There are many vegan cheeses out there that can be a tasty contribution to any dish. The type you use will depend on the following situations:
Complement Your Wine I was one of those crazy people who would spend $10-20 on a small wedge of gourmet cheese. Why? Because it was unique and specialized, and above all else it went great with wine. Dr-Cow makes semi-soft nut cheeses that are said to complement your glass of wine perfectly. I just discovered this site while browsing for any cheese brands I might not know of for this article. The only downside is ordering the cheese can be expensive if you don't live close to a Whole Foods Market or one of the few specialty stores. My suggestion: search it out locally first and try the different flavors with some local wines.
The Easiest to Find The blocks of Vegan Gourmet cheese by Follow Your Heart (FYH) are the most common vegan cheese to my knowledge. Whole Foods, local grocery stores and small specialty nutrition stores carry this brand of vegan cheese (at least in Utah). However, the convenience comes at a price. This cheese doesn't melt very well and it leaves a weird aftertaste. I tried doing nachos, casseroles and cheese sticks with the cheddar and mozzarella flavors and none of them turned out satisfactory. There is a nacho flavor that I haven't tried which might work better but so far this isn't my cheese of choice. On a side note, FYH makes yummy sour cream and cream cheese that I just adore!
A Slice for Your Burger Galaxy Nutritional Foods makes the best sliced cheese I know of currently. The vegan American and Mozzarella flavors are a great adornment to your vegan patty over the grill, in the oven or on a skillet. They don't melt per se but they get soft and have a flavorful taste. I found they work best on a skillet or over the grill because the oven tends to dry the slice out before softening it. The burger still tasted good but the look of the cheese was less natural. Galaxy also carries block cheese and Rice Vegan slices but I haven't tried those yet. Their brand is pretty common at Whole Foods and local grocery stores in Utah but I suggest searching your location on their site first before starting your cheese quest.
Spread it on Thick Vegan spreads and dips are areas I haven't experimented with a lot. However, a brand called Wayfare is the place to go with their hickory-smoked cheddar spread and mexi-cheddar dip. This is a harder-to-find brand so search your location before questing or order online through their retailers.
On Top of Mt. Cheesy Lasagna never looked the same without parmesan so I tried Galaxy Foods vegan parmesan topping. It is a good topping for pasta, salads etc but the flavor lacks anything special. Then I discovered nutritional yeast and that bottle of parmesan hasn't been touched. Nutritional yeast is yellow flakes of goodness that have a unique smell and a cheesy flavor. It is a great topping on practically everything and provides protein and vitamins! I think every Whole Foods market carries it in their bulk section and in prepackaged containers.
Melt in Your Mouth This is my absolute favorite thing about cheese: gooey, stringy, and melty! There is only one cheese I know that shows these crucial elements with flare: Daiya. This brand has won numerous awards including 2010 Best Vegan Cheese Award by VegNews magazine. They are based out of Vancouver, B.C. (darn those amazing Canadians!) and their product comes in shreds: cheddar, mozzarella, and pepperjack, and newly introduced wedges: cheddar, jack, and jalapeno garlic havarti. The shreds are amazing on everything. I had them on nachos, burgers, burritos, tacos and pretty much anything else you can put cheese on. The wedges are fairly new so I haven't had a chance to try them but the flavors sound great and the company hasn't let me down yet! My mom directed me to a site called The Vegan Zombie where this hilarious man makes amazing recipes (with videos to boot!) and he uses a lot of different cheeses. I suggest the cheese sticks if you want a taste of Daiya awesomeness with some marinara!
Photo credit: Wayfare, Daiya, Follow Your Heart, Parma!, Toffuti and TDIV