Are There Really Any Good Substitutes for Cheese?
Make Better Choices in the Cheese Department
I've recently lost more than 20 pounds in less than three months, in part by more carefully watching my portions and also by making healthier, lower-fat choices. You know, the usual stuff.
One food item that's proven challenging to amend, however, is cheese.
I, for one, don't recommend eliminating it from your diet completely if you don't have to. But there are what I consider tasty substitutes for recipes and some real cheeses that are better than others when it comes to fat content and cholesterol.
Here are some suggestions for those who love their cheese but not always what's in it....
Alternatives to Cheese
Some "Instead Of" Suggestions....
If you want to cut out cheese (the dairy kind anyway) or cut down on how often you use it, these are substitutes that work for me at least for some dishes.
Substituting Avocado for Cheese:
There are good fats and bad fats, as I'm sure you well know. Avocado, while pretty high in calories at 240 per cup, is low in saturated fat. Of the 22 grams of total fat in that same cup, just 3.2 are saturated, and 2.7 are polyunsaturated. That leaves 14.7 grams of monounsaturated fat. And I usually don't need to use a whole cup -- more like half that -- to satisfy.
Also on avocado's plus side is that it's cholesterol-free, very low in sodium, and low in sugar but high in dietary fiber and vitamin C. While avocado has a very different taste than cheese, I find it adds great flavor and that desired creamy texture to sandwiches, so I don't miss the cheese at all. I also like some avocado on salads and in wraps instead of cheese or mayo.
You can use slices of avocado, smash up plain avocado for a spread, or, if you like a bit more tang, make some guacamole with lime juice, diced onion, fresh cilantro, diced tomatoes and garlic.
Substituting Hummus for Cheese:
This is another creamy, flavorful spread that can take the place of cheese on sandwiches and in wraps, among other foods. Hummus is a Middle Eastern recipe made from cooked, mashed chickpeas, blended with tahini, olive oil, lemon juice, salt and garlic. It's got about 27 calories per tablespoon with just 1.3 total grams of fat (1 gram of which is unsaturated).
Hummus is more versatile than you might think. Check out this recipe for Cheeseless Hummus Pizza.
Substituting Yogurt Cheese or Greek Yogurt:
Yogurt Cheese really isn't cheese at all. It's simply yogurt that's become thicker by draining the liquid whey through a cheesecloth or other strainer, so it takes on more of a cream cheese consistency. The longer it sits, the thicker it gets. You can put it in the refrigerator overnight to really thicken it up and then use it in place of cheese on sandwiches, in wraps, for making cheesecakes and other desserts, and in recipes such as raviolis for example. You can make yogurt cheese out of any type of plain yogurt or, for tangier, thicker yogurt cheese, use Greek Yogurt.
You can also use the plain yogurt or Greek yogurt straight out of the container as a spread if you like that consistency and flavor.
Some Help With Yogurt Cheese
If you like this alternative and want to use it in all sorts of ways, check out the Not Just Cheesecake: A Yogurt Cheese Cookbook with 250 recipes for everything from appetizers to desserts and all meals in between.
Here are some dairy-free recipes for cheese including the types of regular cheeses they can replace in order to help you choose the right one.
Want a cheese substitute that actually melts? Check out the Creamy, Mild Cheese Sauce that isn't really cheese, either (but tastes like it).
And take a look at this "Avo-Garlic-Lemon-Miso" spread idea from the Organic Granny as a sandwich filler instead of cheese. This one isn't supposed to mimic cheese at all, though.
The Best Vegan Cheese Alternative
I'm not a vegan or even a vegetarian, but some friends of mine who are vegans suggested this cheese substitute to me, saying it tastes very good and melts well, especially under the broiler and in the microwave. And they were right. I too recommend at least trying this alternative. It comes in a few different varieties and is....
- Cholesterol free
- Preservative free
- Free of hormones and antibiotics
Have you tried any of these substitutes?
If so, let us know which you liked, which you didn’t, and which were just “meh” by leaving a message in the Guestbook below.
More Resources for Cheesy Substitutes - The flavor and texture of cheese without the stuff you don't want....
