All-Purpose Vegan Cheese Sauce
1 cup (250 mL)
overnight or 30 minutes
Here it is: my favorite vegan “cheese” sauce that not only tastes amazing, but can also be used in a wide variety of dishes! Who knew that just a few simple ingredients could create such a silky, decadent, and pourable sauce? No, the recipe isn’t quite a dead ringer for traditional cheese sauce, but we think it’s delicious in its own right. This pairs perfectly with my Chili Cheese Nachos or Mac and Peas recipes from Oh She Glows Every Day, but is just as good heated up and used as a nacho dip for salsa, guacamole, or refried beans. It’s also fantastic drizzled over roasted or steamed broccoli or cauliflower. A big thanks to Ruth Tal’s Super Fresh cookbook for inspiring this versatile and wallet-friendly recipe.
- 1/4 cup (35 g) raw cashews, soaked*
- 1 1/4 cups (190 g) peeled and diced yellow or red potatoes**
- 1/2 cup (60 g) peeled and diced carrots**
- 2 to 3 tablespoons (8 to 11 g) nutritional yeast, to taste
- 2 tablespoons (30 mL) grapeseed oil or refined coconut oil***
- 2 1/2 tablespoons (37.5 mL) water
- 1 1/2 teaspoons (7.5 mL) fresh lemon juice
- 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt, or to taste
- 1 medium (4 g) garlic clove, peeled
- 1/2 to 3/4 teaspoon white wine vinegar, to taste
- Sriracha or other hot sauce, to taste (optional)
- Soak the cashews in a bowl of water overnight. Drain and rinse. (For a quick-soak method, bring a small pot of water to a boil and turn off the heat. Add the cashews to the hot water and soak for 30 to 60 minutes. Drain and rinse.)
- Add potatoes and carrots to a small pot and cover with water. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to medium, and simmer uncovered for 10 to 15 minutes until fork tender. Drain. Alternatively, you can steam the veggies until cooked through.
- Add all ingredients except hot sauce to a high-speed blender and blend until smooth. (See my tip for a food processor option.) If the mixture is too thick, a splash of water or oil can help it along. Sample the sauce and adjust seasonings as desired. Add Sriracha (or other hot sauce) as preferred, if you’d like to give the cheese a spicy kick! The sauce will keep for up to one week refrigerated in an airtight container.
* If your blender has a hard time blending cashews smooth, you may omit them (or try using a tablespoon of raw cashew butter instead!).
** To cut down on cooking time, be sure the potatoes and carrots are diced finely.
*** If you don’t have either of these oils on hand, a light-tasting olive oil should do the trick. Be sure not to use virgin coconut oil as it can impart a coconut flavour in the sauce (unless you’re down with that of course!). Refined coconut oil has no flavour.
If you don’t have a high-speed blender, a heavy-duty food processor will work in a pinch. Note that you may have to process the mixture for several minutes, and keep in mind that if you use cashews they won’t fully break down like they do in a Vitamix, resulting in a slightly more textured sauce.
Make it nut-free: simply omit the cashews. The sauce won’t be quite as rich, but still tastes great. You can also add an extra tablespoon of nutritional yeast if omitting the cashews.
I made this amazing sauce for a quinoa broccoli casserole – SO GOOD! Yet, as I was spooning the left over sauce into my mouth, I thought, there must be a similar recipe that could stand alone as an alternative to yogurt… Does something like this exist?
Hey Jennifer, haha you sound like me! :) I do have a “cheater’s” blender yogurt recipe using coconut flesh, but nothing else at the time. I will have to get the wheels turning! http://ohsheglows.com/2015/05/20/super-thick-coconut-yogurt-the-shortcut-method/
I am on a yeast, sugar, gluten and dairy free diet and I am looking for a cheese substitute. Can one be made without nutritional yeast?
Hey Kim, You can make this without the nutritional yeast but it won’t be quite as cheesy tasting and the other ingredient amounts may need to be tweaked too. Please let me know how it goes if you try it out :)
Maybe a little GF miso might add some of the savoury/cheesy taste that you’d lose when omitting the nooch? Haven’t tested this ofc, just a thought :)
Before avoiding nutritional yeast which is an excellent source of B-12, protein & is an immune-booster, please be aware of this info with regard to a candida imbalance with which I’m personally familiar: Nutritional yeast is an entirely different strain of yeast — also known as Saccharomyces cerevisiae — and bears no relationship or connection to candida. In addition to being a different strain, it’s heated and therefore not an “active” yeast. Therefore, it has no effect on candida whatsoever, positive or negative. Your body treats it just as it would any other food.
