Vegan cheese
Vegan cheese made from cashews and almonds
Main ingredientsCashew, almond, sesame, sunflower, pine nut, peanuts, soybeans, coconut oil, nutritional yeast, tapioca, rice or potatoes
Store-bought vegan shredded cheese

Vegan cheese is a category of non-dairy, plant-based cheese analogues. Vegan cheeses range from soft fresh cheeses to aged and cultured hard grateable cheeses like plant-based Parmesan. The defining characteristic of vegan cheese is the exclusion of all animal products.[1]

Vegan cheese can be made with components derived from vegetables, such as proteins, fats and milks (plant milks). It also can be made from seeds, such as sesame, sunflower, nuts (cashew, pine nut, peanuts, almond) and soybeans; other ingredients are coconut oil, nutritional yeast, tapioca,[2] rice, potatoes and spices.[3] 


Fermented tofu (furu) has been documented in China since the late 16th century. The savory product is used as a condiment to accompany rice or porridge. Western sources from the 19th to 21st centuries repeatedly draw a comparison between furu and cheese, going as far as calling it a "nondairy/vegan cheese".[4]

Later homemade vegan cheeses were made from soy flour, margarine, and yeast extract. With harder margarine, this can produce a hard vegan cheese that can be sliced; softer margarine produces a softer, spreadable cheese.[5]

The product became commercially available around the 1970s or 1980s.[6] These initial products were lower in quality than dairy cheese or today's vegan cheese, with a waxy, chalky or plastic-like texture.[6]

In the early 1990s, the only brand of vegan cheese available in the United States was Soymage.[7] Since then, the number and types (e.g., mozzarella, cheddar, etc.) of widely available vegan cheeses have diversified.[6][7] Also, soy-free options have since been explored. In the 1990s, vegan cheese sometimes cost twice as much as dairy cheese.[5]

Strawberry-flavored vegan cream cheese, made with whey protein produced by microbes

From 2018 to 2020, several new companies were founded to make animal-free cheese, including New Culture, Change Foods, Legendairy Foods, and Better Dairy. Some use genetically engineered yeast to synthesize cow milk proteins without the use of cows.[8]


From 2018, the market for vegan cheese grew on a global scale. According to market research, Europe had the greatest market share of 43%, followed by North America, Asia-Pacific, South America and Middle East & Africa.[9] The global vegan cheese market is expected to attain a market value of $3.9 billion by the end of 2024, up from $2.1 billion in 2016.[10]

According to the Plant Based Food Association, the US market for plant-based foods is anticipated to reach $4 billion in sales by 2024.[11] The expansion is driven by the increased inclination towards vegetarian sources, rising urban populations, and greater preference towards international foods.[12][13] Multiple grocery chains expanded their geographical presence within specialty stores and supermarkets to address the anticipated growth for vegan cheeses, with annual sales growth expected at 8%.[9]

The more common types of vegan cheese being manufactured, distributed, and produced through this market are mozzarella, Parmesan, cheddar, Gouda, and cream cheese non-dairy based cheeses. These vegan cheeses are consumed in restaurants, grocery stores, bakeries, vegan school meals, and in homes. Vegan cheeses are expected to grow and diversify into the mid-2020s.[14]

As of 2017, vegan cheese is generally more expensive than dairy cheese for consumers.[15]



Labeling of vegan cheese, like other vegan dairy analogues, is controversial, with dairy industry groups pushing to prohibit the use of terms like "cheese" on non-dairy products.[16] Labeling purely plant-based products as "cheese" is prohibited in the European Union and the United Kingdom.[17]

In February 2019, a Vancouver, British Columbia, vegan cheese shop was ordered by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) to stop calling their products cheese as it was 'misleading' to consumers, despite the store stating that their cheese was always labeled as "dairy-free" and "plant-based".[18] The CFIA later reversed the rejection and stated there was no objection for using the nomenclature "100% dairy-free plant-based cheese" provided that "it is truthful".[19]

European Union regulations state that terms applicable to dairy products, including "cheese", can be used to market only products derived from animal milk.[17] In June 2017 the Court of Justice of the European Union issued a judgement in relation to a German vegan food producer TofuTown, clarifying that purely plant-based products could not be labelled and sold as "plant cheese" or "veggie cheese" (Judgement in case C-422/16).[20]

In the United Kingdom, strict standards are applied to food labelling for terms such as "milk", "cheese" and "cream", which are protected to describe dairy products and may not be used to describe non-dairy produce.[21] In 2019, a Brixton, UK, vegan cheese shop was asked by Dairy UK to stop describing products as cheese because it 'misleads shoppers', although the store owners stated their "products were clearly marked as dairy-free."[22]

In 2020, vegan cheese company Miyoko's Creamery filed a lawsuit against the California Department of Food and Agriculture after the department ordered the company to stop using dairy words on its packaging.[23] In 2018, the company was sued in New York in a lawsuit that alleged customers were misled by the label "vegan butter".[24] Company founder Miyoko Schinner[25] is a leading advocate for free speech rights relating to vegan foods.[24][26]


