No one will guess that this vegan cheese sauce is made with vegetables and is sneakily healthy! Pour it over baked potatoes, roasted vegetables, veggie burgers or any dish that could use a little cheesy goodness. Use it to make a healthy vegan mac and cheese, casseroles, lasagna, and even dip! It's delicious when drizzled over nachos. This easy homemade vegan cheese recipe is dairy-free, gluten-free, and oil-free, but it’s definitely not flavor-free!
Vegan Cheese Sauce
When I first went vegan waaaaaay back in the early naughts, I didn't know anything about making cheese sauce – or any type of creamy sauce for that matter. Vegan cookbooks were few and far between, and my recipe experimenting was limited to trying strange new foods, like kale and quinoa.
When first learning how to make vegan cheese sauces, I made them with a cashew base. I still love cashew cheese, and I like to keep on hand in the fridge to drizzle on my tacos and burgers.
Since this cheese sauce has a vegetable base, it’s a little more nutrient dense and it contains less fat. It’s a great way to hide vegetables from picky eaters, and it’s perfect for giving meals a little nutrient boost.
I haven’t had cows’ milk cheese since 2001, so I can’t say for sure if this tastes like its dairy-laden counterpart. It is creamy and has a bit of tang, thanks to nutritional yeast and cashews. Most people eat with their eyes first, so if it looks like “the real thing,” it will be perceived as the real thing.
What You Need
- Nutritional yeast
- Lemon juice
- Dijon mustard
- Sea salt
See the recipe card for exact measurements.
What is Nutritional Yeast?
In vegan circles, nutritional yeast is common as “nooch.” It’s a deactivated yeast that has a nutty, cheesy taste. Nooch contains protein, vitamins, and minerals, and is a good source of vitamin B12.
When I post recipes that call of nutritional yeast, I frequently have people ask if they can make the dish without it. Nutritional yeast ads to the cheesy flavor of this recipe, so it's essential. Please don't skip it.
How to Make Vegan Cheese Sauce
This recipe is super easy!
- First, you boil the vegetables and cashews in a large pot on the stove.
- Then, you mix the vegetables together with the rest of the ingredients and water in blender until smooth and creamy. (I like to use my Blendtec for this step.)
- And finally, you heat it until it's warm and thickened to your desired consistency.
If you're avoiding cauliflower for some reason (Dennis has to avoid it because it causes gout flare-ups), you can use 2 cups of waxy potatoes, such as Yukon gold or red bliss.
If you're allergic to nuts, you can sunflower seeds instead of cashews.
Serving your Vegan Cheese Sauce
This Veggie-Packed Vegan Cheese Sauce is incredibly versatile.
- Mix with cooked pasta to make macaroni and cheese.
- Pour it over a loaded baked potato.
- Drizzle it over nachos.
- Add a few dollops to a sandwich or veggie burger.
- Top a taco with a few drizzles.
- Pour it over roasted vegetables.
- Use it as a dressing for Buddha bowls.
- Stir in hot peppers and spices and make a spicy dip!
- Use it to make my broccoli and rice casserole or potatoes au gratin.
Veggie-Packed Vegan Cheese Sauce
- 2 medium-sized carrots chopped (about a cup)
- 2 cups chopped cauliflower
- ¼ cup chopped onion
- ½ cup raw cashews
- ½ cup nutritional yeast
- 1 clove garlic
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- 1 tablespoon cornstarch
- 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
- ½ teaspoon sea salt
- Place the carrots, onion, cauliflower, and cashews in a large pot. Fill it with enough water to cover the vegetables plus about two inches.
- Bring the water to a boil over medium-high heat and then reduce the heat and allow to simmer for about 15 minutes, or until the vegetables are fork tender.
- Drain the vegetables and save the water. Allow the vegetables to cool slightly and then place them in a high-speed blender or food processor along with the nutritional yeast, garlic, cornstarch, lemon juice, mustard, and salt. Add 2 cups of the reserved cooking water and blend until smooth and creamy. Add a little more water if the mixture is too thick. Keep in mind that it will thicken when it’s heated.
- Pour the sauce in a medium-sized sauce pan and place it over medium-high heat. Bring the sauce to a boil, reduce heat and allow to thicken slightly.
- Remove from heat. Mix cheese sauce in with pasta for macaroni and cheese, drizzle it over a baked potato, or add it to any dish that could use a little cheese goodness.
Use your cheese sauce to make these dishes
More vegan cheeses you might enjoy include
- My Go-To Cashew Cheese
- Tofu Feta
- Smoked Almond Cheddar from This Cheese Is Nuts! by Julie Piatt
- Garlic and Herb Cheese Spread
When I first went vegan, ages ago, I made a lot of cheese sauces with potatoes and carrots. Then came the roux based ones, then the cashew based ones. I still adore cashew cheese sauce, but lately I have been enjoying vegetable based ones again. I've made a few that have butternut pumpkin in them, but yet to make a cauliflower one! This looks great.
So interesting! I hadn't even heard of veggie-based cheese sauces until a few years ago.
Hi I really like the recipe for your cheeses sauce it sounds amazing but my husband is allergic to cashews can you recommend a replacement?
Hi, Stephanie! I've only made it with cashews, but I'm sure it would work with another nut. You might have to soak them first. You could also try omitting nuts, although it might not be as thick. Let me know how it goes!
I just used cooked white rice to substitute for the cashews. It worked perfectly. The flavor and consistency were amazing!
Hi, Rene! That's great to know! I'm so glad you liked it.
This was very easy and tasty. I did add a roasted red pepper, some miso and a pinch of tumeric for color. I skipped adding the extra water so I didn't need to thicken it up. I love that it is so nutritious and I don't feel guilty adding it to chickpea pasta. We also used it with a lentil chili.
Just wondering, can you freeze this?
I'm glad you liked it, Cathy! Yes, it does freeze.