With the rise in veganism, the choice, quality and availability of vegan cheese has increased significantly in the last 10 years, and this is our first guide on the subject.
As more and more people turn to plant-based alternatives, partly in response to the role of animal farming in the climate crisis, the market has responded, showing the power of consumer demand.
In 2012, a vegan company based on the island of Bute in Scotland began making an own-brand block of vegan cheese for Tesco. They now make it for all the supermarkets on this score table. Vegan cheese has gone mainstream.
Alongside supermarkets you can also find a much wider variety of vegan cheeses in wholefood and health food shops, and online. This includes a growing number of cultured vegan cheeses, made using traditional cheesemaking techniques and ripened for at least a few weeks. We’ve found that many of these are also made from organically grown ingredients which is even better news for the environment.
Ask an older vegan if they used blocks of vegan cheese 20 years ago and they would probably say when they did it was with hesitation. It simply wasn’t very good, or that widely available. You could buy shakers of Parmezano (a vegan alternative to Parmesan) or use Engevita flakes made from nutritional yeast (which are still available) to make a cheesy sauce or to shake onto pasta. Or you could grate a block of vegan cheese and mix it with vegan mayo for a cheesy spread.
Things have, thankfully, come a long way since.
Lower impact than dairy
As well as side-stepping the animal welfare concerns of dairy products (see our Dairy milk guide), plant based alternatives do, on average, have much lower environmental impacts than dairy in terms of greenhouse gas emissions, water and land use. See our feature comparing the climate impacts of plant and dairy for more detail.