- Vegan Cheese Substitutes
- Greek Yogurt Recipe, Health Benefits and Advantages
Greek yogurt is one of those foods you should always have on hand as it benefits you in many ways. Not only is it incredibly versatile, but it also seems to make everything healthier. One cup offers 13 to 20 grams of protein, and you can substitute i
- 5 Tips for Cooking with Greek Yogurt | Kitchn
How to cook with Greek yogurt and ideas for using it as a substitute for mayonnaise, sour cream, and heavy cream.
A Review of Cheese Substitutes
- SupermarketGuru - Cheese Substitutes: A 101
An overview of imitation cheeses and substitutes and which are "the best of the best"
But if it's Real Cheese You Prefer....
The Better Choices
Stay to the white....
Cheese doesn't always equate with being unhealthy or fattening. It can actually be an excellent source of lean protein as well as calcium and phosphorus, not to mention have other health benefits. That is, if you choose the right kinds.
While cheddar cheese is extremely popular, it's also one of the highest in fat and calories, at 120 calories and 10 grams of fat per ounce. And blue cheese has the same amount of calories and 12 grams of fat per ounce.
But not all cheeses are created equal. In general, the more orange the cheese, the higher the fat content. So consider topping things off or snacking on these instead....
Low Fat or Fat Free Ricotta:
This type of cheese is one of the lowest in fat at just five percent, and Italian ricotta is made from whey rather than from whole milk. Ricotta is a great for pasta dishes, such as Low Fat Spinach and Ricotta Pasta, and for desserts. Ricotta is also tasty on crackers, bagels and fruit.
Low Fat or Nonfat Cottage Cheese:
This is a very versatile and healthy type of cheese, with 3 grams of protein and only 20 calories for the low fat option. You can eat it straight from the container or pair it with fruit and cinnamon or vegetables, eat it on salads, and use it in many recipes -- such as Low Fat Peach Berry Dessert -- that call for soft cheese. Just watch the sodium content, which can be high, so look for low sodium options.
In addition to other health benefits, goat cheese has just eighty calories and six grams of fat per ounce. Many cheeses made from cow's milk are higher in both fat and calories but still high in calcium. Those with lactose intolerance are often able to better tolerate goat cheese, which is great on salads and vegetables and a delicious and healthier substitute for mayonnaise on sandwiches.
At 75 calories and four grams of protein per ounce, feta is lower in calories and fat than most other cheeses. It's also got a strong, somewhat salty flavor, so you don't need much of it to really add taste. Use it on salads instead of bleu cheese and on fruit. It's also really good sprinkled over soup or on sweet vegetables like sweet potatoes and squash. And if you don't want to eat cheese made with cow's milk, try Greek feta instead, which is made goat or sheep milk.
I especially like to get this in the form of string cheese, because it's already portioned out. A one-ounce serving of part-skim, 100% mozzarella has just 71 calories but 7 grams of protein.
Like feta, Parmesan has a strong flavor, so you don't need much. It's not all that low in calories at 110 per one ounce, but even a light sprinkling adds taste. (One ounce of shredded Parmesan is roughly half a cup.) Parmesan is great sprinkled over pasta, salads, on baked chicken or a veggie-loaded pizza instead of other, heavier cheeses. It's good on apple slices, too. Parmegiano Reggiano is considered the highest quality Parmesan.
Low Fat or Low Sodium Swiss:
This is yet another strong cheese, so less is more here, too, which is why I'm including it as a better choice than some others. Swiss cheese is high in phosphorus, which is important to bone growth, and also high in vitamin B-12. A one-ounce slice is 106 calories with 8 grams of fat and 7.5 grams of protein. One slice is really enough, though, to add plenty of flavor to a sandwich.
More Information about Cheese Selection for a Healthier Diet
- The Healthiest Cheese to Eat
On the health benefits of cheese and the best choices
- How to Choose the Healthiest Cheeses
For example: If you like cream cheese, choose American NeufchÃ¢tel instead. Here are some alternatives to your favorite cheeses and why.
- A Guide to Healthy Cheese
Including low-fat, low-sodium, and low-lactose cheeses
Do a Side-by-Side Cheese Comparison ... and look at alternatives too.
