This creamy vegan nacho cheese sauce is 100% plant-based, gluten-free, nut-free, and easily prepared in 2 simple steps. The sauce keeps well in the refrigerator for several days, reheats like a dream, and can even be frozen.
Whether you're craving nachos, a cheesy baked potato, or hearty broccoli cheese soup, say goodbye to processed vegan cheese because this vegan nacho cheese is better tasting and better for you. 👏👏👏
Ingredients Needed to Prepare this Recipe
This delicious plant-based recipe uses carrots and potatoes instead of cashews to create a rich and creamy nut-free vegan cheese sauce you'll want to pour over everything.
- A potato. Starch is an important component to getting the right consistency in a vegan cheese sauce. Sometimes starch is added to vegan cheese sauce in powdered form with a few spoonfuls of tapioca or potato starch. In this recipe, I opted for the whole potato which gives you the starch PLUS the nutrients and fiber in the actual potato.
- Carrots. Carrots add flavor and color to this cheese sauce. You might be afraid, like I was, that the sauce will end up tasting more like carrots than cheese. You might be surprised, like I was, to discover this isn't the case at all.
- Salt. Salt is added to the cooking water for the potato and carrots to flavor them from the inside out. It's unlikely that you'll want to add salt to the cheese sauce itself because soy sauce and tamari add a salty flavor.
- Vegetable oil or melted vegan butter. Melted vegan butter adds a bit more flavor to this cheese sauce, but the difference is minimal, so use whichever you like.
- Non-dairy milk. Use any kind of non-dairy milk you like, just be sure it is unsweetened and unflavored. The only caution here is with using coconut milk which can give the sauce a slight coconut flavor. Not necessarily bad, you just need to know what to expect.
- Soy sauce or tamari. For those of you who are making gluten-free nacho cheese, be sure to use tamari. One thing to note is that tamari adds less salt to this cheese sauce than soy sauce. So if you are using tamari, you might want to add a pinch or two of salt. Just taste it and see what you think.
- Nutritional yeast. This is the "secret sauce" in this nacho cheese sauce. Nutritional Yeast adds a surprising "cheesy" flavor to foods and mimics the umami flavor often derived from parmesan or cheddar cheese. Also, it's good for you! Nutritional yeast is a great source of plant-based protein, fiber, and B vitamins. You can find nutritional yeast in the baking section of most supermarkets, or order it.
- Cornstarch. Because of the starch in the potato, you'll only need a teaspoon of cornstarch to achieve a rich, thick nacho cheese sauce.
- Garlic powder, onion powder, and cayenne. How much you add of each of these flavoring ingredients is 100% up to you. The amounts in the recipe reflect what tastes good to me, but play around to determine what tastes right to you.
- Fresh lemon juice. A bit of fresh lemon juice brightens up the flavors in this nacho cheese sauce and adds a bit of acidity that is surprisingly important to the smoothness and mouthfeel of the sauce.
- Tomato paste. Tomato paste adds some additional umami to this cheese sauce and brightens up the color.
- Chili powder and/ or a couple of pickled jalapeños. These are optional ingredients for any of you who want to add a bit more heat and chili flavor to your nacho cheese sauce.
Step-by-Step Photos and Instructions
Making this vegan nacho cheese sauce is a super easy two-step process:
#1. Peel a couple of potatoes and carrots and chop them into bite-size pieces that are all roughly the same size so the cook at the same rate.
Let the veggies simmer in salted water until tender. It's important to add enough salt to the water to make it taste salty. The salt will flavor the veggies while they cook.
#2. Add the cooked veggies and all the other nacho cheese ingredients to a blender and puree until smooth.
Give the nacho cheese a taste and add more salt, garlic powder, onion powder, cayenne if you like. You can also add some chili powder and a few pickled jalapeños if you want to dial up the heat and nacho cheese flavor.
That's it! The nacho cheese sauce is now ready to use or store in the refrigerator or freezer for later.
How to Store, Freeze, and Reheat Vegan Cheese Sauce
This vegan cheese sauce can be prepared up to a week in advance and stored in a covered container in the refrigerator. Or, freeze the sauce in an airtight container for up to 3 months.
If frozen, allow the cheese sauce to thaw in the refrigerator overnight, or thaw the sauce using the defrost setting on your microwave. Once the sauce is about 50% thawed you can start to heat it.
To reheat the sauce, add it to a saucepan and heat the sauce over medium-low heat, stirring frequently, until warm and creamy. Alternatively, heat it at 50% power in the microwave until warm, stopping every minute to stir the sauce.
Ways to Use Vegan Nacho Cheese Sauce
Three of my favorite ways to use this delicious vegan cheese sauce are:
- This nacho cheese sauce is an essential ingredient in Creamy Vegan Broccoli Cheese Soup.
- To make the BEST Vegan Nachos.
- Drizzled over a baked potato, steamed broccoli, or any other vegetable.
Obviously, vegan nacho cheese sauce can replace cheese in things like nachos, tacos, and burritos. But, it can also replace dairy in many casseroles and soups.
For example, to make a dairy-free version of this popular Spanish Potato Soup, replace both the sour cream and cheese with vegan sour cream and vegan nacho cheese sauce. It's also incredibly delicious drizzled over warm bowls of this Black Bean Soup.
Here are a few more ideas:
- Drizzle it over crispy fried potatoes. I love to make dairy-free breakfast burritos with eggs, crispy fried potatoes, some sautéed veggies, and this vegan nacho cheese sauce.
