5-Minute Vegan Cheese Sauce

Vegan Cheese Sauce

One sauce. A hundred ways to use it!

This amazing, vegan cheese sauce is the perfect sauce because you can use over pasta, in burritos, in cheesy potatoes, as a chip dip, over enchiladas, as a base for a cheesy soup, over veggies, as a topping for toast …

Aaaaannd … it makes the most scrumptious vegan lasagna.

Vegan Gluten-Free Cheese

And, it’s nutritional-yeast-free. (Which makes us happy since we try to avoid that ingredient.)

Easy Peasy

And, what’s more, it’s easy.

Just dump a few ingredients in your blender jar, hit blend, and *poof*, you have this luscious, creamy sauce that has a fascinating ability to take just about any ingredients from your pantry or refrigerator and transform them into a delicious meal.

Best Vegan Cheese Sauce

Healthy Cheese

With its high calorie count and its complete lack of fiber, regular dairy cheese (despite what the media tells you) isn’t exactly a health food and is a disaster for weight loss. But this homemade vegan cheese is another story. Not only does it offer you a good dose of fiber (great for weight loss!), but it also provides you with vitamin K, manganese, and iron. Plus, it’s one of the few oil-free vegan cheese recipes out there.

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Vegan Cashew Cheese Sauce (without nutritional yeast)

A delicious, plant-based cheese sauce that tastes great over potatoes, pasta, steamed vegetables, and more.
Prep Time 5 mins
Total Time 5 mins
Course Condiment, Dip, Sauce
YIELD 1.75 cups
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Ingredients

Instructions

  • Rinse cashews in a colander under very hot water.  Drain very well.
  • Place all ingredients in blender and blend until very smooth.

Notes

1. It may take several minutes to blend if you don’t have a powerful blender. Mixture should be very smooth with no graininess.
2. If you have a powerful blender, just peel and trim a medium carrot and place in blender whole. No need to slice and measure.

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Oil-Free Recipes

Why No Nutritional Yeast?

While there is limited research on the health effects of consuming nutritional yeast and more studies certainly need to be done, I personally try to avoid nutritional yeast because it has been shown to possibly affect neurotransmitter function in the brain and artificially stimulate the appetite.

Anecdotally, I have had numerous clients tell me that cravings increase for days after consumption of nutritional yeast. I work as a weight loss coach, so this is a concern to me.

Interestingly, many naturopaths will recommend nutritional yeast to individuals with poor appetite and some veterinarians will recommend giving nutritional yeast or Brewer’s yeast to an animal who is not eating to stimulate appetite.

Again, there isn’t a lot of research done on this subject, but in the meantime, to be on the safe side and give every advantage possible, I personally avoid it.

“Grains, fruits, nuts, and vegetables constitute the diet chosen for us by our Creator. These foods, prepared in as simple and natural a manner as possible, are the most healthful and nourishing.”


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69 Comments

  1. 5 stars
    Perfect! Delicious! I made it to pour over salad as a dressing, and it’s absolutely awesome. I like that it doesn’t have nutritional yeast in it, yet it still tastes kind of cheesy. And it’s so fast and easy to make. I’ll be using this often.

        1. Hi Mary,

          I personally try to avoid nutritional yeast because it is suspected to possibly affect neurotransmitter function in the brain and artificially stimulate the appetite. But studies need to be done on this, so I don’t push it too much.

          Jennifer

          1. I’ve searched Medline using various combinations of “nutritional yeast”, “neurotransmitter or neurotoxin”, and “appetite” published between 1960 and 2019. The only article that seems to remotely reflect what you are both claiming about the negative effects of Nutritional Yeast is a peer-reviewed journal article by Steck et al. (2018). The authors investigated the affects of yeast on gustatory receptor neurons (GRNs) in Drosophila. Drosophilia is the scientific name for the genus in which fruitflies belong…. In short, I believe your “suspected correlation/causation” is based on a study about common fruit flies, not humans.

            There is also a study by Jung et al. (2008) investigating the effects of yeast hydrolysate, but, again this study was done on non-human species (i.e., rats).

            1. Hi Amanda,
              Thank you for your comment. My decision to avoid nutritional yeast actually doesn’t have anything to do with studies involving fruit flies 😊

              As I have stated several times on my blog, there aren’t studies done on nutritional yeast; and for me, the simple fact that there are NOT studies is actually a good enough reason (for me) to avoid it. It isn’t a naturally-occurring food, like a fruit or a vegetable, and I tend to error on the “play it safe” side.

