Best Vegan Nacho Cheese

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This Vegan Nacho Cheese is possibly the best dairy-free cheese I’ve ever made. It reminds me of the kind you’d get when you order nachos at a sporting event or movie theater, and it’s made with just a handful of easy ingredients. (No nutritional yeast!)

hand dipping chip into vegan nacho cheese

What is Vegan Cheese Made Of?

This sauce gets its creaminess from cashews, but if you need a nut-free sauce, try my vegan cheese sauce instead. What you’ll love about this particular recipe, is that you don’t need any specialty ingredients to make it– not even nutritional yeast, which typically adds a “cheesy” flavor.

cashews and open can of green chilies

Here’s what you’ll need:

  • Cashews (I use unsalted and unroasted ones)
  • A 4 oz. can of green chilies
  • Lemon juice
  • Salt
  • Jarred jalapeno slices (optional; but highly recommended)

It may sound simple, but this is truly the best vegan nacho cheese I’ve ever made. It will make the most authentic vegan nachos you’ve ever tasted, and it’s also delicious drizzled over a burrito bowl, vegan tacos, or crispy air fryer french fries.

How to Make the Best Vegan Cheese Sauce

This recipe couldn’t be any easier. Just add the ingredients to a blender and blend until smooth! I recommend blending the first 5 ingredients together first, so you can get a feel for the taste, and then add the sliced jalapenos in to your taste.

cashews and green chilies in blender

I find that adding roughly 4 jalapeno slices (the jarred kind; not fresh) gives this sauce a light hint of spice and tangy flavor that tastes remarkably like the real thing.

I’ve always wondered how much “real cheese” is in that nacho cheese sauce they give you at a movie theater, anyway.

jalapenos added to nacho cheese sauce in blender

How Long Does Vegan Cheese Last?

This vegan nacho cheese can be stored in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 1 week. If you want to store it longer, I’d recommend freezing it for up to 3 months. You can thaw it in the fridge overnight before you want to use it again.

Like most dairy-free cheese sauces, this one will thicken up in the fridge. You can add a splash of water, as needed, when you reheat it, to thin it out again.

chip dipped in vegan nacho cheese sauce

How to Serve It

When you drizzle this vegan nacho cheese sauce over tortilla chips, or grain-free chips, and serve it with a few extra jalapeno slices, it will taste like you’re eating nachos at a baseball game.

You can also serve it over burrito bowls, nachos, grain bowls, salads, and more.

chip covered in nacho cheese sauce

This recipe makes 1 1/2 cups of sauce. In my experience, you need to make at least this much so that your blender can effectively break it all down (it’s difficult to make half-batches) but you can definitely double it if you need more for a party!

More Vegan Cheese Recipes

Keep in mind, that I’m really going for the flavor of “movie theater” nachos here. If you want more of a traditional queso (with tomatoes stirred in), or a mac n’ cheese sauce, try one of my other dairy-free recipes below.

Fun Fact: No cheese is naturally orange. All natural cheese should all be white, like this dip! Orange-colored cheddar cheese and nacho cheese-style dips are dyed orange, typically using annatto seed. Check out NPR’s story on the history of cheese to see how adding orange color was sparked by an act of fraud in the 17th century.

hand dipping chip into vegan nacho cheese
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5 from 25 votes

Vegan Nacho Cheese

This is the best vegan nacho cheese I've ever tasted! It's made with just 6 ingredients and tastes like the kind you'd get at a sports game or movie theater.
Course Appetizer
Cuisine vegan
Keyword vegan nacho cheese
Prep Time 5 minutes
Total Time 5 minutes
Servings 6
Calories 120kcal



  • 1 cup cashews (not roasted or salted)
  • 6 tablespoons water
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons lemon juice (about 1/2 lemon juiced)
  • 3/4 teaspoon fine sea salt (I use Real Salt brand)
  • 1 (4 ounce can) diced green chilies (I use Rio Luna organic)
  • 4 to 6 jarred jalapeno slices (optional, but recommended)


  • In a blender, combine the cashews, water, lemon juice, salt, and diced chilies (along with their juices). Blend until very smooth.
  • You can serve this nacho cheese sauce as-is, but I think it tastes even better when you add 4 to 6 sliced jalapenos from a jar. Add them into the blender and blend again. Taste and adjust any seasoning as needed.
  • Serve with your favorite tortilla chips for dairy-free nachos, as a topping for tacos, burrito bowls, and more. This nacho cheese sauce will thicken when you store it in the fridge, but it you can add a splash of water to thin it out again. Store it in an airtight container in the fridge for up to a week, or freeze it for up to 3 months.



I didn't soak the cashews when testing this recipe, but you can soak them for up to 2 hours in water to help them soften, and possibly help them digest better. In that case, you'll want to drain the soaking water first, then start with only 1/4 cup of fresh water for this recipe and add more, as needed, for blending.


Calories: 120kcal | Carbohydrates: 7g | Protein: 4g | Fat: 9g | Saturated Fat: 2g | Sodium: 295mg | Potassium: 142mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 1g | Vitamin C: 1mg | Calcium: 8mg | Iron: 1mg
Nutrition information is for roughly 1/4 cup of this sauce. This information is automatically calculated and is just an estimate, not a guarantee.

If you try this vegan nacho cheese, please leave a comment below letting me know how you like it. And if you make any modifications, I’d love to hear about those, too! We can all benefit from hearing about your experience.

Reader Feedback: What’s your favorite topping or sauce lately? Once you try this recipe, I have a feeling it will be the winner. I could pour it on everything!

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This was the easiest nacho dip ever. Even my teenagers liked it. Just made a half batch but we will be making again really soon!


