Cream cheese has always been a staple in my kitchen. This tangy, creamy spread is incredibly versatile and can be used in countless dressings, dips, and desserts. When I went vegan three years ago, I assumed my days of enjoying cream cheese-topped bagels were over. However, I was pleasantly surprised to discover a variety of vegan cream cheese substitutes at the store. After much trial and error, I've found some of the best vegan cream cheeses on the market. These cream cheese options are just like the real stuff, but are completely free of animal byproducts. Below, I've shared my favorite vegan cream cheese spreads, plus my recommendations for when each should be used.

1. Daiya Cream Cheeze

One of the most popular dairy-free brands is Daiya. It's mostly know for its mozzarella shreds, but the brand also carries a selection of coconut-based cream "cheezes." They have a very creamy, thick texture, and I recommend using it for spreading and not for baking. Price-wise, Daiya is very affordable and can be found at your local grocery store.

There currently are four flavors available: Plain, Garden Vegetable, Strawberry, and Chive & Onion. The last two are definitely the best ones, and the plain one is kind of flavorless so the additional ingredients in the other varieties give it a boost of flavor. 

You could use the chive & onion spread for dipping or as a spread on a bagel. The strawberry flavor tastes great paired with some graham crackers or served as a frosting shot, and works well for no-bake desserts like this strawberry cheesecake ball dip.

2. Kite Hill Cream Cheese Style Spread

Kite Hill's cream cheese is made with artisan almond milk and has a very subtle taste. It has a whipped, light texture and its unique flavor is good enough to enjoy on its own. This brand can be quite expensive as it's sold in specialty stores like Whole Foods, but it is worth every penny.

This cream cheese substitute is perfect for making trendy mermaid toast. Vegans love to mix it with natural food dyes to make colorful creations. My favorite way to eat it is spread on crackers or on toast, as it's very creamy and easy to spread. However, I wouldn't use it in baked goods because the flavor would be lost with the other ingredients. 

3. Tofutti Better Than Cream Cheese

Thick, easy to whip, and soy-based, this cream cheese substitute is my personal favorite. Not only because it's the cheapest, but also because it's the most versatile and it works in basically every recipe. I've made cheesecake, queso dip, mac n' cheese, and even ice cream with Tofutti's cream cheese. However, my favorite recipe to make with this substitute is cream cheese frosting. If you're making a dairy-free carrot cake or some vegan red velvet cupcakes, this should be your cream cheese substitute of choice. 

4. Homemade 

All the brands I've mentioned are easy to find in any supermarket, but if for some reason you were unable to go to the store you can always make your own. The homemade versions are usually nut-based and take some time to make, but they're crazy delicious. Plus, they tend to be healthier because they don't have any preservatives or thickeners in them.

In general, it's important to keep ing mind that most vegan cream cheese substitutes have a neutral, subtle flavor. This makes them especially easy to use in any non-vegan recipe, and I promise you won't be able to tell the difference once you're done baking. Don't be scared to give the dairy-free versions of your favorite foods a try!