Cheese-Free Cheese

The ‘food technologists’ still haven’t quite got cheese sussed. If you’re expecting a perfect imitation of Gruyère or Stilton you are doomed to a life of disappointment. Doomed, I say.


This is about as good as they get. It’s described on the label as a ‘soya-based solid food’, but don’t despair as it’s not quite that bad. The texture is sort-of-cheddarish, and the basic flavour is fairly cheesy. The back-room boys have, however, gone a bit overboard in the artificial flavour department and produced ‘Mozzarella’ (don’t), ‘Hickory-Smoked Cheddar’ (hmmm, safer not to), ‘Cheshire’ (acceptable) and ‘Blue’ flavour (which tastes more-or-less like a blue-vein cheese but still has the texture of cheddar, which scrambles the gastrological neurones slightly). Stick to ‘Cheddar’ flavour: it’s perfectly tasty and makes a decent addition to sandwiches (just don’t toast it: see below). It’s from ‘Bute Island Foods’.

Where to get it: Pretty ubiquitous in health food shops.

Gotchas: Doesn’t melt. At all. Cheese on toast becomes a nightmare of blue smoke and small black crispy bits.


A slightly soggy cheddar-like substance, brought to you by the Redwood Company. Almost edible on its own in sandwiches etc., but not quite. Its one overwhelming advantage is that it (almost) melts. This is the artificial cheese that you need for cooking: grate it finely and it will make a perfectly acceptable cheese sauce or topping for pizza. You do need to heed the ‘grate it finely’ bit, though, or you get lumps.

Update: the Redwood Company’s boffins must have been working overtime recently, as Cheezly now is New! and Improved! It is, too: both flavour and texture are better than they were, and I’d quite happily stick the stuff in a sandwich now. It still melts well, too!

Where to get it: Pretty ubiquitous in health food shops. Occasionally found in larger Tescos either in the Organic Foods section or with the speciality cheeses depending on the mood of the shelf-stackers that week. It’s vegan.

Gotchas: Fungus. This stuff can generate more green fluff than a batch of day-old chicks and a bucket of E123. It also does bright red and a sort of mottled purple. Lovely. Our intrepid (and at times most unsavoury) investigations have revealed the secret to keeping Cheezly fluff-free: don’t touch it, even with well-scrubbed hands. Handle using gloves or a plastic bag: if you touch it you’ll get a beautiful set of fingerprints outlined in mould.


Reddish orange, damp, and thoroughly unappetising. Is advertised as melting well, but the catch is that you still have to eat it afterwards. It’s vegan(TM), if that’s important to you. Most of the other cheeses in this section are as well, but Vegerella seems to be the only one that’s paid for the logo.

Where to get it: health food shops only.

Gotchas: Not nice.

Tofutti Better than Cream Cheese

A substitute for cream cheese. It’s significantly sweeter than cream cheese (apart from the over-processed Kraft stuff) but still quite tasty. The plain variety is quite good as a sandwich spread, and there are several flavoured varieties which make a good dip-type snack. This can be a bit hard on the crackers, though, as it’s rather firm.

Where to get it: most health food shops, and very occasionally in some supermarkets. Not hard to find if you look around.

Gotchas: bits of broken cracker from unsuccessful attempts to prise it from its container.

Original Creamy Scheese

Having tried this on my sandwiches today, I’m sad to say this isn’t cream cheese either! There’s nothing wrong with it as a food substance, it just doesn’t taste anything like cream cheese. The texture is quite good (not as firm as some substitutes I’ve tried), but if you ate it with your eyes shut you wouldn’t guess it was cream cheese as the taste is all wrong. It smells of soya, which is a bit off-putting, and it has the usual slightly flat taste associated with that smell. The really odd bit, however, is the slight cheddary flavour which has been added. The lid describes it as “A delicious alternative to cream cheese”. It’s not. It’s not actively unpleasant, but neither is it cream cheese.

It is dairy free, gluten free, lactose free, cholesterol free, vegan etc. etc. Sadly it’s going in the food free category. I’m not in the market for martyrdom. If something doesn’t taste good, I don’t care how ethically it’s made I’m not eating it.

Where to get it: health food shops only. Not cheap at £2.29 for 255g/9oz.

Gotchas: just doesn’t taste right. Haven’t the people who make these substitutes ever tasted the real thing?

Pure soft and creamy spread

The Pure website promotes this as the perfect solution to making cheesecakes. I have yet to try this, though it’s high on my list of experiments for very soon. It’s possible that the spread will be good for this, but I’m afraid it’s not good on bread. It’s MUCH too sweet for cream cheese and has the flatness that seems to go with soya far too often. Another disappointment. This one I actively disliked. The sweetness is just all wrong for anything pretending to be cream cheese.

where to get it:  most health food shops and large supermarkets. Morrison’s, Waitrose and larger Tesco’s all carry it.

gotchas: doesn’t taste anything like cream cheese.

Tofutti Rice Slices

A fairly unappetising-looking pack of cheese slices individually wrapped in plastic. Don’t be put off, though: it doesn’t taste bad (the Mozzarella one actually tastes Mozzarellish), and it melts! This is now our #1 choice for pizzas, and it makes excellent cheese on toast with a bit of salt and pepper. There are several flavours: we’ve only tried the Mozzarella, so let us know what the others are like if you’ve tried them!

Where to get it: Health food shops. It’s still quite new, so ask your local shop to order it if they haven’t got it.

Gotchas: looks a bit plasticky, and the wrappings have obstreperous-cling-film factor.

Galaxy Foods Soya Slices

A dairy-free (and apparently everything-else-free according to the label) version of the ubiquitous plastic Kraft cheese slice thingies. Similar principle to the Rice Slices above.

Where to get it: health food shops

Gotchas: Bright Bright Orange. Cheese slices shouldn’t be this colour. Even Red Leicester isn’t this fluorescent.

Parmesan (several sorts)

The state of the art in Parmesan substitutes isn’t bad, actually. Although it doesn’t quite have the bite of the real thing, it’s definitely Parmesan-flavoured and works quite nicely sprinkled over pasta. It’s also useful for boosting the cheesiness of some of the other cheese substitutes in cooking: see our cheese sauce recipe for an example.

Brands: There are several “dairy-free” parmesan substitutes available. However, be careful since many of them contain caseinates. These are fine if you’re on a lactose-free diet, but if you’re vegan or are completely dairy-free then these are no good. Luckily, there is one brand which is OK: “Florentino Parmazano” by St Giles Foods Ltd. It’s labelled as vegetarian, contains no dairy products and so is probably vegan (but it doesn’t have the little logo, probably because the little logo costs).

Where to get it: most health food shops, and very occasionally in some supermarkets. Not hard to find if you look around.