This was awesome!
So happy to hear you enjoyed it Lindsay!
Delicious! Best faux cheese sauce I’ve tried, and I’ve tried aplenty! Thanks, Angela!
So happy you love it so much Marta! Thanks for trying it out
Made this last night to put on a baked potato with lentil chili. Was so yummy!!! Have you ever frozen this?
That sounds like a great combo! I love it with my chili and cheese nachos from book #2 as well. I have tried freezing it. There is a slight texture change after thawing (it’s not quite as smooth…I believe which is due to the potato), but it’s fairly slight. Otherwise it freezes quite well. I like to freeze it in a freezer safe zip bag with the air pressed out.
Congrat for your 9 years! What do you think, what should I use? We don’t eat potato. Thank you
Thanks Renata! I don’t know of a sub for potato in this recipe. I would say sweet potato, but it’ll obviously changed the flavour to lend more sweet. If you try anything please report back! :)
Use cassava (tapioca root). In Australia, it’s used in the packaged vegan cheeses and has a more rich and chewy soft texture than potato. Perfect for cheesiness. Some Asian stores sell it frozen. We grow it.
Hey Alex, thank you for the cassava tip! I haven’t tried swapping it in this recipe, but maybe I’ll do some experimenting in the future.
Trying using cauliflower or squash :)
I absolutely adore your creations and have included recipes from your cookbooks and website into our weekly regimen of meal planning. The one thing I struggle with is finding a good cheese sauce substitute that doesn’t contain any nuts! I Struggle with having to maintain a wheat, dairy, and nut free diet due to dietary allergies and have not yet been able to find a good “cheese” base that doesn’t contain cashews! Do you have any suggestions for a nut-free “cheese” sauce alternative?
Thank you :)
Hey Amy, Thank you so much for your kind words! For this recipe in particular, you can totally omit the cashews and it still tastes great (it just lose a tiny bit of richness). Hope this helps, and thanks for reading!
I’ve seen recipes that use white beans instead so you can give that a try instead of cashews!
Sunflower seeds are a good substitute. ???
How much sunflower seeds would you use? Would it be a 1:1 substitution and would you soak them for the same amount of time as the cashews?
Hey Tina! Yep, I would soak them for the same amount of time, and I’d probably use 3 tablespoons as opposed to 1/4 (just because the seeds are smaller and tend to pack in the measuring spoon/cup a bit tighter). Hope this helps! I’d love to hear how it goes. You can also make this sauce without any nuts or seeds too.
My husband is allergic to all nuts except almonds and also allergic to sunflower seeds. He can however eat pumpkin seeds. Would almonds or pumpkin seeds work as a sub for the cashews to keep it rich? Otherwise I’ll just skip both. Thanks! Love your recipes so much!!!
Maybe you could try using raw sunflower butter as an alternative. Our local health food store carries it. I make this recipe with raw unsalted unsweetened organic cashew butter so i have a smooth end result from my food processer. It is awesome!
This cheese sauce is delicious mixed with rotel, with tortilla chips. It has the same warm, smooth consistency of the velveeta rotel dip that is so popular with non-vegans, but so much healthier. Thanks!
I’m so happy you love it Betsy! I would agree about the Velveeta comparison!
I love this recipe!! I have a bunch of potatoes to use up and wondered you’ve ever frozen this sauce and how it does. Thanks!
Hey Louise, I have tried freezing it! It freezes and thaws fairly well, however due to the potatoes the texture changes slightly after thawing. It becomes a tiny bit grainy maybe, but it’s very slight. If you try it out I’d love to know your opinion. Hope this helps!
Does anyone know the nutrition facts for this and how much each serving?
