This vegan nacho cheese sauce is the absolute best recipe. The texture and flavor are perfection, you won't believe what it's made of!
The base is made up of a combination of cashews and vegetables to get the perfect gooey nacho cheese texture. Slather your vegan nachos or use it as a dip!
This post was originally published on April 22, 2021.
This vegan nacho cheese is a spin off of my original vegan cheese sauce, which is a huge hit with both dairy and dairy free eaters! I also have a white cheese sauce and a vegan queso which aren't far behind on the favorites list.
The key to my vegan cheese creations is whole foods. Also, they are made without nutritional yeast. I know, I'm a lone duck in the vegan department with that one, but I just don't think it tastes like cheese!
So if I'm using whole foods, how do I do it? First, a lot of trial and error. But the base of this vegan nacho cheese recipe requires a few key ingredients:
- Red pepper
- Pickled jalapeño nacho slices and their juice
- Dairy free milk
- Reserved water from cooking the veggies
How to Make Vegan Nacho Cheese Sauce
This vegan cheese is super easy to make! I have two options, with the fastest being using an Instant Pot (thanks to a reader who used it for my original cheese sauce).
- Cook the veggies and cashews.
- Blend all of the ingredients together.
- Pour into a bowl if your blender gets it piping hot, or heat in a pot if you prefer.
- Dip all your faves and devour!
Ways to Serve Nacho Cheese Sauce
In addition to being the best vegan cheese for nachos, there are so many things you can do with this sauce! It's so versatile and delicious with just about anything. Here are some of our favorite ways to use dairy free nacho cheese:
- Vegan nachos
- Grilled burritos
- Build your own Mexican taco bowls
- Carnitas bowls
- Mexican pizza
- Mexican nacho burgers
- Over french fries
- Vegan Pigs in a Blanket
- On a Baked Potato
- As a dipper for veggie sticks
- Drizzled over cooked veggies like broccoli
More Vegan Recipes That Go With Nacho Cheese
You can also serve it alongside other great things for a build your own snack type meal. Here are some of our favorite things to serve it with:
For the best vegan nacho cheese sauce, make sure to check out these helpful suggestions:
- This recipe is super easy to customize to the spice level of choice! You can use mild or spicy jalapeño slices, and you can add less or more chipotle, cayenne or chili powder.
- The best nacho cheese sauce is made with cashews, they are key for creaminess! If you are allergic to nuts you can leave them out but know the creaminess won't be as good.
- To try to get that creamy texture nut free, I have heard others using extra potato, cauliflower, white beans or sunflower seeds as well, but I still like cashews best.
- If you don't have an instant pot you can also cook the veggies and cashews on the stovetop for 20-30 minutes.
- Make sure to reserve the water from cooking the veggies. If you forget you can use veggie broth instead.
- A high speed blender is best to use. If you don't have one a standard blender will work, but it will take longer to get the creamy consistency.
- The nacho cheese thickens as it cools, and gets nice and thick in the fridge. It will thin out a bit once you warm it up again.
How to Store Vegan Nacho Cheese
- Seal in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to one week.
- You can also freeze this cheese sauce! Seal in a freezer safe airtight container or bag and freeze for up to 3 months.
- Defrost in the refrigerator the night before you plan on serving.
- The texture will change slightly, but will come back together with a good stir and reheating. You can also blend it once again if you like.
- You can either reheat on the stovetop or in the microwave. Just make sure to stir so it heats evenly!
The first nachos were created for a group of hungry military wives by a man named Ignacio Anaya. He fried tortilla chips and served them topped with cheddar cheese and jalapeño slices. His nickname was nacho, so that is what he called his new appetizer.
Nacho cheese itself really has no definition. The recipe changes depending on who makes it, and can be anything that people like. However originally it was simply an orange cheddar type cheese with jalapeños.
Absolutely! In fact the flavor gets better with time, so making it in advance is great. Once you make it, allow it to cool completely at room temperature, then store in an airtight container in the fridge.
If you are making it ahead of time, you should store it in the fridge in an airtight container. If you are serving it that day, you can either put it in a crockpot on low to keep it warm, or in a pot on the stove over low heat. You'll need to mix it from time to time so it doesn't form a skin type layer.
