An Incentive to Stop Eating Cheese

I read in the paper today that the cost of cheese is skyrocketing. People have apparently been stockpiling cheese during the pandemic, in addition to Oreo cookies. God knows I’ve done my share of stress-eating over the past three months, and my waistline shows it. But the quarantine has also given me the opportunity to cook more homemade meals and not all of them have been regretful. I recently recommitted to eating more healthfully — and that includes my ongoing quest to eat dairy-free.

So when I saw the headline about expensive cheese, I thought, “What a great incentive to stop eating cheese.” Quarantine cooking doesn’t have to mean cheesy casseroles. Comfort food can be cheeseless. For those of you who are considering going dairy-free but can’t imagine life without cheese, I assure you it can be done.

Instant ramen, jazzed up with soft-cooked egg, bok choy, scallions, and leftover pork.

Of course, there are some comfort foods that don’t make sense without cheese — for instance, pizza, mac-n-cheese, or grilled cheese sandwiches. For those cravings, I’d encourage you to try the many dairy-free cheese alternatives out there. I personally like Daiya shreds for things like pizza. You can read my review of Daiya shreds here.

But other foods, like burgers and most sandwiches and salads, are just fine without cheese. It may take a little while to shift your thinking on this if you’re a diehard cheeseburger fan. But the truth is, most burgers already have enough flavor — there’s the beef, ideally flame-broiled, which is delicious in itself. Then there are a multitude of toppings. I just ate a takeout burger the other day that had bacon, grilled onions, arugula, and garlic aioli on it. Believe me, I did not miss the cheese.

Here are some other cheese-free foods I’ve made during quarantine. I hope they inspire you.

Grilled hot links, spicy collard greens, and potato salad.
The bougie breakfast: avocado toast.
The British breakfast: toad in the hole.
I now have a daily espresso habit.
OK, so this coffeecake isn’t dairy-free, but I just had to show it off!

Simple Truth Organic Vegan Pizza Crust


This time, a pizza crust that is truly dairy-free! The Boboli crust I used the last time turned out to contain milk and cheese, so I went on a mission to find a vegan crust that tastes just as good.

I found one made by Simple Truth Organic, a Kroger house brand. It’s super-thin, more like a flatbread than a pizza — but it still has more of a doughy quality than the gluten-free crusts I’ve tried, which were as hard and dry as a cracker.


This time I used Classico Traditional Pizza Sauce.  It has a nice tanginess and a not-too-watery consistency. Then I piled on the toppings I had on hand: prosciutto, sliced mushrooms, chopped red onion and, of course, Daiya Mozzarella Style Shreds.

Unfortunately, I didn’t heed the instructions on the pizza crust package to bake at 400 degrees. Instead, because I like my pizza crispy, I cooked it at a blazing 500 degrees and ended up burning the edges.


It was still good, though!

As a former New Yorker, I’ve always liked my pizza on the thin side, so this crust works for me. If you’re more of a Chicago pizza kind of person, this isn’t the crust for you. But if you’re looking for a dairy-free, vegan crust that doesn’t have the texture of matzo, you might want to give this one a try.

Homemade Dairy-Free Pizza

Half of a pizza made with mini Boboli crust.

I used to think making a pizza would be a pain. Sure, it’s a lot easier to pick up the phone and order one from Domino’s. But if you don’t eat dairy, ordering a pizza becomes more complicated, because most of the pizzerias that offer dairy-free cheese — like Blaze or Pieology — aren’t that convenient.

So that’s why I decided to make my own pizza, using a pre-made Boboli crust (*see update below), generic pizza sauce in a jar, and Daiya Mozzarella Style Shreds. Guess what? It was a cinch. No driving to the pizzeria, standing in line, and hoping the person who constructed my pizza got the toppings right. I made my own pizza in about five minutes and ate it while it was piping hot.

Boboli makes mini crusts, too, which is what you see in the picture above. These are great for personal-size pizzas — handy when not everyone in the house wants dairy-free cheese. The Daiya shreds don’t melt quite the same as real cheese, but they taste pretty good. So far they’re the best approximation of mozzarella I’ve tried.


