Ali Ryland discusses the results of the great Vegan Society cheese tasting event, demonstrating which vegan cheeses came out on top for price, accessibility, taste and 'meltability'.
At The Vegan Society, we were lucky enough to have a mammoth vegan cheese tasting event, the fabled kind that many vegans dream about. Thanks to our wonderful Vegan Trademark holders, we received over 33 types of cheese – only one of our staff members managed to try them all.
Armed with scorecards, dips and tortilla chips (alongside cocktail sticks, olives, pickled onions, crackers and bread) we got to work. Stories are sure to be written of our arduous trial, but we all made a valiant effort to eat as much as humanly possible. And yet, the hardest part for me wasn’t the eating, or the scoring – it was dealing with all that cheese data at the end.
But what I did learn from the reams and reams of scorecards is that our taste buds tickle us all in different ways. For example, there were a few instances of one person scoring a cheese as 3/10, while another gave the same one a 9. Now isn’t that intriguing? Some love milder tastes while others prefer cheese with a kick. And across the board, melted cheeses generally performed better than cold – which isn’t surprising given how temperature can change tastes drastically.
Our taste test covered 5 different areas: taste (shockingly!), texture, meltyness (if applicable), closeness to dairy counterpart and ease of use. Two cheeses stood out as joint winners, but it is important to consider other variables too, such as price and availability.
Read on to learn who the overall winners of the taste test were, and which cheeses performed best in our six additional categories. If you've still not found your favourite, why not head to a local vegan fair and sample the smaller companies' offerings? Don't forget, you can also make your own.
Vegusto No-Moo Mild-Aromatic – Winner in our ‘Best one to give to non-vegan friends’ category
Scoring a whopping 10/10 for taste and achieving joint first place in the overall tasting, these Swiss cashew nut cheeses are guaranteed to impress your mates. The only downside to this cheese is that it does not melt well; Vegusto do produce a melty version, but it’s really only practical for toasties and sauces. It also comes with a relatively hefty price tag – but hey, you don’t need to impress friends and family ALL the time, right?
Cheezly white cheddar style – Winner in our ‘best value and availability in the UK’ category
Scoring consistently well in melty and cold, Cheezly white cheddar style is the perfect everyday cheese that won’t break the bank. It’s a mere £2.19 from VBites’ online store, but you can often find a better deal online, and it is even cheaper in some health food shops and Morrison Supermarkets. The best thing is that Cheezly is supplied in just about every Holland & Barrett’s, which makes it perfect for the high street shopper.
Where to buy: Cheezly is found online and in health food/vegan stores in Australia, UK and in many countries in the rest of Europe, including France, Spain, Germany and Sweden. Unfortunately Cheezly no longer has a supplier in the US, but you could instead try…
Follow Your Heart Mozzarella Shreds – Winner in our ‘best value and availability in the US’ category
A smooth mozzarella (that reminded us of Daiya’s Mozzarella shreds) with pretty re-sealable packaging makes these shreds ideal for the busy consumer. Not only that, but it’s found in Whole Foods Markets and other vegan-friendly stores across the US, costing less than $5 for a 10oz (285g) package.
Where to buy: Follow Your Heart has suppliers online and in vegan and wholefood shops in Germany, UK, Mexico and US. Want it in your store? You could always ask the manager to supply Follow Your Heart products, which also include yummy blue cheese salad dressings and mayo.
Sheese Melty Smoked Cheddar Style– Winner in our ‘best all-rounder’ category
This melty version of the classic smoked block is what crowns Melty Smoked Cheddar Style as the best all-rounder cheese – it tastes great on its own, in a sandwich or melted on pizza, pasta and nachos. Ranking third in our taste test, it’s a definite favourite among our staff. If you’re not a fan of smoked cheeses, you should try Sheese Melty Strong Cheddar Style instead.
Where to buy: Sheese is stocked online and in health food stores across the UK, as well as in Sainsburys and Tesco for a mere £2.25. Note that Tesco packages Sheese Melty Smoked Cheddar Style as ‘Tesco Free From Soya Smoked’. We urge you to try their newer feta alternative which may even be better than smoked, found in Sainsburys as 'FreeFrom Greek-style', as well as their vegan Wensleydale with cranberries and caramelised onion. Sheese also has suppliers all over the world.
Violife Creamy Original – Winner in our ‘best spread’ category
Dubbed ‘great for kids’, this spread really captures the creamy essence of Philadelphia, without the unnecessary dairy. Ranking second place in our taste test (though closely followed by Original Creamy Sheese) this one could just as easily be broken out as a dip at parties as put in the kids’ lunch boxes.
Where to buy: Violife's spreads and cheeses can be affordably found online and in health food shops as well as in many ASDA, Morrisons and Tesco supermarkets across the UK. They also have suppliers all across the world.
Wilmersburger Pizza Shreds –Winner in our ‘best melter’ category
While we tested our pizza shreds on nachos to great success, I can also confirm that they are similarly superb for pizza. Yes, getting home and making pizza was a sacrifice I was willing to make in order to perfect this review – I’m just that dedicated. The textured stretch that is often missing from vegan cheese is there, reminiscent of Daiya or Violife for Pizza. But the great, cheesy taste seen across Wilmersburger’s range is not lost, while the pre-shredded cheese is a god-send. It’s no wonder that these shreds (alongside Vegusto’s No-Moo Mild-Aromatic) scored the highest mark overall. It’s fairly affordable on the continent too, at €3-3.50 for a 250g bag in Germany, or £3.80 in the UK.
Where to buy: In the UK, you can order Wilmersburger from Vx, or pick it up from their store in London. You can find online suppliers throughout the rest of Europe here, and well as suppliers in many stores here.
Wilmersburger are also interested in finding suppliers in the US to import Wilmersburger – contact them if you could be that supplier.
The raw stats
Now that all the boring stuff is out of the way, I thought I'd just leave these here for the vegan cheese nerds. These tables contain the averages of Vegan Society staff scores to the nearest 0.5. Exciting stuff. At least I think so.
By Ali Ryland
What's your favourite vegan cheese? Let us know in the comments what it is, and in what country you can get your hands on it. You can also search for our Trademarked cheeses here.
If you'd like to search for more vegan companies and products in your area, check out our Vegan Trademark search.