What Is Vegan Cream Cheese? Plus, Your Guide to the Best Dairy-Free Brands

For something so simple, dairy-free cream cheese has become a behemoth of a topic. Some prefer a layer so thin it’s practically translucent while others prefer a two-to-one ratio of bagel to cream cheese. Then there are the flavors—plain, everything, chive, lox, cinnamon raisin (don’t @ us for that last one—it exists, even if you don’t like it). Whether searching for the best dairy-free cream cheese for bagels or for desserts, use this guide to navigate through the swirly, luscious wonders of a vegan schmear.

What is dairy-free cream cheese?

To clarify, when we refer to “dairy-free cream cheese,” we’re also referring to vegan cream cheese. We’ve yet to come across a dairy-free cream cheese that wasn’t vegan, largely due to the fact that other animal ingredients typically are not used to make the basic schmear. Packaged cream cheese is made of pasteurized whole milk, salt, carob bean gum (a thickener, stabilizer, and emulsifier), and cheese cultures. Most homemade vegan cream cheese recipes substitute the cultures for an acid, such as lemon juice, to curdle the dairy-free base. 

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To make a vegan version of a traditional cow milk-dependent product, a few extra ingredients are needed. Different companies rely on different foods and techniques to attain that thick texture and mildly tart taste. Tofutti, for example, uses soy, an oil blend, and non-dairy lactic acid; more recent vegan cream cheese innovators such as Miyoko’s Creamery rely on cashews, coconut cream, and vegan cultures. One day, it might even be made from precision fermentation, an emerging technique that’s slowly making its way into the vegan food space. Only time will tell.

There’s a seemingly infinite number of ways to make it, but the general rule of thumb is the emulsification of fat, liquid, salt, and cultures, sometimes with the addition of a stabilizer.

Is dairy-free cream cheese healthy?

While the ingredients for dairy-free cream cheese vary, the nutrition label across brands looks similar. Vegan or not, cream cheese is calorically-dense and high in fat, and “healthy” is a relative term. Because it does not use cow’s milk, it does not contain trans fat and tends to be lower in saturated fat than an animal-based schmear. Too much saturated fat is associated with higher levels of low-density lipoprotein (LDL), also known as “bad” cholesterol. High LDL levels can increase the risk of heart disease, according to the American Heart Association.

The healthfulness of vegan cream cheese varies from brand to brand. If saturated fat is a concern, keep an eye out for coconut oil-based vegan cream cheeses. Coconut oil is about 90 percent saturated fat.

If you’re looking for one that’s on the better-for-you side, avoid the dairy-free varieties made from oil and stick to the ones made from whole food ingredients like nuts, seeds, or even beans. That’s not to say that oil-based vegan cream cheeses are bad for you. Oil can be a healthy part of your diet when consumed in moderation. 

The best dairy-free cream cheese brands

Below are our top picks for vegan cream cheeses whether you’re using them for breakfast, lunch, dinner, or dessert.

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1 Philadelphia

Yep, the most iconic cream cheese brand of them all, Philadelphia, is now in the vegan game. It launched its first plant-based cream cheese at the end of 2022, and in June 2023, it launched three vegan flavors nationwide: Original, Strawberry, and Chive & Onion.
Find it here

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2 Miyoko’s Creamery

Looking for something with minimal ingredients? Miyoko’s is a solid choice. Made only with cashews, coconut cream, salt, and cultures, this stuff is as unprocessed as you can get in the schmear department. It’s super thick and velvety and comes in four flavors: classic plain, Everything, Savory Scallion, and cinnamon raisin.  
Find it here

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3 Kite Hill

An outlier in the vegan cream cheese market, Kite Hill uses almond milk as a base for its many creamy spreads. It’s slightly thinner than other brands, but what it may lack in thickness it makes up for in flavor. Options include plain, chive, everything, and garden veggie.
Find it here

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4 Tofutti

From the makers of the novelty ice cream, this old-school vegan brand’s Better Than Cream Cheese lives up to its name. While newer brands may have received more hype, this schmear is perfectly serviceable in baked goods and on its own. You can find it in most grocers and it tends to be the most affordable option as well. 
Find it here

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5 Trader Joe’s 

The grocer is well on its way to offering a vegan option for every product it sells. Labeled as Vegan Cream Cheese Alternative, this plain spread is another win for all plant-based Trader Joe’s shoppers. Pro tip: mix in a few shakes of Trader Joe’s Everything Bagel Seasoning to make this schmear a bit more interesting.
Find it here

