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How To Make Vegan Cheese Sauce

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Just because you’re eating plant-based doesn’t mean you have to give up fun foods.

That includes a decadent, creamy vegan cheese sauce that can be topped on just about anything: nachos, french fries, mashed potatoes, or pasta

Better yet, just add it to whatever you want. It’ll make anything and everything taste a thousand times better. 

For this vegan cheese sauce recipe, you’ll only need a handful of ingredients. The main ingredient you’ll work with are raw, unsalted cashews. Additionally, I understand that cashews can be on the higher cost end of grocery items, but here are a few tips to getting them cheaper: 

  • Purchase cashews in bulk 
  • Stop by an “international” market, which typically sells items such as these in bulk, for a fraction of the price, in comparison to big-box stores. 
  • It’s okay to go off-brand. They’re all essentially the same, anyway (and more affordable). 

Personally? Cashews are a special treat in my household. Meaning, they come around the grocery list during special occasions or holidays. They aren’t regarded as a staple, as beans, rice, and potatoes would. 

Benefits To Homemade Vegan Cheese 

You Control What’s In It 

The benefit of making vegan cheese from scratch and at home is that you can control the outcome of your recipe.

For example, if you want a hint of garlic, you can throw that in. If you want a hot kick, well then, Salt Bae that cayenne pepper. Looking for that creamy, traditional cheese sauce? Load up the vegan butter. 

It’s Not Heavily Processed 

Plant-based? Check. 

Using whole ingredients? Check. 

Taste amazing without a funky aftertaste? Check, check, check. 

Here’s What We’re Workin’ With: 

That’s all folks. 

Why Use A High-Powered Blender 

It’s important to use a high-powered blender like a Nutribullet for your homemade cheese sauce. The blender will help create a creamy, clump-free texture.

Additionally, it’ll help thoroughly combine all of the plant-based cheese flavors. If there’s ever a piece of kitchen equipment you should consider, it’s definitely this one.

A high-powered blender can also help with creating smoothies, homemade pancake batter, and sauces

What To Use Vegan Cheese Sauce For 

There are no limits to how you can use this vegan cheese sauce. The choice is up to you. Personally? I use it only just about anything that’s savory. Here are some cheesy ideas: 

I also won’t judge you if you decide to mix it in rice as I have done in the past (hey, I can smell the judgment – stop it). 

Why These Ingredients Work 

I think it’s important to understand how all of these ingredients work together to create the perfect cheese sauce. So, let’s break it down:

Raw cashews 

We want fats! This is the role raw cashews will play in this recipe. They create a nice mouthfeel, thickens up the sauce, and adds a hint of natural sweetness and smokiness. The texture appears comparable to Velveeta cheese.

Smoked paprika 

I dig a good cheese that’s smoky, savory, and even on the side of being “stinky.” In this recipe, we’ll skip the stinky, but stick with smokiness. Also, adding paprika to this recipe adds that familiar bright orange color to the cheese sauce. 

Nutritional yeast 

We want to go easy on the nutritional yeast here. A little can go a long way, especially in this recipe. The nutritional adds layer of umami, nuttiness, and “cheesiness,” which is perfect for this cheese sauce.

Feel free to play around with the amount you want to add to this recipe. However, I recommend tasting as you add. 

Garlic powder 

I love garlic. I mean, that’s really it. 

Tomato paste 

Love umami? Me too. And that’s exactly what tomato paste will give to your vegan cheese sauce. Just like the smoked paprika, it’ll deepen the color of your sauce.

Just be sure to use tomato paste and not tomato sauce. Tomato paste is much sweeter, with a concentrated tomato flavor. That is what we want here. 

Lemon juice 

If you’ve ever had non-vegan cheese, you’ll notice a slight tang. This is where the lemon juice will come to play. Feel free to reduce or omit this ingredient altogether – depending on what kind of flavor you’re looking for. 

Salt 

We gotta bring these flavors to life and salt will do just that. 

Vegan Butter

This is my secret to a delicious cheese sauce. However, it can be made without it. Just like your traditional cheese sauce, butter adds another layer of creaminess.


How To Make Vegan Cheese Sauce

Course: Side Dish
Cuisine: American
Keyword: Homemade, Vegan Cheese Sauce

Ingredients

  • 1 cup cashews (raw + unslated)
  • 1.5 cups cashew water (reserved after boiling cashews)
  • 1 tablespoon nutritional yeast
  • 2 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 1 tablespoon garlic powder
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • Salt
  • 4 cups water

Instructions

  • First, add water to a pot and set over high heat. Once it starts boiling, add your cashews and cover with a lid. 
  • Boil the cashews for at least 10 minutes to soften.
  • Once the cashews are done boiling, remove cashews from the water and keep the cashew water.
  • In a blender, add cashews, nutritional yeast, smoked paprika, tomato paste, garlic powder, fresh lemon juice, vegan butter (optional) and 1.5 cups of the leftover cashew water.
  • Then, blend until smooth.
  • Add more water, depending on how thin you would like your sauce. Adjust salt and seasonings to your liking 
  • Finally, serve your easy, homemade vegan cheese sauce to any dish you like. 

*Cashew water is the reserved, extra water from the boiled cashews.  

Plant-based, non-dairy cheese sauce poured over cooked carrots
Plant-based, non-dairy cheese sauce poured over cooked carrots

Cookware Used In This Recipe


While you’re here, check out our most popular recipes on the website: 

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Did you try out this vegan cheese sauce recipe?

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