A grilled cheese sandwich is an easy-to-make American classic. While this dish might not seem compatible with a vegan diet, the truth is there are many ways to give the bread and melty cheese combo a dairy-free twist.
“Vegan cheese has come so far in the last 5-10 years from barely edible to actually quite delicious,” said Nisha Vora, creator of the vegan cooking blog Rainbow Plant Life. “However, not all vegan cheeses are suitable for a grilled cheese sandwich, so you need to be selective.”
She believes the most important factor to consider when choosing a dairy-free cheese for a grilled cheese sandwich is meltability.
“A lot of vegan cheeses just don’t melt well enough to use for a grilled cheese,” she explained. “In terms of taste, I prefer a mild-flavored cheese because it’s similar to the classic grilled cheese I ate as a kid.”
Below, Vora and other vegan culinary experts share their favorite dairy-free cheeses for a grilled cheese sandwich.
Field Roast Creamy Original Chao Slices
“The Creamy Original Chao Slices are an excellent choice,” Vora said. “They melt quite well and the flavor is nice and mellow, nothing funky or overwhelming.”
Once you add your grilled cheese to the pan, she recommended covering it with the lid for about five minutes over medium heat.
“This serves to steam the cheese, helping it to melt easier,” she said. “Once the bottom slice of bread is golden brown, take off the lid and flip your grilled cheese and cook uncovered for an additional three minutes.”
Violife Just Like Smoked Provolone Slices
“For the tastiest vegan grilled cheese, I recommend Violife’s Smoked Provolone,” said Ashley Melillo, founder of the plant-based recipe blog Blissful Basil. “It melts into the most gooey, creamy deliciousness and has a subtle but lovely smoked flavor.”
Veganosity founders Linda and Alex Meyer also recommended Violife’s Smoked Provolone Slices for its meltability and taste.
“We even use these to make macaroni and cheese,” she added.
And Natalie Slater of Bake and Destroy shared a recipe for an elevated sandwich using the dairy-free cheese.
“For fancier grilled cheeses, I love Violife Smoked Provolone Slices melted with some thinly sliced green apples, red onion and black pepper,” she said.
Follow Your Heart Smoked Gouda Slices
“As someone who first started eating vegan cheese 30 years ago, I can say both variety and quality have improved drastically,” said Anya Todd, a dietitian specializing in vegan nutrition. “That said, Follow Your Heart has been around since 1970, and their vegan cheese slices are still one of my faves. They melt and stretch, which is exactly what I want in a grilled cheese sammich!”
Vora also endorsed Follow Your Heart, specifically the smoked gouda flavor.
“For a more nontraditional grilled cheese, the Follow Your Heart Smoked Gouda Slices are a great option,” she said. “It has more of a smoky flavor but still melts really well.”
Sheese Mature Cheddar
“For a good grilled cheese, we love the mature cheddar by Sheese,” said Maša Ofei of Heartful Table. “It’s a great-tasting cheese that melts nicely, has a bit of stretch and is soy-free.”
She noted that it doesn’t have the “artificial taste” some other vegan cheeses can and slices just like dairy cheese.
“If you want that melt-in-your-mouth experience from a dairy-free grilled cheese sandwich, I recommend giving this cheese a go,” she added.
Treeline Herb Garlic Spreadable Cheese
Lauren Toyota, founder of the Hot for Food blog, is a fan of Treeline’s vegan cheese products, which include shreds, slices, soft French styles and more.
“Shreds can be a bit messy for grilled cheese I think, so I usually avoid those,” she said. “To take it over the top, sometimes I’ll spread on a garlic and herb cashew based spreadable cheese for extra cheesiness. My favorite brand for that is Treeline Cheese.”
Field Roast Smoked Original Chao Slices
“For the best vegan grilled cheese, I recommend the Field Roast Chao Cheese ‘Smoked’ slices,” said Brandi Doming, author of “The Vegan 8” cookbook. “They taste authentic like dairy cheese, melt, and are incredibly delicious.”
She also praised the plant-based cheese’s rich flavor, which brings a smokiness to the sandwich.
