Two years. That’s how long I have tested and trialed cheese sauces. I set out trying to create my own creamy vegan cheese sauce when we first started this plant-based eating journey. After a few failures, I decided to try making some that were already out there. No success there either. Many use nutritional yeast, which we don’t like in large amounts. I have tried some really bad ones (no I won’t reveal because I am not that mean), some that looked absolutely nothing like their pictures. So back and forth I went with vegan cheese sauce, between trying to create my own and trying other bloggers recipes. Along the way I found some that were decent, just still not what I was looking for. I loved some aspects of them and wasn’t a fan of others. I also found some great store bought versions, most not being whole foods based which is my focus in feeding my family. But from time to time we do indulge, just not that often. My favorite whole food based store bought cheese sauce is from Heido Ho, which ultimately lit a fire under me to try this cheese sauce making again. As for other blogger recipes, The Vegan 8 has a few that are better than most out there. When I finally set into trying to develop my own creamy vegan cheese sauce recipe, I took my years of trial and error and my favorite aspects from each sauce I tried. Finally, ultimate vegan cheese sauce success happens…
The funny thing is that I came across my idea for this through a mistake I made when trying to puree some potatoes for the pizza crust for my Thai Chickpea and Veggies Pizza. I put the potatoes into my Vitamix at full speed instead of the food processor, because frankly I was just too lazy to get it out, and the result was a gooey, stretchy, sticky mess. In a processor, although there is a gooey factor to it, it isn’t as stretchy or sticky as it is in a high speed blender at full speed. And it’s also not as hard to clean. Well that got me thinking about cheese and the sauce that I’ve been working towards. I decided that they would definitely be the star in my sauce! Don’t you love that sometimes mistakes pay off? Just look at this goodness!
This vegan cheese sauce is just the right amount of creamy. It’s gooey as cheese sauce should be. It’s salty and flavorful and it’s actually cheesy! The catch? It’s made with WHOLE FOODS. Ok, that’s not really a catch. But I promise it does not taste like it. It’s incredible how a few veggies, nuts and spices can actually make this creamy amazingness. Once I finally got the basic recipe, I tried it over and over until my family loved it. The big trial was the 3 year old who firmly declared the first one as “too hummusy” so not real “Mac’n n cheese” when I mixed it with pasta and gave it to him. By the time I was done with my trials he seriously had no idea it was not real cheese sauce. This will be a weekly staple, hands down.
I have tried this vegan cheese sauce in so many things. Mac n cheese of course, SO good. I have also tried it over veggies, as a nacho cheese dip, and as a variety of other Mexican type dips. It’s great in baked recipes because it melts as it heats and then thickens as it cools. Definitely take a look at this 7 Layer Taco Dip that uses this vegan cheese sauce as a layer! Or even this Poblano Mac and Cheese, so flavorful, and this Mexican Nacho Burger that oozes vegan cheese sauce. Sometimes I even eat it with a spoon…Don’t judge, just try it.
Just so you all know I haven’t altered the colors in my pictures AT ALL! The sauce really looks like this. I really wanted to nail the color along with the texture and flavor of course. There’s nothing worse than trying a recipe and having it look so different than the picture. Sometimes you know it will, because you have no desire to pretty it up. Trust me, with three kids my meals don’t all look pretty. But when it comes to natural colors, you need to hit the nail on the head with cheese! And this creamy vegan cheese sauce absolutely nails it.
I know you guys will love this. Even if you are a fan of the nutritional yeast based sauces, this is a must try! Please let me know when you do, I love hearing your comments and I want to know all the different ways you use this! You can leave a comment here, find me on Facebook or tag me on Instagram at veggiesdontbite #veggiesdontbite so I don’t miss it! I can’t wait!
