After posting my Vegan Cauliflower Nachos last week, several readers asked if there was a way to make a dairy-free cheese sauce without nuts, and possibly with cauliflower instead. Since I’ve already made a Cauliflower Alfredo Sauce, I knew a creamy sauce was possible using cauliflower, but I figured I should officially try my hand at making a dairy-free cauliflower “cheese” sauce once and for all.
This dairy-free cauliflower cheese sauce is just about as healthy as it gets. It’s almost entirely vegetable-based and is lower in fat and calories than its cashew-based counterpart. It’s perfect for those who need to follow a nut-free, dairy-free, or low-fat diet.
Will it fool anyone into thinking they’re eating real cheese dip? Probably not.
If you want a truly creamy, fake-out queso, make my cashew queso because THAT recipe will fool people. This recipe is for those of us who want something that isn’t as nut-heavy, possibly because you want to eat it more often, or because you want something that is properly combined over pasta, or because you have special dietary needs. If you fall into one of those categories, this is the sauce for you. It’s healthy, creamy, and totally guilt-free.
Though it does take a bit of time to roast the cauliflower for this sauce, you can be busy doing other things while it cooks. (Bonus points if you use that time to prep some salad dressings or lunch bowls for the week!) Once the cauliflower is done, you simply blend it up with a handful of ingredients, and then your sauce is ready to go. It makes a great topping over roasted vegetables, baked french fries, vegan nachos, and pasta. The possibilities are endless, so I hope you’ll enjoy it.
Dairy-Free Cauliflower Cheese Sauce (Vegan & Paleo)
Makes about 3 cups
1 pound cauliflower
2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil
3 cloves garlic
1 1/4 cups water, or as needed to thin
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1/4 cup nutritional yeast
Preheat the oven to 400ºF. In a large rimmed baking sheet, toss the cauliflower florets and garlic cloves in the olive oil and arrange them into a single layer. Roast until fork-tender and golden, about 30 minutes.
Transfer the roasted cauliflower and garlic to a blender, and add in the water, salt, lemon juice, and nutritional yeast. Blend until very smooth. Adjust any seasoning to your taste, and then serve warm over your favorite vegetables, nachos, or baked fries.
Dairy-Free Cauliflower "Cheese" Sauce
- 1 pound cauliflower
- 2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil
- 3 cloves garlic
- 1 1/4 cups water , or as needed to thin
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- 1/4 cup nutritional yeast
- Preheat the oven to 400ºF. In a large rimmed baking sheet, toss the cauliflower florets and garlic cloves in the olive oil and arrange them into a single layer. Roast until fork-tender and golden, about 30 minutes.
- Transfer the roasted cauliflower and garlic to a blender, and add in the water, salt, lemon juice, and nutritional yeast. Blend until very smooth. Adjust any seasoning to your taste, and then serve warm over your favorite vegetables, nachos, or baked fries.
Per Serving: Calories: 80, Fat: 3g, Carbohydrates: 10g, Fiber: 3g, Protein: 4g
Note: Feel free to try other methods of baking the cauliflower, such as steaming or boiling. I roasted the cauliflower because I love the flavor of roasted cauliflower and it’s an easy, hands-off approach to cooking it. If you make other substitutions to this recipe, please leave a comment below letting us all know how it worked for you.
Reader Feedback: What’s your go-to vegetable topper? Other than a good cheese sauce, I love to use this Creamy Cucumber Tahini Dressing over everything, too.
Questions and Reviews
I can’t have any yeast. Can this sauce be made with out the nutritional yeast?
Yes, but it might not taste as “cheesy.”
Is there anything I can use to make it taste cheesy without yeast or cashews?
I have the same issue Jeanine (yeast allergy). I would love to know how to make this without nutritional yeast. Thanks in advance.
I haven’t made this yet but reading your question two thoughts came to me ( and I’m just a simple person who cooks as much as I can). One is that when cheese is craved it’s usually either salt or fats that our body wants. That doesn’t give the cheese flavor but I use this rule when feeling like something could use some cheese (ie. add a good olive oil or gomasio or Bragg’s or coconut aminos). My other thought is to skip the cheese idea and, depending on what you are using it for make it a curry sauce, or add Mexican herbs for nachos. Don’t know – just thought I’d share.
good ideas. I just read this and haven’t made it yet, but was thinking maybe tahini might be a good substitute or addition. Sesame seed are not nuts, and I’m curious if that would be a good alternative for people who need to avoid nuts. What do you think?
Golden Miso Paste (or other mild tasting version such as a Miso made from Garbonzo beans) could be a good substitute. Miso is a fermented food though, so not sure a person who can’t have yeast could have?
