The Best Vegan ‘Cheese’ Sauce
The Best Vegan Cheese Sauce- Less than 10 ingredients to make this rich and creamy sauce that is packed full of flavor and nutrition!
I’ll be the first to admit that giving up dairy can be hard. In fact, I didn’t realize how easy I had it being vegetarian for so long. You can eat all the milk products you want. Soft serve ice cream, pizza, Greek yogurt, cheese, cheese, and more cheese.
But even after 3 years of not eating an ounce of dairy, there are some things I honestly don’t miss. Like queso, or vegan ‘cheese’ sauce. It is one of the easiest things to make at home and the texture and flavor is just as good as real dairy, in my humble opinion.
The Best Vegan Cheese Sauce Ingredients
So what do you need to make your own cheese sauce? The ingredients are pretty basic:
- Raw Cashews- Cashews not only add a punch of protein to the sauce but they also give it a rich and creamy texture, similar to real cheese sauce.
- Potato- The starches in potato thicken the sauce and give it that stretchy texture like real cheese. They also add a nice serving of potassium and vitamin C.
- Carrots- Carrots are used in this recipe mainly for color.
- Nutritional Yeast- If you’re unsure about this ingredient you can read more about it below. I highly recommend including it as this is what gives it a cheesy flavor.
- White Vinegar and Lemon Juice- Acid is needed to balance out the sweetness of the carrots and nutritional yeast. I like using a combination of vinegar and lemon juice for the most authentic flavor. That said if I had to choose one, I would stick with vinegar as the lemon might be more noticeable to sensitive palates.
- Garlic Powder- I prefer to use garlic powder because I find it’s not as strong and spicy as raw garlic. If you don’t have garlic powder you could also sauté one garlic clove and then add it to the recipe.
- Onion Powder- Both garlic and onion powder add savory depth to the sauce. I like using the powder forms to keep things simple since cooking garlic and onion adds an extra step. I don’t recommend using raw garlic or onion.
- Salt- Cheese sauce is obviously salty so we’ll need to add a good bit to the recipe. Start with 1/2 teaspoon and add more as desired by your palate.
- Water- The amount of water you’ll need to add will vary so start with a few tablespoons and add more as needed. Careful not to add too much at once so that it doesn’t get watered down.
What is Nutritional Yeast?
One of the key ingredients for making your own vegan ‘cheese’ sauce is nutritional yeast. This is NOT the same thing as brewer’s yeast which is used to bake bread or brew beer. Nutritional yeast is a byproduct of the fermentation of molasses which is then deactivated and used as a vegan nutritional supplement. It’s packed full of vital nutrients such as:
- Vitamin B12
- Vitamin B6
Plus each 1/4 cup serving has 8 grams of protein!
I would describe the flavor of nutritional yeast as slightly nutty and cheesy with a funky undertone. Some people are more sensitive to the funkiness and find it to be somewhat sweet but I think a lot of that has to do with how you’re eating it. I tend to pair it with more sour flavors which can help balance out any sweetness.
Bob’s Red Mill Nutritional Yeast is my favorite for it’s superior quality and the fact that it’s certified gluten-free. They actually have a recipe for Nutritional Yeast Cheese Sauce on their site but I based this version off of one of my favorite store bought cheese sauces. I have to drive 1.5hrs to Whole Foods in Atlanta to find it and while it’s definitely worth it, I’m happy to say that I’ve tested this recipe enough to know it comes pretty darn close. Close enough to save myself 3 hours plus the $10 in gas to get there and back.
How to Make the Best Vegan Cheese Sauce
Outside of soaking the cashews and boiling the potato and carrots, all you have to do is throw everything in a blender and blend until smooth!
This cheese sauce is so delicious and versatile, you’ll want to put it on everything. Of course my favorite way to eat it is with tortilla chips but I recently experimented with a chili cheese casserole and it was incredible. Keep an eye out for that recipe soon!
The Best Vegan 'Cheese' Sauce
- 1/2 cup raw cashews, soaked*
- 1½ cups peeled and diced potato, any variety will work
- 1/2 cup peeled and chopped carrot
- 3 tablespoons nutritional yeast, I like Bob's Red Mill
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1/2 teaspoon onion powder
- 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt, plus more to toaste
- 1-2 tablespoons white vinegar
- 1-2 tablespoons lemon juice
- water to thin
- You can either soak the cashews overnight in a bowl covered by a few inches of water or do the quick soak method. To quick soak, bring a small pot of water to a boil then remove from the heat and add the cashews. Allow to soak for 30 minutes then strain and rinse before using in the recipe.
- Bring a small pot of water to a boil then add the diced potatoes and carrots. Boil for about 10 minutes, until the vegetables are fork tender. Strain the excess water and allow to cool.
- Add the cooked vegetables, soaked cashews, nutritional yeast, garlic powder, onion powder, vinegar, lemon juice, salt and 3 tablespoons of water to the blender. Blend on high, scraping down the sides as needed or adding more water to help blend. I recommend adding just 1-2 tablespoons of water in between blending until the desired consistency is reached. It should be pourable but still thick and creamy. Taste test to see if you prefer more sour (vinegar/lemon juice) or more salt. Add more as desired and blend until smooth.
- Serve cheese sauce warm or refrigerate in a sealed container for up to 1 week. Reheat in the microwave or on the stovetop when ready to serve. You may need to add a splash of water when reheating. Just be careful not to water it down.
This post was created in partnership with a brand that I have used and loved for years, Bob’s Red Mill. As always, all opinions and text are entirely my own. Thank you for supporting the brands that help make it possible for me to bring you quality content. For more delicious recipes and a coupon for $1.00 off any product, please visit Bob’sRedMill.com.