How to be Dairy Free and Not Miss Cheese

Find ways to enjoy a cheesy taste with none of the cheese.


By Aimée Suen, NTP


Dairy can be so delicious, but when it starts to hurt or make you feel bad after you eat it, it’s time to break up with it. Dairy can be highly inflammatory for some people, difficult to digest, and possibly even cause breakouts. Just because your body may feel bad eating it, doesn’t mean your taste buds won’t miss it, though. Never fear, there are great ways to be dairy free and not long for cheese day after day.There are lots of dairy-free ways to make and enjoy real foods that taste like cheese or give that extra special creaminess that you thought only cheese could deliver. Here are some ways to enjoy a cheesy taste and texture, but with none of the cheese.

Nutritional Yeast

Nutritional yeast is a deactivated yeast that is grown in with molasses, dried then flaked. It has a bright yellow color and has a nutty, cheesy taste. Nutritionally, it’s a great source of protein, B vitamins, fiber and zinc. You can find nutritional yeast online or in most health food grocery stores. It could be in the spice aisle or the supplement section of the store. If you’re lucky, it could be in the bulk bin section.

You can use nutritional yeast as a topping and sprinkle it over salads, soups, kale chips, popcorn, roasted vegetables or nuts, baked potatoes...anything you would want to add a hint of cheesiness to. You can also use nutritional yeast as an ingredient in sauces, soups, or dressings. You can also stir it into dishes that you would want some cheesy or butter-y flavors, like creamy soups, mashed potatoes or dips.

Nut Cheeses

Nuts are much more than just something to snack on or find in trail mix. You can turn nuts into creamy and cheesy sauces and blocks of “cheese” that are close to, if not better than, its dairy cousin. You can use a variety of nuts to make nut cheese, but it’s common to just use one kind of nut per cheese.

Common nuts to use include almonds, cashew, and macadamia nuts. You can also make nut cheeses with hazelnuts and Brazil nuts. Most recipes will call for you to soak the nuts anywhere from 2 to 8 hours. After soaking the nuts, you’ll blend the nuts with water and other seasonings, possibly nutritional yeast. You will need a blender or food processor to make most nut cheeses.

Depending on what kind of nut cheese you’re making, the nut cheese or sauce could be ready as is, or you could strain it and form into a block of cheese to set up for using later.

If you want to try nut cheese before making your own, there are pre-made versions you can also try. You can find them in health food stores in the refrigerated sections, usually near the yogurt and tofu. As always, look over the ingredients before buying to ensure the nut cheese is free of overly processed ingredients and additives that you wouldn’t have if you made it at home. 

Nut-Free Cheeses

Can’t handle nuts? Don’t worry, there are still plenty of dairy-free cheeses you can make, try and enjoy. Other foods can be crafted to make dairy-free cheese, from zucchini, coconut milk and coconut oil, seeds, and even aquafaba, which is the liquid that you drain from a can of chickpeas. You can also add cooked cauliflower or butternut squash into any cheesy sauces you’re making to add more creaminess, color, and flavor to your sauce.

Nut-free cheeses haven’t quite hit the popularity of nut-based dairy-free cheese yet in terms of store bought products, but there are plenty of recipes on the internet you can make. These recipes will probably also require a blender or food processor.

Experiment with a few different kinds of non-dairy “cheese” and see which ones you enjoy the most. You can start with some store bought kinds and then try making your own once you find a style or flavor you like. You’ll be surprised how good they taste and how it makes the longing for cheese lessen or go away.

Aimée Suen is a Nutritional Therapy Practitioner who shares nourishing, gluten-free recipes and nutrition wisdom at Small Eats. She is driven to help others enjoy whole foods and empower them to find their own healthy in all aspects of life, one small step at a time. When she’s not in the kitchen, she’s practicing yoga, in the gym, or learning something new. You can find Aimée on InstagramTwitter and Pinterest.

Main Photo Credit: Y Photo Studio/; Second Photo Credit: SUPERGAL/; Third Photo Credit: Sea Wave/