We found some pretty tasty products and lived to tell the tale.
Vegan cheese has a reputation for being notoriously bad. In the earlier days of the plant-based movement, dairy-free cheeses often looked suspiciously similar to orange plastic. They also took intense heat to cook, but would cool down to a chalky texture just before you managed to take a bite.
Nowadays, there's a world of vegan cheeses to choose from. Whether they're made with tofu, nuts, tapioca starch, or other plant-based goodness, this market now has a variety that was unimaginable just a few years ago.
With so many options to choose from, we decided to gather our editorial team (of which only one is vegan) to taste all the dairy-free cheeses (ranging from blocks to shreds to spreads) and give us their honest opinions. The task was brutal, and many complained of indigestion afterwards, but when it was all said and done we found some true winners.
Described as "easy to confuse with real cream cheese" by our tasters, this herby variety was a favorite of the entire taste test. Bright chives and earthy white pepper combine with the mild almond flavor to create a creamy spread that could amp up bagels or veggie dip.
The incredibly smooth texture of this plant-based cream cheese had our tasters double-checking the ingredients list to see what could make such a creamy, dairy-free product (spoiler: it's almonds). The jalapeño flavor is strong enough to give a mild spice level at the back of your throat, but not so overwhelming that it singes your tastebuds. Tasters said they would love this in a Tex-Mex dip with tortilla chips.
"Well it sure looks like ricotta!" was the first comment from tasters when opening this cheese's packaging. And as a bonus, it tastes like ricotta too! With a silky texture and tangy taste, this vegan product remarkably mimicked the popular cheese. Tasters said it could easily be mistaken for part-skim ricotta and would be great in a lasagna or tossed with pasta.
Voted as the "most cheese-like" of any of our tested products, Chao Original was one of the only products that tasters couldn't seem to stop snacking on. Made with a base of fermented tofu and coconut oil, these ultra-creamy slices have a great rich flavor. Our testers preferred the slices cold—probably on a sandwich or crumbled over a salad—instead of melted.
While some tasters were put off by the product's bright orange color, most were won over by its creamy texture and intense taste. Created with a flavor combo of tomato, cayenne, and bell pepper, this mildly spicy vegan cheese would be perfect on top of a black bean burger or pile of nachos.
Although we tried several brands and varieties of shredded vegan cheeses, none really struck our tasters as worth buying. Whether it was taste (or lack thereof) or texture ("bouncy" was a common adjective used during this phase of the testing), we couldn't find a real winner amongst our selections. Instead, we recommend using some of the products listed above instead.