              That said, there IS plenty of anecdotal evidence that nutritional yeast increases appetite; and, as a weight loss coach who wants to give her clients every advantage they can get, I like to develop recipes that give them good-tasting options that don’t include potential appetite stimulants.

              To be clear, it is very possible that nutritional yeast may be perfectly fine to eat. I am not claiming it is and I am not claiming it is not. But until I know for sure, I prefer to avoid it.

              Jennifer

          2. 5 stars
            Good day Jennifer!
            I was looking for non-yeast recipes and stumbled unto your site. Yeah! Looks like you’ll be a great source for me.
            ‘Amanda’ may not understand that everyone has an issue and everyone reacts to things differently.
            Turns out mine is yeast, along with dairy and sugars. I have battled a vicious skin disease (hidradenitis suppurativa) which is rare and little research has been done on it.
            However, I did recently find some hopeful studies that relates my disease with an overabundance of yeast in my system. Seems scientists are even starting to find that the skin lesions I have are actually the same as Crohn’s disease, but on my skin. Research will let us know.
            In the meantime, I’m going to eliminate yeast from my diet. It’s that simple. I do know that ‘yeast is everywhere’ and I can’t avoid it completely. I’ve read MANY unsympathetic folks saying that to us folks trying to avoid it. Whaddeva.
            Thank you for your recipe, of to go get the ingredients now. Enjoy the day!!!

          3. 5 stars
            thank you so much for your response on nutritional yeast. Something about it naturally just doesn’t sit well with me so I’ve been searching out “cheese” recipes specifically without it. Its used so much in vegan cooking (i am not vegan) I feel like most things with it all have this particular same taste that is not agreeing! studies or not but if my body is telling me something its for a reason and I have to listen to it.

        2. Yes, nutritional yeast is naturally occuring MSG. It accumulates in the brain, is a brain toxin, and causes us to not want to stop eating. The neurotoxin causes headaches and brain fog and confusion at the very least!

          1. Nancy,

            According to Westonaprice.org, Nutritional yeast does not contain MSG unless it was purposely added.

            I searched Medline for articles about MSG consumption and found a systematic review (this is the highest possible level of evidence) by Obayashi et al. (2016) investigating the correlation between MSG consumption and headaches. The authors found that in 5/6 studies in which participants in the cohorts consumed food with the high-dose oral MSG, there was no significant difference in headaches when compared with the control groups. The same was true in 3/7 studies in which participants did not consume food with the high-dose MSG. As you can see, *high-dose* MSG consumed *without* food may contribute to headaches. However, MSG consumed in moderate doses, with food does not significant contribute to headaches.

            I’ve searched for articles about the effects of MSG in relation to other health problems and there is no evidence to support a relationship. In fact, Fernstrom et al. (2018) wrote in their conclusion “these and related discoveries explain why the ingestion of MSG in the diet does not lead to an increase in brain glutamate concentrations, and thus does not produce functional disruptions in brain [activity].”

    1. 5 stars
      I made a baked ziti for dinner tonight. I used your marinara sauce and this cheese sauce. I didn’t have tahini sauce and substituted a can of chickpeas with liquid (instead of water). When it was finished baking it smelled like pizza and was absolutely amazing and delicious!

  2. If you put your cashews in a electric pressure cooker ( mine is a Cuisnart) and cook on high pressure for a few mins and npr you can use a cheap blender (that’s what I have) and put the cashews in a few at a time, you will get a smooth texture. Just soaking them has never given me smooth sauce. For my sad blender I would cook the carrots too.

  3. 5 stars
    Yum! I am sadly off of nutritional yeast, and this is the first cheese sauce I have tried. I was doubtful but it’s good! Thank you.

  4. Can’t wait to try this recipe! Unfortunately I run out of thaini sauce, what can I do? It’s the same if I don’t use it o I need a substitute? Thank you so much!

  5. 5 stars
    I wish I had pictures for you. I have my doubts with nacho sauces. But OMG was this one amazing. I love how simple it is and I had everything in my house. I spooned it on pizza last night and it cooked perfectly. Best pizza ever! This afternoon I put it on chickpea pasta for Mac and Cheese. Licked the bowl!! Thank you so much for an awesome recipe!

