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Vegan Nacho Cheese Sauce

$1.58 Recipe/$0.40 Serving

Vegan nacho cheese sauce is one of the simplest and delicious dairy free queso recipes you are going to find!

Made with just 5 ingredients, this creamy nacho cheese sauce is made with cashews, making it dairy free but super satisfying! You won’t believe how easy it is to make this vegan cheese sauce recipe!

Hand holding a chip after dipping it in cashew queso.

Why you will love this recipe

  • Who doesn’t love queso! It’s great to add to your favorite Mexican inspired dishes, to dip chips in, or to even pour over veggies or potatoes to take your dinner to the next level!
  • This dairy free vegan cheese sauce recipe is made with cashews and nutritional yeast, giving it the creamy, cheesy flavor you love without any of the dairy! This recipe is gluten free, dairy free, Whole30, low carb and keto friendly!
  • Never run out of queso again! You can easily double or triple this recipe and it’s so fast, you can make a new batch in under 10 minutes! This will easily become your favorite cashew queso recipe!
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Ingredients

  • Cashews
  • Water
  • Nutritional Yeast
  • Smoked Paprika
  • Salt

How to make vegan nacho cheese

  1. Soak the cashews (see tips below) so they are soft and easy to work with.
  2. Drain the cashews from the soaking liquid and add them to a high speed blender.
  3. Add the rest of the ingredients and blend on high, one minute.
  4. Serve immediately.

    Steps on how to make cashew queso.

Tips for making vegan cheese sauce

If you want your nacho cheese sauce to be hot after blending there are 2 options:

  • Soak the cashews by boiling them or in the microwave (see below for details). Carefully drain off the water and blend the cashews immediately. This will create a sauce that is hot and ready to eat immediately!
  • Use hot water to blend the cashews. This is an option if you are using a high speed blender like a Vitamix but not recommended if you are using a bullet style blender (like a Ninja or a Nutribullet) because the hot water will expand too much in those style blenders and could explode all over you. 

Other flavor mix-ins

This vegan queso recipe is fantastic just as it’s written but can also be modified to fit your tastes! Here are some great add in’s:

  • Sliced jalapenos (fresh or jarred)
  • Green Chili Peppers (canned)
  • Salsa
  • Harissa paste
  • Chipotle Chili in Adobo (from a can)
  • Chipotle Chili Powder
  • Hot sauce
  • Roasted red peppers
  • Roasted garlic (you can omit the smoked paprika to change the entire flavor profile)
Glass jar filled with cashew queso with chips around the jar.
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What to serve this with vegan nacho cheese

This vegan queso is a great replacement for traditional queso and can be used in so many different dishes!

  • Dip for chips or veggies
  • On tacos, nachos, burritos, enchiladas or on taco bowls
  • Drizzled over stuffed peppers
  • Over baked potatoes
  • As a sauce for broccoli or cauliflower
  • In breakfast burritos
  • As a sauce for roasted veggies

Vegan nacho cheese common questions

How to soak cashews

Microwave: Use a very large microwave safe container (typically I use a quart size mason jar), add just enough filtered water to cover the cashews. Microwave high for 3 minutes, allow to cool slightly. Drain off soaking water before use.

Stove: Add filtered water to a small pot on the stove and add the cashews. Allow the water to come to a boil. Boil 2 minutes. Allow to cool slightly before  draining off cooking water.

Countertop: cover the raw cashews with filtered water. Allow to sit at room temperature for 6-8 hours. Drain off soaking water.

What is nutritional yeast?

Nutritional yeast is deactivated yeast made from sugarcane and beet molasses. It is not the same as brewers yeast! This yeast is typically yellow in color and has a very nutty, cheesy flavor. It’s also packed with B-vitamins and is used in many vegan and Whole30 dishes to give the dish a cheesy flavor!

You can typically find nutritional yeast at most grocery stores now. Trader Joe’s, Whole Foods and many specialty stores has it on stock if you cannot find it at the regular grocery store. Another great option is to order it online (this can save money as many stores consider it a “specialty item” and may charge more for it).

