Cheese 101

 Whether dairy hurts your stomach or you're ready to try your hand at the plant-based life style, odds are, you like cheese. In the US alone, 956,166,000 pounds of cheese is produced annually. 341 million pounds of this crazy huge amount is mozzarella. These high numbers are proof that cheese is a hot commodity. This isn't hard to believe; how many foods can your think of that either contain cheese already, or that would be made better with the addition of cheese? The answer is a lot.  This being said, feeling left out at family dinner or at pizza parties isn't unheard of for those of us who cannot eat dairy.  Thankfully, there are vegan and dairy-free cheeses available at most super markets today.  But some cheeses are better than others for various reasons. Here's the unofficial list of some of the best alternative mozzarella cheeses out there today.


As you can see in the sweet potato toast above, daiya cheese does melt pretty well.  When eaten uncooked, it kind of resembles the texture of cooked jasmine rice.  Don't let this turn you off of daiya,  because it has one of the better flavor profiles in comparison to some of the other vegan cheeses out there.  This brand is pretty well known and can be found in most grocery stores due to its popularity.  For $5.25 at Whole Foods per 8oz, daiya mozzarella shreds truly do taste like the real thing and even dairy consumers appreciate this product.  But what exactly is this cheese alternative made of if not dairy? 

Ingredients include: Filtered water, tapioca flour, expeller pressed non-GMO canola and/or safflower oil, coconut oil, pea protein, salt, vegan natural flavours, inactive yeast, vegetable glycerin, xanthan gum, citric acid (vegan, for flavour), titanium dioxide.   

At first glance, most of these ingredients seem pretty harmless, but what are vegetable glycerin, xanthan gum, and titanium dioxide?  Titanium dioxide is a naturally occurring mineral that is used for food protection.  Vegetable glycerin is simply a clear oil made of palm or coconut oils.  Xanthan gum is essentially fermented sugar that is used as a stabilizing agent in many foods.


This brand recently started popping up at some of my favorite grocery stores and health markets.  I saw this brand for the first time at BetterHealthStore, and I knew I had to try it out.  For the sake of keeping all our variables controlled, I found the price of this cheese at Whole Foods- $5.29.  Violife gets fairly gooey when melted; although not as much as real cheese.  I additionally found that this brand tastes super cheesy, so it's great on various dishes, my personal favorite being on salads. 

Ingredients: Filtered Water, Coconut Oil, Food Starch-Modified (Potato & Corn), Corn Starch, Salt (Sea Salt), Mozzarella Flavor (Vegan Sources), Olive Extract, Beta Carotene (Color), Vitamin B12, Powdered Cellulose Added to Prevent Caking.

None of these ingredients jump out as concerning or unnatural.  Beta carotene is a pigment found in carrots, and cellulose is just cooked plant fiber.  All of the ingredients in violife's mozzarella shreds check out as sustainable and nutritious.

So Delicious

So Delicious is another commonly found dairy-free cheese option.  This brand of dairy-free shredded mozzarella comes to  $4.99 per 8oz bag at Whole Foods.  It's pretty good when melted, and it gets a nice toasty color when baked.  The flavor of this cheese is insanely good when used in cooking, but I found that So Delicious isn't as yummy when eaten as is.  It doesn't have the same decadence that some of the other dairy-free cheeses have.  Don't get me wrong, it does taste good- It's just that some of the other brands taste better.

Ingredients: Organic Coconutmilk (Filtered Water, Organic Coconut Cream), Palm Oil, Modified Starches (Potato, Corn), Contains 2% Or Less Of: Salt, Potato Protein, Yeast Extract, Cultured Sugar (To Retain Freshness), Citric Acid, Cultures, Tapioca Dextrose, Natural Flavor, Xanthan Gum, Konjac Gum, Lactic Acid, Annatto Extract (Color), Cellulose (To Prevent Caking)

So Delicious contains more of those questionable looking ingredients than some of the other cheese alternatives.  Yeast extract contains a significant amount of sodium and MSG, so those with high blood pressure might think twice about consuming a lot of this brand. Tapioca Dextrose is a sweetener that is similar to glucose.  Konjac Gum comes from the root of the konjac plant- which is found in some Asian countries and it's used to give the shreds a more elastic texture.  Finally, annatto extract comes from the annatto plant, grown in Mexico and Brazil.  This plant is used for various things, like medicine and food coloring.  Not so scary anymore, huh?

