The classic grilled cheese sandwich – is this really something you need a recipe for? Perhaps not, but when we first went vegan, we didn’t enjoy a proper grilled cheese sandwich for months.
Why? A couple of reasons. We needed a little bit of time to kind of “forget” how dairy cheese tasted before diving into this whole vegan cheese world. I think it’s a little easier to judge vegan cheese for what it is if you haven’t just eaten dairy cheese the day before. You know?
When I finally did make one, I figured that the only key difference to making a vegan grilled cheese would be to swap in vegan cheese for dairy cheese. That sounds reasonable, doesn’t it? But vegan cheese just doesn’t taste exactly like dairy cheese. Some adjustments needed to be made!
First of all, I’d suggest using less vegan cheese than you would use dairy. 1/3 cup of vegan cheese shreds should be just about perfect.
Where we live, there aren’t a whole lot of options for vegan cheese so I can’t tell you which brand is THE ABSOLUTE BEST. We’ve got Daiya Shreds (Cheddar and Mozzarella Style), Daiya Slices, and Earth Island (Follow Your Heart in the US) American Style Slices to choose from here.
Our go-to for grilled cheese sandwiches are the Daiya Shreds (a mix of Mozzarella and Cheddar Style shreds is best.) The Earth Island American Style Slices are good (in a Kraft slices grilled cheese kinda way), but they’re much more expensive than Daiya.
Use a vegan butter for the classic fried flavour. Earth Balance Original has great flavour and a proper “buttery” texture. Add the butter to a preheated skillet instead of spreading it straight on the bread. This helps keep the bread light and airy. Melting the butter in a hot skillet saves you a little hassle and doesn’t result in squished bread. Choosing the right bread is important! Look for something with a medium-thick slice (about 1/2″ is just right.) Bread that’s too thin gets dry and toast-like and bread that’s too thick will throw off the optimal cheese to bread ratio.
Next we have one of my favourite tips: after frying, sprinkle the outside with a little bit of extra cheese and cook briefly to add a little crispy fried cheese flavour. This is KEY for making your sandwich taste more like a classic grilled cheese.
For something a little more deluxe, try adding some tempeh bacon! Fry the bacon to your liking before adding it to your sandwich. Be sure to cushion the bacon between 2 layers of cheese if you want your sandwich to hold together! I’ve always been a fan of Tofurky’s Smoky Maple Bacon. We recently came across Lightlife’s Smoky Tempeh Strips and decided to test them for this post. They’re great! They’re very similar in flavour to Tofurky’s tempeh bacon but the slices are thinner and the texture is finer. We’re hooked!
After your grilled cheese is cooked to perfection (with or without tempeh bacon), let it rest for a couple of minutes before eating. The texture of the vegan cheese improves once it’s cooled down just a touch.
Now it’s time to eat! I serve mine with the teeniest bit of regular ol’ ketchup. Or try sriracha, vegan ranch, or hummus for something a little different. Ah, classic vegan comfort food at it’s finest!
PS: This post is not sponsored by any of the companies mentioned above! Happy Day 2 of Vegan Mofo 2016!
- 2 slices sandwich bread (1/2″ thick)
- 1/3 cup vegan cheese shreds (mozza + cheddar blend), plus extra
- 1 tbsp vegan butter (divided)
- 2 –4 slices tempeh bacon, fried until crisp (optional)
- Classic grilled cheese: Sprinkle vegan cheese shreds on a slice of bread. Top with second slice of bread.
- Tempeh bacon grilled cheese: Sprinkle half of the vegan cheese over a slice of bread, add sliced tempeh bacon, and then sprinkle the remaining vegan cheese over the bacon. Top with second slice of bread.
- Preheat cast iron or non-stick skillet over medium heat.
- Melt 1/2 tbsp vegan butter in a hot skillet. Add sandwich and cook until golden brown and crispy. Use a spatula to lift the sandwich and check the progress as needed.
- Add another 1/2 tbsp of butter to the pan and use a spatula to carefully flip the sandwich.
- Top the cooked side with a light sprinkle of vegan cheese shreds.
- Continue cooking the underside until golden brown. Quickly flip the sandwich once more, cooking just long enough for the cheese on the outside to get fried and crispy.
- Slice on a diagonal and let the sandwich rest for a couple of minutes before eating.
- Optional: Serve with your favourite condiments – ketchup. hummus and vegan ranch are both great options.