After you refrigerate the nacho cheese, it will become thicker. Almost like a thick Greek yogurt consistency. When you are ready to serve, simply warm it slowly in the microwave or in a pot over low heat, mixing consistently. It will slowly thin out and become a nacho cheese sauce again.
Many variations use nutritional yeast, but this recipe uses only veggies, jalapeños, dairy free milk, and seasonings.
Like nacho cheese! The classic taste comes from the tang of the jalapeños, so using both sliced jalapeños and their juice gives that flavor you know and love.
More Vegan Cheese Recipes
Plant based cheese substitutes can be lacking sometimes, so I love having a variety of amazing options when the cravings hit. These traditionally cheesy recipes all got vegan makeovers, and they do not disappoint!
The Best Vegan Nacho Cheese Sauce
- 1 cup cooked potato , see note for precooked amount
- ¼ cup cooked white or yellow onion , see note for precooked amount
- ¼ cup cooked carrots , see note for precooked amount
- 3 tablespoons cooked red pepper , see note for precooked amount
- 3 medium garlic cloves
- ¾ cup cashews , see note
- ¼ - ½ cup liquid reserved from cooking the veggies , adjust for the thickness you want (can also use veggie broth)
- ½ - ¾ cup unsweetened plain cashew or almond milk , adjust for the thickness you want
- ½ - ¾ cup nacho jalapeno slices , adjust for the flavor you like (mild if you don’t want this spicy)
- ¼ cup juice from the nacho jalapeno slices
- ¾ teaspoon sea salt
- ¼ - ½ teaspoon chili powder, chipotle powder or cayenne pepper , to add spice and extra flavor
- nacho jalapeno slices , for garnish
- If you have an Instant Pot, put the raw potato, onion, carrots, red pepper garlic and cashews inside with 2 cups water. Cook on manual high pressure for 5 minutes. Allow the steam to release.
- You can also put it all in a pot over the stove and cook covered for about 20 – 25 minutes.
- When done, put the garlic and cashews into a blender.
- Measure/weigh out the potato, onion, carrots and red pepper that is needed and put them in the blender.
- Add the rest of the ingredients, including the ½ cup reserved liquid from cooking the veggies, and blend on high until creamy and smooth.
- Serve! It thickens as it cools, and gets nice and thick in the fridge. It will thin out a bit once you warm it up again. You can put it in a pot and warm it up on the stove right after you make it to thicken it as well.
- Since you are cooking the cashews with the veggies, there is no need to soak them. If you don’t have a high speed blender, it may take more time to achieve a really smooth consistency.
- I cook 1 whole potato (245 g, red or Yukon gold is my favorite for this), ⅓ of an onion (95 g), 1 large carrot or 6 baby carrots (50 g), and ⅓ of a red pepper (58 g). Then measure out what I need from there. You will have left over but I’d rather have more than be short. The veggies weigh more after they are cooked because they absorb the water. The cashews weigh about 150 g after cooked.
- This makes about 3 cups sauce.
- Serving size is ¼ cup.
Recipe by Veggies Don’t Bite, visit our site for more great plant-based recipes.
Nutrition and metric information should be considered an estimate.
Never ever EVER would I have thought putting these ingredients together could produce something so amazing!!! Thank you for opening the possibilities to me!
Ha! I love this Nikole!! So happy you liked it!!
Made it and LOVE IT! My husband is pretty critical..l he LOVES IT! We’ve tried so many vegan cheeses and were ready to just give up. Thank you for this Easy and delicious recipe!!!
Wow!! So thrilled you loved it!!
Truly excellent…pleasantly surprised. The other recipes I tried with potatoes, carrots and pepper never really turned out in the past. I was reluctant to try again. I used some roasted red pepper from a jar and a mix of cashews and pine nuts because that is all I had. Still delicious. Than you for posting.
I'm so happy you gave it a shot and liked it!
YES! What more can I say? This is the ULTIMATE nacho cheese, plant based or not! So good, and I love that I'm getting plenty of veggies in while I feel like I'm indulging. Thank you!
Thank you! I eat it with a spoon!
Can I use it on pizza? I still haven't found a real alternative to mozzarella.
