheshire, Edam, Gouda, and Mozzarella.
4 – Tofutti
These are just like Kraft singles! But, is that a good thing? You tell me.
To be honest they’re pretty nasty on their own, eaten cold. They’re oily and filmy and . . . just blech. But then again, so is all American cheese right? We tried these in a deli sandwich but would not recommend that you do the same. However, when heated, they are pretty awesome. They don’t get super melty/squishy, but flavor-wise they’re a dead ringer for that crap orange cheese we grew up on! Soy-based.
Tofutti slices come in 2 flavors: American and Mozzarella.
5 – Wayfare’s “We Can’t Say It’s Cheese”
Nachos using the Cheddar-Style Dip, also with the “We Can’t Say It’s Sour Cream”.
This is the only ‘tub cheese’ we reviewed, but it definitely deserves mention. Of everything we’ve sampled this is the only one that comes with an enthusiastic “YES” when eaten cold. Spread on toast or a sandwich, or best of all as a party dip. I shared some crackers and the Hickory-Smoked Spread with a group of vegans, and they collectively said “Om nom nom *crunch crunch* nom nom nom.” That’s vegan-ese for two-thumbs-up!
It’s also quite tasty heated. The texture is nice and creamy and the flavor is good, though definitely closer to a processed ‘nacho-style’ cheese than to a natural cheese flavor. There is one HUGE drawback here though. Each time Damian and I had it with dinner, we would become severely dehydrated. Like, I got all flushed and parched! We just couldn’t get enough water in, and after a while that gets pretty uncomfortable. So bummer, if you’re sodium-sensitive this may not be the one for you. But otherwise this stuff is delicious. Also, it’s oatmeal-based! And gluten-free.
Wayfare makes 4 flavors/styles: Cheddar-Style Spread, Hickory-Smoked Cheddar-Style Spread, Cheddar-Style Dip, and the Mexi Cheddar-Style Dip.
*** I was given this product for review ***
6 – Teese
Teese was the ‘next big thing’ after Vegan Gourmet. It promised a cheese that melted and stretched, and it delivered . . . at least on the melt. Oh yeah, and it definitely delivers the flavor. It comes in a funny tube, and the texture is that same oily/squeaky vegan cheese anomaly. Cold Teese seems especially plastic-y. It smells like fake cheese (but not in a bad way) and it cuts really smoothly (not like real cheese, but again not in a bad way). Eaten plain it’s a bit much, and I don’t think this is a good cold sammie contender.
Teese melts very well, and ends up smelling and tasting great. The sauces are rich and creamy while the harder cheeses hold up their integrity against heat (a complaint of the previous recipe was that they liquified). Overall this is great stuff, near the very top. Soy-based but organic and non-GMO. Gluten-free.
There are 4 flavors/styles: Mozzarella Vegan Cheese, Cheddar Vegan Cheese, Creamy Cheddar Vegan Sauce, Nacho Vegan Sauce
*** I was given this product for review ***
7 – Daiya
Cheddar Shreds, before they switched to real packaging, back when Food Fight! used to buy it in bulk bags and dole it out for us, because they are the awesome!
Daiya hit the scene last year and people were all “WTF OMG NO WAY!” And you know what? It lives up to the hype! Well, at least the cheddar does. The mozzarella is great and all, but not the best mozz available. But the cheddar? Come on! It melts perfectly, it stretches, and best of all it has that *mouthfeel* – that ooey gooey globby goodness – of real meltd cheese. Yeah, I’m definitely a Daiya fan.
But that’s heated. Cold? Not so much. It only comes shredded, for one thing. And it’s got a bit of that powdery/chalky deal. So serve it hot and enjoy the next evolution of vegan cheese! Tapioca/arrowroot-based. Soy-free, gluten-free, nut-free.