How to make vegan cheese at home with under 10 ingredients and just 10 minutes of your time (not including chill time). This dairy-free cheese is tangy, cheesy, and versatile – use it in slices, shredded, or melted into or over dishes. Plus, it’s nut-free (no cashews) and soy-free!
We’re slap-bang in the middle of ‘Veganuary’ where, as of this year, more than half a million people have pledged to go Vegan for the month of January (Yay!). Do you know one of the biggest struggles for many, though? – giving up cheese!
That ooey, gooey, melty, tangy food is so good that people can’t imagine a life without it – but you don’t have to. I’ve already shared a (very popular!) Vegan Cheese Sauce, several other cheese alternatives (listed at the bottom of this post), and recently my take on Vegan Fondue. Now, it’s the turn of this hard-style, sliceable dairy-free cheese.
Tangy, Sliceable, Homemade Vegan Cheese
Honestly, I’m not kidding when I say that this is the best vegan cheese I tried so far. The recipe is actually based on my cheese sauce recipe – which has been loved by thousands of dairy and non-dairy eaters alike since I first posted it way-back-when in 2016 on Instagram!
By swapping just a couple of ingredients and a step you can turn the gooey sauce into a hard plant-based cheese worthy of slicing, shredding, or melting on your favorite dishes or adding to fancy cheese boards. The results are a versatile cheese substitute that is entirely addictive and 100% nut-free (without cashews) and something I’ve loved for years (but somehow never posted-oops!).
Best of all, this vegan cheese recipe is nut-free and super EASY. There’s no blender required or any fancy kitchen equipment, just a saucepan, and a few bowls! Plus, homemade options are far cheaper than going for anything store-bought and nearly always taste better!
What Is Vegan Cheese?
It’s a dairy-free, cheese substitute for those wanting to experience the taste and texture of cheese without dairy products.
I always like to tell new Vegans that trying to find ‘exact’ replicates for dairy cheese varieties can be difficult. In a way, vegan cheese is practically an entirely new food group – so I like to enjoy it for what it is (cruelty-free, and absolutely delicious when done right!) and haven’t looked back.
You may never find a vegan cheddar that is exactly like the dairy one you’re used to – but you’ll often find something ‘close enough’ that stands on its’ own merits. And if you ask any vegans that have been around for a while – believe us, your taste buds change, and soon you’ll be craving dairy-free cheese substitutes for their flavor and texture!
This recipe is a type of ‘generic’ cheese, most likened to a mild cheddar. It’s slightly tangy, ever so slightly smoky, with a cheesy flavor, and wonderful texture for slicing, grating, and melting! It’s also an excellent base for customizing and flavoring (check FAQ section for examples).
The Ingredients & Substitutions
- Coconut Milk: use a can of unsweetened full-fat coconut milk, not boxed or ‘lite’ versions. Shake the can well and use everything (the creamy part and water). This doesn’t really add much of a coconut flavor, however, you could also try with another plant-based milk combined with 4 tbsp of refined coconut oil (which doesn’t have any coconut taste at all). Note that the coconut fat content will allow the cheese to melt better.
- Nutritional Yeast: This will help to add a cheesy flavor and shouldn’t be omitted.
- Sauerkraut Juice: Will add the familiar flavor and tang of dairy cheese. Alternatively, use other pickling brine, olive brine (then reduce the salt), or water combined with 2 tsp lemon juice/ apple cider vinegar – though I’ve found sauerkraut juice is the best flavor, in my opinion!
- Tapioca Flour: Will provide a little stretch to the cheese when melting it (i.e. on pizza, toast, etc.). Alternatively, use arrowroot flour. For best ‘melting’ results, use ‘Kappa Carrageenan’.
- Agar Powder: It’s important to use 100% pure agar powder and not something with less strength – like brands that contain mainly maltodextrin (I use the NOW Foods brand). If you use agar flakes, you’ll need 3x as much (6 tbsp). Alternatively, you could use Kappa Carrageenan, though then you’ll need just 1 1/2 tbsp and won’t need to cook it for 5 minutes – just heat with the other ingredients and simmer for 1-minute maximum.
- Spices: I use onion powder, garlic powder, smoked paprika, and salt. Optionally, you can also add a pinch of turmeric powder for a more yellowish color (see recipe notes).
For the full ingredients list, measurements, complete recipe method, and nutritional information, read the recipe card below.
How To Make Firm Vegan Cheese?
Step 1: Create a cheese sauce
- Grease the inside of a medium bowl/dish (mine measures 5.5 x 3-inches/ 14 x 7.5 cm) with a neutral oil and set aside.
- Add all the ingredients except the sauerkraut juice and tapioca flour to a saucepan and stir well with a whisk.
- Bring the mixture to a gentle simmer over medium heat, stirring frequently. Once it begins to simmer, set your timer to 5 minutes and allow it to cook (without ever boiling!), stirring occasionally. The mixture will thicken as it cooks.
Step 2: Add the extra ingredients and thicken
- In a small bowl, mix the lukewarm sauerkraut juice and tapioca flour. Add the mixture to the saucepan and stir with a whisk.