- Spoon it over burrito bowls or grain bowls.
- Use it to replace the cheese in wraps.
- Make super quick vegan mac-and-cheese by stirring it into a pan of cooked
- Make a vegan version of these delicious vegetarian black bean tostadas by using this vegan cheese sauce and vegan sour cream.
Makes a Great Camping Recipe!
Calling all campers! This vegan nacho cheese sauce is WAY more convenient for camping than regular nacho cheese!
Unlike dairy-based nacho cheese, this dairy-free cheese sauce does not have to be kept as cold and can be reheated as many times as you like.
Like any plant-based whole food, vegan nacho cheese will spoil if kept at warm temperatures for long stretches of time. But, unlike dairy, vegan nacho cheese sauce is perfectly safe stored at room temperature for up to 24 hours.
Vegan nacho cheese can also be heated and reheated many times before it will begin to break down. Heat it over a camping stove or even over a cool area of an open fire.
This makes it a great choice for camping trips even if eating vegan food isn't your thing. Prepare a large batch at home and then use it in place of cheese in all kinds of recipes!
Nutritional yeast gives this 100% plant based cheese sauce much of its cheesy flavor. Nutritional yeast adds a surprising "cheesy" flavor to foods and mimics the umami flavor often derived from parmesan or cheddar cheese.
Starch and vegetable oil or vegan butter are also important to the texture of this cheese sauce. This is important because one of the biggest components of taste is texture. Even if the flavor of a food is good, if the texture is "off" it will affect how we feel about the food's flavor.
Nutritional yeast is a deactivated yeast that's sold as flakes, granules, or powder. You can make this vegan cheese sauce without nutritional yeast and it will still taste delicious, but it won't have nearly as much cheesy flavor.
In addition, nutritional yeast is good for you! It's a great source of plant-based protein, fiber, and B vitamins.
Nope. Having a high-powered blender will make the process of mixing up this cheese sauce faster and slightly easier, but any kind of blender will work.
If you are not using a high powered blender, just be patient. It might take longer to blend up all the ingredients for this sauce and you'll want to make sure to stop and scrape down the sides of the blender often to ensure a smooth, cohesive, well-blended sauce.
Save this recipe for later!
- 1 ½ cups (230 grams) chopped potato, peel and cut into bite-size pieces
- ½ cup (80 grams) chopped carrot, peeled and cut into pieces the same size as the potato
- ¼ cup (50 grams) vegetable oil OR melted vegan butter
- ¼ cup (57 grams) non-dairy milk, unsweetened and unflavored
- 2 teaspoons soy sauce or Tamari (use Tamari if you want the sauce to be gluten-free)
- 2 tablespoons nutritional yeast (*See notes)
- 1 teaspoon cornstarch
- 1 ½ teaspoon garlic powder
- 1 ½ teaspoon onion powder
- ⅛ teaspoon ground cayenne (*See notes)
- 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
- 1 tablespoon tomato paste
- Optional: Chili powder, a couple of pickled jalapeños
- Add the chopped potato and carrot to a saucepan and add enough water to cover the vegetables by about 2 inches. Add about 1 tablespoon of salt - enough to make the water taste salty, (*See notes for more information.) Set the saucepan over high heat and bring the water to a boil. Once boiling, lower the heat to medium and let the vegetables cook until they are tender.
- Drain the vegetables and add them to a blender. Add all the other ingredients for the nacho cheese sauce and blend until smooth. Taste and add more salt and/ or garlic powder, onion powder, or cayenne if desired. You can also add some chili powder and/ or a few pickled jalapeños if you want more heat and chili flavor.
- Scrape into a covered container and refrigerate until ready to use. The cheese sauce will keep in the refrigerator for up to 1 week. It can also be frozen for up to 3 months. Scroll up for more information about storing, thawing, and reheating this cheese sauce.
Where do I find Nutritional Yeast?
Nutritional Yeast can usually be found in the baking aisle of major supermarkets. It's also often found in health food stores. You can also order nutritional yeast online. See the link below for the brand I use.
A Note About the Spices in this Recipe:
How much garlic powder, onion powder, and cayenne you add to this cheese sauce is 100% up to you. The amounts in the recipe reflect what tastes good to me, but play around to determine what tastes right to you.
Notes About the Amount of Salt in this Cheese Sauce:
Boiling the potato and carrots in salt water will flavor them from the inside out. Seasoned vegetables will contribute the maximum amount of flavor to the cheese sauce. To ensure they are properly seasoned, it's important to add enough salt to make the water taste salty. The vegetables will not, of course, absorb all of the salt while they cook. But if you only add a small amount of salt to the water, they will absorb so little it won't make any difference.
Besides the salt that's added to the cooking water for the potato and carrots, it's unlikely that you'll want to add additional salt to this cheese sauce because soy sauce and Tamari add a salty flavor. However, it's important to understand that Tamari is less salty than soy sauce. So, if you're using tamari, taste the sauce and add another pinch or two of salt if you like.
As an Amazon Associate and member of other affiliate programs, I earn from qualifying purchases.
Serving Size:¼ cup
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 144Total Fat: 10gSaturated Fat: 1gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 8gCholesterol: 1mgSodium: 292mgCarbohydrates: 13gFiber: 2gSugar: 2gProtein: 3g