    1. Thank you Betsy! This seriously makes my night. So happy you liked it. I think I need to come over to your house for dinner, though … Pizza one night and Mac and Cheese the next! Yum! 🙂

      1. 5 stars
        Right? !?!
        Lititle update. I froze half the batch and it thawed wonderfully. We put it over broccoli last night. Hubs has declared it had to become broccoli soups so I will be attempting that this week ♡♡♡

          1. 5 stars
            Yummy. Well we made Broccoli soup with it and it’s incredible!!! The kids ate their bowls! I realized last night that if you added spinach and some water chestnuts it would be spinach dip. Oh it is happening! Lol. Thank you for such a versatile recipe!

  6. 5 stars
    Just made this and drizzled it over potatoes. It is soooo good! Thanks for the recipe, I really appreciate the no-nutritional yeast- I’ve suffered from migraines most of my life and steer clear of any potential triggers. Now I’m looking for more ways to eat this 😛

    1. Hi Wendy,
      I’m so happy you like it. It’s definitely one of our favorites! We eat it over pasta, broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, rice, potatoes, bread, green beans, peas, … just about everything. : )
      Thanks so much for your comment!
      Jennifer

    1. Hi Ann,
      I tried this with sunflower seeds and it was okay – not great – but okay. I haven’t tried it with other nuts (cashews really do give it the right flavor), but blanched almonds might work if you made sure you blended the sauce really well to ensure a smooth texture.
      Let me know how it goes. 🙂
      Jennifer

  7. 5 stars
    Thank you so much for this. I made it today and it was amazing. Can you please tell me how long I can keep it in the refrigerator? Thanks again.

    1. Hi Reena,
      I am so happy you liked it. It keeps for about 4 to 5 days in the refrigerator. I have frozen on occasion too. The consistency isn’t so great after it’s been frozen, but if you re-heat it thoroughly and stir it really well while you are reheating it, it turns out pretty good.
      Jennifer

  8. Thank you so much for this recipe! I can’t stand nutritional yeast, and this tasted beyond amazing. I just tried it over rice, chips with refried beans and some leftover pasta, all three were amazing!!

  9. 5 stars
    Omg thankyouthankyouthankyou! Finally, a vegan cheese sauce which doesn’t contain nooch or anything fermented like miso (both of which trigger migraines for me). Thank you so much! Can’t wait to try this.

  10. 5 stars
    This was really delicious—although, I did use some alternatives and I liked it, still! This is great because I’ve been looking for more ways to give tahini a chance for my taste preference besides hummus:-)
    Thank you kindly<3

  11. Thank you for this great recipe. I just flat-out dislike the taste or smell of natural yeast. I’ve tried many brands to see if it made a difference, but it did not. I appreciate “cheesy” recipes without it, or suggestions for substitutions. Thank you!

  12. Greetings! I have a cashew allergy and almond allergy and previously loved cashew cheese. Are there any alternatives to cashews that work well? I tried to use tahini in place of cashews a few days ago in a recipe and it just didn’t turn out well. I miss cashew cheese. 🙁

    1. Hi Erin,
      I tried this with sunflower seeds and it was okay – not great – but okay. I haven’t tried it with other nuts (cashews really do give it the right flavor), but I think that macadamia nuts might work well.

      Let us know if you try it!
      Jennifer

    2. I can’t speak for the substitution in this recipe but whenever a recipe calls for cashews, almonds, etc., I replace them with cauliflower. I roast or steam and it blends really nicely – and takes on the flavors of the other ingredients really well. I was planning on doing that for this recipe after I saw cashews were the first ingredient.

  13. 5 stars
    So the hubs and I are starting a partial plant-based journey due to new health issues, and I am trying out new things. This was easy-peasy to whip up, especially not having to soak the cashews beforehand! I had a few carrot shreds in the fridge, and it wasn’t quite as much as was called for, but it still turned out delicious! Thanks for sharing this recipe.

  14. This looks great! Crazy question here but I’m allergic to citrus. Do you think that apple cider vinegar would work in this recipe, in lieu of the tablespoon of lemon juice? Or would it alter the flavor too much? Thanks!

