The Best Cheeses For People Who Can't Eat Cheese

Happy National Cheese Month! Oh cheese... It’s creamy, it’s savoury, it’s sweet, sometimes it’s both, and has a rind that, when you’re a bit drunk, you can eat and feel really great about afterwards. It’s also the one thing I can’t enjoy without projectile vomiting a few hours later.

Around 15% of the UK population are lactose intolerant. Add to that the estimated half a million vegans and the 2-7% who are allergic to cow's milk specifically, and you’ve got a significant portion of people who fucking hate National Cheese Month. Not because they hate cheese, oh no, but because they are shut out of enjoying its creamy, savoury, sweet, rind-y goodness. Ignoring the fact that it’s gone off udder juice for a moment.

If you’re the sort of person who believes a pasta dish without grated cheese is essentially bald, then this is for you. Those of us who can’t eat cheese (for ethical or physical reasons) don’t need to go without. Beautiful, tender, caring humans have created a few cheese substitutes for exactly this reason and one of them has to be, at the very least, sort of alright.

From Violife to Cheezly, and not that much in between (there aren’t many milk-free cheese brands to choose from, sorry) I will go forth and test the cheeses from the perspective of someone who waited ten years to go see Madame Butterfly, went after accidentally eating some milk that morning, and consequently vommed all over her posh opera dress on the train there.

NB: I won’t be including lactose-free cheeses, these are just milk-free. Mainly because I’m allergic to cow’s milk so, if I tested the lacto-free cheeses, I’d throw up everywhere again.
1. Tesco Medium Soya Cheese
Huge props to Tesco for creating their own brand of fake cheese. No other supermarket has had a go, and you know what? It’s not that bad. Sure, it smells like an alien’s interpretation of what cheese might be like if it had forgotten to write it down, but isn’t as dreadful as I just made it sound. In fact, it’s actually pretty nice. There’s also strong soya cheese, which is equally good.

Tastes like: The cheese on the board that nobody quite understands, but you keep eating it out of curiosity because it’s actually quite nice. You do feel like you’re eating red cheese.

The texture is: Slightly crumbly and a bit like dry wax but still good for grating. A harder, more solid faux cheese than Violife.

Does it melt? Does it ever! This cheese is excellent melted onto things but, like with most of them, might be a bit overpowering on its own on toast. You need other flavours in there. Try on pasta (really great) on pizza (REALLY great) and grated over a jacket potato with beans (dying).

Does it work on a cracker? Yes, I’m really coming round to the idea of a slice of this. At first, it was a bit much, but now I find myself craving it topped with branston on an oat cake.

Good if you... Used to eat strong cheeses, or have a real penchant for flavoursome cheese and miss it oh so terribly. This is one flavour you might be able to get your head around.
2. Tesco Smoked Soya Cheese

Even bigger props to Tesco for creating different flavours within their cheese range, showing a real dedication to the vegans out there. And guess what? This is just as good as their normal soya cheese flavours, except it does actually taste smoked.

Tastes like: Smoked cheese! The smokey flavour actually masks the soya aftertaste that all of these cheeses, bar perhaps the Violife, struggle with.

The texture is: Again, slightly crumbly and like dry wax. All too easy to do two strokes of the cheese grater only to find you’ve grated the entire block.

Does it melt? This stuff is great melted onto stuff if you’re into melted smoked cheese, which I really am. Actively adds to the flavour of sauces, rather than being masked by them, and can't recommend it on a bowl of nice tomato soup enough.

Does it work on a cracker? Big time. Tomato, pickle, this cheese, and you’ve got a party. Again, it’s a strong taste so if you’re not into smoked cheese then give it a miss.

Good if you… Really miss smoked cheese with the passion of a thousand burning suns and will do whatever it takes to get some form of hit.

3. Cheezly White Cheddar Substitute

This comes in the sort of packaging reminiscent of medicine or a homemade bath bomb from a market. Confusing, considering it’s supposed to look like cheese and also a bit disappointing because, when you take it out the fridge, you feel like the kid who brought his packed lunch to the restaurant. Like an outsider. And you’re not, OK? You can bring your packed lunch anywhere and who cares if you can’t eat cheese? Anyway.

Tastes like: A bit of clay someone found in a river and filled with cheese flavour.

The texture is: Similar to the other soy-based cheeses, but nothing too offensive.

Does it melt? Well, it sort of melts away. When I grated it onto my pasta, it didn’t ruin the pasta but it didn’t really add anything either. The texture disappeared to nothing, and reminded me a bit of the tofu in miso soup – you want to question it for hours about what it thinks it’s adding to the party.

Does it work on a cracker? No I felt sick and stopped eating it. Then I put pickle and a tomato on it and the weird aftertaste still dominated. I think that if you threw this cheese through an active nuclear testing site, its weird aftertaste would still dominate.

Good if you… Have really, really forgotten what cheese is. Or have never eaten cheese. And like pain.

