It's been a long time in the making, but the titans of vegan cheese (better known as “cheez”) are here, and they are melty, dazzling delights for the tongue. Daiya and Follow Your Heart vegan cheese (Monterey Jack flavor, specifically) are among the most crowd-pleasing options out there. Dairy-consumers even love them. Pizza is pizza again, and comfort foods are just as heart-light igniting as ever.
Daiya isn't as old as Follow Your Heart, but it's definitely the most popular for a few reasons. When it first released at food festivals, reactions rose to a swift buzz in vegan circles. Some herbivores were elated, others expressed skepticism that it might not be truly vegan: All were somewhat shocked.
Daiya's popularity arises from the fact that you'd be hard-pressed to identify it as a non-dairy cheese. Atop red sauce and spun pizza dough, it looks like melted mozz. It tastes like mozzarella (or cheddar, depending on the flavor you work with – they're actually more amazing together), and it won't cause you to bloat like regular cheese. “Regular” pizza restaurants across the country have incorporated it into their menu, and it's only a matter of time before it's a mainstay in grocery stores and an option at your local deli or grinder haven.
Daiya is win all over and comes bearing a decent price-point online or on the shelves of your local herbivorous supplier, including Whole Paycheck (y'all know what I'm talking about) locations. Hopefully, Trader Joe's will jump aboard the vegan cheese train (they only have casein-based soy cheeses to date - a decidely non-vegan variety) and offer their customers the Daiya they crave.
Follow Your Heart
Follow Your Heart, if you don't already know, is the company who brought us the wonders of perfect vegan mayonnaise (some folks eat it alone; it's amazing-sauce, seriously). Their Follow Your Heart vegan cheese product, especially Monterey Jack flavor, is an excellent, if strangely textured non-dairy cheese. The mozzarella flavor is also nice to the tastebuds, though a bit mild for my taste. If you're looking for flavor sensations, stick with this brand melted over pizza dough, in quesadillas and on tortillas, or over broccoli, to name a few options. It's worth your time.
It may not be as ubiquitous as Daiya, but a few greentongues, myself included, hope it never goes away. It melts just a hair slower and maybe less sleekly than the Canada-born offering, but its flavor is toe-curlingly good in flatbread melty wraps, empanadas, stuffed mushrooms, homemade hot-pockets, and a great many other joy-inducing dishes.
A Few Other More Options That Please
Cheezly is a winner that, while not available in many stores, is quite excellent when you can get your hands on some via mail order. It is cheesey and its does melt with some prodding (placing vegan cheeses that aren't as adept at instant melting as the newer generations under the broiler with a bit of oil sprinkled on top for a few minutes eases the process along very nicely).
Galaxy Foods' Rice Cheddar isn't bad. It's a solid option for baked mac and cheez if its accompanied by a little seasoning, some nutritional yeast sauce, or a vegan mozzarella cheese you like the taste of.
DIY cheez wins hands down for your budget. Whether you're making the PPK's vegan cheese sauce recipe, a mixture of one part tahini sauce and a ¼ part each curry powder and Bragg's Liquid Aminos (Tamari or Soy Sauce can substitute this fairly well), you will be thrilled with what you can create exactly to your tastes. The joys of veganism, aside from the obvious high-vibrating heartlit benefit, is the complete array of easy to create substitutes that can be prepared many more times healthier (with unrefined staples) than the dishes that came before them.
Splendor in your experimentation and enjoy the green works of the experts when you're feeling lazy. Daiya and friends are the party-worthy royals of vegan cheese. Order them online (Cosmos Vegan Shoppe and the Vegan Store site are solid sources) or visit your local green(ish )retailer. Everyone wins.