Are you craving a perfect vegan grilled cheese sandwich made with cheese that melts? Use my melty cheese recipe to make the best-toasted cheese you'll have since giving up dairy!
The secret to a great dairy-free grilled cheese is using a cheese that melts and stretches! Grill your sandwich to perfection and enjoy a melty grilled cheese like the ones you remember.
I’ve spent the last few years playing around with vegan cheese recipes to get the perfect melty cheese to use in toasted cheese sandwiches and I've finally perfected it! I'm so excited to share it with you!
🧾 Ingredients and substitutions
For the cheese
- Vegan Cheese - that melts well. I love my vegan mozzarella cheese or my vegan pizza cheese for grilled cheese. It's easy to make, rich and creamy, and melts beautifully. You can also use your favorite store-bought cheese if you would like.
- To make your own cheese you will need:
- Coconut Milk – a 13.5 oz can of coconut milk or coconut cream works best. (This is not the coconut milk that comes in cartons in the refrigerated section of the store). This will be the base of your cheese. (Full-fat canned coconut milk will give you the richest and creamiest texture).
- If you don't want to use coconut milk: I highly recommend canned coconut milk, but if you need to use something else you can also use the following instead:
- Cashews – you will need 1/3 cup cashews soaked and drained then blended with 1 3/4 cup water).
- Other Plant-Based Milk – like soy, rice, almond, or hemp you will need 1 3/4 cup milk plus 1/3 cup of any neutral-flavored oil.
- Water – to give the right moisture content.
- Nutritional yeast – to give it the cheesy umami flavor. (Read this post if you want to know more about nutritional yeast.)
- Agar-agar – to make it firm so you can slice and grate it. Agar agar is a white powder made from seaweed, and it acts like a vegan gelatin making the cheese firm. (It comes in flakes or powder but be sure to use the powder if you can. It is less expensive, you need less of it, and it blends easier and smoother. You can find great prices on it at most Asian markets or you can buy it on Amazon as well).
- Tapioca flour – to give the cheese a little stretch when it melts. (Nothing else works like tapioca for this. Without it you will not get the same melt and stretch).
- Salt – for flavor
- Garlic Powder – for flavor.
For the sandwich
- Bread - to make the sandwich. Make sure it's vegan. Here is a list of 20 vegan bread brands.
- Vegan Butter or Oil - I like to use my homemade vegan butter to spread on the outside of the sandwich, but you can use any vegan margarine or coconut oil.
- Extras - Here are some things you can add to change up your grilled cheese.
- sliced tomatoes
- vegan pesto
- marinated artichokes
- caramelized onions
- vegan tempeh bacon
- sauteed mushrooms
- mushroom bacon
- artichoke spread
- mustard - (That's how I always ate them as a kid)
- vegan pesto
- garlic cilantro sauce
🥄 How to make a vegan grilled cheese
- Use vegan margarine (or my vegan butter recipe) to spread on a slice of bread.
- Turn your frying pan or skillet to low heat and set the bread butter side down.
- Then, layer with slices or shreds of cheese and add any other favorites like the ones listed above.
- Heat on low for about 5 minutes on each side until browned. It's important to heat it slowly on the skillet so it doesn't burn and so the cheese in the middle has time to melt.
👩🏻🍳 Pro tips for melty cheese
- If you have time, let the cheese warm up to room temperature before heating the sandwich on the skillet.
- You can also heat the sandwich in the microwave for about 20 seconds to warm up the cheese before grilling.
- Put a lid on your frying pan for a few minutes to trap the heat inside and more evenly melt your cheese.
📖 Vegan toasted cheese variations
My favorite flavor in a grilled cheese sandwich is vegan smoked gouda! It’s amazing with some sauteed mushrooms or caramelized onions. My vegan pepper jack, vegan cheddar cheese, and vegan garlic herb cheeses are also delicious in a grilled cheese! Just be sure to add tapioca starch to make the meltable versions.
🍞 Vegan gluten-free bread
If you are vegan and need to be gluten-free as well, there are not many types of bread to choose from. Most of the major brands of gluten-free bread contain eggs, so make sure to read the packaging. Some smaller local bakeries make gluten-free vegan bread, so it will vary depending on where you live.
Our favorite gluten-free bread is millet bread from Sami's Bakery. (No gluten ingredients, but not a gluten-free facility). Aldi also occasionally has a seeded bread that is gluten-free and vegan. Aldi also carries our favorite gluten-free/ vegan tortillas that you can use to make quesadillas if you can't find a bread that you like.
🍲 Serving Suggestions
Serve this grilled cheese with a side of your favorite vegan soup like vegan minestrone soup, vegan cream of celery, vegetarian 15 bean soup, or vegan cream of broccoli for a full meal.
If you're a fan of cheese meals and snacks you have to check out this recipe for vegan cheez its, and this super easy vegan mac and cheese!
📌 Be sure to follow me on Pinterest for new vegan recipes!
Vegan Grilled Cheese Sandwich
For vegan cheese that melts:
- 1 can coconut milk full fat
- 1/4 cup warm water
- 1 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 2 tablespoon nutritional yeast
- 4 teaspoon agar agar powder
- 1/4 cup cold water to mix with tapioca starch
- 7 teaspoons tapioca flour (tapioca starch) this is the same as 2 tbsp + 1 tsp
For the sandwich:
- 1 teaspoon vegan butter for spreading on the bread for grilling
- 2 slices bread of choice
For the cheese:
- Prepare cheese molds by spraying a glass bowl or container with spray oil or rub any neutral-flavored oil on the molds to prevent sticking. (Recipe will make about 2 cups of cheese).
