Vegan Life | Lifestyle

The Best Vegan Cheese Slices for Grilled Cheese (Taste Test!)

July 4, 2022

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Five different grilled cheeses with five vegan cheeses, stacked on a serving board

While vegan food has come a long way, cheese seems to be one of the hardest foods to get right. The stretch, melt, and flavor of vegan cheese is hard to compare with the original. And while a lot of vegan cheeses might do the trick to add a little flavor to your veggie burger, when you put them in a grilled cheese sandwich, with the cheese being the main attraction, they often don't quite stack up.

I've personally been using Field Roast Chao original cheese on my veggie burgers for many years, but I've stopped trying to make grilled cheese sandwiches because I've been disappointed. However, this time I searched three supermarkets (Whole Foods, Target, and Sprouts) to find as many different vegan cheese brands as I could, and I put them all in a head-to-head grilled cheese taste test to find the best vegan cheese.

Testing Methods

For this taste test, I wanted to use classic grilled cheese flavors. So I tried to get cheddar wherever it was possible (Daiya, 365, and Violife). The Chao slices are "creamy original" flavor, and Follow Your Heart is American. We didn't try any vegan mozzarella, vegan gouda, vegan provolone, or vegan swiss slices. I also tried to choose popular brands that you'll be able to find in your local grocery store.

To make each sandwich, I used sliced pain au levain (sourdough) bread from the Whole Foods bakery, and I spread Follow Your Heart Vegenaise (vegan mayo) on the outside of each of the bread slices. I used 2 slices of vegan cheese for each sandwich.

A hand spreading vegan mayonnaise on two slices of bread with a butter knife, on top of parchment paper and a serving board

I prepared the sandwiches in a cast-iron pan over medium-low heat (using medium heat might cause the bread to burn before the cheese melts). I started with only one slice of bread topped with the cheese slices in the pan, then covered the pan with a clear lid so I could monitor the cheese as it melted. Once the cheese was melted (or the bread was golden brown), I added the second slice of bread, flipped the sandwich, and covered it again. I cooked each sandwich somewhere around 2.5-4 minutes per side. This variation was because some cheeses required more time to melt.

Open-faced vegan grilled cheese in a cast-iron pan with a clear lid, over medium-low heat.

I used the methods above to try to achieve the perfect grilled cheese sandwich, but other methods will work as well. Some people prefer using vegan butter, like Earth Balance original spread, instead of vegan mayonnaise. You may also prefer white sandwich bread instead of sourdough.

Vegan Cheese Similarities and Differences

I don't know what's going on in Greece, but 4 out of the 5 vegan cheese slices are made there. Only the Daiya cheese is made in Canada.

The ingredients for each cheese are extremely similar: water, oil, starch (for stretchiness), natural flavor, paprika, annatto, and/or beta carotene (for color). We were actually pretty surprised at how different they tasted given the similar ingredients. The Daiya was the most different from the other four in terms of ingredients. The other four were very close, although the Chao is made with tofu as well.

Each package of cheese contains 10 slices. Most packages came in at around 7 ounces, but the 365 brand is 8 ounces, making the slices slightly bigger. So you'll also see that all the cheeses have 60 calories per slice, except for the 365 with 70 calories per slice, which can probably be attributed to its bigger size.

There are two types of packaging. Daiya, Follow Your Heart, and Chao all come in a thin plastic wrap. Because of that, if you're going to store it, you'll need to use additional plastic to reclose it, like a Zip-Loc bag or plastic wrap. The 365 and Violife slices both come in a convenient reclosable package, so you won't need to use any additional plastic, but their original containers are thicker plastic.

Packages of 365 Plant-Based Cheddar, Violife Mature Cheddar Slices, Daiya Cheddar Style Slices, Chao Creamy Original, and Follow Your Heart American

Taste Test Results

1. Winner: Daiya Cheddar Style Slices

Daiya cheddar in its package

The strong cheddar flavor of this cheese gave it the top spot in this contest. All of our taste testers agreed that it tasted the most like real deal cheddar. And while none of the vegan cheeses we tested nailed the "real cheese" texture, the Daiya slices melted nicely and didn't stick to our teeth. Despite not having much stretch, the texture of these slices felt the closest to dairy cheese. For me personally, when I bit into this grilled cheese, my first thought was "this tastes like childhood."

