So you want to be vegan but you love cheese. I totally get it. Before making the transition myself, I was a cheese-loving vegetarian, and I thought I would never go vegan, “No way! I love cheese too much!”
That was kind of silly of me! First of all, going vegan doesn’t mean you don’t get to have cheese anymore, just no dairy cheese. There are tons of wonderful vegan cheese options out there, from popular and moderately priced shreds and slices, fancy, artisanal aged nut-cheeses, and plenty of amazing homemade recipes.
I’m pretty content with the amount of cheese I enjoy on a vegan diet and I haven’t even come close to trying all the amazing options that are available! So let’s talk about how to transition to veganism if you love cheese.
Different Ways You Can Cut the (Dairy) Cheese from Your Diet
Have you checked out my resource for Transitioning to Veganism? If not, that’s a great place to start. You’ll find a bunch of tips to help you prepare for going vegan, 3 different methods for transitioning to a vegan lifestyle, and all my thoughts on barrier foods and all-or-nothing thinking. What’s a barrier food? It’s the one food someone might bring up when they say “I’d love to go vegan but I could never give up X!” It’s the barrier between you and you being vegan. If cheese is your barrier food, go read the part about barrier foods now and then come back!
Ways to Cut down or Cut out Dairy
See if some of these ideas seem to suit you. Don't be afraid to try a different approach if one doesn't work for you! And of course, if you've got your own plan. Give it a go!
1) Tackle Cheese at the End of Your Transition, When You Feel Comfortable with Your Mostly Vegan Diet
If cheese is a barrier food, transition ALL other non-vegan foods to vegan alternatives and get really comfortable with them before trying to remove cheese from your diet. Then you can move on to these next ideas.
2) Whittle Your Cheeses and Cheesy Meals down to Your Absolute Favourites
First of all, start by completely cutting out cheese(s) that aren’t your absolute favourite(s). If it's not the cheese you absolutely love, don't bother with it anymore. Take a look at your meals and stop putting cheese in meals that don’t really benefit from it. Unless it’s actually much less enjoyable without cheese, go without. Once you're comfortable at this point, move on to option #3, #4, or #5.
3) Take It Sloooowly and Gradually
Slowly and gradually reduce your cheese consumption. You can do this by removing one type of cheese at a time, by incrementally decreasing the amount of cheese you put in your usual meals, or by slowly crowding out cheesy recipes with new, dairy-free recipes and meals.
Building on #3, I like the idea of buying vegan cheese BEFORE going vegan and working them into ALL of your cheesy dishes. Maybe start out with a ratio of 75% dairy cheese, 25% vegan cheese. After a week or two (adjust the timing based on how YOU feel!) change it to 50/50, after a while decrease to 25/75, until you’ve comfortably switched to vegan cheese with little discomfort.
4) Go Cold-Turkey
(I’m sorry, I don’t have enough restraint to not mention how badly I wanted to say go cold-tofurky)
Cut out all the cheese. Avoid temptation: Don’t even look at pizza. Avoid all food social media. Don’t watch commercials. Avoid restaurants with your favourites cheesy-dishes. Just completely isolate yourself from all things cheesy. Honestly, the cravings WILL go away.
(FYI: There’s a lot of talk about the possibility of cheese having an addictive quality from the breakdown of casein to casomorphins in the digestive track. I’m not going to pretend to understand it or tell you whether I’m convinced that it is or isn’t true. But if you’re interested you might want to do research into casomorphins, casein, and possible appetite stimulating (especially for high fat foods) and addictive qualities in cheese.)
5) Go Kinda-Coldish-Turkey
Try what I did and just decide when you are going to stop buying animal products. At that time, whatever cheese remains in your kitchen is your to eat however you please. Maybe you ration it for a while, maybe you just finish it up right away. It's totally up to you, but once it's gone, you're done.
6) Pretend Vegan Cheeses Aren't Trying to Mimic Your Old Favourites
I hope this makes sense because I really like this little mind trick and it helps when I'm trying new-to-me vegan cheeses. I don't try to compare them to their non-vegan counterparts (whether it's named cheddar, or mozza, or gouda-style, whatever - I try to sort of push that away and judge it all on its own.) I pretend they're just under the big "cheese umbrella", and like cow's milk, or goat's milk cheeses, vegan cheeses are just plant milk cheeses. They're new to me! I don't need to compare them to anything else. (Especially if they just taste good!)
7) Don't Let Barrier Foods or All-Or-Nothing Thinking Derail Your Desire to Do Better
Give it time and be patient with yourself. Don’t let all-or-nothing thinking prevent you from making positive changes in your life. If cheese is a real struggle for you, try to cut down your cheese intake as much as you can. Make a difference by choosing vegan options everywhere it’s possible and practical for you to do so. If it takes you a really long time to cut out cheese, that’s okay! But try to challenge yourself and try to do the best you can. There is absolutely NO REASON for allowing one food be your excuse for rejecting veganism all together. Do what you can! Be the best you can be!
