Best Vegan Cheese Sauce

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When I first switched over to a healthy plant-based lifestyle back in 2013, one thing that I really missed was CHEESE. Cheese for pizza, tacos, baked potatoes, lasagna, and so much more. That’s why I came up with this amazing best vegan cheese sauce recipe ever!

One of the best things about it is that it can be made with either cashews or white beans for those avoiding nuts. Better yet, do a combination of both to reduce the fat but maintain the creamy rich texture.

This is the BEST cheese sauce because it’s…

  • Versatile and can be made with cashews OR white beans
  • Flavor-packed
  • Creamy
  • Cheeesy
  • Veggie-loaded
  • Customizable
  • Low-fat
  • Vegan
  • Oil-free
  • Freezable

Three versions to choose from

1st Version: Originally, I made it with 1/2 cup raw cashews.

2nd Version: Now, I sometimes sub out white beans–like navy beans or cannellini–to lower the fat content even more. For those avoiding nuts completely, this is a terrific nut-free cheese sauce.

3rd Version: Nowadays, I mostly make with a combination of the two–1/4 cup cashews + 1/4 cup white beans. It has a warm creamy texture with less fat. This easy vegan cheese sauce has so many options!

cashews soaking in water and bowl of beans with labels

What is vegan cheese sauce made of?

Incredibly some of the ingredients used to make this amazing cheese sauce are…

  • potatoes
  • onions
  • carrots
  • cashews (and or white beans)
  • nutritional yeast flakes
  • lemon juice
  • spices

What is nutritional yeast?

Nutritional yeast is what makes this vegan cheese sauce taste like cheese. It has a nutty, cheesy flavor and is yellow in color. Unlike baker’s and brewer’s yeasts, is a deactivated yeast used for seasoning.

It’s an inactive form of the yeast strain Saccharomyces cerevisiae. Though it is the same strain of yeast bakers use to leaven bread, nutritional yeast has been pasteurized to dry out the yeast. This process helps to extract its nutritional benefits.

Nutritional yeast is exclusively for seasoning and cannot be used for leavening in baking. Even so, it can normally be found in the baking section of many grocery stores. I usually purchase my nutritional yeast online.

Vegan cashew cheese sauce on a baked potato with broccoli
Vegan No-Cheese Sauce on baked potato and broccoli.

How to make vegan cheese sauce

I have a Vitamix blender and so don’t take the time to soak my cashews. That thing is powerful and everything that goes into it comes out creamy. However, if your blender isn’t jet engine speed, soaking the cashews in warm water for at least 30-minutes before adding to this recipe will help this recipe come out more creamy. 

Begin by dicing up the potatoes, carrots, and onion.

diced onions on cutting board

In a medium pot, bring about 3 cups of water to a boil. Place potatoes, carrots, and onion in a pot and allow to cook until veggies are tender approximately 15 minutes. Cooking time will vary based on how small the veggies are diced.

diced potatoes in pot of water on white background

When veggies are tender, drain and place them in a blender. NOTE: reserve 1 cup of the broth, and add to blender. Add all the remaining ingredients, and blend until smooth.

vegan cheese sauce in blender

Now, it’s ready to use in nacho cheese dip, mac-n-cheese, topping for steamed broccoli, or anything else you need a creamy, cheesy sauce in. This recipe makes approximately 1 quart and can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.

I often freeze this recipe when I have lots leftover, which admittedly isn’t that often. Most of the time, I freeze it in a wide-mouth mason jar which makes defrosting it later in the microwave much easier. Simply remove the lid and place it in the microwave to defrost.

Once the cheese sauce is no longer frozen, I place it in my blender and take it for a spin for just a minute which brings it back to its original creaminess. It’s as good as freshly made then.

InstantPot instructions

Yes! You can also use your InstantPot to make this cheese sauce!

Simply add the potatoes, carrots, onion, and one cup of water to your Instant Pot. Set on MANUAL for 10 minutes.  Once finished, use a spoon, dishcloth, or potholder to turn the VENT knob for a quick release to allow the pressure to come down. Then add all other ingredients to a blender and process until smooth.  Easy-Peasy!

Tips for making this recipe

  • Soaking cashews or not. I have a Vitamix blender and so don’t take the time to soak my cashews. That thing is powerful and everything that goes into it comes out creamy. However, if your blender isn’t jet engine speed, soaking the cashews in warm water for at least 30-minutes will help this recipe come out more creamy.
  • Potatoes to use. You really can use almost any variety of potato. I love to use russets, red potatoes, or even sweet potatoes. Just make sure they are cooked until soft.
  • Save that broth. One of the steps of this recipe is to boil the potatoes, onions, and carrots on the stove. Remember to save some of that broth for adding to the blender.
  • Tweaking to your taste preference. Most likely this cheese sauce will come out amazing as soon as you dip that spoon into the blender (after it has stopped, of course) to give it a taste. However, if it needs a little tweaking, first try adding a little more salt or nutritional yeast, as those two ingredients can make a big difference, in my opinion. 

*Original publish date February 02, 2015.