Side view of a Daiya grilled cheese sandwich, stacked, on a serving board

The vegans in our taste test group were actually quite surprised that Daiya had the best flavor and texture of all the vegan cheeses. In the past, Daiya cheeses were not that great, so they've definitely stepped up their game. And our omnivore taste tester believed that if you served this to a mixed crowd with vegans and meat-eaters, everyone would enjoy it. So get your tomato soup ready, because this one is a winner!

When I made this grilled cheese, it took 1 minute and 19 seconds for the cheese on the sides to melt and touch the pan. When I flipped the sandwich at 3 minutes, 16 seconds, the cheese on top of the bread was fairly well melted.

Hands pulling apart a grilled cheese sandwich made with Daiya cheddar

I wouldn't call any of these slices "healthy" because they're essentially processed food replicas of a dairy product. However, in comparison to the others, the Daiya could be arguably the healthiest. It has the lowest amount of sodium (170 mg per slice), and it also has 1 mcg of added Vitamin B12, and 140 mg of calcium. For vegans, B12 can be hard to get naturally, and each Daiya slice contains 40% of the recommended daily allowance.

Overall rating: 8/10

Flavor: 10/10

Melt: 8/10

Melt time (higher number=faster): 8/10

Stretch: 3/10

Price (US): $4.99-5.79*

Made in: Canada

Packaging: thin plastic wrap

2. Runner-up: 365 Plant-Based Cheddar-Style Cheese Alternative

A package of 365 plant based cheddar

This vegan cheddar took the second spot because of its flavor. While it isn't as strong as the Daiya cheddar, it still has an unmistakably cheesy taste that's sharper than the Chao, Violife, and Follow Your Heart. However, our participants guessed that it was supposed to be American cheese rather than cheddar. And our omnivore taste tester said there was another flavor in there that she couldn't quite identify, that was not cheesy.

The 365 cheese took the second-longest to melt, and never looked fully melted. The shape of the slices was still visible when the sandwich was done. Taste testers said the melt was closer to a sauce texture rather than a stringy, cheesy texture. This one also stuck to our teeth and the roof of our mouth.

A side view of a grilled cheese sandwich made with 365 plant-based cheddar, stacked

Fortunately, the flavor made up for the texture, and even our omnivore taste tester went back for more of this grilled cheese.

When I cooked this grilled cheese, the cheese on the sides melted quite quickly (1 minute flat), but the cheese on top of the bread was not fully melted after 4 minutes. At that point, I had to flip the sandwich to avoid burning the bread. The cheese did melt further after that, resulting in a cheese that was melted enough to qualify as grilled cheese.

Hands pulling apart a grilled cheese sandwich made with 365 plant-based cheddar

Overall rating: 6.5/10

Flavor: 7/10

Melt: 4/10

Melt time (higher number=faster): 3/10

Stretch: 3/10

Price (US): $3.99*

Made in: Greece

Packaging: reclosable plastic packaging

3. Field Roast Chao Creamy Original

A package of Chao creamy original

This one edged out the two remaining contenders because it does have a unique flavor. It's not as strong in flavor as the Daiya or 365, but not as mild as the Violife or Follow Your Heart. One of our taste testers noted a slight smoky flavor, but this wasn't detectable to everyone.

We all agreed that these slices would be better suited to topping a veggie burger, where the less-intense flavor can complement the other flavors in the burger.

Testers also noted that the Chao's color is not as appetizing as the dark yellow/orange colors of the Daiya, 365, and Follow Your Heart. So while that didn't affect the actual flavor, they felt a little less inclined to want to try it.

