I used to wonder what all the hype was surrounding cashew cheese sauce. Was it really that good, and did it really taste like cheese?!
I had to find out for myself, so I set out on a quest to make the BEST vegan cheese sauce out there. I wanted it to be full of umami flavors, taste like something close to nacho cheese, be completely smooth and creamy with a little hint of spice.
The results were simply unbelievable. Hence why we now call this recipe the BEST vegan cashew cheese sauce you’ll ever eat. It’s incredibly easy, oh so delicious, creamy and just so happens to be Abra’s favorite thing to make every single week to drizzle on top of quinoa, tacos and whatever else she’s cooking up. Make it once and it lasts all week, or make it once and throw it in some really good easy stovetop vegan mac and cheese. You know you want to.
What’s in this vegan cheese sauce?
I know it sounds crazy and weird that you could turn cashews into something that tastes cheesy but please just trust me when I say that this vegan cheese sauce tastes pretty close to a creamy nacho cheese. Except that this version is dairy free, vegan and made completely from… CASHEWS! Here’s what you’ll need:
- Raw cashews: yes, RAW cashews are the base of this recipe, and when soaked and blended with a little water or milk, cashews form into a beautiful, super creamy nutritious sauce full of fiber, protein and healthy fats. Just remember you’ll have to soak the cashews for at least 45 minutes, so keep that in mind. Just put them in a bowl and walk away for a few hours; I’ve also added a way to speed up the process to only 30 minutes in instructions of this recipe.
- Nutritional yeast: have you ever had nutritional yeast before? My mom originally got me hooked during college. She’s put it on her buttered toast with a little garlic powder and salt and it tasted just like cheesy garlic bread. So, what is nutritional yeast? It’s a deactivated yeast made from sugarcane and beet molasses. It’s cheesy tasting, nutty and contains an incredible amount of B vitamins. You can buy nutritional yeast at most grocery stores including Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods.
- Almond milk: make sure to use an unsweetened almond milk in this recipe. Water would likely also work, but I love how it gets super creamy with the addition of almond milk.
- Garlic: because what is life without garlic?
- Spices: another thing I use to flavor this mac and cheese is plenty of spices including ground turmeric, paprika and onion powder.
- Dijon mustard: This gives the mac and cheese a little zesty and adds a slight tang. Just TRUST ME!
- Jalapeno: you’ll put the entire pepper in (seeds and all) and it’s never been too spicy for me or anyone I know. It adds lovely flavor. If you’re nervous about the spices or making this for kids, take out the seeds or leave out the jalapeno completely.
- Salt and pepper: a decent amount of s+p to add flavor!
How to make vegan cheese sauce
- Making this vegan cashew cheese sauce is easier than you think! First you’ll need to soak your cashews for at least 2 hours. However, I’ve found that you can easily speed up the process by adding the raw cashews to a pot with water and placing over high heat. Bring to a boil, then immediately turn off the heat. Let the cashews sit for 30-45 minutes in the warm water, then drain.
- Add all vegan cashew cheese sauce ingredients to a blender and blend until completely smooth. Taste and adjust the seasonings as necessary.
- Feel free to use in whatever recipes you’d like (including mac and cheese), or keep in the fridge for using throughout the week!
How to store & reheat vegan cheese sauce:
In the refrigerator: this delicious vegan cashew cheese sauce recipe will stay good in your fridge for up to 5 days in an airtight container. To reheat, simply pour it into a microwave-safe container and reheat it in the microwave until nice and warm. You may need to add a tablespoon or two of water (or pasta water if adding to pasta right away) if it’s become too thick.
In the freezer: you can also easily freeze this recipe! Simply add the vegan cheese sauce to a freezer-safe container or bag and place it in your freezer. When you’re ready to us it, let the cheese sauce thaw in the fridge before using it. You may need to blend it with a bit more water if you’re finding that it’s too thick.
Delicious recipes to use this vegan cashew cheese sauce:
I’ve been using this sauce as a topping for enchiladas, chips, on buddha bowls, over fluffy quinoa or vegetarian taco bowls, on stuffed peppers, over sweet potatoes and so much more. Here are a few more delicious recipes to try it with:
As a dip for Sweet Potato Fries
If you make this recipe, please leave a comment and rate the recipe below. We appreciate it. xo!
The Best Vegan Cashew Cheese Sauce You'll Ever Eat
Learn how to make creamy vegan cashew cheese sauce with a few simple ingredients! This easy vegan cheese sauce recipe tastes just like nacho cheese and is delicious on enchiladas, tacos, noodles & pasta, as a dip, over taco bowls and so much more!
- For the vegan cashew cheese sauce:
- 1 1/2 cups raw cashews*
- 2 garlic cloves
- 1/4 cup nutritional yeast
- 1 cup unsweetened almond milk, plus more to thin if necessary
- 1 jalapeno, chopped (feel free to deseed or leave out if sensitive to spice)
- 1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
- 1/2 teaspoon paprika
- 1/2 teaspoon onion powder
- 1 teaspoon dijon mustard
- 1 teaspoon salt, to taste
- Freshly ground black pepper
*To make the cashew cheese sauce: soak the cashews in 4 cups of water for at least 2 hours; otherwise I've found that you can easily speed up the process by adding the raw cashews to a pot with water and placing over high heat. Bring water to a boil, then immediately turn off the heat; let the cashews sit for 30-45 minutes in the warm water, then drain.
Once the cashews have finished soaking you'll be ready to make the sauce: add drained cashews, garlic, nutritional yeast, almond milk, jalapeno, turmeric, paprika, onion powder, dijon mustard, salt and black pepper to a high powered blender. Blend until a thick sauce comes together. If you want a thinner sauce, add a bit more almond milk. Taste and adjust seasonings as necessary. Enjoy! Serves 6-8, depending on how you use it.
If you're making this for kids, I suggest taking out the seeds of the jalapeno or leaving out the jalapeno completely.
Recipe by: Monique Volz // Ambitious Kitchen | Photography by: Eat Love Eats