Discover the best healthy vegan cheese alternatives
Veganism has sprouted in popularity over the past decade, but more recently, vegans and non-vegans alike have decided to ditch dairy products in waves. Due to health implications, digestive sensitivities, animal welfare concerns, and the environmental impact of animal agriculture, consumers are opting for plant-based alternatives to traditional dairy products — including cheese.
Cheese is one of the most beloved dairy products. Unfortunately, dairy-based cheeses are filled with saturated fats and sodium. For those who love its flavor and texture, cheese can be hard to give up upon deciding to go vegan. The good news is there are a variety of plant-based “cheeses” available, both for sale and to make at home.
But not all vegan cheeses are made equal. Many cheese substitutes are heavily processed, containing high levels of preservatives, refined oils, sodium, and color additives. At the Hallelujah Diet, we believe that a vegan diet should prioritize real, quality ingredients. Substituting real food for highly processed alternatives can do more harm than good. Rather than choosing unhealthy, heavily processed vegan cheese options, try one of our favorite cheese substitutes!
Cashew-based cheeses are one of the healthiest, least processed plant-based cheese alternatives. In a study comparing the nutritional profile of several plant-based cheese alternatives, researchers found that cashew-based cheeses contained the highest protein levels and the lowest saturated fat and sodium levels, compared to other vegan cheese options. As a bonus, cashew “cheese” is widely available in most grocery stores around the country, providing a healthy and convenient dairy-free cheese solution!
In addition to its health benefits, cashew cheese is loved by vegans for its texture. Smooth and spreadable, cashew cheeses’ texture closely resembles that of many dairy products. And with the addition of nutritional yeast, you wouldn’t believe how similar cashew cheeses’ texture and flavor is to traditional dairy cheese.
As we mentioned before, cashew cheese is widely available in most grocery and health food stores around the country, but you can also make homemade cashew cheese in your home kitchen! No special equipment is needed — you can make your own vegan cashew cheese sauces with just a few ingredients and in six easy steps. Not only is this plant-based cheese sauce healthy, but it’s also absolutely delicious! Sure to satisfy your cheesy cravings, this cheese sauce can be served over your favorite pasta, vegetables, or any dish you choose.
Coconut Oil and Coconut Milk Cheeses
Coconut-based cheeses, which include coconut oil, coconut milk, or both, are one of the most popular plant-based cheese options available. Preferred for their spreadable texture and melt-ability, coconut cheeses offer a delightful option for those looking to mimic the dairy cheese experience.
Additionally, coconut cheeses are among the lowest in calories compared to other plant-based cheeses — helping to fill you up without tipping the scale. However, due to their high coconut oil content, coconut-based cheeses do tend to be high in saturated fats and have been shown to raise LDL and HDL cholesterol levels. While coconut-based cheeses may be popular, they may not be the healthiest cheese for a plant-based diet, especially if high LDL cholesterol is a concern.
Almond Milk Cheese
Almond milk-based cheeses are also widely available in most grocery stores. Similar to many other dairy-free cheese alternatives, substituting almond milk cheese for dairy cheese has been linked to lower blood sugar, blood pressure, and cholesterol levels as well as reduced risk of cardiovascular diseases.
Almond milk cheeses are a healthy alternative to highly processed, high-sodium plant-based cheeses. Low in calories and sodium, almond milk cheeses can help reduce hunger, curb cravings, and assist in weight loss. Almonds are known for their anti-inflammatory effects, which can help protect your cells and promote powerful health benefits.
Many vegan cheese brands are getting creative with their dairy-free offerings. Some are starting to offer cheese alternatives made with almond paste for a smooth and spreadable texture, similar to that of coconut-based cheeses, but without the high saturated fat content. One of the most popular plant-based brands, Kite Hill, offers a variety of almond milk-based, dairy-free substitutes for traditional dairy products like cream cheese, sour cream, ricotta cheese, yogurt, and more.
Macadamia Nut Cheese
A lesser-known dairy substitute, macadamia nuts can be used to create smooth and creamy dairy-free cheeses. Packed with antioxidants and protein, macadamia nuts are an excellent choice for crafting your own healthy, plant-based cheese at home.
Missing dairy products like cream cheese? This delicious and raw vegan recipe for Hallelujah Cream Cheese uses just five ingredients and comes together in minutes. Pair this plant-based cream cheese with fresh fruit for a light breakfast or a sweet evening snack!
Macadamia nuts are surprisingly versatile! From the creamiest of cheeses to drier varieties, macadamia nuts create the perfect base for all your favorite cheeses. Using a combination of macadamia nuts and pine nuts, we created a recipe that’s even better than parmesan cheese.
With just a few raw ingredients, you too can create vegan parmesan cheese at home!
Sunflower Seed Cheese
While the options listed above are delicious and oftentimes convenient alternatives to traditional cheeses, they all have one thing in common — they all contain tree nuts. Unfortunately, many of the less-processed, soy-free cheese alternatives use nuts as a main ingredient. But sunflower seed cheese offers a nut-free alternative that can be made from the comfort of your home.
Rich in vitamin E and selenium, sunflower seeds are linked to a variety of health benefits — from reducing inflammation and boosting immunity to promoting skin health, reducing risks of certain cancers and diseases, and more.
Increase your intake of sunflower seeds with our recipe for Janice’s Jack Cheese. Made with a sunflower seed base and several delicious herbs and spices, this homemade plant-based cheese is perfect for topping sandwiches, baked vegetables, and raw vegetables and “cheese” boards.
Healthy and Delightful Dairy Cheese Alternatives
Transitioning to a vegan diet doesn’t have to come at the expense of your favorite foods — cheese included. There are a variety of plant-based cheese options available, but it’s important to make informed choices. Opt for healthier cheese alternatives that include real, quality ingredients, like organic nuts and seeds. Not only is there a plethora of plant-based cheeses available in grocery and health food stores, but vegan cheeses are also easy and fun to prepare from your own home kitchen!