Production and sale of vegan cheese has been banned in Turkey since 2022.[27]

Ingredients and production

Common plant-based proteins or vegetable proteins used in vegan cheeses are derived from edible sources of protein, such as soybeans, almond, and their milk.[28][29] Food scientists use a "blend of gums, protein, solids, and fats" to create the mouthfeel and melt of dairy cheese[30] since the ones made with nuts do not melt due to the solid base on which they are composed.[28] One vegan cheese product aims to solve this difficulty by making cheese with casein produced by yeast rather than by cows.[31]

Different methods are used to create texture and taste. Some vegan cheeses are not cultured or aged; instead acidic ingredients, such as lemon juice, are used to achieve a similar taste to dairy cheese. Ingredients of hard or firm vegan cheeses includes natural agents such as agar, carrageenan, tapioca flour, and xanthan gum.[28]

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The manufacturing process of fermentation is often used to replicate dairy cheese texture and flavor.[32] However this is a different process from that used in dairy cheeses, as the proteins in plant-based milk reacts differently to culturing agents and do not coagulate as traditional cheese does. It must be aged with other methods, as ambient temperature and humidity monitoring, and culturing agents, such as rejuvelac, non-dairy yogurt, or kombucha (which are not recommended to use due to the risks involved in the fermentation process) and kefir grains that are recommended but not often used.[33][28] If these processes are not carried out properly, with good hygiene and correct fermentation methods, the product can carry pathogens, such as Salmonella, Listeria, E. coli, and others.[33]


The nutritional value of vegan cheese varies.[34]

Most vegan cheese contains no cholesterol and less saturated fat than dairy cheese. Most vegan cheese is low in calcium, though the Go Veggie brand has similar calcium content to dairy cheese. Vegan cheese is generally not a good source of protein compared to dairy cheese.[15]

A 1998 study comparing cheddar cheese to one type of vegan cheese found that the vegan cheese had lower calories, fat, and protein, though protein content of dairy cheese varies by type. The vegan cheese had higher riboflavin and vitamin B12, making it an acceptable replacement for cheddar cheese in terms of those nutrients. On the other hand, the vegan cheese did not provide vitamin A or vitamin D, in contrast to cheddar cheese. The vegan cheese was found to be a useful source of calcium, but not as good a source as cheddar cheese.[5]

Some vegan cheeses may be fortified to provide vitamin B12, while other vegan cheeses are not.[15]


