Creamy, crumbly, sweet, and tangy. When your mouth wants cheesecake, nothing else will do. But if you’re vegan or trying to eat less dairy, cheesecake would be sort of, you know, off-limits. Unless of course, you get creative and make some easy substitutions. Turns out there is a vegan version of every single ingredient you need to make this crowd-pleasing dessert. It’s a super simple, no-bake recipe, because when your mouth wants cheesecake…it wants it now!
This recipe is based on a family favorite birthday dessert that I’ve been eating for over 20 years. I figured it was about time to see if I could make a vegan version that tasted just as good. That is, once I noticed that dairy-free versions of the two key ingredients were a thing and available at my store: sweetened condensed milk and cream cheese.
The only brand I’ve seen for sweetened condensed coconut milk is Let’s Do Organic. But let’s face it, one is better than what I used to have which was zero. But for vegan cream cheese there are several options. I perused this review by Spoon University and this one by The Beet and ended up using Daiya Plain Cream Cheeze Style Spread.Print
- Graham crackers: A few brands are vegan and a few brands are not, often because they contain honey. So be sure to check the labels. Here’s a quick list to guide you as you navigate the many boxes of graham products at the grocery store.
- Vegan butter sticks: I tried a newer brand called Flora when I was testing out this recipe, but my go-to is typically Earth Balance Vegan Buttery Sticks.
- Vegan cream cheese: As I noted above, there are several brands to choose from. They’re all a bit different and each seems to lend itself better to different uses, like savory dishes or sweet dips. I tasted two brands side-by-side (Tofutti and Daiya) and felt the Daiya was closest to regular cream cheese, with a bit of sweetness. So it seemed like a perfect fit here.
- Sweetened condensed coconut milk: The only one I’ve found near me is Let’s Do Organic, but online I see there’s also Nature’s Charm and A Taste of Thai. If you can’t find any of these in your neck of the woods, there are lots of recipes online for making your own.
- Blueberry pie filling/topping: I used Duncan Hines Comstock Blueberry Pie Filling and Topping. It’s sort of accidentally vegan with this ingredient list: blueberries, water, sugar, modified food starch, citric acid.
Let’s talk about the nutrition facts, specifically saturated fat. There is a lot of coconut in this recipe. Besides the coconut milk itself, the vegan cream cheese is made out of coconut oil and coconut cream. And the main ingredient in the Flora vegan butter is palm kernel oil.
Coconut and palm are two foods in the plant kingdom that rival animal foods (like beef, cheese, and butter) for their saturated fat content. Saturated fat is a solid fat and we generally caution people to minimize their intake for optimal health. It’s possible we’ll find out with more research that the body responds differently to saturated fat from plants than to saturated fats from animals, but we’re not there yet.
So, while this recipe is vegan and dairy-free, it’s by no means low-fat, low-calorie, or low in saturated fat. For reference, the target is to keep saturated fat below 22 grams a day for most people, and one serving of this cheesecake has 15 grams. So, it can fit but should be a special treat food instead of an everyday food.
This last statement makes me feel like I need to explain something. Why am I sharing this kind of recipe on a nutrition blog?
I don’t have many dessert recipes on my site. As a dietitian, I figure decadent, sugary recipes are everywhere. No one needs my help finding them. But healthy stuff that tastes good is a little more challenging and many of us didn’t grow up knowing how to cook plant-based recipes. So, I enjoy helping people with these ones, and nearly all my recipes fall into the category of healthy and good for you. But vegans and health-conscious folks eat dessert, too. And I most definitely do. So I decided to share the results of my “can I veganize this family recipe” challenge, and the joy that came with accomplishing it. (I call this paragraph my Dietitian Dessert Disclaimer. What do you think?)
So if your mouth is in need of a perfectly-portioned, creamy, crumbly, sweet, tangy, dairy-free special treat, this dessert-eating dietitian has got you covered.
This is not a sponsored post. I bought all the ingredients myself and happily whipped them into sweet creamy goodness and layered them in adorable jars.