How to store vegan cheese sauce

You can store leftover vegan nacho cheese sauce in the fridge for up to 5 days. The cheese sauce will get thicker overnight in the fridge.  This sauce is great cold but can also be reheated by stirring in 1-2 tablespoons of boiling water.

NOTE: Microwaving this sauce will cause it to get clumpy. You will want to add at least 1-2 tablespoons of water to the sauce before microwaving.

You can also freeze this vegan queso for up to 2 months. A great way to do this is to freeze it in ice cube molds to easily portion it out. Once frozen, pop the sauce out of the ice cube mold and store in a freezer safe container for up to 2 months. Defrost in the fridge and reheat according to the direction above.

Hand holding chip after being dipped in vegan nacho cheese sauce.

Substitutions

Raw cashews: this recipe calls for the use of raw cashews since they are easy to blend and have a very neutral taste. However, roasted cashews can also be used!

One thing to consider if the roasted cashews have been salted, most of the salt will come off during soaking but some may remain. You might want to reduce or omit the salt and taste the queso before adding the salt recommended in the recipe.

If you cannot have cashews, you can also use hemp hearts or even raw almonds in this recipe. The hemp hearts will add a grassier flavor and don’t require soaking. Almonds will need to be soaked similar to cashews.

Nutritional yeast: This is really key to achieving that cheesy flavor. You may be able to add some dijon mustard (1/2 tablespoon) in place of the nutritional yeast but this will change the flavor substantially.

Smoked paprika: this is one of the main ways to give the smoky, sweet flavor to the vegan cheese sauce. IF you don’t have smoked paprika, you may want to add some chipotle powder, chili powder, chipotle in adobo sauce or harissa paste in place of the smoked paprika.

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Chip immediately after being dipped in vegan nacho cheese sauce.

Vegan Nacho Cheese Sauce

$1.58 recipe/$0.40 serving
Vegan Nacho Cheese Sauce is the easiest dairy free queso you have ever tried! This cashew queso sauce is made with just 4 ingredients and is ready in under 5 minutes! Naturally Whole30, low carb and keto friendly you are going to want to put this sauce on everything!
5 from 2 votes
Print Pin Save Rate
Course: Condiment
Cuisine: Mexican
Keyword: cashew queso, vegan cheese sauce, vegan nacho cheese, vegan queso
Prep Time: 5 mins
Total Time: 5 mins
Servings: 4 servings

Guided Recipe Video

Ingredients

Instructions

  • Soak the cashews using the counter, stove or microwave method (see notes below)
  • After cashews are done soaking, drain off and discard the water from soaking.
  • Add all the ingredients to a high speed blender and blend on high 1 minute until smooth.
  • Store in the fridge for up to 4 days.

Notes

How to soak cashews:
  • Microwave: Use a very large microwave safe container (typically I use a quart size mason jar), add just enough filtered water to cover the cashews. Microwave high for 3 minutes, allow to cool slightly. Drain off soaking water before use.
  • Stove: Add filtered water to a small pot on the stove and add the cashews. Allow the water to come to a boil. Boil 2 minutes. Allow to cool slightly before  draining off cooking water.
  • Countertop: cover the raw cashews with filtered water. Allow to sit at room temperature for 6-8 hours. Drain off soaking water.
Storage:
Fridge: Sealed container up to 4 days. 
Freezer: Air tight freezer safe container up to 2 months.
To reheat: Add boiling hot water to cashew queso to help heat it up. It will thicken in the fridge and will clump together if heated in the microwave without added water. 
Additional Mix-Ins:
  • Sliced jalapenos (fresh or jarred)
  • Green Chili Peppers (canned)
  • Salsa
  • Harissa paste
  • Chipotle Chili in Adobo (from a can)
  • Chipotle Chili Powder
  • Hot sauce
  • Roasted red peppers
  • Roasted garlic
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Nutrition Information

Nutrition Facts
Amount per Serving
Calories
134
Fat
 
10
g
Carbohydrates
 
8
g
Fiber
 
2
g
Sugar
 
1
g
Protein
 
6
g
Where does nutrition info come from? Nutrition facts are provided as a courtesy, sourced from the USDA Food Database.
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