Oh no - you just realized you're out of shredded cheese! Whether you're prepping tacos for taco Tuesday or whipping up a pasta bake, running out of shredded cheese can ruin your plans.
But before you run to the store, check your fridge and pantry - you likely have several tasty shredded cheese substitutes on hand.
Use Dairy-Free Cheese Shreds
One of the easiest substitutions is to use dairy-free shredded cheese products. Brands like Daiya and Follow Your Heart make 100% vegan cheeses shredded in all the popular varieties - cheddar, mozzarella, pepper jack, etc.
While the taste and texture might not perfectly mimic real cheese, these products melt remarkably well. They contain less fat and fewer calories too. Dairy-free shreds make excellent substitutes in dishes like:
- Baked pasta dishes
If you want to shred your own dairy-free cheese, blocks of Daiya or Miyoko's vegan cheese also melt nicely when grated.
Key Takeaway: Vegan cheese shreds from brands like Daiya and Follow Your Heart mimic real cheese in taste, meltability, and nutrition.
Whip Up Your Own Nut Cheese
With some nuts, lemon, salt, and tahini or miso paste you can easily make your own delicious nut cheese at home. While this cheese doesn't exactly mimic real dairy cheese, its creaminess adds richness and heartiness to dishes.
The two most popular nut cheese recipes use cashews or macadamia nuts. Check out these easy homemade options:
- Blend 1 cup raw cashews with 1/3 cup water, 2 tbsp lemon juice, 1 tbsp nutritional yeast, and 1 tsp salt.
- Works well in pasta, pizza, sandwiches, etc.
- Blend 1 cup macadamia nuts with 1/3 cup water, 1 tbsp lemon juice, 1 tbsp white miso paste.
- Great in lasagna, on pizza, bruschetta, etc.
Feel free to experiment with other nuts and mix-ins like garlic, herbs, mustard, etc. The possibilities are endless!
|Lemon, nutritional yeast
|Pizza, pasta, sandwiches
|White miso, lemon
|Lasagna, pizza, bruschetta
|Garlic, olive oil, lemon
Key Takeaway: Blending nuts like cashews and macadamia with lemon juice, salt, and other flavorings makes excellent dairy-free cheese for cooking and spreading.
Use Hummus for Creaminess
Here's an out-of-the-box substitute idea - use hummus for creaminess and flavor in the absence of cheese. It may sound unorthodox to use hummus as cheese, but it works!
Hummus has a rich, nutty taste that pairs nicely as a topper for:
- Pizza - Drizzle on top when pizza comes out of the oven.
- Nachos - Dip just like you would with cheese sauce.
- Grilled cheese sandwiches - Spread on the interior for extra flavor.
- Quesadillas and tacos - Mix with veggies for a yummy filling.
You can make plain hummus or experiment with roasted red pepper, garlic, chipotle, or other flavor combos. Use what you have on hand or grab a store-bought tub. Sabra and Tribe brands offer quality vegan options.
The thick, creamy consistency of hummus mimics the savory flavor and heavy texture cheese brings to so many recipes. Give it a try the next time shredded cheese runs out!
Key Takeaway: Believe it or not, hummus makes an incredible substitute for cheese and cheese sauces. It has the ideal creaminess, bold flavor, and satisfying texture.
Whip Up a Sweet Potato or Butternut Squash Sauce
Similar to hummus, creamy roasted sweet potato or butternut squash also substitute well for cheese, especially cheddar. When seasoned properly these orange veggies transform into luscious, cheesy sauces perfect for:
- Vegan mac and cheese
- Baked pasta
Check out a couple quick dairy-free sauce ideas:
5 Ingredient Sweet Potato Cheese
- Roast 1 large sweet potato (skin on) drizzled with olive oil at 400°F for 40 minutes
- Scoop out flesh and blend with 1⁄4 cup vegetable broth, juice of 1 lemon, 2 tbsp nutritional yeast, and salt+pepper to taste.
Butternut Squash Alfredo
- Roast 11⁄2 lbs butternut squash cubes at 400°F for 25 minutes
- Add roasted squash to blender or food processor with 1⁄2 cup soaked raw cashews, 1⁄2 cup unsweetened non-dairy milk, juice of 1⁄2 lemon, 2 garlic cloves, and salt+pepper to taste.
These sweet, vibrant orange sauces add a lovely richness while remaining diary-free. The mild sweetness balances beautifully with savory dishes traditionally calling for cheese.
Key Takeaway: Sweet potato and butternut squash transform into luscious, dairy-free cheese sauces when blended. Their natural sweetness and creaminess mimic cheddar and cheese wonderfully.
Use Beans, Tofu, or Veggies in Quesadillas
When prepping quesadillas or grilled cheese and you're out of shredded cheese, reach for beans, tofu, or veggies instead of subbing alternative cheese products. These simple ingredients make tasty quesadilla fillings with bonus nutrition.