I would like to preface this comment with the statement that I normally really like Angela’s recipes. Tonight, I made a double batch of this “cheese” sauce to toss with whole wheat fussili and chick’n style soy curs. I found the texture of the sauce really nice, but unfortunately I also found it ti be too plain in taste, and definitely not as cheesy tasting, when compared with the silky vegan cheezy sauce I usually make. To kick the flavor and cheesiness level up of the double batch, I added an extra one tablespoon of lemon juic , 2 tsp white miso, 1 tsp dijon mustard, and a few shakes of Cholula sauce. This did the trick Very tasty!
In my previous comment I neglected to mention that I also added in 1.5 tsp granulated onion power. =)
Hey Lisa, I love your cheese sauce hacks!! Thanks for sharing. :) It’s an easy recipe to taste and tweak to your preference which is so nice.
Thanks Lisa I found the same thing, we must have the same palate I used your suggestion and it was perfect and cheesy
Does soaking the cashews remove the cashew-y flavor? I’ve tried cashew cheese before without soaking, and it just tasted like nuts to me. Not what I wanted on my macaroni! Thanks for sharing.
Hey Meg, The cashew flavour is quite light in this sauce since there’s only 1/4 cup. I don’t find it’s a prominent flavour in this case! I’m not sure whether soaking reduces the cashew flavour though…maybe a tiny bit since it adds a bit of water?
What you can do is use the water you soaked the cashews in the recipe instead of using fresh water. it adds to the flavor quite well.
Hi! This was delicious! I accidentally doubled the amount of cashews but went with it and just added a bit more (not really double, just a generous rounding up) of all the liquids – which ended up yielding the perfect amount to amply cover the lentil bolognese casserole without any gaps.
So happy you enjoyed it Melissa! A double batch is always a good idea :)
Really yummy sauce! I am wondering if it is possible to freeze though?
Glad it was a hit, Chantal!
There is a slight change in texture when freezing and thawing (due to the potato, I think), but it works pretty well. Let me know if you try it out!
This was so so so helpful! I’m not a vegan yet but I’m considering vegansim. This recipe makes me feel so good that I can still enjoy cheesey dishes if I turn to the better lifestyle of vegans!
That’s so great to hear :) Thank you!
Would the recipe work using another type of seed, like almonds or pumpkin seeds?
Hey Nahir, The cashews are optional so you can just leave them out, or you could try using soaked sunflower seeds or blanched (skinless) almonds. Please let us know how it goes if you try anything!
Have not tried any of your recipes but plan to. A friend of mine uses your recipes all the time and encouraged me to try them. Thanks.
Hey Rachel, Welcome to the blog! :) So happy to hear that your friend brought you here. I hope you enjoy the recipes.
That looks amazing!
I’m violently allergic to nutritional yeast! Would it still work out without it?
Hey Lee, Oh no! The sauce will still work, but the flavour won’t be quite as cheesy and you’ll likely have to adjust the other ingredients (maybe less lemon/vinegar). Please let me know if you try it out!
Ok! Thanks for the response!
Hi there love your blog. Thank you so much for sharing your ideas and inspiration. I was wondering could I swap this cheese sauce instead of the basil cashew one to make lasagne? Also is there a way to make it a toddler friendly recipe my 3 year old is super fussy. She barely touches my vegan cooking so I often resort to buying her chicken or vegetarian mince instead of using lentils and stuff but I really want her to eat healthily and not have the stress of constantly making two meals for the both of us.
Thank you so much for the kind words!
I haven’t tried the cheese sauce in the lasagna before but I have wondered too if it would work. If you attempt anything I’d love to hear how it goes!
As for making it kid-friendly, I would consider toning down the lemon and omit the white wine vinegar, garlic, and cayenne/sriracha.
Can you freeze the cheese sauce?
Hi Karin, You can, but I find the texture changes slightly when thawing (the cheese sauce gets a tad bit grainy), but the taste is pretty much the same.
Tried this recipe for the first time and the taste is amazing! However the texture feels a bit gluey. Has anyone else had this experience? My guess is the potatoes are causing the texture but I wanted to see if anyone else had ideas about it!
Yes it’s a result of the potato starches I believe. :) I kind of like it because it reminds me of cheese sauce. If it bothers you, I would suggest trying with cooked cauliflower..I haven’t tried it yet but I’ve heard that it can work in place of the potatoes. Hope this helps :)
Hi Angela – should I be melting the refined coconut oil before using?