Hi Joe! You can, although it is more of a dip like sauce versus a stretchy cheese. I like the Miyoko brand if you want to buy mozzarella, or if you want to make it then absolutely try my good friend Brandi's recipe! Here is the link: https://thevegan8.com/best-vegan-mozzarella-cheese-no-oil/
I highly recommend making this vegan Nacho ‘Cheese’. You will not be disappointed. It’s out-of-this-world kind of good...my favourite nacho dip EVER!!! Thank you for sharing this awesome recipe with us!
I am so happy you liked it Kathryn! Thank you so much for the great review!
I would love to try this recipe but my son has a severe nut allergy to tree nuts and doesn’t like sunflower seeds. Would it be possible to substitute tofu for the cashews?
Hi Kelly! Unfortunately cashews are the best way to get creaminess and cheesy flavor so that's all I have tried. I do not know how the tofu will work, the flavor will probably be very different and the texture would change a little too. Tofu also doesn't have any fat so the overall result may not turn out. You are always welcome to try it. If anything you can leave out the cashews and adjust a bit with more potato or even try some white beans. Let me know what you try if you do!
Best vegan cheese recipe I’ve made!! The jalapeños give It a nice kick!
So happy you liked it Tanya! Thanks so much for the great review!
I just had this over a baked potato with salsa, jalapeños, and chickpeas for lunch and it was delicious!!
hi, this recipe is amazing, how long will it last in the fridge and freezer ?
Hi! Thank you so much! Fridge up to 7 days is best. Freezer, it can last a long time. To prevent freezer burn, I like to put a piece of plastic wrap right on the top of the sauce. Also, because it is potato based, the texture as it defrosts looks weird but if you slowly heat it and whisk as you heat it gets smooth again!
Hi, I was just wondering if you add your vegetables to the water in your instant pot or if you use the rack to steam them like in the picture above? I'm really excited to try this recipe! It will be my first ever vegan recipes but I just want to make sure that I am cooking the veggies correctly in my instant pot. Thanks!
Hi Maria! I use water. But it can probably work either way!
You are the vegan cheese Queen 👑
Giving up cheese has been the hardest part of going plant based, but worth it for better health. This nacho cheese is so delicious, I’m astounded by how close it tastes to the dairy version. But this is better for you and again no Nutritional Yeast 👏🏼👏🏼👏🏼 Thank you 😊
I am so happy you liked it Debra!!! Thank you so much for the awesome review!
Hi Sophia, I’m making this today for the Super Bowl, and was wondering if the nacho jalapeños get mixed in with the blender ingredients, or if they are placed on top, or as an add-on?
Hi Kathryn! So sorry but I am offline on weekends. You blend them in. Or you can also pulse them if you want it chunky! Adding some on top is extra but delicious!
No problem at all! I think that’s great that you take your time to rest. So important.
I did end up adding all of the jalapeños into the blender. Great recipe! I brought it to a friend’s party, and everyone loved it. I had some leftover for the next couple of days, and honestly, it just keeps tasting better and better the longer it sits! 👌
I am so happy you liked it!! And yes, it does still taste great after a few days!
I've been vegan for 1.5 months now (after being profoundly affected by The Game Changers movie) and I miss cheese. Having said that, I have not consumed dairy for about 6 years (except cheese) because I understand how awful it is for our health and for the environment. THANK YOU for this delicious alternative! Unfortunately this is SO good that I can see myself eating nachos again. Soon. And I know they are not very good for me. But hey, at least now the only fat will be from the chips! Thank you again!
Hahaha!!! That is one amazing review. Thank you so so much! You are getting veggies in so I think, eat away! If you look up my homemade tortilla chip recipe, you can make them without oil and they are still amazing! But fat isn't bad for you...your body needs it! I also love this cheese sauce over broccoli!
We use this sauce for Mac n cheese and it is the best! Sophia has found a way to create all the flavors of comfort food using plant based ingredients! Once again, thank you Sophia!!! 🤗
Oh my gosh Renee thank you so so much!! I am thrilled you like it!!
I love your idea and it's filled with hidden veggies! every kid would love this one, Thanks for sharing the recipe, looking forward to more vegan recipes.
Thank you! I hope you enjoy it!