“My daughter loves them, as well,” Doming added. “There is no off texture or taste, just delicious cheesy goodness!”
So Delicious Dairy Free Mozzarella Style Shreds
Gunjan Dudani, founder of Kiipfit, endorsed the mozzarella cheese-style shreds from So Delicious Dairy Free.
“I love its rich texture when cooked,” she said. “It has nice soft and soothing taste that is very close to the regular cheese. It melts well and stretches just as expected.”
Made with coconut oil and potato starch, this dairy-free cheese is Dudani’s favorite for grilled cheese sandwiches, but she also likes to eat it straight from the bag.
“I always recommend Violife Original or a combination of the original flavor and mozzarella shreds,” said Kim Sujovolsky, a certified plant-based cook and co-founder of Brownble. “Both are very cheesy, tangy and melt incredibly well, perfect for a good grilled cheese sandwich.”
Erin Wysocarski, the recipe developer behind Olives for Dinner, also endorsed Violife’s shreds, particularly the cheddar variety.
“Violife melts beautifully on a grilled cheese sandwich and is super rich and creamy. ‘Butter’ your bread with vegan butter or mayo and the crispness pairs perfectly with the texture of the melted cheese.”
Follow Your Heart American Slices
For a classic “just like mom used to make” grilled cheese sandwich, Slater goes for Follow Your Heart’s American Slices.
“They deliver that nostalgic, mild and creamy American cheese flavor and melt beautifully,” she said.
Nabati Cheeze Mozzarella
“When making vegan grilled cheese, I love to combine two different kinds of cheese to get the best balance of flavor and meltiness,” said Melanie McDonald, founder of A Virtual Vegan and author of “Vegan Comfort Cooking.” “Not all vegan cheese melts well, and of course, a grilled cheese sandwich needs to be very melty and oozy!”
Nabati Cheeze brand mozzarella is McDonald’s go-to cheese for melting purposes.
“It melts way better than any other vegan cheese I’ve tried,” she said. “Then I add a couple of slices of Violife smoked provolone or cheddar for more flavor. This combination ensures gooey grilled cheese perfection!”
Field Roast Tomato Cayenne Chao Slices
The Meyers enjoy all of the Field Roast Chao Slices, especially the Tomato Cayenne variety.
“They melt like dairy and have delicious flavor,” the mother-daughter duo said.
Dudani is also a fan of Violife’s vegan cheddar, which comes in shredded, sliced, block and spreadable forms.
“This tastes best when cooked or melted,” she said. “It melts really well just like regular cheese and stretches equally well.”
She touted its cheddar flavor and the sense of comfort and familiarity it offers in a grilled cheese sandwich.
“It’s a great cheese alternative made with coconut oil and enriched with vitamin B12,” Dudani noted. “It’s nut-free, soy-free and gluten-free, so it is absolutely suitable if you have any allergies.”
So Delicious Dairy Free Cheddar Style Shreds
For Dudani, the cheddar cheese-style shreds from So Delicious Dairy Free are best when eaten directly out of the bag, but they’re also great in a grilled cheese sandwich.
“It has same tangy and salty taste like the original cheddar cheese,” she said. “The best part, it has no aftertaste. When melted, it creates a nice smooth flavor in the sandwich. The ultimate result is simply outstanding and leaves you wanting for more.”
Homemade Nacho Cheese
“When it comes to making epic, gooey, melty, vegan grilled cheese sandwiches, I recommend making your own homemade vegan cheese,” said Sam Turnbull, a vegan cookbook author and food blogger. “Instead of taking a solid cheese and trying to melt it, I prefer making a cheese that is already in a melted state.”
She recommended her recipe for melty stretchy gooey vegan nacho cheese for an ideal grilled cheese sandwich.
“The cheese sauce takes only 15 minutes to make ― only five minutes if you have a high-powered blender,” Turnbull explained. “The key ingredient in this recipe is tapioca starch, which makes the cheese sauce super stretchy and gooey. Spread this nacho cheese thick between two slices of buttered bread (vegan butter of course), toast it up in your frying pan, cut in half, and get ready for that epic cheese pull!”