Your dairy-free cheese sauce questions answered

Q: How long will this vegan cheese sauce last in the refrigerator?

A: This sauce will keep in the refrigerator for about 7-10 days in an airtight container. I love to use quart mason jars.

Q: Can this vegan cheese sauce be frozen?

A: YES! Freezing is also an option. Simply defrost and place in a blender for a freshen up spin and it will be back to its original creamy texture.

Q: Which vegan cheese is best?

A: All of mine! LOL! Seriously though, I have a lot of different dairy-free cheeses to choose from. That a peek at these yummilicious ones.

Q: What recipes use vegan cheese sauce?

A: I am so glad that you asked! I have a number of great recipes that use this cheese sauce. The options are really endless!

Ways to use this sauce

Who doesn’t love pasta? This vegan oil-free cheese sauce is amazing on mac and cheese as well. It’s the perfect comfort food and can even be made gluten-free by using brown rice pasta.

Just add salsa to this cheese sauce, and you’ve got delicious Nacho Cheese Dip to serve with tacos and nachos. It’s amazingly delicious!

Other ways to use this cheese sauce are:

  • Over a baked potato
  • On steamed broccoli, cauliflower, asparagus, or another veggie
  • Drizzled over pizza, lasagna, or tacos
  • In cheezy grits for breakfast
  • On my Chili Cheese Fries or Nacho Supreme
  • Any other wonderful way you can think of!

Nutritional information

1/4 cup serving (WITH BEANS):

  • 5 calories
  • 28 carbs
  • 0.14 grams fat
  • 1.9 grams of protein

1/4 cup serving (WITH CASHEWS):

  • 41 calories
  • 4.6 carbs
  • 1.8 grams of fat
  • 2 grams of protein

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vegan cheese sauce being poured from white gravy boat
4.61 from 519 votes

Best Vegan Cheese Sauce

Author: EatPlant-Based.com
I use this cheese sauce for everything--nachos, tacos, pizza, baked potato and steamed veggie topping, and so much more!
Prep: 15 minutes
Cook: 15 minutes
Total: 30 minutes
Servings: 10

Ingredients 

  • 1 cup potatoes peeled & diced
  • 1/4 cup carrots diced
  • 1/4 cup onion chopped
  • 1 cup broth from veggies
  • 1/2 cup raw cashews (or 1/2 c white beans)
  • 4 tablespoons nutritional yeast flakes
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 pinch paprika
  • 1 pinch cayenne pepper optional

Instructions

  • In a medium pot, bring about 3 cups of water to a boil. Place potatoes, carrots, and onion in the pot and allow to cook until veggies are tender--approximately 15 minutes. Cooking time will vary based on how small the veggies are diced.
  • When veggies are tender, drain and place them in a blender. NOTE: reserve 1 cup of the broth, and add to blender. Add all the remaining ingredients, and blend until smooth.
  • I have a Vitamix blender and so don't take the time to soak my cashews. That thing is powerful and everything that goes into it comes out creamy. However, if your blender isn't jet engine speed, soaking the cashews in warm water for at least 30-minutes before adding to this recipe will help this recipe come out more creamy. 
  • If you prefer, white beans such as northern or navy beans can be used in place of the cashews for those avoiding nuts. Or, even use a combination of 1/4 cashews and 1/4 cup white beans to lower the fat content but keep the rich creamy texture and flavor.
  • Now, it's ready to use in nacho cheese dip, mac-n-cheese, topping for steamed broccoli, or anything else you need a creamy, cheesy sauce in. Many of those recipes are linked above.
  • This makes approximately 1 quart and can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.

Video

Notes

Detailed instructions, in-process photos, and my personal helpful tips can be found in the article above.
Instant Pot Instruction:
Simply add the potatoes, carrots, onion, and one cup of water to your Instant Pot. Set on MANUAL for 10 minutes.  Once finished, use a spoon, dishcloth, or potholder to turn the VENT knob for a quick release to allow the pressure to come down. Then add all other ingredients to a blender and process until smooth.  Easy-Peasy!

Nutrition

Calories: 57kcal | Protein: 3g | Fat: 2.3g | Fiber: 2g

Disclaimer

To obtain the most accurate representation of the nutritional information in a given recipe, you should calculate the nutritional information with the actual ingredients used in your recipe, using your preferred nutrition calculator. You are solely responsible for ensuring that any nutritional information provided is accurate, complete, and useful.

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vegan cheese photo collage for pinterest

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236 Comments

  1. Hi I really want to try this but I HATE the taste of Nutritional yeast… can it be omitted or is there a substitute? I’ve been on the hunt for a nooch free one. Or even a good nooch recommendation that doesn’t taste like the synthetic B vitamins most are made with.

    1. Chantel- The nutritional yeast is what gives it the nutty cheese flavor, and I feel like it’s pretty important; however, I have heard that miso paste can sometimes be substituted for nooch so it might be worth a try.

  2. This one was so good, I immediately made baked potatoes for dinner (microwaved) and made another batch of cheese sauce for the fridge! It’s just that good. No cheese for 7 months and now this. Very happy!

