Made with whole food, pantry-friendly ingredients, this super simple Vegan Nacho Cheese Sauce will quickly become a staple in your diet. It's savory, creamy and rich and can turn the most basic meal into something incredible!
Since I discovered this nacho cheese sauce, it has been a staple recipe for our family. I make dairy-free sauces all the time, including this easy dairy-free mushroom sauce and my cashew sour cream, but this nacho cheese sauce may be the sauce I make most often. I probably make it a couple times a month to drizzle over Mexican buddha bowls, use as a sauce for mac n' cheese or to simply dip my homemade tortilla chips into.
And here's the key ingredient... soy sauce!
It adds a rich, salty, umami flavor which gives you the same satisfaction as regular dairy cheese, except that this nacho cheese sauce is dairy-free and made from whole food ingredients!
Store-Bought Nacho Cheese Ingredients
You may be asking, "What is nacho cheese made of?"
Traditional store-bought nacho cheese sauce, as many of you may be able to guess, doesn't have the greatest list of ingredients.
For example, Tostitos Smooth & Cheesy Dip contains the following ingredients:
Water, Monterey Jack Cheese (Milk, Cheese Cultures, Salt, Enzymes), Sunflower Oil And/Or Canola Oil, Modified Corn Starch, Sugar, Salt, Natural Flavor, Autolyzed Yeast Extract, Buttermilk, Monosodium Glutamate, Cheddar Cheese (Pasteurized Milk, Cheese Cultures, Salt, Enzymes, Sodium Phosphate), Whey Protein, Sodium Hexametaphosphate, Datem, Sodium Phosphate, And Artificial Color (Yellow 6, Yellow 5). Contains Milk Ingredients.
Sounds appetizing, right?!
I'm not even sure what some of those ingredients are! Which is why I love to make my own nacho cheese sauce at home. It's not only delicious, but so much healthier in my opinion!
My Vegan Nacho Cheese Ingredients
To make this vegan nacho cheese sauce you'll need just a handful of pantry-friendly ingredients, which I'll list below:
- Raw cashews
- Lemon juice
- Soy sauce
- Nutritional yeast
- Smoked paprika
- Onion powder
- Garlic powder
- Turmeric powder (optional for color)
- Sea salt
All of these ingredients and spices you probably already have on hand. Nutritional yeast may be a unique ingredient for some of you if you're new to eating a plant-based diet, but it can easily be found at most grocery stores or online.
Is Vegan Nacho Cheese Healthy?
It all depends on what it is made with! Most store bought nacho cheese sauces contain a lot of artificial and processed ingredients. This vegan nacho cheese recipes contains only 10 plant-based ingredients.
How to Soak Cashews
To make this sauce, you'll need to start by soaking the raw cashew nuts. If you have a high-speed blender, such as a Vitamix, you can probably skip this step, but either way soaking the cashews will help to give this nacho cheese sauce a super smooth and creamy texture.
To soak your cashews you can use one of the following three methods.
1. Overnight Method
8 hours before you plan to make your nacho cheese sauce, place 1 cup of cashews into a bowl and cover them with room temperature water. Place the cashews in the fridge to soak overnight or for 8 hours. After 8 hours you can drain, rinse and use the cashews.
2. Hot Water Method
If you don’t have 8 hours, you can bring a pot of water to a boil, pour in the cashews, turn off the heat and cover the pot. Allow the cashews to soak for 30 minutes to 1 hour. Drain, rinse and use as needed.
3. Boiling Method
If you are really pressed for time, you can boil the cashews for 15 minutes. Then carefully drain and rinse the cashews before using.
How to Make Vegan Nacho Cheese Sauce
This sauce couldn't be easier to make! Trust me.
Step 1: Drain and rinse your soaked cashews and place them into your blender along with the remaining ingredients.
Step 2: Blend everything together until it has a smooth consistency!
If desired, you can pour the cheese sauce into a sauce pan and heat over medium-low heat until warmed through. Just make sure to stir the sauce continually to keep it from burning or sticking to the bottom of the pan!
Ways to Use Vegan Cheese Sauce
There are so many ways to use this cashew nacho cheese sauce. Really, any way you would normally use a cheese sauce you can use this dairy-free cheese sauce.
- sauce for buddha bowls and nachos
- a cheesy pasta sauce with tempeh bacon and roasted broccoli (it'll remind you of hamburger helper!)
- dip for chips (vegan queso for Tex-Mex recipes!)
- a quesadillas dip, topping, or filling
- cheesy casseroles
- vegan enchiladas
- coat roasted veggies in it
- Heck, drink it!
More delicious vegan sauces!
I always say this, but having a delicious, homemade sauce on hand can make dinnertime so much easier. Below I'll share some of my favorite vegan sauces that I make on a regular basis!
Vegan Nacho Cheese Sauce
- 1 cup raw cashews soaked and drained
- 1 ½ tablespoons lemon juice
- 1 tablespoon soy sauce or Tamari if gluten free
- ¼ cup nutritional yeast
- ¼ teaspoon smoked paprika
- ½ teaspoon onion powder
- ½ teaspoon garlic powder
- ⅛ teaspoon turmeric optional for color
- 1 teaspoon sea salt or to taste
- ¾-1 cup water
- If you have a high speed blender, soak your cashews in hot water for 15 minutes. If you have a normal blender, soak the cashews for about 8 hours or overnight. After soaking, drain and rinse the cashews.
- Place the soaked and drained cashews into your blender along with all of the other ingredients, starting with ¾ cup of water, and blend until smooth. Add more water for a thinner consistency if desired.
- Use the sauce right away or to heat it up, you can pour the sauce into a sauce pan over medium heat. Stir the sauce continually until warmed through.
- Use the sauce for nachos, buddha bowls or pasta!