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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 5 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

Equipment

Ingredients

  • 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)

Instructions

  • 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.

Video

Notes

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.

Nutrition

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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Comments

Janice

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!

Andrea

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!

Anna

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!!

Mered

Unreal!!!This is my new favourite.

Emily Trobaugh

This is so easy and delicious!

AlliE

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

Sarah

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.

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