10 of the best vegan cheeses

15 February 2024, 07:00 AM
  • Plant-based cheese poses an exciting opportunity for fine food retailers – and these are the cheeses everyone is talking about
10 of the best vegan cheeses

Gone are the days when vegan cheese was only available in a flavourless yellow slab. As producers experiment with different flavours, ingredients and production methods, the UK’s plant-based cheese sector is taking off, with an array of options for consumers to choose from.

For many consumers, there are still questions around vegan cheeses – how are they made, and what are they made from? How does one create a vegan cheeseboard or pair their plant-based cheeses?

“People travel to our shops to get that tailored experience,” says Emily Kelly of La Fauxmagerie, the UK’s first plant-based cheesemonger. Many customers come into the shop having only had supermarket vegan cheeses, she says, which are “purely coconut oil based”. 

“A lot of people think vegan cheese is not going to be that good because they’ve only experienced the supermarket stuff.” But the innovative plant-based cheeses below show a different side to non-dairy cheese.

What are the best vegan cheeses?

Emily tells Speciality Food that the most popular plant-based cheese on La Fauxmagerie’s shelves is Camemvert, a faux-Camembert produced in-house with truffle oil, a white bloom rind and a creamy centre.

“The mouldy-based ones, because they’re the most similar to dairy cheese, are very popular,” she says. “We use the same mould as a regular dairy cheese, like the blue cheeses use Penicillium roqueforti to get that genuine funk within it.” Brixton Blue, an almond-based blue cheese, uses this method, and Emily says it’s another of the shop’s best-sellers.

A more unusual favourite at La Fauxmagerie is I Am Nut Ok’s NeroMinded, an eye-catching pure black cheese with black truffle, garlic and activated charcoal. “So very intense, earthy flavours but super umami,” Emily says. “I think it’s a bit of a showstopper when you put it on cheeseboards. It’s definitely an icebreaker.”

While some vegan cheeses perform well because of their similarity to their dairy counterpart, others step out of the mould, and Nivi Jasa, the co-founder of I Am Nut Ok and Third Culture Deli, says this is why NeroMinded is such a hit. “It’s just great food, whether you’re a vegan or not. It works on anything,” he says.

Nivi and co-founder Angela Chou have formed their business with the aim of appealing to all – not just vegans. “We didn’t want to use the word ‘vegan’ on the windows or the description, and I think that has helped us get a more diverse range of clients. We get a lot of people who are not vegan but who are happy to try something new,” he says.

Based in East London, where customers are “really open minded” and always keen to try something new, he puts the success of the business down to its broad appeal.

In addition to NeroMinded, the best sellers in the deli are a Mozzarella alternative – Bluffalo Notzarella, a classic that’s perfect for melting on pizzas and which Nivi says is “an easy sell” for customers – and MinerThreat, which is smoky with a coating of activated coconut charcoal ash.

NeroMinded and MinerThreat are cashew-based, while the faux Mozzarella is made from soy milk.

Nivi also mentions a new product that has quickly become a hit in the deli – vegan Stracciatella – and a firm favourite in the Fetamorphosis vegan Feta block. “It has a real tanginess to it, which really brings you back to what Feta tastes like,” he says.

Max Hargreaves opened Sans Store with his partner in Lewisham in 2020, just after the first lockdown, after deciding to leave a 12-year career in the tech industry. The shop specialises in vegan, vegetarian and other free-from products, including plant-based cheese.

In addition to I Am Nut Ok’s NeroMinded, a universal favourite, and its G.O.A.T. Italian Herb cashew cheese, Max points to Kinda Co’s Garlic + Herb creamy cultured cashew cheese and its Blue, which is a mild blue with veins of spirulina algae running through.

While these 10 options are some of the most popular and are a good place to start, Max adds that customers – who often come to Sans Store having already done their research – are keen to pick and choose, frequently changing up their orders. Emily from La Fauxmagerie agrees that many of the decisions made come down to personal preference.

Selling vegan cheese

While Sans Store’s customers come armed with knowledge, for many shoppers at fine food retailers, plant-based cheeses are still a new phenomenon, so offering samples may be the quickest way to get them on board. 

“We offer samples on a daily basis,” Nivi says, adding that, in line with his approach of not pigeonholing the shop as ‘vegan’, he doesn’t bog customers down with detail. “Non-vegans are quite easy to convince to try stuff if you don’t tell them it’s vegan,” he says. Once they take a bite, Nivi dives in, explaining what the product is made from – and he says customers are often surprised.

Vegan cheeses aren’t only for people following a strict vegan diet. They are also enjoyed by many flexitarians, as well as people with a dairy intolerance or those who are pregnant or breastfeeding. 

“Because it’s a bit healthier than regular dairy cheese,” Emily says, a lot of people who are looking after their health come into La Fauxmagerie asking for advice. Nivi agrees that health is a strong selling point compared to many vegan and non-vegan options on the market. “We have a good, clean label, and it tastes good, so it’s an easy sell,” he says.

There are also the practical points to consider. One “big game changer” for Max is the drastically improved shelf life of vegan cheese products in recent years. “Vegan options can be slower moving depending on the time of year, so having an extended shelf-life really makes it easier to manage the stock,” he says.

And don’t be too tempted by the bigger brands that already have places on major supermarket shelves. “The more independent, more expensive ranges do better for us,” Max says. “People come to us for that.”

Frequently asked questions

What is vegan cheese made from?

Not all vegan cheeses are made equally. Some are purely made from vegetable oils, like coconut oil. Look for products with a simple ingredients label, containing a good amount of products like cashews, almonds or plant-based milk.

Is vegan cheese healthy?

How healthy vegan cheese is depends on what products it is made from. Many quality vegan cheeses are made with nuts. As Emily of La Fauxmagerie notes, their Camemvert vegan cheese uses shea butter, which also reduces the cholesterol level. However, some vegan cheeses contain protein isolates, seed oils, emulsifiers, gums and additives, which would classify them as ultra-processed foods.

What types of vegan cheese are there?

There are numerous types of vegan cheese on the market today, including plant-based Mozzarella, Feta, Halloumi and Parmesan, as well as vegan soft cheeses and vegan blue cheeses.

close stay up-to-date with our free newsletter | expert intel | tailored industry news | new-to-know trend analysis | sign up | speciality food daily briefing