The Best Vegan Cheeses for Pizza in the UK
Dairy-free cheeses have had a bad rap for a long time. Dismissed as gluey, waxy or just plain gross, they sit in the “don’t even go there” section of the dairy cooler. Right? Not any more.
If you’re vegan cheese-curious (for health or sustainability reasons), or if you haven’t tried non-dairy substitutes for a while, you’re in luck. Dairy-free cheeses have improved a lot over the last few years — and they’ve also become more readily available.
Recently, we surveyed the plant-based landscape to find the most pizza-friendly vegan cheese options. Read on to learn which products passed the Ooni melt test (and which fell flat).
A vegan cheese-splosion
The plus side of a growing vegan cheese industry? There’s more to choose from than a few sad bags of crayon-like shreds. The downside? The vegan cheese section can be a bit bewildering.
Options include chickpea cheese, rice starch cheese and cashew cheese — just to name a few. Whether you’re vegan or dairy-free by choice or by circumstance (according to the Food Intolerance Network, around 70% of the European population is lactose intolerant), it can be hard to select a brand or cheese type. Most non-dairy cheeses are shredded. Some come in “fresh” blocks. Some have a rind. And some are spreadable.
So which of these options makes for the best pizza?
We did the legwork, gathering (safely) a band of colleagues and pizza lovers from various departments — marketing, culinary, operations, creative — at our global headquarters in Broxburn, Scotland to prod, poke, taste and test pizzas topped with eight different vegan cheeses available on the UK market. Our team in Austin, TX (where Ooni has its US headquarters) did the same, surveying eight different cheeses available in the US.
In these blind taste tests, participants scored the cheeses on flavour, texture, body and meltability. We tasted all the cheeses raw and cooked (on a pizza). Each cheese topped a thin, 12-inch dough base — we used our sourdough dough balls — with a simple canned tomato and salt as the sauce. Pizzas were baked in Ooni Koda 16 ovens at 425°C for 60 to 90 seconds: The same treatment we’d give any dairy cheese.
We can’t say we’d recommend trying that many cheeses all at once ever again, but we did come to some useful conclusions — and we came up with some vegan cheese pro tips along the way. We didn’t rank the cheeses because we thought they all had something to offer, but you can find our overall favorites at the end of the list. Ready? Let’s go.
Mouse's Favorite Camembert
This cultured cashew cheese looks remarkably similar to real Camembert. Appearance and flavour-wise, its rind and soft creamy centre almost fooled us. There’s an umami flavour and a salty kick that our reviewers found reminiscent of Marmite. Earthy and buttery, Mouse’s Favorite Camembert would be equally at home on a cheeseboard as it would be on a pizza.
How we’d recommend using it: Use Mouse's Favorite Camembert as a stand-in for brie or Camembert in our crispy roast potato and truffle pizza recipe, or our bread wreath with baked Camembert and cranberry.
Kinda Co. Mozarellie
This spreadable cheese comes in a jar, making it quite different from a fresh ball of mozzarella, but easy to use as a pizza topping. Its smooth and shiny texture — which turned into a clay-like consistency when heated — reminded us of hummus. While the overall taste was quite mild, Kinda Co. Mozarellie did have a milky, creamy flavour that was very nice.
How we’d recommend using it: Given its smooth texture, Kinda Co. Mozarellie would work quite well in place of ricotta. We’d give it a go on our Tomato and Ricotta Pizza.
Tyne Chease Original
Tyne Chease Original block doesn’t compare itself directly to any distinct cheese style, but we found this spreadable, cashew-based cheese to have a tangy, nutty flavour — a bit like Parmesan. Our tasters found its saltiness divisive: Some loved it; some really didn’t.
How we’d recommend using it: The intensity of Tyne Chease Original can handle big, bold flavours. It would work well even with toppings as strong as preserved lemon and garlic cream — like on this Grandaddy Purp recipe. Sub Tyne Chease Original for the goat cheese, and use cashew cream in place of garlic cream — voila: You’ve got a delicious vegan pizza.
Ilchester Vegan Melting Mature
Potato starch, maize starch and yeast extract form the backbone of Ilchester Vegan Melting Mature. Among the products we sampled, our testers found it to be the most like cheese in appearance, with a taste like a strong cheddar. In the oven, the cheese burned quickly — faster than our dough cooked, actually — so it might be more suited to a low, slow bake rather than a quick Neapolitan pizza.
How we’d recommend using it: Try this intensely flavoured cheddar dupe as a topping on a Detroit-style, Grandma or Sicilian pizza recipe, where the cooking method is lower and slower than a Neapolitan pizza.
I Am Nut Ok Garlic Oil Rigotta
This jarred cheese is made from cashews, and it’s packed in garlic oil and lemon juice. While the tofu-like, crumbly texture was lumpy and less than appetizing, the flavour was great (it reminded our testers of bold Boursin Cheese). When cooked, I Am Nut Ok Garlic Oil Rigotta stayed delicious and got a bit earthier, but the texture didn’t improve.
How we’d recommend using it: Use I Am Nut Ok Garlic Oil Rigotta to add a punch of garlic flavour to any of your favorite vegan pizzas. We think it would work beautifully on this pumpkin and balsamic onion pizza, for instance.
Bute Island Foods Grated Mozzarella Style Sheese
This shredded mozzarella is the vegan cheese that Papa John’s uses, so you know it’s gone through lots of consumer testing and experimentation. If your pizza goals include recreating your favorite takeaway pizza at home, look no further. Made of potato, maize and oat starches, these white, flexible shreds tasted buttery and sweet. Bute Island Foods Grated Mozzarella Style Sheese melted flawlessly into a molten orange-yellow pool when cooked — just like real mozzarella.
How we’d recommend using it: If you miss chain restaurant food, look no further than Grated Mozzarella Style Sheese. You can use this vegan sub to make Papa Johns’ cheese pizza, Domino’s inspired homemade garlic and herb dipping sauce and many other recipes.
The cream of the vegan cheese crop
When we were looking for the first vegan cheese to stock in Ooni’s online grocery store, we chose MozzaRisella. A fresh mozzarella stand-in, this cheese is made from sprouted brown rice and comes in a sliceable log that looks and acts like rounds of fior di latte. Our testers thought it had a mild, herby flavour — perfect for pizza.
How we’d recommend using it: MozzaRisella is the ideal vegan cheese if you want to create a fully plant-based Margherita pizza.
Green Vie Mozzarella
Last, but not least, we have Green Vie Mozzarella. With a cheese flavour that’s good (if a little artificial), this coconut oil and starch-based mozzarella won points with our testers for being nutty, creamy and buttery. It passed the melt test, and looked great when it came out of the oven.