My Experience Giving up Cheese
I went vegetarian around the age of 13. Growing up I loved cheese. In fact I loved all dairy. I don't mean that I consumed quite a bit of dairy, I truly mean that I consumed an obscene amount of dairy as a kid. Milk was like water to me. Cheese was a main food group. Going vegetarian might have even exacerbated my love for dairy. I thought it was the best way to get protein! My point here? I swear, if I can give up dairy, MOST people can probably give up dairy. I haven't met many people who seem to have matched my previous dairy intake but I am SO content without cheese and milk now.
My Vegan Cheese Transition
Here’s my experience (I’m not sure I’d recommend this way, I didn’t have veganism in mind as my goal when I started decreasing my cheese intake. I figured I should include how I went about it anyways though.) PS: I live in Canada so that influences my choice in vegan cheeses and my thoughts on pricing.
I was on a tight budget at the time so I didn’t need to worry about cutting out fancy cheeses. I wasn’t buying them anyways! First I cut out cheddar/mozza and almost exclusively ate that soft spreadable swiss cheese that comes in wedges. At the same time I started using ingredients like hummus and avocado in a lot of the places I used to eat cheese. I didn't try too hard to limit myself, I was trying to add more foods into my diet. I did this for months. Then I decided to go vegan. At this point I decided to stop buying any animal products and just finish up whatever animal products were left in my kitchen. So I was still eating that spreadable swiss cheese, but a lot less often (this probably lasted a month or so.) Then I was done. I was already used to substituting ripe avocado, guacamole, and hummus most places I would have used cheese. For months I kind of avoided all cheese. I think early into my foray into veganism I tried a few vegan cheese options and I was totally underwhelmed. I decided to stick with my avocado/hummus swap and just accept that cheese wouldn’t be in my life anymore. After a many months of living essentially cheese-free I tried Daiya cheese again and realized that I did like it, but I preferred using waaaay less Daiya than I would have used of dairy cheeses. Slowly I found the taste grew on me and now I just really like it! After not having dairy cheese for a long time, I really enjoy vegan cheese now. In my case, I found it helpful to have that big gap between eating dairy cheese and trying vegan cheese. It was like I had enough time to forget dairy cheese enough to not make comparisons or something?
My Favourite Vegan Cheeses and Substitutes
Daiya Mozzarella and Cheddar-Style Shreds - My usual go-to because it's pretty darn good, it's convenient, widely available, and it's a reasonable price. Great for pizza, nachos, tacos, quesadillas, enchiladas, cheesy sauces, cheesy soups, grilled cheese sandwiches, tofu scrambles, and breakfast sandwiches
Earth Island Cheddar-Style Slices (Follow Your Heart Slices in the US) - Great for cold sandwiches, burgers, breakfast sandwiches, and grilled cheese sandwiches
Daiya Chive & Onion Cream Cheeze - Great for toasted bagels, sandwiches, creamy sauces (PS: This stuff used to be awful! They’ve recently improved the recipe and WOW, it is SO GOOD now! If you tried the earlier version and didn't like it, please give it another chance!)
Nutritional yeast - Great for cheesy sauces, cheesy soups, sprinkling in sandwiches and over pasta and casseroles (it’s even better turned into cashew parm - Combine 1 cup nutritional yeast, 1 cup raw cashews, ½ teaspoon garlic powder, ¼ teaspoon onion powder, ¼ teaspoon sea salt in a food processor and pulse until the mixture resembles dried Parmesan cheese. Do not over process. Store in an air tight container.)
Soyganic Smoked Tofu - This is an enjoyable alternative to the processed smoked gouda I used to love. This tofu isn't as salty as I'd like it to be (because I'm pretending it's cheese) but with nice salty crackers (like Triscuits) and dill pickles, it satisfies all of my salty cheese and cracker cravings. (Daiya also makes a pretty widely available Smoked Gouda but I haven't bought it in quite some time. It's definitely worth a taste if that interests you!)
Panago Pizza - (a Canadian-based pizza chain) just so happened to be my go-to pizza joint during my pre-vegan days. They've since added Daiya mozzarella to their menu (they've got veggie pepperoni too!) so I still get to eat my favourite delivery pizza. I get the "Garden Veggie" and I remove the mozzarella and fire-roasted tomatoes and I add Daiya and meat-free pepperoni.
Avocado & Hummus - They’re not cheese (obviously!) but they do add creamy, fatty, salty deliciousness to salads and sandwiches! (Season that avocado though!)
