An epic vegan cheese board is the perfect way to make any occasion feel special. However, if you’re new to this type of nondairy cheese, knowing where to start can be tricky. Whether you’re a newbie or full-time vegan, this guide has all the basics.
What is Vegan Cheese?
Vegan cheese, which is dairy-free, varies in base and texture. Cashew- and almond-based cheeses are nutty in flavor, while coconut-based cheese tends to be on the creamy side. Other common bases for vegan cheese are potato starch, soy and tapioca.
Soft vegan cheese has a creamy texture like Gournay, cream cheese or chèvre. Semi-soft vegan cheese, on the other hand, reminds me of a creamy Havarti. I’ve also seen hard vegan cheeses made from chickpea miso paste that resemble and taste like parmesan.
My favorite vegan cheeses are the soft, nut-based varieties. Right now, I’m really loving Miyoko's Vegan Cheese — it’s made from cashews and is excellent spread over crackers or cucumber slices. Treeline Creamy Soft French-Style Nut Cheese, also made from cashews, is fantastic too. The consistency is like cream cheese.
How to Choose the Cheeses
I typically go with three cheeses for my boards, but it all depends on the size of your gathering. If it’s a solo night in or a date night, one cheese is plenty. If you’re hosting, I recommend serving a few different styles and flavors to balance out the board.
When buying vegan cheeses, I’ll typically go with two different soft nut-based cheeses and one harder cheese. The softer cheeses are better for spreading on crackers or dipping with crudités, while the savory harder cheeses pair nicely with spiced nuts or a sweet jam.
How to Pick the Pairings
Veggies like cucumbers, radishes, cherry tomatoes, broccoli and sugar snap peas make a colorful pairing for vegan cheese — and the more vibrant they are, the better. I’ll also incorporate a few sweet fruits like strawberries and blueberries. Spiced nuts are a great addition, if you like a little crunch. A sweet or tart jam is also nice to balance out the savory items. Last, but not least — you always need a vehicle for the cheese, so crackers are a must.
How to Build the Board
To help you build a gorgeous, Instagram-worthy board, I’ve created a method called Cheese By Numbers. All you need to do is follow the steps in order like a recipe. First, set your board on a flat surface with any ramekins or bowls. Then build the board in order of number. Start with your cheese, add the accoutrements and finish with your garnishes:
Cheese: Add your vegan cheeses evenly around the board.
Meat alternatives: Grilled vegan sausages or vegan deli meal make great choices. Arrange down the center from one side of the board to the other, in a “river” formation.
Produce: Create your “produce ponds.” I like to build small mounds of fruits and veggies around the board.
Crunch: Fill in any extra gaps you see with crackers and mixed nuts.
Dip: Add jam (make sure it contains vegan sweeteners) to the empty ramekins.
Garnish: Decorate your plate with fresh herbs and edible flowers.
Serving Tips for Vegan Cheese
Unlike dairy-based cheese, which needs to warm up to room temperature, vegan cheese can be served right out of the refrigerator. The flavors stay the same regardless of the temperature, so it’s really a personal preference.
For soft, creamy cheeses like Treeline, I like to transfer those into a glass ramekin. I also recommend pre-cutting harder vegan cheeses to ensure easy grazing for guests. You can also arrange a few sprigs of fresh herbs like rosemary or thyme around the board for a finishing touch and pop of color.
About Marissa Mullen: Marissa is the founder of That Cheese Plate. She’s curated stunning cheese plates and boards for nearly every occasion and need. Find more of Mullen’s creations on Instagram: @thatcheeseplate and @cheesebynumbers.