5 Substitutes for Cheese (That Actually Taste Good)

Cheese – one of the most versatile and delicious foods. Most people love cheese, whether it’s the main star of a dish or a flavorful garnish sprinkled on top. 

But with over 30 million Americans experiencing some form of lactose intolerance by age 20, it may not be a substance you want to consume frequently.

The good news is that there are a number of dairy-free alternatives that taste close enough to the real thing. You can continue to enjoy your mac and cheese, pizza, or wine and brie – all dairy-free.

The best substitutes for cheese continue to be nutritional yeast, almond cheese, cashew cheese, sweet potato, or tofu.

Whether you’re lactose intolerant, vegan, or just trying to be healthier, try any of the following alternatives next time you’re making something that calls for cheese.

1. Nutritional Yeast

Nutritional yeast is often used in vegan cooking to give food a cheesy flavor. Its name is derived from the vitamins, protein, antioxidants and minerals it contains.

Nutritional yeast is a yellow and beige colored powder. It’s best used as a cheese substitute when making an imitation cheese sauce, or sprinkled on top of a dish.

Nutritional yeast can be found in your local grocery store in baking goods aisle, or in the natural foods section. If you cannot find it there, nutritional yeast is readily available online.


The true flavor of nutritional yeast comes out when used in conjunction with a nut cheese substitute, or in a “cheese” sauce. 

Nutritional yeast is also great on popcorn. Substitute it for both cheese and butter!

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2. Almond Cheese

Often used as a substitute for ricotta cheese, almond cheese is a simple and delicious cheese substitute easily made with raw almonds, a food processor and cheesecloth.

Almond cheese has a subtle nut flavor that pairs well with herbs and spices. Almond cheese has a slightly grainy texture, making it great as a spread, or in a pasta dish such as lasagna.

How to Make Almond Cheese

Items Needed:

  • 1 cup raw almonds
  • ¾ cup water
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons lemon juice
  • Salt to taste
  • Food processor
  • Cheesecloth
  • Colander


  1. Soak your almonds. Soak your almonds in water for at least an hour. For best results soak overnight.
  2. Remove almond skins. The longer you soak your almonds, the easier it will be to remove the skins.
  3. Blend. In your food processor, blend soaked almonds, olive oil, lemon juice, and salt. You should blend them until you have a smooth and creamy consistency. 
  4. Refrigerate. Transfer your almond mix to your cheesecloth and squeeze gently to remove excess liquid. Place your cheesecloth in a colander and store overnight in the fridge to set.

You can also use almond cheese as a cheese substitute in macaroni and cheese, similar to how you might use almond milk. Just add 2 tablespoons of nutritional yeast to your almond cheese blend to give it that delicious, cheesy taste.

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3. Cashew Cheese

Similar to almond cheese, cashew cheese is great as a substitute for cheese. Cashew cheese can be used to make a cheese sauce or spread, making it more versatile than almond cheese.

Cashew cheese is a more common cheese substitute than other alternatives due to its versatility. Good for you and easy to make, cashew cheese as a dairy cheese substitute is not one to be missed.

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To give cashew cheese an even “cheesier” flavor, mix in nutritional yeast when making your cashew cheese. You’ll then have both the flavor and consistency of a normal dairy cheese.

Cashew cheese can be made in a similar way to almond cheese, and you can also purchase it in the natural foods section of your grocery store, or online.

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4. Sweet Potato

Sweet potato is best used as a cheese substitute when blended as a sauce. This is excellent when making macaroni and cheese, nachos, or even a gratin.

Blended with nutritional yeast, apple cider vinegar, garlic & onion powder, and an option of cashew cheese, sweet potatoes give your “cheese” a rich and hearty taste.

The trick to making your sweet potato sauce creamy and delicious is a nut-based “cheese” substitute mixed in. Cashew cheese is ideal, and you can also use a lighter nut, such as macadamia.

Sweet Potato Sauce – Cheese Substitute Recipe:


  • 1 ½ cups peeled and diced sweet potatoes
  • 2 garlic cloves (or 1 teaspoon granulated garlic powder)
  • ¼ cup raw cashews
  • 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons nutritional yeast
  • ½ teaspoon granulated onion powder
  • ¼ cup water
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • ½ teaspoon salt


  1. Prep the potatoes. Put potatoes in a saucepan and cover with water (add an inch of water on top.) Throw in a pinch of salt. 
  2. Boil potatoes. Bring your water to a boil, then reduce the heat. Simmer potatoes in saucepan, uncovered, for 8-12 minutes. You should be able to spear them easily with a fork.
  3. Drain and blend. Drain potatoes and place in a food processor with remaining ingredients, including olive oil and ¼ cup of water. Blend until smooth.

If you’re making a warm sauce, for macaroni and cheese or nachos, you can place your newly made sweet potato cheese sauce back in your saucepan and heat over low heat.

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Tip: To make a spicy cheese sauce, try adding in chipotle pepper powder, smoked paprika (what does paprika tastes like?) or even jalapeños.

You can keep a sweet potato cheese sauce warm the same way you would a regular cheese dip making it a great dairy free appetizer for game day.

5. Tofu

Tofu is a great dairy-free cheese substitute for mozzarella. Its consistency, when sliced, mimics that of mozzarella and is great as a spread on crackers.

You can also mimic the texture of ricotta cheese with tofu. Just mash up extra-firm tofu with a little bit of lemon juice for zing, and you’ll have a good alternative.

You can also use mashed silken tofu as a cheese substitute in many recipes that call for ricotta or cottage cheese. While it won’t have a cheesy taste, the consistency is similar enough that your recipe will still work. 

Tofu can be used as a cheese substitute in cream cheese, too, which is great news for all you bagel lovers out there!

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If you don’t feel like making your own cheese substitute, you can easily find dairy-free cheese substitutes in your local grocery store or online.

Daiya and Kite Hill are the top brands for cheese substitutes, whether you’re looking for a shredded option for pizza, or a “cream cheese” for a bagel.

Hopefully, with one of the options listed in this article you’ll never have to look too hard to find a suitable cheese substitute. Happy eating!