Hey Courtney, I measure it from solid state, and then I melt it before adding to the blender. Hope this helps! :)
Made this today with red potatoes – excellent flavor and nacho cheesy texture! I mixed some of my favorite salsa into it and it made a perfect chip dip… will definitely keep this as a go-to recipe!
Hahh, this is pure genius! Even the stickiness of it, just like a cheese sauce. I will try to fool some omnivores with this. I made this tonight and will be serving it with a vegan sweet potato bar tomorrow for dinner.
Hey Jo, Totally agree with you on the consistency! That sweet potato bar sounds like a dream. What are you serving with it?
Just made this recipe and it turned out beautifully! Wondering how you typically reheat the sauce if making it in advance?
Hey Priya, I put it in a medium pot and heat it over low heat. I don’t have a microwave so I haven’t tested it in the micro before. Hope this helps!
HI I just wanted to ask if the white wine vinegar can be substituted with apple cider vinegar?
Hey Amit, I haven’t tried it with ACV, but it should be fine. ACV has a bit sweeter flavour so it might stand out a bit more? I’d love to hear how it goes!
Hi, this looks so creamy and yummy! I’m mostly comenting to sign up for your newsletter, idk how else to do it ?
Hey Annica, You can sign up here: http://ohsheglows.com/newsletter/ Hope this helps and thanks for your support!
This is so good! Thank you!
We need to keep our little off potatoes for a while. Any substitution suggestions?
Hi Ann, I haven’t tried these yet, but you may be able to use sweet potato or even cauliflower in place of the potatoes.
My sister in-law made this for your nachos and it was amazing!! I was just wondering if you can make it ahead and freeze it?
Hey Erin, I’m so glad you enjoyed it! Thanks :) As for freezing, I have tried freezing it before (make sure it’s fully cooled first). I find it thaws fairly well, but the texture does thicken a bit and it becomes *slightly* grainy after thawing. I think this is from the potato? Anyway, I didn’t notice much of a flavour change at all so all in all I think it’s an option if you are in a pinch and need to make it ahead.
Love this recipe. I discovered it only recently and already I have made Mac&Cheese with it which was delicious and I also made it for your nacho recipe which I brought to a party and everybody loved them. And today I thought to use some leftover sauce to make a cheesy toasted sandwich. I slathered two pieces of bread with the sauce and added some tomato and spring onion and toasted the sandwich. It turned out great and will definitely be making it again as it really hit the spot.
Thank you so much for this recipe it’s fast becoming one I could not live without
Oh wow…that sounds incredible!! Thanks for sharing :)
i am a teen vegan. I love cheesy noodle dishes. i have to cook for myself so this will be awesome.
What can I say? This ‘cheese’ sauce is divine. Made it to go over cauliflower and it’s so quick and easy and absolutely delicious. You owe it to yourself to make some!
Awww thank you Fiona!!
I’m trying to use less cheese and dairy at our house but find that so many recipes call for cashews or cashew cream. My husband is allergic to cashews so that isn’t an option. Is there a universal replacement for cashews or does it depend on the recipe? I’d love to make this and other vegan recipes but have been struggling to figure out how to replace the cashews. Thank you!
Hey Valerie, I’d say it depends on the recipe, but I’m happy to help you troubleshoot if you have any in mind! You can sub soaked raw sunflower seeds in this cheese sauce if you can’t use cashews or they can be left out all together for a slightly less rich sauce. Hope this helps :)
OMG what an amazing sauce!
I recently went vegan after I found it I have celiac disease and started to notice most meats also don’t sit so well with me.
With options like this sauce, I’m not going to feel deprived at all. Thank you so much!
Hey Catherine, Thanks so much for trying it out…so happy you love it!
I’m not vegan and this recipe is worth switching to! Save yourself the calories and use them for ice cream b/c this “cheese” is perfect for nachos and veggies!
Wow thank you so much Alexandra!
Does it freeze well? I like to make large batches to use later.
Hey Heidi, You can freeze the cheese sauce, but there is a slight change in texture after thawing it. I think this is from the potatoes, but the cheese sauce gets a bit grainy after freezing. From what I recall it’s not a huge amount, but it is a detectable change.
