The biggest push back we get about transitioning to a plant-based diet (other than "I'm afraid I won't get enough protein") is "I could never give up cheese!"
We get it! Calie is Italian and grew up on cheese. She lived above her dad's pizza place, ate cheese on everything from pizza and subs to pasta, broccoli and potatoes. She loved to sneak her grandma's The Laughing Cow creamy cheese triangles out of the fridge, snacked on Kraft singles and crackers after school, and as an adult looked forward to a wine and cheese spread for any and every special occasion.
And Nic, while he misses met and fish more than Calie, his biggest challenge on this plant-based journey is definitely the cheese! One of his favorite memories was eating a variety of cheeses with his dad during the Holidays and choosing their favorites.
So, we decided that instead of complaining about missing cheese...we'd have fun finding new plant-based cheeses that we can enjoy just as much. Over the years, we've had a lot of vegan cheeses that taste like shit. You know, the store bought ones you can find at just about any store from Wal-Mart to Whole Foods that say "melts like real cheese," but it doesn't and it doesn't taste like real cheese either. Daiya is the worst offender in our opinion. Don't waste your money on it. We'd rather have no cheese than Daiya.
We set out to rate a variety of our favorite styles of plant-based cheeses to help you (and us) find some new favorites. A challenge because the English (Nic) like to look after their pennies. If you're going to indulge in plant-based cheese, you're going to have to lock that side away because the good ones are a little more expensive. But, to be fair, they're made with real, quality ingredients. The cheeses we rate below would compare in quality and price to a nice holiday cheese platter of brie, truffle cheeses, gouda, and Parmesan blocks. Not Kraft singles or Velvetta blocks (which also aren't really cheese).
Us English like to look after our pennies, so I had to lock away that side of mine for the “cheese” shopping trip as Calie prepared me for the expensive prices. But it’s a special treat so I just thought I would suck it up.
We have rated each cheese out of ten and we also included the prices. Like we said, it’s going to always be difficult to replicate proper or traditional cheese, but hopefully these cheeses come close for you and help you embrace a plant-based lifestyle...especially as the holiday and "cheese platter" season approaches!
Oh, and as a bonus we found some plant-based "salami" and smoked "salmon" that we also rated for you.
Let us know what you try, what you like, and if you have any favorites that we should add to our list.
Virgin Cheese Smoked Gouda ($14.99):
Nic - loved it, proper cheese flavor and texture - 9
Calie - winner, amazing flavor and texture, wouldn't know it wasn't dairy based - 9
Yvonne's Kitchen Vegan Goatless Cheese with berries and dill ($9.39):
Nic - absolute favorite, mousey, creamy, delicious - 9
Calie - the dill ruined it for me, but the texture, aroma and base flavor we're a great match for traditional goat cheese - 7
Violife just like Parmesan ($5.29):
Nic - nice parm-like flavor up front, but an odd finish - 7
Calie - the look and texture we're so much like a traditional parm and it had the right salty-ness, but the flavor was off - 4
Reine Vegan Truffle Hound ($12.95):
Nic - second favorite, would buy it again despite the high price tag, loved it - 9
Calie - second favorite, it's hard to go wrong with truffle flavor - easy 9
Nuts Cheese Un-Brie-Lievable ($12.99):
Nic - creamy, salty, smooth - 9
Calie - can't wait to buy this again for Thanksgiving and heat it up with honey and jam - the name fits - 8 (I'm guessing a 9 warmed)
Field Roast Chao Vegan Tomato Cayenne ($6.63):
Nic - a nutty flavor with a mild chipotle like kick - great for a sandwich or burger - probably not ideal on a fancy cheese platter - 7
Calie - nice compliment to the HU Kitchen grain-free crackers we had, loved it on veggie slices, but seemed better suited for sandwiches - 7
Hellenic Farms Fig Salami ($9.99):
Nic - vile, looks just like salami, but tastes nothing like it, huge disappointment - 2
Calie - I spit it out - don't waste your money - 0
Sophie's Kitchen Vegan Smoked Salmon ($6.49):
Nic - not for me, average - 3
Calie - similar in look, texture and flavor...not a perfect match, but definitely a substitute I'd have again. Can't wait to use if for a sushi roll - 7
We got all of these at a local, high end grocery store near us called Erewhon. I've seen several of them at Whole Foods and some of them at our regular grocery store, Ralph's. If you can't find them near you, try VeganEssentials.com. It's a great website for everything plant-based and a go to resource for speciality items like fancy cheeses or holiday specialities that are more challenging to find.
For more holiday recipes and food ideas check out our free Let It Be Easy holiday ebook.