What the what? How do you run out of cheese?! Hey, it happens. We're not here to judge; we're here to help. Check out these cheese substitute options!

vegan cashew cheese substitute, from Shelf Cooking

Whether you're on a spending freeze, doing Shelftember, or just forgot to buy cheese, this post is here to rescue you! From dairy-free vegan options to substitutes perfect for dairy lovers, we've thought of it all.

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Go ahead and tap the bookmark button or make sure your printer has paper in it because this is definitely a post you'll want to save. Are you ready for a few of the best cheese substitute ideas around? Here we go!


homemade cheese substitute, from Shelf Cooking

Okay, we're not ones to beat around the bush, so let's dive right in and do this! Option numero uno? Make your own cheese. Huh?! Yep. You can do that. Here are two simple DIY cheese recipes:

Looking for a dairy-free alternative? Keep on reading!


Okay, if you're not eating dairy, what can you use in place of cheese? Whether you're doing a Whole30 or you're lactose intolerant, here are two genius ideas:

  • Sweet Potato – Are you whipping up a recipe that calls for cheese sauce? Make a creamy sweet potato sauce instead! Peel and cube a medium sweet potato, then boil it, along with a quarter cup each of diced carrots and onions. Drain, and drop the veggies into a food processor with one cup of veggie broth (you can use the water from your veggies), 1/2 cup of white beans, 4 tablespoons of nutritional yeast flakes, 1 tablespoon of lemon juice, and salt and pepper to taste. Blend until smooth and creamy, and then you're all set! (Hint: try this one in mac and cheese or on nachos.)
  • Cashew Cheese – Soak two cups of cashews overnight, then drain and rinse. Toss them in a blender with 3/4 cups of water, 8 tablespoons of nutritional yeast, 3 tablespoons of lemon juice, 2 teaspoons of salt, and 1 teaspoon of garlic salt. Blend until combined, then use immediately or store in the refrigerator for up to one week. This one makes a great spread!

Pro Tip: Fun fact! Parmesan cheese works well as a nutritional yeast substitute. You can use it in a one-to-one ratio.


bowl of homemade pesto, from Shelf Cooking

If you don't need to cut out dairy, you can get by with one of these kitchen staples:

  • Pesto – No, pesto doesn't taste like cheese, but it adds a nice creamy texture to recipes and packs its own yummy punch of flavor, so in a pinch, it's a great alternative. So, if you need the cheese for pasta night, try using some pesto instead! It's actually great on tacos and in sandwiches, too.
  • Sour Cream – Obviously, if your recipe calls for a block or shredded cheese, sour cream won't work, but if you need a substitute for ricotta or cottage, sour cream is a perfect alternative!
  • Hummus – Maybe this sounds weird, but don't knock it until you try it! Hummus works as a great spread in place of cheese. Try it as a pasta sauce, pizza topping, or in a quesadilla or panini.

Try the hummus quesadilla, loaded up with your favorite veggies and protein, and you may never go back to the cheese again!


Here's some life-changing advice to file away! If you never want to run out of cheese again, start stocking up and freezing it. Yes, you can totally freeze your cheese! Place soft cheeses in an airtight container and place shredded cheese in a bag. Here's the skinny:

  • Ricotta Cheese  A word of warning: the consistency may change just a bit. However, there are so many ways to use ricotta cheese after it's thawed! Lasagna roll-ups, anyone?
  • Cream Cheese  Again, the consistency may change, so try to plan ahead if you can. If you thaw it slow and steady in the fridge, you'll get the best result!
  • Cheese, Sliced or Shredded  It's always great to have cheese on hand! While you can freeze a whole block of cheese, we wouldn't suggest doing that since it's hard to use once you thaw it. Slice or shred it before you freeze to make it more convenient for meal prep.

With any cheese, aim to use it within about six months of freezing. It can last up to nine months, but the flavor and quality start to decrease pretty dramatically past that point!


Well, there you have it! Now you've got some cheese substitute options to try the next time you find yourself in a bind.

What do you do when you run out of cheese? If you have any tips or tricks to share, we'd love to hear them. Leave a comment below!

Cheese substitute in a bowl with a spoon from Shelf Cooking.

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Say cheese!