I am so excited about this nacho cheese sauce! I have been disappointed by so many vegan cheese recipes, I finally decided to give up! This one seemed really easy, so I gave it a try. I’m so glad I did! I just used it as a dressing for my taco salad and it is so good! Even my husband likes it. Thank you!

C Simonson

But first let me tell you that my diet is not clean whatsoever, and I’ve been known to enjoy fake nacho cheese. Phenomenal! I tripled the jalapenos and added 1 extra tablespoon of water. My whole family loved it and I already passed the recipe on to my sisters. It is definitely not nacho cheese, however it is a delicious craving stopper. 100% recommend and will be making it regularly.

GinA SChur

Can I use any other nuts to make this. I’m eating plant paradox due to auto immune disease. Would Macadamia nuts work? Appreciate any suggestions I love your recipes!


Oh WOW! This nacho sauce is AMAZING! I have no shame saying I practically licked the blender clean 🙂 I’m planning to have this sauce on some zucchini potato tater tots tonight. This will be my go to nacho sauce and it will go great with everything! Thanks so much for this recipe!!


Unreal!!!This is my new favourite.

Emily Trobaugh

This is so easy and delicious!


To make this kid friendly (no heat) could I use 4 oz of mild tomato salsa instead? Or would you recommend something else? Thanks!!


    We make it for our kids with roasted red peppers and/or mild green chilies and leave out the jalapeños. No heat and they love it.


I was a bit skeptical about this recipe as it seemed too easy but it was soooo good!! I love nacho cheese but rarely have it since who knows what’s in it and I can’t have dairy right now.. this definitely hits the spot though! Yum! Will be making again for sure.

Erika Sedlmair

Wow! better than cheese. My husband says it tastes like hummus and loved it. The chilis add a kick but a very mild one, so go for the jalapeños it you want it hot. I didn’t have any at hand. Taste so good 🙂


So delicious and easy! Will definitely make this again!


Love how simple and easy this nacho cheese sauce is! I have made it a few times already! Made it for my family (variety of eaters plant based to meat eaters) and everyone loved it!! I’ve been adding a little of the jalapeño juice 1-2 TBS to taste and I notice that it really takes up the nacho flavor. Thanks for a great staple recipe!!

Kanchan Flaska

I licked the spoon. So good.

Cathy W

I loved this! Was super yummy. Brought it to a family event and it was a hit.
It freezes well,


Fantastic!!!!! The Best Ever Nacho Cheese Recipe Thank You


I have made many vengan nacho sauce recipes and this is definitely the best one!
I made just one substitution, I used roasted jalapeño instead of the rio luna green chilies. I also added nutritional yeast and garlic granules. It was so delicious.


we get fresh green chilli here in India, can I add that instead of canned? the heat is stronger in the fresh ones than the canned so wondering if you’ve ever cooked with them. also I tried blending cashews with fresh green chillies and the sauce turned bright green! ://

Brenda Walker

I am obsessed with this recipe. The best nacho cheese dip I have ever had and I love that it’s vegan! Megan, I don’t know how you do it, but please don’t ever stop. Your recipes are incredible and this one specifically in life changing to me.

    Brenda Walker

    I paired this recipe with your IP taco casserole(used ground chicken) and it was the best taco/burrito I EVER had. I agree with another reviewer I about licked the bowl clean it’s so good.


Hey, I wanted to let you know that my toddler was recently diagnosed with a cashew allergy which is rather disappointing. But I experimented with doing half sunflower seeds and half almonds and we really liked it. Since cashews are more sweet naturally, we found the end result less sweet and more tangy, but very good!


Wowwwwwwwww! I’ve made plenty of vegan cheese sauces before but this knocks them out of the park. Even my partner who is not vegan, said I could bring this to a party and no one would know this is dairy free.

Jess Carvey

Delicious! I added in a little nutritional yeast but it works fine without it!


I couldn’t imagine how this could taste like nacho cheese, but it really does! Great dairy-free alternative.
(My husband didn’t believe me when I told him the ingredients…I’ve learned to make him try something before telling him it’s healthy 🙂




This is amazing! My daughter thought it tasted exactly like white queso that my friend always makes. I love that it doesn’t use nutritional yeast. My question is…is this supposed to be served cold? I heated it on super low and it started to get chunky? Thank you.

    Megan Gilmore

    I usually just serve it straight from the blender, but if you want to warm it up, you’ll just need to add some extra water to keep it smooth. It definitely thickens up when heated!


We’re obsessed with this sauce! The vegan queso is also incredible. Thank you for this recipe. It’s on repeat over here!

Michelle Eklund

I have been meaning to make this for ages and finally did it today! It is AWESOME! My 6 year old loves it! It’s creamy and flavorful, perfect. I did use roasted cashews bc I am allergic to raw nuts. Still cheesy goodness!


I had just blended up a can of adobo chili in sauce to put in the freezer. Instead of rinsing out the blender, I made the vegan cheese sauce right away. Did not add the additional jalapeños as the adobo chili gave the sauce a very nice smoky flavor I enjoyed.


Absolutely delicious. Best nacho cheese I’ve had. Even my husband, practically a cheese addict, agreed. And so easy to make!


Love this. Thank you. Nutritional Yeast seemed to upset my stomach. Xo

Amy r.

Soooo good!!! Even my husband thought it tasted so much like nacho cheese!!

Laurie Hoffman

Surprisingly satisfying and “cheesy”. I love your recipes! Just did a food sensitively test and found out about my lactose, egg, nightshade, and many nut intolerances. Your recipes make eating fun again!


So glad I finally made this. It’s delicious and easy! Had an immediate allergic reaction today to a vegan store bought product which was upsetting but also inspiring to get in the kitchen. This took all of a few minutes to make and goes well with the grain free tortilla chips. Love it that I can keep it in the fridge for the week as a quick snack/treat. Thank you so much!

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