See also


  1. ^ Dixie Mahy, Miyoko Schinner, Artisan Vegan Cheese, Book Publishing Company, 2013, p. v.
  2. ^ Moreau, Elise. "What in the World is Vegan Cheese, Anyway? Can it Actually Replace 'Real' Cheese?". Foodie Buzz. Organic Authority. Archived from the original on 3 April 2018. Retrieved 3 April 2018. Depending on the brand and recipe that's used, vegan cheese can be made from soy protein (used in shiny, slick, rubbery varieties), solidified vegetable oil (like coconut, palm, or safflower) nutritional yeast, thickening agar flakes, nuts (including cashews, macadamias, and almonds), tapioca flour, natural enzymes, vegetable glycerin, assorted bacterial cultures, arrowroot, and even pea protein.
  3. ^ "Evaluación de queso análogo a base de papa (Solanum tuberosum) con y sin especias como alternativa vegana" (PDF). UNIVERSIDAD LAICA ELOY ALFARO DE MANABÍ (in Spanish). 2019. Archived (PDF) from the original on 22 October 2020. Retrieved 24 April 2023.
  4. ^ Shurtleff, William; Aoyagi, Akiko (2011). History of Fermented Tofu - A Healthy Nondairy / Vegan Cheese (1610-2011). Soyinfo Center. ISBN 9781928914402.
  5. ^ a b c Lightowler, Helen; Davies, Jill (1 January 1998). "The vegan dairy". Nutrition & Food Science. 98 (3): 153–157. doi:10.1108/00346659810208305. ISSN 0034-6659.
  6. ^ a b c "The Evolution of Vegan Cheese". Fresh n' Lean. 22 June 2015. Archived from the original on 3 April 2018. Retrieved 3 April 2018.
  7. ^ a b Winograd, Jennifer; Winograd, Nathan (15 August 2011). "A Guide to Vegan Cheese". All American Vegan. Archived from the original on 3 April 2018. Retrieved 3 April 2018.
  8. ^ Melody Bomgardner (5 October 2020). "Can Start-Ups Make Us Love Animal-Free Dairy?". C&E News. p. 29.
  9. ^ a b Research Ltd., Infiniti (2019). "Global vegan cheese market 2019-2023". TechNavio: 129.
  10. ^ "Global Plant-Based Cheese Market to Reach $3.9 Billion by 2024!". One Green Planet. 29 December 2017. Retrieved 1 July 2020.
  11. ^ "2018 U.S. Retail Sales Data for Plant-Based Foods". Plant Based Foods Association. Retrieved 24 October 2019.
  12. ^ Research Ltd., Infiniti (2019). "Global vegan cheese market 2019-2023". TechNavio: 129.
  13. ^ Kauffman, By Jonathan. "Artisanal vegan cheese comes into its own". San Francisco Chronicle. Hearst Newspapers. Retrieved 13 November 2019.
  14. ^ "Vegan Cheese Market 2018 | Industry Key Players, Growth, Trends, Analysis & Forecast to 2025". Amazing Newshub. 29 October 2018. Retrieved 6 November 2018.
  15. ^ a b c "A Guide to Vegan Cheese". Vegetarian Journal (2). 2017.
  16. ^ Lane, Sylvan (24 January 2020). "Senators ask FDA to crack down on non-dairy milks, cheeses". The Hill. Retrieved 18 April 2020.
  17. ^ a b "EU court bans dairy-style names for soya and tofu". BBC News. 14 June 2017. Retrieved 15 January 2021.
  18. ^ "Vancouver vegan cheese shop told they can no longer use the word 'cheese' in packaging". Global News. Retrieved 18 February 2019.
  19. ^ "CFIA to permit Blue Heron Creamery to use the word 'cheese' on label | Dished". Daily Hive. 25 August 2018. Retrieved 25 February 2019.
  20. ^ "Judgment in Case C-422/16 Verband Sozialer Wettbewerb eV v GmbH" (PDF). Court of Justice of the European Union. Luxembourg. 14 June 2017. Archived (PDF) from the original on 12 July 2017. Retrieved 15 January 2021.
  21. ^ "Food standards: labelling and composition". GOV.UK. Retrieved 15 January 2021.
  22. ^ "Britain's first all-vegan cheese shop causes a stink as dairy industry demands it changes branding". City A.M. Retrieved 17 February 2019.
  23. ^ Bitker, By Janelle (7 February 2020). "Vegan company Miyoko's Creamery sues California over labeling restrictions". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved 9 February 2020.
  24. ^ a b Watson, Elaine (2 November 2018). "Miyoko's Kitchen sued over vegan butter labels: 'Products bask in dairy's halo'". FoodNavigator-USA. Archived from the original on 14 March 2021. Retrieved 9 February 2020.
  25. ^ Kennedy, Alicia (1 April 2021). "Vegan Cheese Is Ready to Compete With Dairy. Is the World Ready to Eat It?". Eater. Retrieved 12 April 2021.
  26. ^ Simon, Michele (6 December 2018). "Miyoko's Scores Plant-Based Victory in Hometown of Petaluma!". Plant Based Foods Association. Retrieved 9 February 2020.
  27. ^ Axworthy, Nicole. "Vegan Cheese Is Now Banned In Turkey in Latest Global Label War". Retrieved 18 July 2022.
  28. ^ a b c d Schinner, Miyoko (14 March 2013). Artisan Vegan Cheese: From Everyday to Gourmet. Book Publishing Company. ISBN 978-1-57067-927-8.
  29. ^ Jeske, Stephanie; Zannini, Emanuele; Arendt, Elke K. (1 August 2018). "Past, present and future: The strength of plant-based dairy substitutes based on gluten-free raw materials". Food Research International. 110: 42–51. doi:10.1016/j.foodres.2017.03.045. hdl:10468/7832. ISSN 0963-9969. PMID 30029705. S2CID 51704506.
  30. ^ Estabrook, Rachel (30 April 2012). "Cracking The Code: Making Vegan Cheese Taste Cheesier". The Salt. NPR. Archived from the original on 3 April 2018. Retrieved 3 April 2018. But to make a true vegan cheese substitute, you can't use casein. So [Jonathan] Gordon's latest challenge has been to make a cheese that is completely free of animal byproducts but still retains the properties we love about cheese. 'The skill of the formulator is to use exactly the right amounts and blend of gums, protein, solids and fats to get a desirable, cheese-like bite and mouth feel while achieving a realistic melt (this is very difficult),' he tells The Salt. Those gums replace the casein, working as 'emulsifiers'and 'stabilizers' to hold the other ingredients together, according to Crowe. (The other ingredients include a protein base like soy or rice, water, oil, starches, flavors and colors.)
  31. ^ Messina, Ginny (28 September 2014). "Real Vegan Cheese and Real Nutrition Science". The Vegan RD. Archived from the original on 3 April 2018. Retrieved 3 April 2018.
  32. ^ "The Vegan Way". scienceandfooducla. 26 September 2017. Retrieved 27 November 2018.
  33. ^ a b Schmitt, Nicolas; Yu, Gloria; Greve, Richard; McIntyre, Lorraine (2018-09-24). "Outbreak of S. Weltevreden linked to fermented cashew nut cheese in Victoria, BC". Environmental Health Review. doi:10.5864/d2018-017.
  34. ^ "Vegan Cheese: New and Improved Versions". Vegetarian Journal (3). 2008.

Further reading