Ready for a vegan grilled cheese recipe that will change your life? I've done all the work for you, and selected my cheese winners. I've said it once, and I'll say it again - ingredients matter when choosing the right vegan substitute. There are SO many ways to make vegan dairy substitutes, but as we know, some are more successful than others. I'll break down WHY I think my winner is the most molecularly similar to dairy products too.
I've said it once, and I'll say it again - ingredients matter when choosing the right vegan substitute.
I can wax poetic all day about how the other ingredients for a grilled cheese are ~also~ important, but at the end of the day, I know the question on your mind:
What is the best vegan cheese for grilled cheese?
I tested a few vegan cheeses with the following criteria in mind:
- Flavor - does it taste like cheese? I'm looking for that sharp cheddar flavor, and nothing that tastes like nutritional yeast. Sorry noosh fans, we need some heavy hitting vegan cheeses here.
- Meltiness - does the cheese melt in a reasonable amount of time? When it melts, is the texture smooth, yet stretchy?
- The pull test - when I attempt a cheese pull, does it work? Or does the cheese just fall flat?
All in all, the Miyokos cheese stole my heart. Miyokos products consistently have the best flavor across the board. Melting together some of the Mozzarella with the Cheddar or Pepper Jack Shreds seemed to produce that melty texture. As you can see, the coveted cheese pull went off without a hitch!
I also tested....
- Chao Slices - had a tough time getting it to melt in the pan, not practical for heating up separately
- Follow Your Heart Slices - same a Chao
- Daiya - didn't melt as cleanly, or taste as cheesy as I would've liked.
- Trader Joe's Brand Mozzarella Shreds - melted well, but lacked that sharper cheedar-y cheese flavor.
Other elements of a killer vegan grilled cheese recipe
The best vegan grilled cheese recipes need more than cheese. I selected a hearty loaf of bakery bread that I sliced myself. I like slices that aren't too thick - I like more cheese and thinner slices of bread.
You also need some good vegan butter. If you're a long-time reader of the blog, you'll know I'm OBSESSED with Miyokos butter, but use whatever you have.
I recommend using a nonstick pan. Cleanup is a breeze, and everything just moves more smoothly.
I can't find your suggested vegan cheeses! Well, lucky for you, we live in the age of Amazon and grocery delivery. You can order your preferred cheeses online. Or if you're lucky enough to have a Whole Foods nearby, they tend to have the most robust selection of vegan cheeses around (at least in my neighborhood). Do what you have to do to make this vegan grilled cheese recipe, I promise it's worth it.
Is there a vegan cheese that melts well? Yes, but you might have to get a little creative with the melting. From observation, when regular cheese melts, the oils & fats start to transform from solid to a more fluid state, giving melted cheese that soft feel. It appears the oils & fats in vegan cheese have a higher melting point than dairy cheese, so they require a little more heat to melt. My solution, though not glamorous, is warming your cheese in the microwave, and spreading onto your sandwich before you put the sandwich into the pan. That way, the hard work of warming the cheese is done, and you can focus on getting a perfectly grilled piece of bread.
WARNING: science rant below.
Your girl has a Biology degree and took Organic Chemistry for fun (the horror!)...let's see how much I remember. If you're not into science, feel free to skip to the recipe.
Why don't most vegan cheeses taste & melt like regular dairy cheese? It's a great question. This article does a nice job of laying out why. In a nutshell, melty cheese has a low pH, so it's more acidic. This is why good cheese has a bit of an acidic punch. The other important component is Calcium - at lower pHs, it's easier for Calcium ions to break free.
So let's talk vegan cheeses. Many vegan cheese sauces and substitutes contain some acid, but it's usually from lemon juice or vinegar. Dairy cheeses get their low pH primarily from the fermentation process. Fermentation basically means that the cultures (aka probiotics aka good bacteria) consume lactose (a sugar) and turn it into lactic acid. My top cheese, Miyokos, does two things that make it the closest thing to dairy cheese:
- Miyokos uses cultured oat milk. Instead of adding vegan lactic acid to a water-based product like other vegan cheeses, cultured oat milk gets us closer to the flavor and chemical properties of dairy cheese. "Cultured" basically means they added probiotics (a.k.a. good bacteria) to their oat milk. From the ingredient list, it looks like that bacteria is consuming dextrose, another form of sugar that can turn into lactic acid by a fermentation reaction.
- In addition, their ingredient list also includes calcium, which we know helps create that yummy melty soft cheese.
- Fermentation process: Cultures + sugar (dextrose) = lactic acid
- Lactic acid + calcium + heat to melt = yummy vegan cheese.
Does your brain hurt? Don't worry, just get the right cheese and you won't have to think about it.
Want something cheesy, but a little fancier? Check out my vegan lasanga.
How to make a vegan grilled cheesePrint
I've done all the research for you, and the science speaks for itself.
- Heat nonstick pan on low-medium heat. Melt a slice or two of butter.
- Meanwhile in a microwave safe dish, heat 1-2 Tbsp of Mozzarella and ¼ cup-ish of Cheddar in the microwave. 30 seconds, stir, then 15-30 more seconds.
- Spread cheese onto bread slices, then put into pan with melted butter. Fry for 2-4 minutes on each side, slice, and serve!
**Note: 3 loaves of bread, and many packages of vegan cheese may or may not have been consumed during the production of this recipe.