TwoFoods Instant Food Comparison lets you easily compare the calories, carbs, fat and protein of two food items, with alternatives for each.
Do You Substitute or Do Without? - Share your cheese philosophy and tips.
Do you go without cheese altogether?
I have to have my cheese. (But if you make certain choices, let us know.)
Ruthi: I say "Cheese!" Oh my, cheese is THE most difficult food for me to eliminate from my diet and I do eat it in some form or flavor nearly every day. I am trying, of late, to eat mostly cottage cheese and feta for salads and such, but sure do have to have a brick of some kind of cheese at least once a week.
Meganhere: I don't eat it a lot, but it's so goooooood.
Gregory Moore: I think I eat cheese just about every day.
WordChipper: I love cheese. Especially a nice creamy brie on a french baguette
Spiderlily321: I do like cheese occasionally but I am trying to go completely without. I do really like the vegetarian substitutes that I've tried.
Rose Jones: Girl, are you serious? :) I love cheese. But the "I recently lost 20 lbs in three months" caught my attention.
Kathryn Grace: Oh yeah, I love my cheese. With even the most casual stop at the local grocers, I always add cheese to my basket, because we never, ever want to run out. Lately, though, I've been thinking I need to cut back, and I've been experimenting with avocado in place of cheese on salads and sandwiches. So glad to see that recommendation here! I don't know if I'd ever like a vegan substitute, but I may give the one you mention above a try. I have been making my own Greek-style yogurt and "cream cheese" from yogurt for years (I even have a lens about that), and they work very well as substitutes for the real thing, except for baking. I learned the hard way, I need real cream cheese in baked goods. I'm intrigued with your yogurt cheese cookbook recommendation, tho, so may give that a try too.
Elyn MacInnis: Not if I can help it!
Carol: No, I love cheese. But I do try to use low fat extra sharp and only use a little bit at a time.
Indigo Janson: I do like cheese. But cottage cheese and other low-fat options are good ideas.
jasminesphotogr: Cheese, well dairy in general, tends to make me sick. If I can, I use raw cheese. It doesn't make me sick like processed cheeses do. It tastes better, too. :)
kathrynd7: Cheese is the best! So many varieties that are so great and interesting! Cheese, please!
Chazz: I love cheese but try to stick with low fat and goat cheeses. Since I prefer stronger cheeses, a little does go a long way for flavoring, as you noted.
Terrie_Schultz: I love all kinds of cheese! I eat it just about every day.
Joan4: I don't go without cheese ever! But I do watch portions when I am dieting.
Kylyssa Shay: I try to stick with tiny sprinklings of Asiago, Romano, or Parmesan but I also indulge in goat cheeses from time to time. Every once in a while, I splurge and just have some cheese of whatever type I want.
aquarian_insight: I love cheese, and although I don't eat it too often, I eat all kinds.
Deb Kingsbury: I eat much less cheese than I used to, but, when I do, it's usually goat cheese, feta, or part-skim mozzarella for me. No more cheddar or Colby.
AlleyCatLane: I love cheese, preferably melted. Fat free cheeses just don't taste as good nor do they melt well.
No cheese for me, thanks. Instead, I use...
anonymous: MAYONAAISE is my taste
anonymous: Do without!
Choosethislife: I love nut cheese options-much better if you cannot get your hands on local grass fed cheese !
MelloKnitty LM: I've never liked vegan "pretend cheese" - the only thing that satisfies my cheese cravings (and butter for that matter) is hummus! Hummus all the way, I practically live on it!
BrightDaysAhead: I love your suggestions! I hardly ever eat real cheese anymore, even though it does taste delicious every now and then!
lclchors: go without and I love cheese i mix avocado and greek yogurt together
Cheese Substitute Recipe Videos
Better Than Parmesan: How to make a healthy Parmesan substitute that tastes good too....
Vegan Cheese -- A Creamy Alternative: A good substitute for cheddar cheese or cheese sauces....
A Dairy-Free Recipe: Using nuts and seeds to make cheese? Interesting....
© 2012 Deb Kingsbury