By Alex Koons, Hot Tongue Pizza

All right, all right, all right, let’s acknowledge that vegan cheese has come a loooooong way. Remember when one measly brand used to be the only thing you could get—if you were lucky? Now you can get fermented cheese for a charcuterie board, American cheese for your burger, and smoked Gouda for a grilled cheese.

On the other hand, the vegan cheese game, in my opinion, still has a lot of hurdles to jump through before it hits as hard as the very thing it’s trying to replace. When it comes to cheese, I am a realist—I keep things as real as possible. Dairy is scary, but it’s delicious. What’s not delicious is all vegan cheeses.

Let’s not harp on that, though. For now, we’ll concentrate on the positive: my top five favorite vegan cheeses—and why and when I use them.

Related: Alex Koons shares his recipe for plant-based sausage

1. OATzarella: For Straight Out of the Bag
To me, O.Z. is a newcomer. I started grabbing this from Erewhon a couple of months back and was blown away that my son goes to town on it, even uncooked and cold. It’s by far got one of the best textures and flavors, just straight out of the bag. It’s also versatile—good for a quesadilla, grilled cheese or some pizza. One warning: The color gets a little weird during the melt, which shouldn’t matter, but we do eat with our eyes, so it’s worth noting. It’s also much pricier than its other classmates listed here. You get what you pay for, though: great flavor, good melt and satisfied taste buds.

2. Miyoko’s Liquid Mozzarella: For Pizza
I recently tried this cheese on some pizza at Purgatory Pizza, and it was fire. So many vegan cheeses generate this phlegm thing in the back of your mouth. I think it happens because of non-caking agents they use, but the Miyoko’s liquid mozz doesn’t do this. It’s a little hard to use and really only makes sense for pizza and pasta, but it’s amazing. It tastes a lot like the cheese I make at Hot Tongue (see No. 5, below).

3. Miyoko’s Hard Cheeses: For Charcuterie
This cheese is bomb. All of it. If you want to make a cheese board, this is the only way to go. I bet most people at your party won’t even know the difference between this cheese and its dairy counterparts. Miyoko’s also has a cookbook that has great, easy-to-make-at-home cheese. The real secret here is that the best vegan cheese you can get is the one you haven’t made yet.

4. Violife Sliced Cheeses: For Burgers, Sandwiches & Grilled Cheese
This is my go-to for burgers. I like the melt and the flavor. Throw this on a portobello mushroom, slap on some Grillo’s Pickles and some homemade Vegenaise on them buns, and you’ve got an instant classic. Violife offers great flavors in their sliced cheese varieties that can spice up any sandwich or burger.

5. My Own Recipe: For EVERYTHING
Check out the full recipe! The cheese is equally as good as all these cheeses above, and it’s made with far fewer ingredients. It’s also a blank canvas. It packs flavor on its own, but you can add some peppers to make pepper jack, or add liquid smoke to get smoked mozzarella. The flavor combinations are endless. Don’t sleep on it, give it a try! Click here for the recipe!

Alex Koons is the owner of Hot Tongue Pizza and co-owner of Purgatory Pizza, both in Los Angeles.


Food & Ingredients