Plant-Based Recipe Test #11: Grilled “Cheese”

Need a simple and satisfying lunch? This alternative grilled cheese is perfect for those who want comfort food without a long cooking commitment. Best of all, it’s 100% plant-based!

All you need is bread, olive oil, Daiya “cheese”, and your favorite vegetables.

I don’t recommend the Trader Joe’s soy cheese in the picture. It works, but it doesn’t compare to Daiya.  

Since Daiya “cheese” is dairy-free, it doesn’t melt at the same speed. To prevent burning the bread on the skillet, I recommend microwaving the sandwich first. Microwave until the cheese is slightly melted, and then crisp the bread on the skillet (with olive oil).


  • If you want to feel even better, click to learn about how dairy cheese negatively impacts our planet. 


Yemen 8/10

  • “This is good!”

Doug Brown 10/10

  • “That was satisfying and it felt very wholesome because of the substantial bread, the “cheese” was creamy, and vegetables were fresh. I think if food like this was served in the dining hall, people would be up for it. I like trying alternatives like this.”

Diego John 10/10

  • Delicious!!!

Boyo 9.8/10

  • Normally I’m not a fan of grilled cheese. This is very similar to the regular version, but very good! It’s the bomb!”

Plant-based Product Review: Beyond Meat Grilled “Chicken” Strips

By Jolee Keplinger (C’20) | Principia Center for Sustainability

Move over tofu, Beyond Meat has created a variety of meat alternatives! My favorite product is the Grilled “Chicken” Strips. They look just like traditional chicken, and taste very similar. On their own, you can tell it’s not real meat, but when they’re served with other ingredients, it’s hard to tell the difference!

If you’re not sold by this amazing “meat” substitute, let me give you a few reasons why you should be.

Beyond Meat Grilled chicken

  • Complete protein — 20g per 3-oz serving
    • 46% of your daily value!
  • 20% DV of iron
  • No saturated fat or cholesterol

Chicken (espeically when raised on factory farms)

  • May contain antibiotic-resistant bacteria
  • May promote animal exploitation
  • Potential for E. coli contamination
  • Waste pollutes the land and water
  • Some are fed arsenic to make them grow faster (toxic to humans)


The best feedback was received when the “chicken” was incorporated into plant-based dishes such as the stir-fry pictured above, quesadillas and melts. The melt pictured below was made with Daiya provolone “cheese”, “chicken”, tomato slices, and a bit of pesto spread on top of toasted whole grain bread.

Student Feedback (“chicken” only)

Yenum Egwuenu 6/10

  • “It tastes very veggie. It’s okay but I prefer meat. I’m open to eating it in the future though.”

Stephen Stuart 8/10

  • “It has a fish-like flavor. It’s really good but it doesn’t taste like the chicken I ate for lunch. There’s a blandish flavor. It would be great with spices and other things mixed in.”

Cheesy Chicken Melt – Student Feedback

Adelainee Biang 8/10

  • “It tastes like meat. At first I didn’t like it but after eating it all I think it tastes good! I normally don’t like cheese, but this tastes really nice.”

Boyo Amuka 10/10

  • “The chicken alternative tastes like normal chicken! It’s a great substitute! I think it’s best when combined with other things.”

The Verdict

This chicken alternative is by far, the most similar to chicken out of all the plant-based imitation chicken I’ve tasted.  It was received by students, making it an excellent option for plant-based eaters here at Principia.

Plant-based Recipe Test 10: Pasta with Alfredo Sauce

Alfredo sauce is a classic choice among pasta-lovers. This rich and creamy sauce is far from being plant-based though. Most Alfredo sauces contain heavy cream, butter, and parmesan cheese. Since I’ve never tried a plant-based version of this sauce, I decided to test out a recipe I found online.

The recipe called for garlic, olive oil, cauliflower, plain almond milk, nutritional yeast, lemon juice, salt, and pepper.

First I cooked the garlic in olive oil for a few minutes. Next, I added the almond milk and brought it to a boil. Next I added the chopped cauliflower, salt, and pepper. After about 7 minutes of cooking, I transferred the mixture to a blender and added the nutritional yeast and lemon juice. I blended it until a smooth consistency was reached. DONE!

I served the alternative Alfredo sauce with brown rice pasta and the plant-based pesto. 

Student Feedback

Blake Bischoff 8/10 (alone), 10/10 (with pasta).

  • “I appreciate how this sauce is healthier than traditional Alfredo. It’s not very flavorful on its own but it compliments the pasta well.”

Pauline Mwangi 8.5/10

  • “I like how it’s dairy free. In general, I like healthier things. This sauce is not as runny as as most are.  I’d go for it!”