I made a dairy-free version of my favorite pizza: sausage, pepperoni, mushrooms, green peppers, and red onions. But I can foresee more adventurous pizzas in my future — perhaps prosciutto, cherry tomatoes, and fresh basil? A Mexican-inspired pizza topped with carnitas and Daiya Pepperjack Style Shreds? A “Joe’s omelet” pizza with ground beef and spinach? A while ago I even made a chicken curry pizza using naan for the crust. The possibilities are endless.

Best of all, this is a fun weeknight meal that yields easy-to-reheat leftovers. There’s no recipe to follow — just pile the toppings on your crust and bake in a very hot oven (preferably 500 degrees F) until the cheese melts and the crust is browned.

The rule of thumb is to layer the toppings so the ones that need the most cooking (like raw vegetables) are nearest the top. Feel free to go nuts with seasonings, too; a generous sprinkling of garlic powder, crushed red pepper, dried basil and oregano, and coarse sea salt will bring your pizza to a new level.

UPDATE: One of my readers pointed out that Boboli crusts do, in fact, contain milk and cheese. As I’m not allergic to dairy (only lactose-intolerant), I failed to notice this — there isn’t enough lactose in Boboli crusts to cause any issues for me. But if you are allergic, there are dairy-free pizza crusts available. Many are also gluten-free, and unfortunately, I’ve never had a gluten-free pizza that I actually liked. If I find a good crust that is suitable for dairy-allergic folks, I will let you know.

Joe’s Pizza, Now with Vegan Cheese


If this pizza doesn’t look quite right, that’s because it’s got vegan cheese on it. Despite its uninspiring appearance, this pizza got me excited — Joe’s Pizza was my favorite when I lived in New York. They opened a chain in Los Angeles years ago, but only recently have they started offering vegan cheese.

One of my fondest New York memories is of ducking into Joe’s on a rainy afternoon and eating a piping-hot slice while I gazed out the window and watched people running around, getting soaked. The taste of Joe’s reminds me of that cozy feeling.

Unfortunately, you can’t get Joe’s with vegan cheese by the slice. You have to order a whole pie. With a base price of $22 per pie, that’s a far cry from the $2 slice I used to get in New York. Still, this pizza made me happy.


The best thing about Joe’s is the crust. It’s crunchy, not too thick and not too thin. It has nicely browned edges and a satisfying bready flavor. This is the crust that New Yorkers love. Does it taste better with real cheese? Yes. But Daiya vegan cheese isn’t bad.

My go-to dairy-free pizza has been Blaze, which also uses Daiya. What I like about Blaze is that you can get as many toppings as you want for no extra charge. The reason I ordered only one topping (sausage) on my Joe’s pizza is that they’re $3 each. The bill can quickly become astronomical.

But the pie was huge and I had plenty of leftovers to take home. So the next day I added my own toppings: mushrooms, spinach, red onion, red pepper flakes, oregano. In a way this is even better, because I can vary the toppings on my leftover slices and not get sick of eating the same thing over and over.


Keep in mind that not all Joe’s Pizza locations in L.A. offer vegan cheese. I visited the one in Santa Monica and they didn’t have it. But if you’re on Hollywood Boulevard and you’re  craving a New York pizza that’s dairy-free, duck into Joe’s. It probably won’t be raining, though.

JOE’S PIZZA, 6504 Hollywood Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90028


More Dairy-Free Pizza, Please

I’ve been dairy-free for over five years, and most of the time I don’t really miss “the deadly poison.” There are so many dairy-free alternatives now that there’s no reason to feel deprived. But every so often, I do. And usually it involves pizza.

You can get pizza with vegan cheese at “build your own” pizza restaurants like Blaze, Pieology, and MOD. But while those pizzas aren’t bad, they’re not the same as an old-school New York pizza, the kind with a thin but flavorful crust that leaves a powdery film on your hands after you fold a slice in half and sink your teeth into it.

To be honest, I haven’t had any true New York pizza in L.A. They say it’s something in the New York water that makes the pizza crusts (and bagels) so special, and that’s why you can’t get good pizza and bagels here. The closest you can get is at Mulberry Street Pizza, owned by Cathy Moriarty (the actress from Raging Bull), and Joe’s Pizza, a branch of the New York pizzeria on Bleecker and 6th Avenue that I used to live a block away from.


In researching this blog post, I discovered that Joe’s Pizza in L.A. now offers Daiya vegan mozzarella on their whole pies. Finally! This is a recent development, and one that I hope more pizzerias follow suit on. (Mulberry Street, I’m talking to you.) It would be great if you could get these by the slice as well.

