We’ll come out and say it: if you haven’t ever tried cooking with vegan cheese shreds before and pick up a random variety at the store expecting it to mimic its traditional counterpart, you might run the risk of being disappointed. We’re not saying that that vegan cheese shreds aren’t just as melty, utilitarian, and ultimately delicious as the real stuff — they are! But vegan cheese shreds need to be treated as an ingredient in their own right in order to be used successfully.

Vegan cheese isn’t going to behave like dairy cheese, but it is going to add flavor and texture to your cooking, provided you know the difference between the different types of shreds available, and which recipes to use them in to achieve optimal taste. Check out some of our tips on buying and cooking with vegan cheese shreds below, as well as some recipes!

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Buying Vegan Cheese Shreds

Luckily, there are several varieties of vegan cheese shreds on the market now: Follow Your Heart, GO VEGGIESo DeliciousDaiya FoodsViolife, and Trader Joe’s are all popular brands that sell either one or more flavors of shreds for you to pick up. There’s also nothing stopping you from making your own hard cheese and taking a shredder to it on your own time (we suggest this recipe for Grateable Almond Cheese, pictured above, or this recipe for Paprika Cheese).

Nut-Based Versus Oil-Based

While it’s true that dairy isn’t optimal for your body — and you can certainly get plenty of calcium without dairy — you can more or less count on all similar varieties of dairy cheese to behave the same way during the cooking process. The same cannot be said for vegan cheese shreds; even if you find two “cheddar” styles, they could react differently, depending on their compositional makeup.

Most vegan cheese shreds are broken up into two varieties: the nut-based cheeses, and the oil-based cheeses. As a general rule of thumb, if you want your vegan cheese to go all melty and gooey, you’ll probably want to opt for an oil-based vegan cheese. If you want your shreds to maintain some of their structural integrity, you’ll likely have more success with a nut-based cheese.

Flavor Profiles

Vegan cheese shreds (or blocks of vegan cheese that you’re planning on taking your shredder to) come in an assortment of different “flavors”: smoked (like in this Smoked Cashew Cheese Spread), spicy (like in this Spicy Jalapeño ‘Cheese’), mild, pepper-jack (check out How to Make Vegan Pepper Jack Cashew Cheese at home), chipotle, smooth, and more.

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Depending on your plans for your vegan cheese shreds, its flavor will play a big part in how your dish ultimately turns out. If your vegan cheese is “cultured”, for instance, it will likely have a saltier or tangier taste. And you wouldn’t want to accidentally use sweetened vegan cheese shreds (keep an eye out for brown rice syrup or agave lurking in the ingredients) for a Smoky Mac and Cheese dish.

How to Use Your Shreds

You can use vegan cheese shreds in a variety of different ways. Here are some of our favorites from the Food Monster App.

As a Sauce Booster

Toss in some vegan cheese shreds to any recipe that calls for a creamy, cheesy sauce. Mac and cheese is the obvious go-to for this: vegan cheese shreds are used in this Mac and Cheese Casserole, but you could also throw them in this recipe for Cheesy Cashew Cream Pasta for some extra dimension and texture.

Your cheesy sauce doesn’t just have to go in pasta, though. In this recipe for a Moussaka Burger with Bechamel Cheese Sauce, vegan cheese shreds are used as a plant-based burger topper. You could also make a Queso Dip!

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Sandwiched Between A Carb

Is there anything more comforting than a warm and satiating grilled (vegan) cheese sandwich? This Green Goddess Griller looks like it could curb any craving. If you’re feeling gourmet and experimental, go for this Fancy Strawberry Balsamic Grilled Cheese. Otherwise, keep it simple and throw some vegan cheese shreds into this recipe for a Gooey Grilled Cheese Sandwich.

Quesadillas are also excellent when made with vegan cheese shreds. These Skillet Breakfast Quesadillas show how shreds can amp up the flavor in your breakfast, while you could sub in shreds in this recipe for Quesadillas With Cashew Mozzarella and Chipotle Cream in a pinch. For something crispy and creamy, these Wonton Jalapeño Poppers are a hit.

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Lastly, try baking your shreds into your carb, like in this recipe for a Nut-and-Seed Loaf!

As a Topping

Here’s a tried-and-true winner: sprinkle vegan cheese shreds on all your favorite foods! It’s an easy and effortless way to pack in that extra cheesy punch.

Most plant-based pizza recipes could use some shreds! This Spinach and Basil White Pizza called for shredded vegan mozzarella, while this Cheeseburger Pizza wants vegan cheddar shreds instead.

You could throw a handful of cheesy shreds on top of a baked potato, like in this recipe for Chipotle Black Bean Stuffed Yams, or to add some creamy elements to your chili, like in this recipe for this gluten-free Smoky Slow Cooker Pulled Jackfruit Chili. Don’t forget nachos! These Korean BBQ Wonton Nachos call for 5.3 ounces of vegan mozzarella cheese shreds, while these Tater Tot-Chos With Beer Cheese want both vegan cheddar and pepper-jack shreds. Yum!

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Looking for more vegan cheese inspo? Check out these options for vegan Slices, Shreds, Sauces, and More! And make sure to also check out all of our vegan cheese recipes.

We also highly recommend downloading our Food Monster App, which is available for both Android and iPhone, and can also be found on Instagram and Facebook. The app has more than 8,000 plant-based, allergy-friendly recipes, and subscribers gain access to ten new recipes per day. Check it out!

Lead image source: Grateable Almond Cheese