Plant-based Recipe Test 9: Pasta with Pesto

Pasta is a go-to dish for many students at Principia. Currently, marinara sauce is the only 100% plant-based sauce option. The others are contain dairy products such as milk, cream, and cheese. For example, most traditional pesto sauces contain mozzarella cheese. Cheese-free pestos aren’t common, but they do exist! I tested out a recipe I found online

This recipe is similar to traditional pesto, but there’s nutritional yeast instead of cheese and walnuts instead of pine nuts. 

Slight change: The recipe called for two cups of fresh basil. I only had one, so I substituted a cup of kale for the basil I lacked.

The recipe was quick and simple. All it required was measuring, chopping, and blending the ingredients. Once complete, I served it with pasta and began the student feedback session.

Student Feedback

Diego John 10/10

  • “This tastes fresh, real, and I like it better than the original. I’d personally have this in the morning, afternoon, and night. It reminds me of food from Africa. I feel very satisfied after only eating a small bit!”

Boyo Amuka 9.9/10

  • “It tastes very natural. I’d definitely choose this over what’s currently available!”

Jenita Arini 9/10

  • “It’s very similar to normal pesto.”

The Verdict

This (slightly altered) plant-based pesto recipe is healthy, and incredibly delicious. It was highly rated by students based on its fresh ingredients and powerful flavor. We didn’t miss the cheese at all!

Plant-based Recipe Test 8: Pancakes

Pancakes are a frequent item on Principia’s breakfast menu. Since they contain butter, eggs, and milk, I figured that a plant-based alternative recipe would be worthwhile. 

I bought ingredients from Grassroots Grocery, a local co-op, and tested a recipe I found online.

This alternative recipe was incredibly simple. (Not cracking eggs was a plus too.)

In addition to plain pancakes, I experimented with a few other varieties: banana, chocolate chip, blueberry, walnut, flaxseed, and one with everything.

Oil, rather than butter, is used for the cooking process. I chose coconut oil due to its rich flavor.

The pancakes cooked beautifully and tasted even better. 

The Verdict

This particular recipe was quick, simple, and tasty, but it doesn’t compare to the average fluffy pancake that most people are accustomed to. These pancakes were dense, a bit tough, and the coconut oil overwhelmed the flavor. Due to this, I will continue testing other plant-based pancake recipes. Hopefully I’ll find one that’s comparable to the average pancake!

Bonus Recipe: Cheesy Basil Tomato Appetizer

With leftover tomatoes and basil from the avocado pasta bean salad, I decided to create a post-dinner appetizer-style dish.

I sliced up a tomato, placed fresh basil leaf on each slice, sprinkled Daiya “cheese” on top, and added a bit of sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste.

To melt the “cheese”, I placed the slices in the toaster oven for a few minutes. The end result was delicious! Best of all, it was ready in less than 10 minutes!

Plant-based Recipe Test 7: Spaghetti with Beyond Beef Crumbles

Spaghetti is a classic for food lovers. Meat sauces with ground beef are a staple of the typical college students diet. Out of all foods, beef is one of the least sustainable due to the massive amount of resources needed. Fortunately, Beyond Meat makes a ground beef alternative which serves as a delicious substitute for  spaghetti sauce. For vegetarians that would normally go without meat, this adds plenty protein, yielding a well-balanced meal.

A few students and I got together and cooked dinner. We cooked pasta, sautéed veggies, added sauce, and cooked the Beyond Meat Beefy crumbles. We mixed it together and had a delicious meal. 

We also made garlic bread with olive oil (instead of butter) and Daiya jalapeño”cheese” (instead of dairy cheese).

Student Feedback 

Stephen Stuart 9/10

  • “I love it! I think the “meat” tastes pretty good. I love the garlic “cheese” bread too!”

Kiersten Sheehan 8.5/10

  • “It has a dry smoky taste. I like how the “meat” isn’t as oily.”

Daniel Cornell 8.75/10

  • “I can’t say I’d always eat it but I like it in this form. In terms of realness, it’s great! I feel good because I’m not killing a cow.”

Alan Freeman 7/10

  • “I like this in terms of helping my conscious by moderating how much beef I consume.”

José Lucero 8/10

  • “It doesn’t taste like meat but it’s good. I’d eat it if it was an option. I’m concerned about the artificial ingredients though (specifically caramel color).”

Reilly Jeddy 8/10

  • “It doesn’t taste quite like beef so I wouldn’t eat it all the time.”

The Verdict

Even though the Beyond Beef crumbles didn’t taste exactly like beef, they complemented the meal quite nicely. Since vegetarian spaghetti (pasta, sauce, and veggies) isn’t a complete protein, the additional protein from the Beyond Beef crumbles made an already delicious meal, a nutritionally balanced and satisfying one.