5 Ways to Enjoy “Cheese” on a Plant-Based Diet (Trust Us, it’s Possible)

Michelle Smith - The Upside Blog by Vitacost.com

by | Read time: 3 minutes

For many, the most challenging thing about going plant-based is not being able to eat their favorite foods. Time and time again, the “food” people say they can’t live without is – you guessed it – cheese.

Ingredients for Plant-Based "Cheese" in Blender | Vitacost.com/Blog

Cheese is a common comfort food staple. Whether it’s celebrating gameday with nachos and pizza or cozying up with a grilled cheese and tomato soup – cheese plays a huge role, not just in our diets, but our memories and emotional connections as well.

But giving up cheese doesn’t have to mean the end of delicious foods! Whether your approach is 100 percent whole-food-based, or you incorporate processed foods into your diet, picky taste buds can be satisfied with a wide variety of cheesy dairy-free options! Take a look below at just a few of the picks:

1. Nutritional yeast

Also known as “nooch,” nutritional yeast is a deactivated yeast with a nutty, cheesy taste that’s become the staple of plant-based kitchens. Nutritional yeast can be used as a popcorn topping, a cheesy addition to pasta, and to flavor plant-based “cheese” wheels. Aside from its cheesy taste, nutritional yeast also has a great nutrition profile. It’s one of the few food sources of vitamin B-12 in a plant-based diet and is even a good source of protein!

2. Cashews & almonds

Although nutritional yeast is the pillar of plant-based cheesiness, nuts provide a tasty foundation for sauces. If you want to create a mouth-watering nacho cheese dip, a creamy garlic cheese-flavored spread, or a full-bodied ricotta – stocking up on cashews and almonds is a must! When blended, soaked cashews create a smooth and creamy consistency; and when loaded with the right flavors, will have you forgetting about dairy. Blended almonds create the perfect consistency for ricotta cheese, which means you can still enjoy your favorite Italian-inspired dishes like lasagna and stuffed manicotti!

3. Orange veggies

Whether you’re allergic to nuts or just not a fan of their taste, you can still enjoy your own plant-based cheeses without almonds or cashews. Just replace them with veggies! Carrots, sweet potatoes and butternut squash are all great picks (plus, their orange-y hue makes for great natural color!). Simply add a healthy dose of nutritional yeast and some other spices such as turmeric, paprika, onion, salt, pepper and garlic. In no time, you’ll have your own sauce for a healthier spin on mac and cheese or some crunchy veggies and tortilla chips!

4. Tofu feta

When it comes to Mediterranean dishes and cheese, feta is king. Just because you’re plant-based doesn’t mean you need to give up your authentic Greek salads or gyros. Using tofu, a lemon brine and a mix of herbs and spices, in a bit of time you can have your own block of dairy-free feta.

5. Agar powder

“Cheese” sauces and spreads are fantastic options to have, but sometimes these options aren’t enough. If you’re looking for cheese slices for a sandwich, or blocks of cheese for a quick and easy snack, you’ll need more than just veggies or nuts and nutritional yeast. You’ll need something to give your cheese more structure. And that’s where agar comes in! Agar acts like gelatin. It’s also flavorless, which means you’ll be able to give shape to your cheesy recipes without sacrificing flavor!

“Cheesy” recipes to try:

Vegan “Cheese” Sauce

Hard Cashew “Cheese”

Nut-Based Grated “Parmesan Cheese”

Vegan “Cheesy” Skillet Pasta

Festive Cashew “Cheese” Platter

Easy Vegan Mac and Cheese

Vegan “Cheese” Ball with Cranberry & Pistachio Coating

Herbed Vegan Cream “Cheese”