Try any of these yummy dairy-free fillings between your tortillas:
- Pinto or black beans - Season with cumin, chili powder, salsa, etc.
- Crumbled tofu - Add cumin, turmeric, paprika, etc.
- Lentil or chickpea blend
- Sliced avocado or guacamole
- Sautéed bell peppers and onions
- Wilted spinach with lemon
- Caramelized mushrooms
Quesadillas often rely almost entirely on cheese for flavor. But you can build delicious depth of taste in veggie-based fillings through spices, herbs, sautéing, etc. It may take a few tries to discover your perfect vegan quesadilla or grilled cheese, but with endless filling combinations, fun experimentation awaits!
Key Takeaway: Don't just substitute cheese in quesadillas - take it as a chance to add more veggies. Beans, tofu, avocado, and sautéed veggies make incredibly flavorful, protein-packed fillings.
Sprinkle On Nutritional Yeast for "Cheesy" Flavor
Here's a simple trick to make dishes taste more cheesy without actual cheese - sprinkle on nutritional yeast! This flaky yellow powder packs serious savory, nutty umami flavor. It's often described as tasting cheesy.
Nutritional yeast works well to mimic parmesan cheese. Try sprinkling it on:
- Pasta dishes
- Roasted veggies
Don't overdo it, as too much can lend a bitter taste. Start with 1-2 tablespoons sprinkled over top. Let it rain down like parmesan over your favorite pasta or pizza!
Nutritional yeast also happens to be exceptionally nutritious - it's packed with B vitamins, protein, fiber, and minerals like zinc and magnesium. This versatile seasoning deserves a permanent spot in every pantry!
Key Takeaway: Shake on nutritional yeast to add delicious, cheese-like flavor to dishes - similar to parmesan cheese. This nutritious flaky powder packs a tasty, savory punch.
Alternative Hard Cheese Substitutes
For hard gating cheeses like parmesan you can utilize nuts, seeds, dried fruits, or pantry items to mimic texture, saltiness, and rich flavor. Keep these ingredients on hand for impromptu parmesan cheese swaps:
- Walnuts or brazil nuts - Grate with a microplane to mimic shards
- Sunflower or pumpkin seeds - Grate raw for crunch
- Olives - Chopped, lend a briny flavor
- Capers or sun-dried tomatoes - Finely chopped
- Raisins - Dried fruit lends hints of sweetness
- Nutritional yeast - As already described
- Sea salt flakes - Sprinkle for saltiness, use finishing salt
These foods can't exactly replicate the flavor of parmesan, but they mimic key elements - saltiness, crunch, rich flavor, etc. Sprinkle these replacements over pasta, salads, and more to round out taste. Get creative mixing and matching based on what's in your pantry and fridge!
Key Takeaway: Walnuts, sun-dried tomatoes, olives, raisins, capers and sea salt flakes can't perfectly mimic parmesan but replicate elements like crunch and deep, briny flavor when used as substitutes.
Spoon On Savory Sauces and Spreads
Rather than focusing on finding shredded cheese substitutes, pivot to using rich savory sauces and spreads instead. Boosting flavor through mix-ins like beans, lentils, pureed veggies, herbs, and spices helps compensate for a lack of cheese's rich saltiness. Consider making:
- White bean basil spread
- Lentil marinara sauce
- Pecan pesto
- Silky cauliflower Alfredo
- Garlicky chickpea topping
- Bean dip trio (refried, hummus, baba ganoush)
Get creative blending beans, nut butters, toasted nuts, pureed vegetables, and spices into luscious toppers and dips. Drizzle and dollop away to bring thickness, creaminess, and bold taste to your dishes - no cheese needed!
What's the easiest shredded cheese substitute when I run out?
The simplest swap is pre-shredded dairy-free cheese from brands like Daiya, Follow Your Heart or Violife. These shred and melt like real cheeses.
What's the most authentic substitute for parmesan?
Brazilian nuts, nutritional yeast, sea salt flakes or olives/capers together best mimic parmesan's crumbly, salty, umami-rich flavor and texture when grated.
How do you make a quesadilla without cheese?
Beans, tofu, lentils, sautéed veggies and seasoned guacamole all make incredible flavorful quesadilla fillings. Spice mixtures with cumin, chili powder, cayenne, etc add cheesy, spicey taste.
What can I make instead of mac and cheese without dairy?
Blending sweet potato, butternut squash or white beans makes exceptionally creamy, mild-tasting sauces to toss with pasta. Nutritional yeast and lemon juice boost cheesy flavors.
What foods taste similar to different cheese types?
- Parmesan = nuts + nutritional yeast
- Cheddar = sautéed veggies + seasoning
- Mozzarella = hummus, bean dip
- Ricotta = puréed nuts or beans
- Goat = lentil spreads with lemon
Don't bother the next time you're out of shredded cheese and a recipe calls for it!
With so many tasty substitutes available - from dairy-free cheese shreds to sweet potato sauce to seasoned beans and veggies - you can still pull off delicious cheesy dishes