When I get a hankering for pizza, sometimes I don’t want to go to a “build your own” pizzeria and deal with the assembly line. Sometimes I want to go to an old-fashioned Italian restaurant with red-and-white checkered tablecloths and candles in chianti bottles. And sometimes I want to just pick up the phone and order a pie from the closest Domino’s.

I dream of a day when every pizzeria, from Domino’s to the fanciest Italian restaurant, offers dairy-free cheese as a matter of course. It’s really not that hard.

Daiya Dairy-Free Swiss Cheese Slices


Daiya makes a lot of dairy-free products and they’re not all created equal. I like to review as many of them as I can, so you’ll know which ones are worth eating and which aren’t.

When I saw Daiya’s Swiss Style Slices, I was optimistic. I love the Cheddar Style Slices in this same product line. Swiss was one of my favorite cheeses back in my dairy-eating days — it’s the only cheese I would want in a turkey, pastrami, or corned beef sandwich. I started having fantasies of being able to eat chicken cordon bleu and double-decker Reubens.


I tried not to be bothered by the appearance of this “cheeze.” Its uniform roundness and lack of distinctive holes that Swiss cheese is known for make this stuff look like it was manufactured on an assembly line. It reminds me of Oscar Mayer bologna, that round “mystery meat” cold cut that I loved as a child. I used to fold the circle into quarters and strategically take bites out of it so when I opened it back up, it would look like a snowflake. Ah, fun with processed foods.

But I digress. Daiya’s Swiss “cheeze” unfortunately tastes as artificial as it looks. It melts as nicely as Daiya’s cheddar slices, but it has a decidedly weird, chemical aftertaste. It was so unappealing I threw out the package after trying only one slice, in a ham-and-Swiss omelet.

So much for the dairy-free chicken cordon bleu. For now.

If you’d like to read my other reviews of Daiya products, click on the Daiya tag below.

Dairy-Free Skillet Taco Pie


As promised, I’m sharing my recipe for this super-easy weeknight dinner. Dairy-Free Skillet Taco Pie is like a deconstructed crispy taco — and less messy to eat. Contrary to what the name suggests, there’s no crust in it. It’s a nod to Frito Pie, a popular Southwestern dish consisting of chili, cheese, and corn chips.

I adapted this recipe from an issue of Better Homes & Gardens. One of the changes I made was to substitute Daiya dairy-free pepperjack for regular cheese. The Daiya melts easily when mixed into the meat, and you can barely tell it’s not real cheese.


Adapted from Better Homes & Gardens

1 pound ground beef or turkey
1 jalapeño pepper, seeded and chopped
1 15-ounce can black beans, rinsed and drained
8 ounces tomato sauce
1/2 cup salsa
1 teaspoon chili powder
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1 cup Daiya pepperjack style shreds
1/4 cup sliced green onion
2 cups shredded lettuce
1 cup chopped tomatoes
2 handfuls tortilla chips, broken

In a large skillet, cook meat and jalapeño pepper over medium-high heat until meat is browned.

Stir in beans, tomato sauce, salsa, chili powder, and cumin. Bring to boiling; reduce heat to medium. Simmer, covered, about 5 minutes or until slightly thickened.

Stir in the “cheese” and cook until it melts.

Spoon meat mixture into 4 wide bowls. Top each bowl with green onions, lettuce, tomatoes, and tortilla chips. If desired, serve with additional salsa and hot sauce.

Daiya “Cutting Board Collection” Dairy-Free Cheeze Shreds


I recently posted my recipe for Dairy-Free Chicken Curry Pizza, which uses Daiya Mozzarella Cutting Board Shreds. Having liked the mozzarella, I decided to try another shredded “cheeze” from Daiya’s Cutting Board Collection: the Pepperjack Cutting Board Shreds.

Success! This dairy-free cheese melts beautifully and doesn’t have a weird aftertaste. It works perfectly in Mexican-inspired dishes like Skillet Taco Pie, a deconstructed crispy taco that is one of my go-to weeknight recipes because it’s quick and easy. (Stay tuned… I’ll post that recipe soon.)

Skillet Taco Pie with Daiya Pepperjack mixed into the meat.

