The Best Vegan Mozzarella Cheeses for Pizza in the US
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 mozzarella options. Read on to learn which cheeses 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. And the Northern California-headquartered plant-based dairy company Miyoko's Creamery has even created a new vegan “mozzarella” that’s — wait for it — pourable. Woah.
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 US headquarters in Austin, Texas to prod, poke, taste and test pizzas topped with eight different vegan cheeses available on the US market (and cooked by our in-house culinary advisor and professional pizza chef). Our team in Edinburgh, Scotland (where Ooni is based), did the same, surveying eight alternative vegan cheeses available in the UK.
In these blind taste tests, participants scored the cheeses on flavor, 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 cold-prove recipe — with a simple canned tomato and salt as the sauce. Pizzas were baked in Ooni Koda 16 ovens at 800°F (425°C) for 60 to 90 seconds: The same treatment we’d give any dairy cheese.
Two hours after we began eating, we were full of pizza (and opinions). 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 favorite at the end of the list.
Miyoko's Creamery Organic Cashew Milk Mozzarella
A category leader, Miyoko’s Creamery cashew-based fresh “mozzarella” has a wetter consistency than most other vegan pizza cheeses we tried, and comes as a shrink-wrapped square instead of typical non-dairy shreds.
In its attempt to replicate fresh-pulled fior di latte, we found that Miyoko's Creamery Organic Cashew Milk Mozzarella focused more on texture than flavor. The look (a bit more grey than regular mozzarella, but still white) and feel were definitely somewhat like the real thing, but the flavor was cardboard-y and when cooked, the cheese turned into something resembling seafoam.
How we’d recommend using it: Miyoko's Creamery Organic Cashew Milk Mozzarella isn’t terrible, but it doesn’t perform quite as well as the pourable version (we’ll come back to that later). Consider a mid or even post-bake application (like on an Ohio Valley-style pizza).
Parmela Creamery Plant-Based Mozzarella
This shredded, yellow-white cashew-milk-based vegan mozzarella had some vanilla and coconut notes, which, while not unpleasant, weren’t exactly the flavors we thought we’d encounter.
Raw, Parmela Creamery Plant-Based Mozzarella had a nice mouthfeel and a dairy cheese-like texture. When cooked, it became somewhat pasty, sticking to our teeth in a way that we didn’t love. However, one of our testers discovered that folding the slice kept the cheese from becoming gluey in his mouth: A pro tip, and another vote in favor of folding a New York slice.
How we’d recommend using it: Consider putting Parmela Creamery Plant-Based Mozzarella on pizzas if the cheese’s sweeter notes will complement spicier flavors (like this vegetarian ‘nduja recipe, for example).
365 Whole Foods Plant-Based Mozzarella-Style Shreds
Whole Foods’ store brand, 365, has created a white cheese made of numerous potato and tapioca starches. Despite lacking a cashew base, our testers thought that when raw, 365 Plant-Based Mozzarella-Style Shreds had a nutty flavor.
After a bake, there was actually a small cheese pull when we grabbed slices, which is quite a feat in the vegan cheese world. Some testers thought the browning on the cheese was reminiscent of cafeteria-style pizza, which (depending on how nostalgic you’re feeling) isn’t necessarily a bad thing.
How we’d recommend using it: Use 365 Plant-Based Mozzarella-Style Shreds on a classic cheese pizza, or even French bread pizza — a la Pizza Friday in grade school.
So Delicious Mozzarella Style Shreds
The So Delicious Mozzarella Style Shreds recipe relies on coconut oil, potato starch and tapioca dextrose — among other ingredients — to create its shreds. The color is closer to beige than white, and the taste is saltier and more Parmesan-like than mozzarella. Opinions varied on its flavor, with some testers enjoying the cheese and others finding it a bit sour. Everyone agreed that this vegan offering more accurately imitated a hard, salty finishing cheese.
How we’d recommend using it: Use So Delicious Mozzarella Style Shreds in combination with another vegan mozzarella for a salty-fresh cheese combination, or use it (in moderation) as a post-bake finishing cheese.
Violife Just Like Mozzarella Shreds
These bright white shreds look a whole lot like real cheese — maybe more like shredded provolone than mozzarella, but still! Key takeaway? Violife Just Like Mozzarella Shreds are buttery and a little sweet. One tester compared the raw flavor to buttered movie theatre popcorn. That taste disappears somewhat — but not completely — when the cheese is cooked.
How we’d recommend using it: Include Violife Just Like Mozzarella Shreds in vegan cheesy garlic dough balls for a dairy-like hit (you can start your recipe riff with this little number).
Daiya Mozzarella Style Shreds
Most of the vegan cheeses we tasted were a bit flexible and soft, but Daiya shreds were more rigid and crumbly. As the yellowish uncooked cheese sat out, its surface became progressively more oily — so while most pizza makers would say never to do this with real cheese, we’d opt for going straight from fridge to pizza. When cooked, Daiya Mozzarella Style Shreds went from dry to sticky and salty. Like the So Delicious equivalent, this cheese is marketed as a mozzarella replacement, but it works more like a Parmesan substitute.
How we’d recommend using it: Mix Daiya Mozzarella Style Shreds with a looser cheese for flavor, or use it alone on a sourdough base (the cheese’s nutty, salty taste will stand up to the tang in a good sourdough).
Moocho Dairy-Free Mozzarella Style Shreds
Moocho Dairy-Free Mozzarella Style Shreds got our highest marks for looking like legit low-moisture mozzarella. The taste was also well-received. Though none of our testers would have confused the shreds for dairy, they liked the nutty, buttery flavor. The downside? When cooked, the cheese’s texture becomes gluey, which is less ideal.
How we’d recommend using it: Moocho Dairy-Free Mozzarella Style Shreds work as a good dupe in any recipe where you’d use low-moisture mozzarella — like in a Detroit-style pizza, for instance.
The cream of the vegan mozzarella crop
Miyoko's Creamery Vegan Pizza Mozzarella
Simply put, Miyoko's Creamery Vegan Pizza Mozzarella is a scientific step forward for vegan cheese. Most vegan cheeses use some kind of anti-caking agent that keeps shreds from clumping — but caking agents negatively affect meltability. Miyoko’s Creamery eliminates caking agents and goes straight to the melt.
Specifically engineered to cook up like fresh mozzarella on pizza, this awesome vegan treat starts as a liquid, which coagulates under heat. Our testers initially found the “Go-Gurt energy” in the bottle of pourable cheese a little off-putting, they also agreed that it was far-and-away the best pizza cheese on the docket.
Out of the bottle, Miyoko’s Creamery Vegan Pizza Mozzarella tasted smooth and savory with slightly nutty notes. In the oven, this snow-white cashew-milk based vegan cheese melts and browns, and it echoes the stringy stand-like consistency of a milk-based mozzarella. Unfortunately, it’s not widely available in stores just yet, but you can order it online in the meantime.
How we’d recommend using it: Use Miyoko’s Creamery Vegan Pizza Mozzarella as a topping for Margherita pizzas and you’ll impress literally anyone (skeptical non-vegans included).