4. Cheezly: mozzarella substitute

After the white cheddar incident, you can imagine how psyched I was to try their mozzarella. Turns out you shouldn’t judge a book by the last fake cheese you ate, because this was genuinely pleasant. No, it didn’t really resemble mozzarella, but it resembled cheese. Which is more than I can say for the white cheddar.

Tastes like: Bland mozzarella. It soaks up any flavour around it, and the texture means that if you eat it while doing something else, then you won’t notice it’s not actual cheese.

The texture is: Oops, I wrote about the texture in the words allocated to taste. OK, well, it’s a bit wet like mozzarella, and a bit softer than their clay cheddar, which makes it a lot more palatable. I even chose to eat more of it on the chunky soup I was planning to eat for lunch.

Does it melt? Again, it goes a bit tofu. It disappeared into my chunky soup like it was embarrassed to be there. I felt a bit sorry for it actually, almost as if it knew that melting was mozzarella’s one USP and that it had, therefore, failed. But no, old friend. You haven’t failed. Because when I put you on a pizza you worked. You soaked up the flavour and, while you weren’t particularly stringy, you didn’t form a weird plastic film or sprout hair or anything.

Does it work on a cracker? Yes! I went for a dijon mustard and had a bloody lovely time. We’re considering going away to Dorset together now.

Good if you… Want a pizza but can’t fathom it without cheese. Also, if you want crackers and cheese.
5. Violife White Cheddar Substitute

Oh hello. Oh hello. I think we may have found a winner here, just because this will appeal to a much wider cheese audience than the stronger tastes. Smooth, light, with a texture that resembles cheese (a genuine feat if some of the other contenders are anything to go by), the first time I tried this was in a Tesco three months after being told I was allergic to milk. I ate it on the way home and burst into tears I was so happy.

Tastes like: Very, very mild edam

The texture is: Like very, very mild edam. Indistinguishable from normal cheese.

Does it melt? This is where it falls down; Violife isn’t great at melting. It creates a thick plasticky film which is difficult and sort of unpleasant to eat. Stick to it cold.

Does it work on a cracker? Well, yes. Violife is to crackers what actual cheese is to crackers. A bizarre way of saying that, once you’ve popped a tomato and some pickle on a chunk, you can’t tell the difference. Unless you’re really concentrating and someone tells you it isn’t cheese.

Good if you… Just want something that tastes like actual cheese, and are fed up of weird soya aftertastes.
6. Bute Island Creamy Sheese (not a typo, this is what it’s called)

God I miss Philadelphia (other brands of cream cheese are available.) I miss it all cool and creamy on a cracker, I miss putting it in sauces and I miss eating it out of the packet with a spoon. This was pretty hard, because Bute Island do a really good job of replicating this, but it just made me miss bae more.

Tastes like: Not the same as cream cheese. It isn’t as cool, it isn’t as creamy, and we’ve all got to just deal with the fact that creaminess is nigh-on impossible to come by without milk. So moving on from that, it’s perfectly palatable and after taste-testing it, I then went back a few hours later and ate it off a spoon which is a good sign.

The texture is: Pretty spot on. The sheese is bit denser than your normal light and airy cream cheese but the difference is minute.

Does it melt? Cream cheese isn’t supposed to melt. And don’t add it to sauces because the whole point of adding a bit of philly to your pasta sauce was that it would add creaminess. This, however, adds soy and congeals. So just enjoy it as nature intended (on a cracker).

Is it good on a cracker? You know what, yes it is. I had it with cherry tomatoes and mustard, and I genuinely did have a good time with this cheese. Would recommend to a delicately stomached friend.

Good if you… Really miss cream cheese but can deal with the fact that nothing will ever compare to it. Starting to think Sinead O’Connor’s smash hit was actually about cream cheese.

7. Violife Prosociano (vegan parmesan)

The other day I was explaining how I don’t even miss cheese anymore, then realised my pasta sauce would never be the same again without parmesan and nearly burst into tears so I think I was either lying to myself or I’m pregnant. Either way, I needed this from Violife. I really needed it. Also, writing this has made me realise I probably eat too much pasta but whatever. This cheese has saved my life.

Tastes like: Cheese! They’ve gone for the less is more approach, so it has a faint tang of parmesan without overpowering anything. If you were a bonafide cheese eater, you’d probably think this was just really mild parmesan and maybe ask for something stronger.

The texture is: Excellent. Hard, good for grating, and looks like parmesan on your plate. It’s amazing how important this is for tricking your brain, which is probably why I hate the Cheezly packaging so much. This packaging, however, looks exactly like parmesan too which, again, is really helpful.

Does it melt? In a sense, has parmesan ever really melted? It just sits there and then you eat it. So no, this doesn’t melt, but you don’t particularly need it to.

Is it good on a cracker? I mean, again, it’s parmesan so probably don’t put it on a cracker.

Good if you… Miss parmesan on your pasta, because this nails it.

More from Food & Drinks