Homemade Recipes - I'm ashamed to admit that I haven't gotten around to trying ANY vegan cheese recipes. I keep getting deterred by some of the barely-weird ingredients that are so common (like tapioca starch or vegan probiotics) but those are both pretty useful/non-perishable types of ingredients that could be well used in a vegan household. Don't let my silly avoidance of homemade cheeses make you think it's difficult or not worth trying for yourself!
Got Any Tips for Cutting out Cheese? Share Them in the Comments!
Got any tips or experiences for cutting out cheese for good? Do you have a favourite cheesy vegan recipe or brand that totally killed your desire for dairy cheese? I’d love to hear them and include more ideas in this post!
After learning about how meat can affect your heart, I've been trying to go vegan. I try to rarely eat meat but my parents love meat so it's kinda hard. I love cheese but this helped so much.
I think I could rival your dairy consumption and have thought it would be impossible for me to ever give it up. But this article has given me hope! Especially this: PRETEND VEGAN CHEESES AREN’T TRYING TO MIMIC YOUR OLD FAVOURITES - this was a real light bulb moment. So simple but has made such a shift in my thinking. Thanks heaps!
Loved, loved, loved this article. After 38 years as a strict vegetarian, it was time to go vegan. Cheese has always been my barrier food. Great to read about your experience and your steps have been so helpful. Thank you!
I'm so happy to hear you found this post helpful! Cheese can be a tough one to move away from. Thanks for commenting Tonia!
Brittany, I love the encouraging tone to your blog posts. Encouraging folks to try veganism on their own timeline, not "cheese-shaming" as someone said, and emphasizing that every little bit counts. I was a vegetarian for years and shared the "oh, I could never be vegan...I love cheese" sentiments. (Although not as super cheese-centric as it sounds like you were as a kid!) 😉
I've tried making vegan cheeses, and while some do have weird ingredients, I can definitely agree the cashew parm (with nutritional yeast) is awesome! (Quick, easy, yummy.) Also, I've made this baked almond cheese for holiday gatherings and all my omnivore friends and family love it. http://www.landsandflavors.com/basic-almond-cheese/ (I use almond flour to make it easier and more efficient). Hope you don't mind my posting from another blog.
I've been vegan for nearly 2 years now, and I definitely learned some useful info from your posts.
Thank you so much Karen! I'm so pleased to hear that you enjoy my blog 🙂 I just think that be encouraging and understanding is more effective than shaming people. So many of us have grown up eating an omnivorous diet and it's just not that easy to completely change that overnight. Congratulations on being vegan for 2 years, that is SO awesome!
Thank you for this excellent guide, I want to go full vegan and cheese is what stopping me. Hope these tips help.
That's awesome, I'm so glad you found this hellpful! Thanks so much Alicia!
Butternut squash cooked and blended makes an excellent Mac n cheez. Also carrots and yellow potatoes cooked and blended make an excellent cheez sauce. Daiya also makes a ‘Mexican’ type mildly spicy cheez shredded that is great on pizza put on during the last five minutes of pizza cooking. Cashews raw soaked and blended with a little nutritional yeast and various roasted or cooked veggies can make a cheesy ‘drizzle’ that can substitute for topping on pizza, noodles, veggies or as a dip.
Thank you for this very welcome information about leaving cheese! It is my one-greatest fight to become vegan in full. I am grateful on the gentle suggestions you pose here. Fantastic (and that applies to the whole website, too).
You're most welcome, Marcello! Cheese was one of the most difficult products to give up since I ate it constantly as a vegetarian. Fortunately, more and more vegan cheese options are making it easier and easier to do without giving up the foods we love. Thank you so much for your feedback, we really appreciate it!
After going through this article, I can finally say I'm vegan.
Digestive TRACT. Not track. Lol.
I crave pasta with nutritional yeast sprinkled on it. Love it so much more than parm cheese.
Thank you so much for this article and your entire blog in general! I have been vegetarian for a little over a year now and have been constantly trying and failing to transition to veganism but this time I think I'm going to be able to do it!! I really liked your suggestion with the smoked tofu and dill pickles, I'm excited to try it! I've been putting together my vegan grocery list from browsing your blog and I really love all of the inspiration that you give everyone in their journey! Thanks again for this post, I'll definitely be trying some of these techniques!!
Yay! I'm so happy to hear that Julia! Congrats on moving towards a vegan lifestyle, that is so awesome. Please let me know if you have any questions!
This was very helpful, thanks not "cheese shaming" those of us struggling to make the transition into veganism.
Of course not! Everyone starts somewhere 🙂
Hello, I am not totally vegan but very recently discovered that I have developed a major allergy to dairy and eggs. Your website has been very helpful in finding an alternative for cheese. It has been a rough couple of months so far. I am hoping to start to see a light at the end of the tunnel soon.