This sauce is delicious! I made a quadruple batch and froze it in servings. When it’s thawed and heated it’s exactly the same as freshly made! Freezes beautifully.
I’ve not tried making a cheese sauce before, so I’d like to get your thoughts on using safflower oil in place of the grapeseed or refined coconut oil, as I don’t have either of those and know that safflower oil is very mild flavored. Do you think that would be an acceptable substitute for your recipe?
FYI-Safflower oil worked fine. I also didn’t have white wine vinegar so i used rice vinegar & this still turned out great!
Thanks for following up…that’s great news :)
Great recipe. I’ve made this ‘blend veggies and cashews and you won’t believe how cheesy it is!’ type of recipe before and have been severely unimpressed. That said – this one is great. I subbed the garlic for garlic powder (1/4 tsp) and oil for sunflower oil – super tasty & tangy! I made it for the Cheesy Lentil Bolognese Casserole – yum!
I’m so glad it passed the taste test! I hope you love the casserole…it’s one of my fave dishes. So comforting!
I am allergic to potatoes. Is there a good substitute for potatoes in this recipe? Maybe cauliflower or turnips??
Hey Katie! I have heard that some readers have successfully used cauliflower in this recipe, but I have yet to try it out myself. I’d love to hear how it goes if you do. :)
I’ve made this wonderful recipe many times, and will offer a couple of modifications I use to make it more
cheese like in flavor: use 1/2 the amount of Nutritional yeast (many palates don’t like the taste, so using 1/2 the amount is just enough to add flavoring, without saying it ‘tastes like’ Nutritional yeast. I also don’t use the vinegar…it simply doesn’t need it!
Tasty! I turned up the heat by adding half a jalapeno and used it on nachos and it was great.
I’m going to try another batch in a casserole soon. So happy to have found a cheezy sauce to use, because I really miss the real thing.
Hi Melissa, I’m so happy it was a hit! I love adding jalapeño too…the best!
I am in the minority here. While the taste was good overall, the texture was gluey. Any thoughts on what to change?
Hey Jenn, The potatoes definitely are responsible for that bit of “gluey” texture (which oddly enough, many people love as it has a tiny bit of stretch like a regular cheese sauce), but if you want you can try swapping the potato for cooked cauliflower. I haven’t tried it yet, but I’ve heard from readers who enjoyed it. :) I’d love to hear how it goes!
Does anyone know if this will freeze well? I want to make some breakfast burritos to freeze and have ready to go. Thanks!
Hey Amanda, I love your idea of having this cheese sauce on-hand for breakfast burritos! I’m happy to say it freezes beautifully. There’s a slight change in the texture when thawing (from the potatoes I think), but it works well overall!
I have found that using my food processor to make cashew butter first in recipes like this gives the end result the same creamy texture as using a Vitamix. Looking forward to trying this recipe b y subbing sweet potatoes.
Hey Becca, I’d love to hear how the sweet potato swap goes!
I just made this recipe and sampled it from the blender. It tastes delicious! I’m looking forward to putting it on my pizza. I guess it has worked out well that I tried your recipe for vegan cheese sauce first before any others!
Hi Cathy, So glad you love it…thanks for your review! Putting it on pizza is such a great idea…mmm
Angela you are amazing. First time leaving a comment , however my family and friends have enjoyed all the meals I make from your recipes. I just tried this one this evening it was fabulous! I added Cayenne and onion powder which I adapted from your life-affirming nacho dip. Spectacular! Which BTW all my non vegan friends ask for that recipe and have made it themselves …clap clap. With holidays approaching one of my daughters is a huge scalloped potato…cheesy fan. Would this sauce bake ok for that. Would you maybe add sautéed onions to it? Also notable recipe that is a family favorite is your chocolate almond brownies. So appreciate all your effort and tenacity to create these beautiful dishes. Thank you
Hey Debi, Aww I can’t thank you enough for your sweet note! It made my day! I really appreciate your support and encouragement so much. That’s so funny you are thinking about using this sauce for scalloped potatoes because I’m planning on testing this exact idea this fall. I can’t see why it wouldn’t work…I’m just not sure on the bake times and such. If you try anything I’d love to hear how it goes. I think I will probably double the cheese sauce recipe when I attempt it so there is a ton of the cheesy sauce to coat.