The Best Non-Dairy Cream Cheeses That Taste As Good As The Real Thing
We all have our Achilles heel food — a comforting dish, snack, or dessert that we love dearly and eat so regularly, that it becomes inseparable from our daily routine. Mine has always been bagels: A toasted everything bagel slathered in a generous (and boy do I mean generous) helping of scallion cream cheese, cut in two (a crucial step bagel shops often miss: there's just something about seeing the cream cheese cross-section that is particularly satisfying).
When you go plant-based, you may wonder, Where could I wake up on Sunday and grab a delicious, fluffy, bagel, slathered in dairy-free vegan cream cheese? Bagel shop owners may look at you quizzically when asked if they carry any non-dairy cream cheese (although many shops in New Jersey and New York carry tofu cream cheese), so if you're searching for a delicious non-dairy schmear, we've tasted the best dairy-free cream cheeses on the market to find the very best vegan cream cheese, ranked for health and taste.
For the most scientific test possible, we set out to a favorite bagel shop and ordered half a dozen bagels to test different vegan spreads: Two everything, two jalapeño, and two cinnamon raisin bagels (all vegan — make sure to double-check your local spot doesn’t add milk or eggs to any recipe)
Cut Out Dairy Products For Your Health
Even though it's easy to have a soft spot for cream cheese, cutting out dairy products from your regular diet can present significant health benefits. By consuming more dairy, you increase your risk for several diseases or health issues such as heart attacks, strokes, diabetes, and more. For example, regular dairy consumption leads to a 60 percent higher risk of prostate cancer and an 80 percent higher risk of breast cancer.
Dairy also leads to several other chronic conditions or problems such as inflammation and acne. The easiest way to keep your body healthy is to phase out dairy products, and yes, that includes cream cheese. Simply adopting a plant-based cream cheese option to your diet can help you keep your body healthier in your day-to-day life.
READ MORE: 8 Ways Avoiding Dairy Can Benefit Your Health
The Best Dairy-Free and Vegan Cream Cheese Alternatives
In this taste test, we tried Miyoko's Sensational Scallion Vegan Cream Cheese, Kite Hill Everything Cream Cheese, Violife’s Just like Cream Cheese, Tofutti’s Better than Cream Cheese, and Daiya Plain Cream Cheese Style Spread. '
Daiya Plain Cream Cheese Spread
This one was a pleasant surprise; a tangy, creamy spread that did a pretty good job of mimicking the original dairy spread. Surprisingly sweet, as if it had a dash of vanilla in it, this cream cheese is a perfect companion for a cinnamon raisin bagel or anything you want to add a hint of sweetness to.
Total Fat 5g, Saturated Fat 4.5g
Kite Hill Everything Cream Cheese
The texture, while pleasantly whipped and spreadable, is grainy, and the everything seasoning got lost within the tub. The taste wasn’t terrible, it just didn’t taste like cream cheese; the texture is more reminiscent of creamy hummus. I still finished this tub by dipping various crackers and bread into it, but it didn’t serve the original purpose on a bagel, although it was quite delicious as a spread on crackers or sandwiches.
Total Fat 6g, Saturated Fat 0g
Miyoko’s Sensational Scallion Vegan Cream Cheese
While this formula was a little heavier and harder to spread than the others, it was the taste that left something to be desired. Strangely, the most overpowering flavor was a lemony citrus taste, masking even the divine savoriness of the scallions. When I mixed equal parts of Miyoko's Sensational Scallion with another plain cream cheese it evened out this zingy, acidic taste and was far more pleasant. Next time, I might try to mix chopped scallions into my favorite cream cheese instead of buying this pre-made option.
Total Fat 7g, Saturated Fat 2.5g
Philadelphia Plant-Based Original Cream Cheese
When Philadelphia Cream Cheese announced it was coming out with an all-plant-based dairy-free formula I practically leaped at the chance to try it. A family favorite for generations, I was practically raised on it. The taste and consistency did not disappoint. On a bagel or in a recipe (cream cheese frosting anyone?) this is the exact same as its parent brand and you could easily fool anyone. Glancing at the label, I was shocked to see it has 6 grams of Saturated Fat and the first ingredient is coconut oil. If you are eating plant-based to avoid unhealthy heart-disease-promoting foods, sat fat from coconut oil is as clogging as that from animal products like butter. If you're in it for the planet, animals, or a dairy allergy, this is a great choice for you. Keep it handy all during the holidays and everyone will spread it on with abandon!
Total Fat 6g, Saturated Fat 6g
Tofutti Better than Cream Cheese
Tofutti is probably the most widely available cream cheese, so it's likely the non-dairy cream cheese served in most bagel spots that actually carry non-dairy options. This spread is muted beige and slightly grainy, and its tofu roots definitely don’t go unnoticed. While this spread is by no means bad, and I would use it in a pinch, there is something about the aftertaste that I’m not sold on. Almost playdough-y, there’s a distinct bitterness that comes through after the bite.
Total Fat 8g, Saturated Fat 4g
Trader Joe's Vegan Cream Cheese
Trader Joe’s has recently updated its vegan cream cheese formulation this year, and it’s made quite an improvement to the taste of this spread. Thick, creamy, and reminiscent of a block of Philadelphia cream cheese, this dairy-free schmear is a great, affordable vegan cream cheese option. It has a mild flavor and doesn’t come across as too tofu-y. It spreads nicely on a bagel or toast, and benefits from mix-ins like scallions or TJ’s everything bagel seasoning.
Total Fat 9g, Saturated Fat 8g
Treeline Dairy-Free Herb Garlic Soft French-Style
This is not your average plant-based cheese, or in fact, any cheese. This kind of cashew-based creation elevates any meal and could fool cheese lovers into believing that it's real dairy cheese. When I gave my friend a slice of a baguette and Treeline cheese, she couldn't believe it was vegan and we basically finished the entire container in one sitting. This option is one of the best for shoppers looking for a heart-healthy option with only 1 gram of saturated fat per serving.
Total Fat 7g, Saturated Fat 1g
Violife Just Like Cream Cheese
Wow. This stuff is the real deal: texture, appearance, taste, and slight inclination to melt. Violife’s Just Like Cream Cheese Original leaves almost nothing to be desired, besides maybe a larger tub. Creamy, smooth, and spreadable, this has none of the grainy texture or watery formulas that other non-dairy cream cheeses often have. Mix in sriracha hot sauce or scallions and this easily becomes flavored cream cheese, or try Violife's garlic & herbs flavor.
Total Fat 7g, Saturated Fat 6g
The Bottom Line: When it comes to comfort foods, it can be hard to find plant-based options that feel like they fill the void left after eliminating animal products. Luckily, our taste buds adapt to a plant-based lifestyle, and things that may have tasted far from similar to their animal-product predecessors end up tasting nearly identical to the "real thing" after 1-2 months of going entirely plant-based.
Want to make dairy-free cream cheese from scratch? Try this plant-based homemade cream cheese recipe.