This dairy-free pepperjack is also great in omelets and scrambled eggs. It has a nice stretchy texture and just a hint of sharpness and spiciness that gives the eggs some pizazz. Add some salsa and you’re good to go.


Getting the pepperjack this weekend was perfect timing because the Super Bowl happened yesterday… and we all know that the Super Bowl is just an excuse to eat your weight in guacamole. I used the Daiya pepperjack to make Kalua Pig Quesadillas.

If you’ve never had Kalua pig, it’s like carnitas but moister. And it’s incredibly easy to make: You simply rub a pork shoulder with minced garlic and Hawaiian Alaea sea salt and cook it on low for nine hours in a Crock-Pot lined with three strips of raw bacon. When it’s done, shred the meat, and you’ve got the basis for all kinds of pork-centric entrees.

Now, I’ve actually eaten quesadillas without cheese — if the meat is flavorful enough, it can be done — but I have to admit that quesadillas without cheese are a little sad, not to mention structurally unsound because there’s nothing to hold them together. The Daiya pepperjack was the answer to my quesadilla woes.

Forgot to include the giant mound of guacamole in this photo.

Keep in mind that this stuff isn’t good for snacking straight out of the bag. When I tried that, the texture made it obvious that it wasn’t real cheese. You must melt it. The application of heat is the key to its success.

My love-hate relationship with Daiya products is on a upswing with this Cutting Board Collection. If they can get these vegan cheese shreds right, maybe there’s hope for their vegan cream cheese.

Daiya Deluxe Cheezy Mac

If you don’t eat dairy, you’ve probably tried at least one Daiya product, and it has either made you a fan or turned you off forever. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Daiya’s non-dairy products are hit or miss. Here’s a summary so far (click on each to read my reviews):

Cheddar Style Slices
Mozzarella Cutting Board Shreds
New York Cheezecake

Cream Cheeze Style Spread
Pumpkin Spice Cheezecake
Creamy Caesar Salad Dressing

And now I’m sorry to say I’ve got to add one more to the “bad” list: Daiya Cheddar Style Deluxe Cheezy Mac.


I was never a huge mac and cheese lover to begin with, but my husband is more obsessed with it than your average eight-year-old. I thought it would be fun to whip up a batch of dairy-free mac and cheese and see how it compared to his beloved Kraft.

Indeed, Daiya’s cheeze sauce is as bright orange as the classic. After cooking the macaroni, you squeeze the contents of a foil pouch onto the pasta and this is what it looks like. Not appetizing. But then, neither is Kraft’s.


To add a little texture and flavor, I sprinkled some Italian bread crumbs on top and broiled it for five minutes. The result was a dish that looked surprisingly edible.


But even the salty crunchiness of the bread crumbs didn’t mask the weirdness of the fake cheese. There is a distinctly unnatural flavor to this stuff that isn’t like the unnatural-but-kind-of-awesome flavor of Velveeta or Cheez Whiz. It tastes industrial.

I don’t know how Daiya can make such a good sliced cheese and such a bad mac and cheese. You’d think they’d use essentially the same recipe. But maybe they have to add strange things to the Cheezy Mac stuff to get it to stay in that gooey, glue-like form.

If you’re curious, try it at your own risk. But consider yourself warned.

Daiya Vegan Cream Cheese


Searching for a dairy-free cream cheese that tastes like the real thing? Me too.

Unfortunately, Daiya Cream Cheeze Style Spread isn’t it. After trying it a long time ago and hating it, I was hoodwinked into trying it again because the label claimed this recipe was “new and improved.”

Here’s what it’s made of: Filtered water, coconut oil, tapioca starch, coconut cream, vegan natural flavors, pea protein isolate, sea salt, chives, white onion, xanthan gum, potato protein isolate, lactic acid (vegan), vegan enzyme, lemon juice concentrate, guar gum, locust bean gum.

Here’s what it looks like on a bagel.


Its texture isn’t bad. Less creamy than real cream cheese, but not too grainy.

The problem is the flavor. Simply put, it tastes like bleu cheese. This is the same problem that Daiya Caesar Salad Dressing has. Bleu cheese is fine in certain contexts, but on a bagel? Uh, no.

So I’m going to make this short. Daiya vegan cream cheese: Don’t do it.

For more of my reviews of dairy-free cream cheese products, click on the “cream cheese” tag below. The search continues…