  3. I just made this tonight for a potato bar potluck dinner for tomorrow night. It’s so good!!! I put it in the fridge. How do I reheat it tomorrow? Can I just pop it in the microwave?

  4. Hello from the UK I love trying new recipes from around the world 🌎 But I really don’t like using cups as measurements as you guys do in USA, please could you possibly add a metric weight when possible 😀 thank you 💚

    1. Hi Kate- A few months ago, we added a metric conversion tab to the recipe cards. The cheese sauce recipe is the only one that hasn’t been changed yet, but all others have. I’m so glad it will be helpful for you.

  5. This recipe is outstanding!! I made the cashew version and used just 2 tsp. of lemon juice. No other changes. Can’t wait to try other variations using beans. Thanks so much for posting this. Now I have a sauce I can use for mac-n-cheez this Thanksgiving!

  6. Just finished to make the sauce , I left out about 2 tbs of liquid I would rather add than be to thin . The taste is great but the texture was not what I was looking for for a cheese pizza . I debated making this or the cashew I think the cashew would be better for a pizza but this is great for bake potatoes , pasta and more . To fixe this to my liking I added 2 tbs of tapioca starch cooked it on the stove and its perfect texture to add to a pizza. I used it for my pizza it was the best pizza ever !

  7. Just made this recipe. I doubled it and the only change I made was to use the juice from one can of Rotel instead of the potato water. Also I mixed in the Rotel tomatoes after it was all blended. Excellent!

  8. Can’t wait to make this sauce and also the cheese. Garbanzos count as white beans, no? Glad to see unpeeled potatoes in your picture, so no peel for me. I’ll report back on my garbanzo cheez sauce.

    1. Hey Marge- When I use white beans, it’s usually navy or northern beans. The garbanzos tend to not to be as soft, but I would love to hear if you give them a try.

      1. Ah, interesting about the beans. So you prefer navy and northern beans to cannellini. Also, this sauce (or maybe any sauce that uses potatoes) is best used with hot food and not as a dip for raw veggies like cukes, right?

        1. Hi Marge- Cannellini beans would also work well I think, so feel free to give it a try. The navy and northern varieties are just usually a little softer, and that’s why I tend to go with them. I think this recipe does go better with hot foods, but after you make it, you might want to try it on all kinds of things. 🙂

  9. This cheese sauce is delicious! But mine does not look as smooth and creamy as yours. Do you think that my blender is not as powerful? And is a blender more effective than a food processor to make this sauce creamy?

    1. Connie- I am sure you are spot-on with the reason your sauce isn’t as creamy. My sister recently got a new blender that is more powerful and told me that she can’t believe the difference with this cheese sauce and my cashew cream cheese one. It’s like night and day. I know Vitamix is expensive, but they are SO worth the investment, especially when you use them a lot with a plant-based lifestyle.

    2. Connie, you may try The Beast blender. It is very powerful and not as expensive as the Vitamix. I have both and each is great fir different things.

  10. This doesn’t really taste quite like cheese, but anyone who likes the taste of nutritional yeast will love this sauce. I happen to be very fond of the taste of nutritional yeast. I will be making this a lot! So good on potatoes which is what I had it on last night.

  11. Terri, I made this sauce this week and popped it in the fridge. Today I made pasta and used half the container on my half box of pasta. My husband tasted it, placed the lid back on the pot, left the room and then he went on ‘repeat three times. I finally asked him if he would like a bowl. ” Yes! ” ” That’s some pretty good stuff! ” High praise from my ‘ only Kraft Mac and cheese’ guy and meat and potatoes Irishman ‘ Good job!

  12. This is definitely the best vegan cheese sauce I’ve ever had. I’ve tried making many and this one is so creamy and cheezy! I like spice so I added some jalapeño brine to mine = perfection.

  13. OMG! This is the best vegan cheese sauce yet. It is excellent. I just made mac and cheese and added broccoli to it. And, I had leftover, soaked cashews only because I didn’t decide to use half cashews and half beans until the last minute. So, I took the leftover cashews, a little water and added it to the (unwashed) blender I had just used to make the cheese sauce. What a I got was a savory, delicious, creamy cashew cream. I thinking I can use that for all sorts of things! Awesome recipe. Thanks Terri!

    1. Hi Anne Marie- I am so glad that you liked it! There are tons of uses for it like on baked potatoes, steamed or air-fried asparagus, tacos, nachos, and so much more. Just so you know it freezes well too. You’ll just need to spin it in your blender for a minute after it defrosts to get the texture back to nice and creamy. I love making a double batch and freezing some for later.

  14. I have made this awesome vegan cheese sauce quite a few times now. We like to make vegan “cheese steak” sandwiches. We make the “meat” using soy curls and a bunch of umami flavorings in a pan with grilled onions. Then we load the “meat” onto a 6″ Hero roll and apply a generous amount of this cheese sauce. It is fantastic. An interesting note is that today, I added the juice of an entire lemon to the sauce, about double what the recipe recommends, and the extra tang was beneficial. The taste was a little brighter.

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