If you’ve been vegan for more than 10 years, you remember “the olden days,” a time when the term “vegan cheese” meant unmeltable orange squares of opaque plastic disguised as food. Luckily, it’s 2018, and we now live in a world where we can enjoy the melty, ooey gooey comfort food like the best of them thanks to the countless readily available vegan versions of just about any ingredient you need. With so many options available, we thought now was a good time to share our secrets for making the ultimate vegan grilled cheese sandwich.
1. Start with your favorite fresh bread
Whether you’re into thin-sliced white or whole wheat or thick-sliced sourdough, there are numerous store-bought vegan breads that are perfect for a grilled cheese sandwich. We prefer something a bit heartier (such as Dave’s Killer Bread 100% Whole Wheat), but whatever you choose, make it good because these two slices of carbohydrate-goodness will be the vessel by which you transfer hot cheese into your mouth.
2. Buy better butter
Next, pick your plant-based butter. Similar to the bread, the brand doesn’t matter (as long as it’s vegan), but we recommend Earth Balance, I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter, or Miyoko’s Creamery. Little-known fact: the butter is as important as the cheese when it comes to the perfect sandwich, so don’t mess this up.
3. Choose your cheese
Ever since Violife Foods created great-tasting vegan cheese, other manufacturers have introduced slices that are equally excellent. We love Field Roast’s Chao and Follow Your Heart slices for their perfect taste and texture and variety of flavors (such as smoked gouda, cheddar, and provolone). That said, some of the other softer, spreadable cheeses, such as Miyoko’s and Kite Hill, also make for savory sandwiches.
4. I believe I can fry
Now that you have your ingredients, it’s time to make your sandwich. There are two techniques to get started on your grilled cheese. First, toss two pats of vegan butter into a hot, non-stick pan, and slide them until they melt, the surface is evenly coated, and the butter starts to sizzle. Another option is to slather both sides of the bread with vegan butter before placing the slices onto the hot pan. Both produce a similar result, but, the first option uses twice as much butter, so choose according to your preferences. Once you’ve heated the buttered bread for a few minutes on medium heat, add a slice of vegan cheese to each piece of bread, and let that sizzle for three minutes, or just long enough so the cheese begins to soften and warm. Now, using a spatula, flop one buttered-and-cheesed slice of bread on top of the other, lower the heat, and cover. Within a minute, the cheese should start to melt, and your buttered bread should start to brown. Turn over the sandwich to inspect the progress, and continue to grill over a low heat, turning occasionally until the sandwich is cooked to your liking. Transfer to a plate, and slice diagonally, since you are a sophisticated grilled cheese connoisseur.
5. Proceed with caution
If made correctly, the first bite of your grilled cheese sandwich might produce a lip-burning spurt of hot butter. No sandwich is worth that, so you might want to blow on the sandwich before diving in. If you do burn yourself, don’t worry—you’ll heal.
Eric C Lindstrom is the Director of Marketing for Compassion Over Killing (COK) and the author of The Skeptical Vegan and 2018’s The Smart Parent’s Guide to Raising Vegan Kids.
Illustration courtesy of Naomi Bardoff