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6 Daiya 

Name a dairy product, and this long-standing vegan company likely makes it. The brand recently reformulated its inaugural cream cheese to improve its rich taste and silky texture. Among the four flavors, our favorite is the Roasted Garlic & Herbs. Also, if you were wondering, it’s pronounced Day-ah. 
Find it here

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7 Violife

Perfect for baked goods like vegan cheesecake and cream cheese swirled brownies, Violife’s Just Like Cream Cheese is a relatively new product under this non-dairy food brand’s name. If you’re looking for the best vegan cheesecake recipe, don’t miss our guide here.
Find it here

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8Kroger Simple Truth

Kroger’s Simple Truth Organic Plant-Based Cream Cheese Alternative is just one of the 50-plus new vegan products the name-brand line launched in the fall of 2020. When a major supermarket invests in non-dairy cream cheese, you know the “trend” is here to stay.
Find it here

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9 Go Veggie

Have you ever purchased a tub of non-dairy cream cheese only to realize you picked up the Chive & Garlic flavor just before making your vegan cream cheese frosting? Yep, we’ve been there. Go Veggie offers both Chives & Garlic and classic plain, and while both are creamy and delicious, definitely double-check the label if you’re making something sweet.
Find it here

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10Treeline

After gaining popularity through its luscious, European-style soft vegan cheeses, it’s only natural that this company churns out a decadent dairy-free cream cheese. The three, minimal-ingredient flavors include plain, Chive & Onion, and Everything.
Find it here

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11Spero Foods

This vegan soft cheese brand differentiates itself from the rest by using sunflower seeds for its thick and creamy base. Each of the flavors is infused with probiotics to best mimic their dairy-based counterparts. Choose from original, strawberry, Smoked Salmon, Herb, and pumpkin varieties the next time you have toasty bagels waiting for you at home.
Find it here

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12 Wildbrine

This smooth dairy-free cream cheese is made from a blend of cashews and coconut cream. It gets a boost of gut-healthy bacteria from lactobacillus cultures, plus, it’s versatile enough to use as a spread or in decadent desserts.
Find it here

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13 WayFare

Known for its vegan sour cream and butter, this plant-based brand’s cream cheese features a base made from organic butter beans and organic oats. The result is a dairy-free spread that has a thick texture, perfect for bagels and crackers.
Find it here

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14 Nurishh

Owned by Bel (also the owners of two iconic cheese brands, Babybel and Boursin), Nurishh first launched back in 2020, offering vegan mozzarella, camembert, and more. Since then, it has expanded its range further, and in early 2023, it launched its own sunflower seed-based cream cheese in two delicious flavors: Plain and Garlic & Herbs.
Find it here

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15 Monty’s

Monty’s cultured cashew-based cream cheese is “light as air,” which is why it has the appropriate title of Cloud Cheese. It’s a little different from many others on the market because it’s packaged inside a squeezable sachet. According to the brand, this makes it easier “to grab and easier to squeeze.”
Find it here

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16Oatly

This Swedish brand might be known best for its oat milk, but that’s not the only delicious product in its portfolio. Alongside products like Oatgurt and ice creams, it also offers velvety oat-based cream cheese spread, too.
Find it here

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17 Follow Your Heart

California-based vegan cheese brand Follow Your Heart’s dairy-free range is extensive, tasty, and, of course, it includes vegan cream cheese. Made with coconut oil, it is also gluten-free, soy-free, non-GMO, and, most importantly, perfect on a freshly toasted bagel.
Find it here

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18 Darë

Based in North Carolina, Darë specializes in aged, artisan, totally vegan cheeses. But alongside wedge options like Pepperjack, Balsamic Fig, and Roasted Garlic, you can also find cashew-based cream cheeses in three tasty flavors: Original, Smoked Pimento, and Veggie.
Find it here

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19 Nature’s Fynd

This vegan cream cheese from Nature’s Fynd is made with the brand’s signature Fy Protein, which is derived from fungi. It’s smooth, creamy, easily spreadable, and far more sustainable than the alternative. Plus, it’s also nut- and soy-free.
Find it here

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20 Vevan

Vevan knows its cheese, and that’s because it was founded by real cheesemakers. Owned by Shuman Cheese, it has combined the skill of cheese experts with plant-based ingredients to create delicious 100 percent vegan products that are just as tasty as their animal-derived counterparts. It has several different UnCreamCheese flavors on offer, including Plain, Strawberries & Cream, and Caramelized Peach & Maple.
Find it here

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