A side view of grilled cheese made with Chao creamy original, stacked

The Chao was neither the fastest nor the slowest to melt. It was number 3 out of the 5 in terms of time to melt, but when it did melt it was very melty. The sides melted to touch the pan after around 1 minute, 38 seconds, and it was well-melted by 3 minutes, 44 seconds.

Despite the fact that it melted quite well, the texture was kind of goopy and sticky. With its creamy texture, it definitely lives up to its "creamy original" label. One taste tester said that it was like "lava" because it was flowing out of the sides of the bread.

Two hands pulling apart a grilled cheese sandwich made with Chao creamy original

Overall rating: 5.5/10

Flavor: 6/10

Melt: 9/10

Melt time (higher number=faster): 5/10

Stretch: 1/10

Price (US): $5.99-7.49*

Made in: Greece

Packaging: thin plastic wrap

4. Violife Just Like Mature Cheddar Slices

A package of Violife Just Like Mature Cheddar slices

The Violife Mature Cheddar advertises itself as a sharp cheddar, so that's what I was hoping for. However, our taste testers didn't notice much cheddar flavor at all. The only cheese that tasted even milder to us was the Follow Your Heart American.

These slices still do have a bit of cheesy flavor, but the flavor was so mild that our taste testers were able to correctly detect the presence of coconut oil by the taste. (It doesn't taste like coconut, however).

Like the Chao cheese, the testers also noted that the color of this cheese is less appealing than the other 3 brands.

A side view of a grilled cheese sandwich made with Violife Mature Cheddar, stacked

As for the texture, the Violife was called "gooey" and also stuck to our mouths.

On the plus side, this cheese was the fastest to melt and it melted quite well. The sides of the cheese were touching the pan at around 1 minute, 6 seconds. And it was very melty by 2 minutes, 55 seconds. If you prefer a mild flavor, this might be a good option for you.

Two hands pulling apart a grilled cheese sandwich made with Violife Mature Cheddar

Overall rating: 5.5/10

Flavor: 5/10

Melt: 9/10

Melt time (higher number=faster): 10/10

Stretch: 2/10

Price (US): $5.39-6.59*

Made in: Greece

Packaging: reclosable plastic packaging

5. Follow Your Heart American Slices

A package of Follow Your Heart American

Our biggest criticism of this vegan cheese is that the flavor is the mildest of the bunch, to the point where it doesn't have much cheesy flavor at all. Our taste testers noted undertones of coconut oil (even though this one also doesn't taste like coconut), which may have come through because of the lack of a strong cheesy flavor.

A side view of a grilled cheese sandwich made with Follow Your Heart American, stacked

The Follow Your Heart slices took the longest to melt in my tests. At 4 minutes, 20 seconds, the cheese was not fully melted, but I had to flip the sandwich anyway to avoid burning the bread. However, it did eventually melt before the sandwich was done.

Like many of the other vegan cheeses, the Follow Your Heart texture is melty but goopy.

Two hands pulling apart a grilled cheese sandwich made with Follow Your Heart American

Although the Follow Your Heart comes in last, we'd still call it an acceptable option. None of the cheeses in our taste test were complete failures. Even our cheese-loving omnivore said this one was "okay." And if you like a light flavor for your grilled cheese, this one might just do the trick.

Overall rating: 4/10

Flavor: 3/10

Melt: 6/10

Melt time (higher number=faster): 1/10

Stretch: 2/10

Price (US): $5.49-6.59*

Made in: Greece

Packaging: thin plastic wrap

Conclusion

My two taste testers and I unanimously agreed that Daiya is our winner. But you may or may not agree depending on your personal preference. All three of us preferred a stronger cheesy flavor for our grilled cheese, and that played a large role in our rankings. But for those who prefer a milder flavor, the Chao, Violife, or Follow Your Heart might be better options.

I'm happy to report that we had no flat-out disasters in this taste test. I would eat any one of these cheeses if they were offered to me. Yay for progress in vegan cheese!

* Note: Prices are based on in-store prices in South Florida in July 2022. These prices may be different in your area or may change over time.

StephSunshine

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