It’s important that the juice isn’t cold or else it will make the cheese sauce set quickly due to the agar agar.
- Continue to simmer for a further minute as the dairy-free cheese thickens further, stirring frequently. Then immediately pour the sauce into the prepared bowl/dish (it begins to harden quickly – so be fast!) and press down lightly with a spatula to smooth it down.
Step 3: Chill the vegan cheese until set
- Allow it to cool at room temperature until the bowl is just slightly warm, not hot, and then chill it in the refrigerator for at least three hours (or overnight) until the cheese is fully set. You can now enjoy it!
Now, I know that no-one needs anyone to tell them how to enjoy their cheese; but a few suggestions for this vegan cheese recipe certainly couldn’t hurt.
- Slice and serve as part of a cheese board or platter along with fruits, veggies, and Homemade Bread and crackers.
- Use this dairy-free cheese within sandwiches or toasties – like this Vegan Grilled Cheese or Vegan Kebab Sandwich. Or even melted over this Gluten-Free Naan.
- Sprinkled over pasta dishes – like this Lentil Bolognese.
- Within Mexican-Inspired dishes – like these Vegan Enchiladas, or Quesadillas.
- Sprinkled liberally over fries – like these Loaded Nacho Fries or Chili Cheese Fries.
- Over pizza – like this Mexican Pizza, Vegan Calzone, or Sweet Potato Pizza.
- With Burgers and Hotdogs – like this Black Bean Burger.
- As part of a salad bowl – like this Brown Rice Salad or Mexican Avocado Salad.
- And lastly, this plant-based cheese can be used in place of, or combined with, most recipes where I’ve used my cheese sauce on this blog, including; Stuffed Zucchini Boats or Stuffed Eggplant, Breakfast Burritos, and tons more!
How to store homemade vegan cheese?
Once set, the leftovers can be kept, covered, in the fridge for up to 5 days. You can also freeze it, in an airtight freezer-safe container, for up to 3 months.
Can I flavor the dairy-free cheese?
Yes, you can definitely experiment with different flavors (another reason this is the best vegan cheese ever). With this hard cheese substitute, I like to experiment with adding different herbs, spices, and seasonings.
For instance; garlic and herb, Italian herbs, add extra paprika and a dash of liquid smoke for smokier results, a dash of cayenne/chili powder and some red pepper flakes for heat, truffle or miso paste for extra umami, etc.
Does vegan cheese melt?
This really depends on what cheese substitute you’re using. However, yes, it’s entirely possible to make your dairy-free cheese melt – which this recipe does.
Within this recipe, the coconut fats are one element that helps the cheese to melt; meanwhile, the tapioca starch allows the cheese to become stretchy as it melts. While this cheese doesn’t melt as much as dairy versions, there is still some melt and ‘spread’, which I love. See the before and after photo:
Recipe Notes & Variations
- You can shred/grate it straight from the fridge or freeze it for 5-10 minutes beforehand. It works either way, as the coconut cheese is quite firm, but the freeze time can make it a little easier. This is because I’ve included ingredients to make this cheese able to melt – so it isn’t quite as solid as it would be, otherwise.
- For a stronger ‘cheesy’ flavor, feel free to slightly increase the amount of nutritional yeast used.
- Be careful to measure out the agar and tapioca starch accurately. Even the slightest increase/decrease can change the texture and results of the plant-based cheese quite drastically.
- Note that some agar agar brands will differ in strength and consistency – so you may have slightly different results from my own. Just make sure to use one that is 100% agar.
Other Vegan Cheese Recipes
- Easy Vegan Cheese Sauce
- Veggie Mac & Cheese
- Vegan Fondue
- Dairy-Free Cottage Cheese
- Vegan Parmesan
- Vegan Ricotta Cheese
- Vegan Cheddar Cheese
- Vegan Mozzarella Cheese
If you give this nut-free vegan cheese recipe a try, I’d love a comment and ★★★★★ recipe rating below. Also, please don’t forget to tag me in re-creations on Instagram or Facebook with @elavegan #elavegan – I love seeing your recreations.
- 1 (13.5 oz) can (360 g) coconut milk unsweetened (see notes)
- 4 tbsp (26 g) nutritional yeast (see notes)
- 2 tbsp (15 g) agar powder 100% pure (see notes)
- 1 1/4 tsp salt
- 1 tsp onion powder
- 1 tsp garlic powder
- 1/4 tsp smoked paprika
- 1/3 cup (80 g) sauerkraut juice lukewarm
- 1 1/2 tbsp tapioca flour (see notes)
- Watch the video in the post for easy visual instructions.Grease the inside of a small/medium bowl or container of choice (mine measures 5.5 x 3 inches / 14 x 7.5 cm) with a neutral oil and set aside.
- Add all ingredients except the sauerkraut juice and tapioca flour to a saucepan and stir with a whisk.
- Bring the mixture to a simmer over medium heat, stirring frequently. Once it simmers, set your timer to 5 minutes. Let it simmer over low heat (do not let it boil) and stir occasionally as it will thicken the longer it cooks.
- In a small bowl, mix the sauerkraut juice with tapioca flour. It's important that the juice is not cold (otherwise, it will make the cheese sauce set partially). Add the mixture to the saucepan after 5 minutes and stir with a whisk.