Hi Teresa! I'm sorry to hear that! I'm glad I've been able to help you as your learn how to eat without dairy!
Thanks for the info...that was great. The headline caught me because that is exactly my sentiments. I have been a vegetarian for years but have never made the complete jump to vegan due to my very small amount of cheese intake (mostly parmesan) but I have found a few ways to get around it... I'm going to try the cashew recipe you had in your article.
This is the best ricotta cheese recipe that I have found on the internet thanks to The Minimalist Baker, which is one of my favorite websites and has a ton of great vegan choices that are so easy to make.
I use this in my vegan lasagna mixed with steamed, well steamed, broccoli as one of my layers and it works out great!
Give it a try and let me know what you think.
Thanks so much Jordan! I'll have to check out that recipe 🙂 Thanks for commenting and thanks for the recommendation!
I was finding myself in that all or nothing area, and have previously given up being vegan because of cheese. This article really helped me realize what a doof I was, and I'm now back on track to making better life choices. Thanks for that!
Also, do you think Pango Pizza delivers to the U.S.? Asking for a friend...
That's so great to hear! Thank you for commenting, I really appreciate it! 😀 And no... Sadly I don't think Panago delivers in the US 🙁 I guess you've got a reason to come to Canada!! 😀
This is one of the most helpful articles I have ever found for people who want to live a vegan way. Thank you for all your excellent work☺.
Thank you SO much Cheryl!! 😀 ♥
This is gonna be challenging.
Hey girl! First of all I just want to say that I came across your page when I was looking for things to add to my shopping list and wow you're amazing. Thank you so much for this whole blog, seriously. I have already sent links to three different people lmao. My roommate and I are vegetarian and have been wanting to be vegan for awhile now and cheese is a huge obstacle so thank you! We were wondering if you had any advice on vegan yogurts? My roommate swears she needs her yogurt and granola every morning and that is the one thing holding her back. Have you tried any good ones?
Keep on being great girl!
Hi Natalie! Thank you for your wonderful comment, I'm so glad I could help you out a little bit! Thanks for your support 😀
I was a yogurt lover too so I totally understand your roommate! My favourite vegan yogurt is Silk's Cultured Coconut Yogurt in Unsweetened Plain or Unsweetened Vanilla. It's SO good and you can sweetened it up you suit your liking, I like it just plain too.
I also really like Yoso's cultured coconut yogurt, in unsweetened plain. It's thicker and little more like Greek yogurt.
Daiya also makes individual fruit-flavoured Greek-style yogurts that are nice too. I prefer my first 2 options though.
When I first went vegan there weren't many vegan yogurts out yet and I really enjoyed buying silken tofu desserts and topping it with fruit and granola. They're a little more custard-y rather than yogurt-y in texture but they're a nice option too.
Lastly, the brand Amande makes an almond milk yogurt that I used to love. The last container I bought was weird though so I'm not sure if they've changed their ingredients.
I have been considering going Vegan, I am currently Pescetarian, this was very helpful about cheese products. My other product is honey I love honey and see no problems with eating it. Is it possible to be mostly vegan? that would be the only product I would be using that wouldn't technically be vegan.
I can relate to so much of this. I went vegetarian in January of this year and finally cut the chord with dairy in July. I slowly removed it over those 7 months. I was definitely addicted. The game changer came when my teenage son joined me and went vegan too. Being an even bigger cheese lover than me, we worked together to create a vegan queso. After a few tried we made one that is amazing! That helped so much! We use it in burritos, on enchiladas, in mac n cheese, on nachos and as a dip. I also agree less is more with daiya cheese especially on pizza. Sometimes I skip the cheese all together and just pile up the toppings. Great blog! Thanks!
Ah! Thank you for this thoughtful comment. I'm so happy to hear that you and your son were able to work together to make the transition easier, congratulations to you both! And you're totally right, sometimes you just don't need cheese when the toppings are delicious by themselves! Thanks again for commenting Julie Ann! 😀
Julie Ann, could you give me a link to the recipe you like?! There are so many and I haven't found one I like. Thanks!
This is an execellent guide! Not being able to have cheese is what I have been struggling with when it comes to wanting to transition. I feel that I am definitely ready to make the change!
Thank you Julie 😀 I'm so happy you're ready to make the switch to veganism!
OMG!!!! So I have decided to go vegan and this is by far THE best article I have ever read. Cheese is absolutely my barrier food and this has made this so much easier. A huge weight has been lifted. Thank you!!!
Wow, really!!? That is SO great to hear, thank you for commenting Arrionne! Congrats on transitioning to veganism 😀
This is an excellent guide! Thanks for the great tips.
Oh, that's lovely to hear, thank you Lyn!