This category of cheeses is best when you need to substitute for grated parmesan, feta, or cotija. Do note that this category is the easiest to make at home, allowing you to mix in healthier ingredients!
Nutritional yeast isn’t a vegan cheese alternative in itself, but it is a good substitute when you want to thicken a sauce with some parmesan cheese.
This wondrous yellow substance is essentially deactivated yeast that’s packaged in a powdered form. It’s considered “nutritional” because you can eat it on its own, and it won’t expand the foods it’s in, unlike the yeast used in baking.
Again, despite its appearance, nutritional yeast won’t serve as an especially good cheese alternative for vegans by itself. It tastes slightly rich, but its powdery texture isn’t as gritty or as salty as you would want a parmesan or feta to be.
That said, nutritional yeast tastes excellent when mixed into creamy sauces, soups, and pestos. It adds the same rich flavor and denseness that a crumbly cheese would and doesn’t overload your sauce with artificial flavors.
Finally, nutritional yeast is a winner when it comes to, well, nutrition! It’s low in fat with just 0.5 grams, 25 milligrams of sodium, and packs in a stellar 8 grams of protein per serving. As a result, it’s a nutritious and delicious choice for cheese-loving vegans.
Violife Just Like Feta
The Violife Just Like Feta Block is one of the few vegan feta alternatives, and it’s a solid option when you want that specific flavor. Like genuine feta, this cheese alternative for vegans comes in block form, meaning that you can grate or crumble it yourself to get a finer texture. Alternatively, you can lay large slabs of the cheese over sandwiches, slices of bread, or tomatoes.
Like Violife’s other cheeses, Just Like Feta is made of water, coconut oil, potato starch, and a touch of olive extract to infuse a bit of Mediterranean flavor. It’s also light on calories and carbohydrates (90 calories and 3 grams, respectively), but it is quite fatty (8 grams) and has no protein.
If you were going to use parmesan or another cheese as a topping, the best choice would be to make a blend of nuts and nutritional yeast yourself. To make a nut-based parmesan, pick out your favorite tree nut. Cashews are an excellent choice since they are fatty and flavorful. You could also try walnuts, pecans, or macadamia nuts if you want a different flavor.
Combine about a 3/4 cup of your chosen tree nut with 2-4 tablespoons of nutritional yeast and a teaspoon of salt. For a more flavorful cheese, add 1/2 teaspoon of garlic powder, more salt, or other seasonings. Add these ingredients to a food processor or blender and blend them until they form an integrated powder.
Nut-based parmesans are great for vegan cheese aficionados for a few reasons. First, they allow you to customize your cheese with your preferred suite of flavors; if you want to spice up a pasta dish, you could make an herbal parmesan. If you want a crumbly Mexican-inspired cheese, you could add lemon salt to make it sharp and tangy.
Second, they are an incredibly nutritious option. Adding the nutritional benefits of cashews to those of salt and nutritional yeast, a natural cashew-based parmesan contains around 150 calories per serving. It also has the same amount of sodium as the leading vegan parmesan (450 mg) and 5 more grams of protein.
Finally, this variety of vegan cheese bypasses the litany of artificial ingredients and preservatives you typically find in cheese alternatives for vegans. Instead, it is made almost entirely of ingredients from your pantry, making it fresher, tastier, and less dense with mystery ingredients. Plus, it is perfect for a paleo diet!