Trader Joe's

I'm the type of person that looks forward to my weekly trips to the grocery store, and going to Trader Joe's is always a treat!  I always find so many cool new things to try, and I'm never disappointed.  Just when you thought Trader Joe's had everything, they go and make their own vegan mozzarella shreds.  But are these shreds really "just like real cheese"?  Unfortunately, I found that Trader Joe's vegan mozzarella wasn't nearly as cheesy as the previous dairy-free cheeses mentioned.  As labeled in the photo above, this cheese did melt... Maybe a bit too much; It got very runny and left a film in my mouth after eating.  On the flip side, this cheese has a great flavor when uncooked and sprinkled on top of a salad.  Because this cheese is name brand, I cannot compare it with the rest of the best alternative mozzarella cheeses today.  Typically, store brand items are cheaper than the name brands. 

Ingredients: Water, Canola Oil, Cornstarch, Vegetable Glycerin, Arrowroot Starch, Tri-calcium Phosphate, Pea Protein, Salt, Natural Vegan Flavors, Rice Maltodextrin, Lactic Acid (Non-Dairy), Sunflower Lecithin, Xanthan Gum, Annatto (color), Powdered Cellulose.   

Right away, we can recognize ingredients from previous vegan mozzarella shreds.  Additionally, there are some that are new to the vegan party.   Tricalcium Phosphate is a calcium salt of phosphoric acid, which sounds kinda spooky, but really it's actually good for building strong bones!  In contrast, Maltodextrin is a powder made from rice (in this case, but can also be made of other starches), and it's highly processed rendering this ingredient to be pretty unsubstantial.  Trader Joe's then tries to make up for its use of one unsubstantial ingredient by adding sunflower lecithin.  Sunflower lecithin is a phospholipid that is great for your heart, skin, brain and digestive health. 

Follow Your Heart

Follow Your Heart has tons of vegan products that I have found at Better Health, Whole Foods, and Fresh Thyme.  This brand has tons of vegan cred, and they make the best vegenaise and vegan parmesan to my knowledge.  But is their mozzarella just as good?  From a person who has been dairy-free for a while, I find that this cheese is pretty delightful, as well as affordable-in comparison to some other brands- at only $4.39 at 8oz.  The reviews for this cheese are pretty positive:  Follow Your Heart has high ratings, and many people claim to prefer it over other brands for cooking.    

Ingredients: Filtered Water, Organic Palm Fruit Oil, Modified Corn and Potato Starches, Natural Flavors (Plant Sources), Less than 2% of: Pea Fiber, Pea Starch, Bamboo Fiber, Calcium Phosphate, Rice Flour, Organic Vegetable Glycerin, Cellulose, Sunflower Lecithin, Sea Salt, Carrageenan (Vegetable Source), Calcium Sulfate, Citric Acid, Xanthan Gum, Disodium Phosphate, Sodium Citrate.

So we know fiber is astoundingly good for your health, but what's bamboo doing in your cheese?  It's used to give this brand its creamy, cheesy texture.  Carrageenan is a different story:  Although more human studies need to be had before a verdict is reached, there have been studies with unsettling findings.  The consuming of carrageenan could possibly have side effects including bloating, inflammation,  IBS, colon cancer, and food allergies


As someone who has been eating dairy-free cheeses for a while, it's safe to assume that my tastes are a bit skewed from that of a dairy consumer.  I am pretty biased towards plant-based products.  That being said, I can share what I've found from my experience as a dairy-free consumer to those who are open to trying the plant-based/dairy free lifestyle.  Furthermore, I took the reviews of customers into perspective when writing this article of the best alternative mozzarella cheeses today.  With the information provided in this article, I hope that you'll find it less difficult to pick between all the non-dairy mozzarella cheese varieties out there today.  Weigh your options!  Which contains the most substantial ingredients?  Which has the best overall flavor and texture combination?