- 3 medium red potatoes about 4 inches by 3 inches (see note)
- 1/3 of a medium red pepper about 4 inches by 3 inches
- 2 orange carrots about 5 inches by 1 inch, can also use 5 baby carrots
- 1/2 a small sweet mild onion about 3 inches in diameter
- 4 medium garlic cloves roasted (about 1 inch long)
- 1/2 cup raw cashews see note
- 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
- 3/4 teaspoon chickpea miso
- 1/2 teaspoon mustard seed powder
- 1/2 teaspoon paprika
- 1 1/2 teaspoons Himalayan pink salt can use less or more depending on taste preference
- Your favorite pasta if making Mac n Cheese
- Bring a pot of water to a boil and cook potatoes (skins on), red pepper, carrots and onion until potatoes are soft enough to pierce with a fork, about 25 minutes. Drain veggies and place on plate to cool slightly. You can reserve some of the cooking water to thin out sauce if needed, depending on what you are using it for.
- Place potatoes only into a high speed blender (if you don’t have a high speed blender use a regular one, but consistency may not be as creamy, smooth or gooey). Blend on high until you get a gooey sticky consistency. If you have a Vitamix, use the tamper tool to push down the potatoes. If you don’t have one, then you will need to stop and push down the potatoes every once in a while.
- Once potatoes are blended and gooey, add pepper, carrots, onion and garlic to the blender and blend again until smooth.
- Add in the rest of the ingredients and blend. If you want to thin it out, add some of the reserved cooking water, 1 tablespoon at a time until you get the desired consistency. Use as a dip, over pasta or in baked recipes.
- Keep this cheese sauce in the fridge. It will thicken as it cools so when you take it out, heat it slowly and mix well to get the smoothness back. Add water if you need to thin it out. You can also freeze leftovers in a freezer safe container as it freezes great. Defrost slowly when ready to eat. You may think it didn't freeze well, but as you heat it up the consistency comes back! You will need to mix it well as you did after cooling it in the fridge.
- Cook your pasta according to package directions.
- Drain pasta reserving about 1 cup pasta water.
- Add the pasta back into the pot and add desired amount of cheese sauce.
- Then add pasta water 1 tablespoon at a time, mixing well in between additions, until you get the desired consistency for your Mac n Cheese. If your pasta is too starchy (as some gluten free pastas are) you can also use regular water or even non dairy milk to do this. Add salt if needed, it most likely will since the sauce is no longer as concentrated. Devour!
I used red potatoes but any starchy potato will work, just don’t use sweet. It also won't work to substitute with something that is not a potato.
If you are not using a high speed blender you can either soak the cashews overnight or grind them into a fine powder using a coffee grinder. You can also boil them if you are in a pinch.
You could make this nut free by eliminating the nuts, however you will lose some of the thickness and creaminess. It will still be good in taste but just lacking some of those elements. You can also try subbing with another nut if you are allergic to cashews, I suggest walnuts however the flavor will be different. I did try it with multiple nuts and liked the taste of the cashews best.
If you don’t have chickpea miso, you can try using a white miso although it will be a little more mild in flavor so you may need more.
I did not add any liquid to this when I made it, but depending on what you use it for you may want to thin it out with some water. If you find that it isn't quite creamy/cheesy enough, it could be due to the veggies not being the size I indicate. If this happens, add 2 more tablespoons of cashews at a time, along with a pinch of salt, and blend. Check the flavor and keep adjusting until you reach the perfect combo! I am currently working on adding exact cup amounts.
You can reheat this in the microwave or in a pot with a splash of nondairy milk (I use cashew) and mix well. Add splashes of milk and mix until you have the right consistency. It may need more salt depending on how much milk you add.
Tips to prep ahead: Cook the veggies and roast the garlic.
Baby/toddler food idea: This can be mixed into any baby food or be used for a toddler as a dip. You could also just blend the veggies on their own for baby.
And always remember ethics and respect for all of us that work so very hard to create recipes for all of you. Use link backs instead of posting actual recipes, if you create something similar (not the same) give credit with a link back, and always ask before using any copyrighted work.