Acid + fat + salt are usually essential for a “cheesy” flavor. I reduced the fat in this recipe, which will already make this sauce less cheese-like than my version made with cashews, but I think it would still be tasty without the yeast– just more of a salty creamy garlic sauce, rather than a cheese sauce. Perhaps something else that is fermented would help add a cheese flavor? I think a reader below mentioned using miso. I think a lot of experimenting will be in order!
Can I make this ahead and reheat later?
Definitely! I find that sauces tend to thicken when they’re stored, so you might need to add a touch more lemon juice or water when you reheat it.
I can’t have yeast either but my naturopath said nutritional yeast is different and Ok. You should check on that.
This is WONDERFUL! I’ve been wanting this kind of recipe for years. Thank you so much.
I’m so glad you enjoyed it!
As far as I know nutritional yeast is nothing like other yeast. It does not contribute to candida or anything else so check it out in more detail for exactly why you are not able to have normal yeast and you might be surprised that you can have nooch :).
Have you successfully froze this??
No, I haven’t tried that yet. We eat it too fast. I can’t see why it wouldn’t freeze well, though.
DEEEEElish!!! This is SO good…..thanks Megan!!
Yay! I’m glad you enjoyed it! 🙂
I had such high hopes for this! It was nothing like depicted in the pictures and did not at all taste like cheese … tasted like roasted cauliflower. But I am not deterred! I will try again and make it work!
I’m sorry you didn’t enjoy it as much as we did. I hope you’ll be able to experiment with the ingredients more and come up with a combination that you like better!
Oh I made a version of this the other day to make a healthier mac and cheese = YUM! Cauliflower is the best vegetable EVERS;)
Just made this last night!! So. Good. Thanks for sharing!
It was thicker, but we loved it topping gluten free pasta. Next time –zoodles.
Yay! Glad you enjoyed it! You can definitely thin it more with water if you like, but I think the thicker version works great for pasta– especially with zoodles, since they can be watery on their own. 😉
I couldn’t get past the cauliflower flavor in this to use it as a cheese sauce, so I knew my family wouldn’t either. Maybe I needed to continue working with the other ingredients more. In any case, I do see the version I ended up with working out as a tasty cheezy cauliflower soup in my house. Thanks for yet another fun twist on veggies, Megan! ?
Brilliant and delicious! I’m totally hooked!
I was highly pessimistic about this actually turning out creamy like your photo or tasting good for that matter. What a pleasant surprise, I made it tonight and it was delicious! Super creamy, great flavor and easy. I made black bean patty’s, added roasted sweet potato, arugula, avocado and a dollop of cauli-cheese. I followed the recipe exactly except for maybe a little more garlic. These were fantastic. I’ll be making these again for sure. There in plenty left over for “nachos” tomorrow… going to look for that recipe next. Thanks Megan
Can’t wait to try this… just need to buy the nutritional yeast. Thank you so much for the recipe!
Made this with a pound of purple cauliflower I had on hand – it came out beautiful and tasty, too. Thanks for this recipe – it’s nice to have something low cal and nut free.
Cauliflower nachos are definitely in my future!
Have you tried this recepie with nachos? or over any other Mexican food? 😀 <3
Absolutely WONDERFUL! Your recipes are amazing. Thank you for this amazing cheese replacement, Megan!
I made this with frozen cauliflower. I cooked it for longer added less salt and a little less. It turned out great!! I just turned vegan and all I miss is cheese!!
Is the serving size 3 cups? So is it 10 carbs for all 3 cups? I can’t wait to try this!
The serving size is for 1 cup of sauce. Hope that helps!
This sounds so good! I’m on a meal plan at the moment that it quite restrictive. Would it be possible to use a vinegar instead of the oil? And what are the effects of leaving out the nutritional yeast?
It will be less cheesy and a little more runny without the oil and nutritional yeast, but if that’s what works for your diet, it’s worth trying. I would only add vinegar if you think it will work taste-wise. (It would be very potent, so start with a small amount.)
Just made this — added some pureed sweet potato for color, and it was excellent!
Oh my goodness! Just hand me a spoon. This stuff is so good! We use it as a dipping sauce, veggie and meat drizzle, salad dressing, and as a soup thickener. It is delicious on just about anything. Thank you, thank you, thank you for this brilliant recipe!
The results I’ve gotten from this recipe have been wonderful. The first time, I made it per instructions with only the addition of roasted red pepper, and I used it as sauce for potatoes and other dishes to add some oomph. Today I added steamed baby carrots (maybe I should roast those) and raw sunflower seeds for extra nutrition and just to see how it turns out. For spice i added smoky paprika and chiptole powder. Yum! I’ll be using this as a pasta sauce along with argula.
Love your recipes but not this one. Ended up throwing it out.