    1. HI Amber,
      I have never tried that, so I’m not sure; but it think I would try just omitting the lemon juice and not substituting anything.
      If that doesn’t work, we have used a mixture of tomato juice and salt as a lemon sub in another recipe and it turned out good.
      I hope that helps.
      Jennifer

  15. Thank you so much for this recipe! My doctors are suspecting I have Mast Cell Activation Syndrome and I’ve already been diagnosed with Crohn’s disease. My nutritionist wants me to cut out dairy, yeast, potatoes, mustard, fermented foods, soy, and many other things. This is the only vegan cheese sauce I’ve been able to find that I can actually eat! Thank you so much! I can’t wait to try it

    1. So sorry to hear about your health issues, Taylor. Sounds like your nutritionist has some good advice for you though. I’m really happy you found this recipe! I hope you enjoy it! 🙂

      Jennifer

  16. 5 stars
    This recipe was delicious 😋
    I had limited ingredients and very little nutritional yeast( which I normally us), so I turned to this recipe. My substitution got interesting 1/3 of a mandarin for lemon juice, 1 clove of garlic, 1/4 small onion( only had fresh.) I added 1 tablespoon of Nutritional yeast, 1/4 of sunflower seeds to the recipe because I just have a hard time following the rules. It all was delicious over some pasta noodles. Thank you so much 😊

  17. Hi Jennifer, thank you for this awesome yeast free recipe!! Two questions – can we make this without onion?? and how long can I store it for in the fridge?? also are the carrots supposed to be the orange ones that we get or the red ones??

    1. Hi Charu,
      Definitely use the orange carrots. The others have too strong of flavor for this cheese sauce.
      In my opinion, it needs the onion for the right flavor, but you may be able to reduce the amount slightly and still have good results.
      It keeps for about 5 days in the refrigerator.
      I hope you enjoy! ☺️

    1. It keeps for about 4 to 5 days in the refrigerator.

      I have also frozen it on occasion. The consistency isn’t so great after it’s been frozen, but if you re-heat it thoroughly and stir it really well while you are reheating it, it turns out pretty good.

  18. 5 stars
    So happy to have found this recipe. I have a food sensitivity to yest o try to cut it out where i can. I read that in general nutritional yeast can be substituted with something like Bra**s Amino Acids, Do you think that would work in this recipe?
    I can’t wait to try this one just as is. Thank you so much!

    1. Hi Lyn,
      I’m so happy you found this recipe too!
      I try to stay away from nutritional yeast, so you can find lots of delicious recipes on my site that use healthy seasonings for flavor instead of nutritional yeast. 🙂
      As far as using Bragg’s in this recipe, I definitely would not use it in this recipe as the resulting flavor would not be cheesy.
      Hope you enjoy!
      Jennifer

  19. 5 stars
    This recipe looks great!! I can’t wait to make it. I’ve been on a hunt for good vegan cheese without nutritional yeast! Medical medium says nutritional yeast is a MSG & has the potential to be an irritant to the digestive system and feed bugs such as unproductive bacteria. Thank you!! 🙂

  20. 5 stars
    Thank you for this amazing and easy recipe! It is my go-to as it is so versatile. Sometimes I sub 1/2 sunflower seeds as they are less expensive than cashews. My mom was visiting and we made a broccoli potato bowl with it. I’ve also used it in a gf pasta bake with red sauce and veggies. It can also be mixed with salsa for Mexican food. I have looked through and tried many recipes-almost every recipe out there has nutritional yeast. Not needed! Truly grateful 🙂

    1. Now I’m craving a broccoli potato bowl with cheese sauce! 🙂

      So happy you like the recipe, Lori. And thank you for all the serving suggestions. They sound delicious!

      I’m grateful for your comment. 🙂

  21. 4 stars
    I really love all your recipes. I would like it to be a little more cheesy. But, I understand why you don’t put the nutritional yeast

    1. Hi Marion,
      I wanted a little more cheesy taste when I first started making it, but now I think my taste buds have adjusted because it tastes perfect to me. You could always add a little nutritional yeast if you wanted to though.

      Thanks for your comment. 🙂

  22. 5 stars
    Taste is wonderful! I appreciate the no nooch since I have Crohn’s and this is one of my triggers (there are studies that support this for anyone wondering). Thank you for sharing a super simple cheese sauce. I am planning to use it as macaroni and cheese :).

    1. You’re welcome, Michelle. Glad it came in handy 🙂 I really like it with mac and cheese too.

      (I would love to see the research you’ve come across. If you get a chance and it isn’t inconvenient, you could send it to me via my contact form.)

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