If you love the cheesy sauce that they serve over nachos at a baseball game or movie theater, I think you’re going to LOVE this Vegan Cheese Sauce. For being completely dairy-free, nut-free, and soy-free, it’s surprisingly satisfying. (And it’s super low in calories, so you can enjoy it guilt-free!)
As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.
It makes a great appetizer when served with chips, or it can be served over baked sweet potatoes or veggies, and you can serve it over anything else you want to smother in cheese.
Vegan Cheese Sauce with No Nuts
Most vegan cheese sauces that I’ve made in my life, like the one for my oh-so-popular Vegan Mac n’ Cheese recipe, use a base of blended cashews to create a similar creamy texture to dairy-based cheese sauces. The cashews add creaminess and have a very mild flavor, making them perfect for a creamy vegan sauce, but they’re not ideal for people who need to cut back or avoid eating nuts, in general.
That’s why this nut-free vegan cheese sauce is so brilliant. The recipe comes from my friend, Alisa, from GoDairyFree.org. If you’re not familiar with Alisa, she has written what I would consider a dairy free “bible” called Go Dairy Free. It’s a huge book, filled with practical tips for those who need to cut dairy out of their lives, and she recently released an updated version filled with more recipes than ever before!
(Just an FYI– the recipes in this book are not all gluten-free or vegan. The focus on this book is strictly on cutting out dairy, so there are all kinds of recipes included.)
Instead of using nuts, this recipe gets its texture from a blend of softly cooked carrots and gets its authentically “stretchy” texture from the use of arrowroot or tapioca starch.
I tweaked the recipe to use the ingredients I had on hand, and I think it turned out totally delicious when served with my favorite organic corn chips, and even over baked sweet potato “nachos.” (It’s even a properly combined meal, since this cheese sauce is in the starch category.)
I hope you’ll enjoy this vegan cheese sauce, too!
Vegan Cheese Sauce (with no nuts!)
- 3/4 cup chopped carrots
- 1 small Yukon gold potato , cut into chunks (about 4 ounces)
- 1.5 cups water
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 1/4 cup nutritional yeast
- 2 tablespoons arrowroot or tapioca starch
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- 1 1/2 teaspoons fine salt
- 1/2 teaspoon paprika
- 1/4 teaspoon onion powder
- 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1/4 teaspoon smoked paprika (optional for smoky BBQ flavor)
- Pinch cayenne pepper
- 1/2 to 3/4 cup unsweetened non-dairy milk of choice (I used homemade hemp milk)
- To cook the carrots and potatoes, fit a steamer basket into a small sauce pot and fill it with an inch of water. Place the chopped carrots and potatoes into the steamer basket and bring the water to a boil. Once boiling, lower the heat to a simmer, cover the pot and let the vegetables steam until very tender, about 10 minutes.
- While the vegetables are steaming, add the water, olive oil, nutritional yeast, starch, lemon juice, salt, paprika, onion powder, garlic powder, smoked paprika (if using; I left this out) and a pinch of cayenne pepper, if desired, to your blender pitcher.
- When the steamed vegetables are tender, lift them out of the pot and add them to the blender. Blend until the mixture is very smooth-- it will be runny.
- Drain the sauce pot of the water from the steaming process, then pour the blended mixture into the empty pot. Heat the sauce over medium heat, stirring with a whisk until it thickens, about 3 to 5 minutes. Slowly whisk in the non-dairy milk until you reach your desired consistency.
- Add more salt to taste, then serve right away. This sauce is best used immediately, but it can be cooled completely and stored in an airtight container for up to 2 days in the fridge. Gently reheat the sauce when ready to use, but do not bring it to a boil. Whisk in
Per 1/4 cup of sauce: Calories: 44, Fat: 3, Carboydrates: 3g, Fiber: 0, Protein: 0
- This recipe is adapted from Alisa’s original recipe in Go Dairy Free, which doesn’t call for a potato. To make her recipe as written, omit the potato, use 6 tablespoons of a mild-flavored oil, like grape seed, and increase the starch to 4 tablespoons total. You may also want to use a little more water to thin the sauce out as needed. The starch makes it very stretchy!
- If you want more of a Mexican-style flare, stir in a small amount of salsa or chopped jalapenos. (I love pickled jalapenos with my nachos, so serving this cheese sauce with jalapenos makes it extra-authentic for me!)
- There are two other vegan cheese sauce recipes on my site if you’re looking for a substitution, so check them out! Here are my cashew-based queso and my sweet potato queso recipes.
Thanks to Alisa for sending me her book and letting me share this recipe with you! I hope you’ll enjoy it soon.
Reader Feedback: What other dairy-free recipes do you wish you had? Let me know if you have recipe requests!
Questions and Reviews
Can corn starch be used in place of the tapioca starch?
Love everything about you and your recipes!
I would think so! Come back and let me know how it goes for you.
Yes, cornstarch works great!
Your photos are beautiful Megan! Thank you so much for the amazing post 🙂
Not sure I understand the directions. Steam the veggies over the plain water but then add the nutritional yeast mixture while the veg are steaming? Or add the nutritional yeast mixture to the pureed vegetables? Thanks
Sorry, I totally missed adding “in the blender” in step 2. Just fixed it! 🙂
Yay!! My youngest cannot have nuts, my older daughter and I cannot do dairy.
Thanks for this delicious recipe!
I didn’t love the flavor-it tasted predominantly like nutritional yeast, which I don’t mind but doesn’t justify the extra dishes in my opinion 🙂 But the texture and color were spot on! And thanks for a nut free recipe. I cooked the veggies in large chunks in the Instant Pot on the steam setting for 10 minutes with quick release.
I left out the nutritional yeast; can’t have it and instead added some homemade mustard and left out the paprika. Came out great love the recipe used it for years. sometimes I roast the potato and carrots, it comes out a bit lumpy but really good.
for a difference I make nacho cheese by adding cumin and some kind of taco sauce. for me I make greek cheese and add oregano and roasted garlic, so yum.
Where does the olive oil come in to play?
Sorry, it gets tossed into the blender with everything else!
Could you sub butternut squash for the potato?
I am on a low/no-fat diet due to gallbladder issues and I made this without the oil or nut milk and it was awesome. Very creamy and delicious!
This looks great. Do you think I could use it on kale to make kale chips? I use to make dried kale chips with a cashew based saucer hat were wonderful. Thanks
I’m so excited to try this recipe!! I’ve tried the ones using cashews, but have never really found them to be to my taste, so I’ve been in search of the nut-free version of cheese sauce. I’ll let you know how it turns out. Thanks for posting!! best – Dd
Making this now. Just wondering where the olive oil comes into it. I have reread a nunber of times. Maybe just silly me.
Sorry, it gets added into the blender with everything else! Just edited the recipe card to reflect that. 🙂
Do you have to use the tapioca starch or arrow root? What does it do for the recipe?
It just adds the “stretchy” texture that people come to expect from a real cheese dip, and helps thicken it slightly. If you leave it out, the dip will just have a runnier texture.
Thanks it was great! Not using any oils so just added more potatoes. Poured over broccoli. Delicious!
This was delicious! Served over pasta. But have lots of sauce left over. Would it freeze well?
We can not have nightshades. I saw the note about Alisa’s original recipe, however, I’m wondering if a white sweet potato (like Japanese or Hannah) would work instead of the Yukon?
Sure, I think that’s worth a shot! You can always compensate by adding more salt or lemon juice to balance out the sweetness from the sweet potato.
Oh my gawd this was so good, I kinda had a nostalgia of my cheesy days. Thank you so much for this!