- Add a 13.5 oz can of coconut milk (or another cheese base), 1/4 cup of warm water, 2 tbsp of nutritional yeast, 4 tsp agar agar, 1/2 tsp garlic, and 1 1/4 tsp salt.
- Heat the cheese sauce over medium heat until it begins to boil.
- Turn down the heat until it is just barely bubbling and allow it to boil for 5 minutes while stirring frequently.
- Add 2 tbsp plus 1 tsp (or 7 tsp.) tapioca starch to 1/4 cup of cold water and stir until it dissolves.
- Add the starch and water mixture to the boiling cheese sauce and stir it in with a whisk and cook for an additional 1 minute. (Your cheese will become very thick and stretchy).
- (You can put this hot cheese sauce in your sandwich immediately or let it cool and set and then slice or shred it in your sandwich).
- Pour into a glass container and allow to cool uncovered in the refrigerator for at least 3 hours before shredding or slicing. Keep refrigerated for up to 5 days.
For the vegan grilled cheese sandwich:
- Butter 1 side of 2 slices of bread. Place one slice butter side down on the skillet and add sliced or grated cheese (and any other add-ins) then top it with the other slice of bread.
- Grill over low heat for about 5 minutes on each side until golden brown and the cheese is melted. Serve immediately.
- Make sure to cook the grilled cheese sandwich on low heat to give the cheese time to melt. (Low and slow makes the best grilled sandwiches)!
- You can also heat the sandwich in the microwave for 20 -30 seconds to melt the cheese before grilling to save time and melt thoroughly.
- Put a lid on your frying pan for a few minutes to trap the heat inside and melt your cheese evenly.
⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ Leave a comment and starred review! I would love to hear from you!
* This recipe was updated on 1/28/20 from the original that was posted on 5/4/18 to include more concise directions, new pictures, and a video of the cheese-making process.
This cheese is fabulous!!!! Thanks Monica.
You're welcome, Sue! I'm so happy that you liked it! 🙂
I had to substitute agar agar with corn starch as every single shop I went to was sold out of agar agar. Google said corn starch could be used a a sub but my mozzarella didn’t fully set, and I left it in the fridge overnight. More like a thick sauce right now. Anything I can do to still make it set? Maybe reheat and add something to it? It smells delicious, CANNOT wait to taste it 😃
Unfortunately, nothing else makes it set like agar agar. You can still spread it on bread and make a grilled cheese out of it as is. Enjoy! 🙂
Where do the cashews fit into the recipe? Thanks
You only need cashews if you don't want to use coconut milk as the base for the cheese. Some people can eat coconut, so I give an option of cashews if you need an alternative.
Could i leave out the agar and just have it as a cheesy type sauce that can be poured over burritos to be baked? I want to try this recipe soon!
Yes! You can also look at my vegan nacho cheese sauce recipe ( https://thehiddenveggies.com/vegan-nacho-cheese-sauce-cheddar-style/ ) or my alfredo sauce recipe ( https://thehiddenveggies.com/alfredo-sauce-coconut-milk/ ) for ideas that you don't need the agar agar to make. Enjoy! 🙂
Thank you so much!!! I will come back with a rating as soon as i make it! Should be this weekend possibly
Sandra Laranja says
I'm not vegan, my son is, I made this cheese for my son but I love it so much, I use it as well. Thank you for sharing
Wow! Thanks so much! I'm so happy that you like it too! I usually bring cheese and crackers to parties and the non-vegans surprisingly always love it too. 🙂
Adrianne Dinoff-Storti says
Is the vegan butter to be mixed into the cheese recipe? Or is it used to butter the bread?
The butter is just listed to spread on the bread. Hope you enjoy it! 🙂
Lynne Page says
Does this cheese freeze?
Yes, you can freeze this cheese. Hope you enjoy it!
Is the bread used as an ingredient in the recipe or just for the sandwich?
The bread is just listed to make the sandwich, it's not an ingredient in the vegan cheese. Hope you enjoy it! 🙂
Kathryn Gannon says
Are you kidding?
Hi: I see so many using Coconut Milk (canned) to get creaminess in recipes (especially ice cream). As someone who really really dislikes coconut (even a hint of it, like when I tried Nada Moo ice cream recently) - can I ask whether it has a flavor or hint of coconut when using it to make cheese? I use “refined coconut oil” all of the time in my recipes, and I know it has NO hint of flavor which I love. Can the same be said of what you recommend in your recipe? Thanks so much for the help!
Hi Tiffany, Yes, it will have a slight coconut flavor, so if you don't like that, I would make it with soy milk and added oil to get a similar richness that coconut milk would have. Hope it works for you!
How do I determine which brand of coconut milk is “full fat”? Can you recommend a brand please?
Hi Sharrell, I usually use Chaokoh brand coconut milk that I find for a good price at my local Asian Market. You can use any brand that has 12 grams or more of fat per serving. (You can also use coconut cream). Just avoid the cans that say "light." Hope that you enjoy it! 🙂
Hi there! This looks great! Just curios, is there any sub for tapioca starch? Arrowroot powder?
No, there is no sub for tapioca starch that I know of. It it the only thing that makes it stretch. You can leave it out and it's a great cheese for slicing and eating cold, but it will not melt.
Emily Pompadoro says
OMG....God how I've missed you Grilled Cheese!
It's so good to have you back in my life!
I think my family would be happy if I made grilled cheese for dinner every night! Glad you like it! 🙂