- Continue to simmer for 1 minute, it will thicken even more, so I recommend stirring frequently. Then immediately pour the cheese sauce into the prepared bowl (it hardens fast, so try to be quick) and press it down slightly with a spatula.
- Let it cool until the bowl is just slightly warm, not hot, then refrigerate for at least 3 hours (or overnight) until set. Enjoy with these crackers!
Video Of The Recipe
- Store leftovers covered in the fridge for up to 5 days or freeze.
- Coconut milk: Do not use boxed or lite coconut milk, the result won't be good. You need full-fat coconut milk. Shake the can and use everything (the creamy part and the water, if separated).
- If you are afraid of any coconut flavor (I didn't notice any), you could experiment with a different plant-based milk and add 4 tablespoons of refined coconut oil. The refined coconut oil doesn't have any coconut flavor at all. In that case, reduce the amount of plant-based milk by 4 tablespoons.
- Agar agar: It's important to use 100% pure agar powder (I use the NOW Foods brand). If you have agar flakes, you will need to use 3-times as much (6 tablespoons).
- Note: You could experiment with Kappa Carrageenan instead of agar agar. The difference will be that you need to use less (just 1 1/2 tablespoon instead of 2), plus you don't have to cook it for 5 minutes. Just heat it with all other ingredients and simmer for max. 1 minute.
- Sauerkraut juice: It adds flavor and tang, similar to dairy-cheese. Alternatively, use other pickling brine, olive brine (then reduce the salt), or water combined with 2 tsp lemon juice/ apple cider vinegar - though I've found sauerkraut juice is the best flavor, in my opinion!
- Tapioca flour: You can use arrowroot flour instead. It will add a little stretch to the vegan cheese if you melt it (on pizza or toast).
- The vegan cheese melts just slightly. If you want it to melt, even more, choose Kappa Carrageenan, as it does yield a better result. Also, if you choose a brand of coconut milk with more fat, it will melt better.
- Color of the cheese: I use a brand of nutritional yeast (with the addition of B-vitamins which color the Nooch yellowish). However, if your nutritional yeast isn't yellow, you can add a pinch of turmeric powder.
- Nutrition facts are for 1 piece (about 60 grams) if you cut the cheese into 8 pieces.
Nutrition information is an estimate and has been calculated automatically
Looks like a delicious recipe. Do I have to use Coconut oil in the recipe? It’s only a question as unfortunately, I’m allergic to coconut so is there an alternative. It’s okay if there isn’t.
Hi Leanne, any milk/cream with more fat like cashew cream would work too. 🙂
Do you add the kappa carrageenan, if using instead of agar at step 3 or 5?
Hi Belinda, I mentioned the following in my post: “Alternatively, you could use Kappa Carrageenan, though then you’ll need just 1 1/2 tbsp and won’t need to cook it for 5 minutes – just heat with the other ingredients and simmer for 1-minute maximum.”
I made it last night, and was surprised at how good it was! It isn’t firm enough for slicing, but it spreads very well. The texture and flavor remind me of the Hickory Farms cheese logs my parents always liked. Next time I make it, I think I’ll shape into a log and roll it in chopped pecans or walnuts to serve at a party.
BTW, I replaced the coconut milk with coconut cream, which has a higher fat content and more body.. (NOT to be confused with cream of coconut, which contains loads of added sugar.)
Thanks for your feedback, Bob! 🙂
This is not but free, it contains coconut which is a tree nut product.
I made this for the first time and it turned out exactly as yours! What a great cheese substitute! You have amazing talent coming up with these recipes! Thanks so much!!!
I am so glad it turned out great! Thanks for your feedback, Karen. 🙂
Mine didn’t solidify. I looked up what to replace the agar with, and xanthun gum was listed as a substitute. Could that be why?
Xanthan gum is NOT listed in this recipe as a substitute. Where do you see it, please?
Awesome. Just made my life easier and better. Thank you
You are so welcome, Suzanne! 🙂
What a great recipe! When I tried it for the first time, it came together very easily, sliced like a dream even with a traditional cheese slicer, tastes amazing and then, when I put the shredded cheese on the pizza, it didn’t melt. At all. I tried again another time to melt it on toast and it also did not melt.. It held its shape as the individual strands of cheese started to sweat instead. I did eventually manage to melt it into a cheese sauce in a pot using almond milk on the stove while constantly whisking it. Did this happen because of the Agar agar? I am using 100% agar. Perhaps I should try reducing the amount agar but I’m not sure by how much to reduce, based on your comment, that a little bit out can make big difference. I also live along the Rocky Mountains in Canada – so that means I’m at the beginning of what would be considered High Elevation. I do have to alter my cooking/baking to accommodate the higher elevation but I didn’t think it would effect making this recipe? Any suggestions?
Hi Dez, thanks for your feedback. It doesn’t melt very easily, I noticed broiling does help, but it’s definitely not comparable to dairy cheese. I think the more fat it contains, the easier it would melt. Adding a few tablespoons of refined coconut oil would certainly help here, but it would make it less healthy at the same time. 🙂