This easy vegan cheese sauce is a go-to! It's tangy, lusciously creamy, and requires no cooking. Pair this cashew sauce with everything from veggie bowls and potatoes, to nachos, burritos, and pasta. Free from oil, gluten, coconut, and soy.
Why This Recipe Works
I have a favorite low-calorie vegan queso recipe that I whip up when I'm in the mood for maximum cheesy vibes with a lighter feel.
But recently I decided the blog really needs an all-purpose vegan cheese sauce, one that gets its flavor from other cheesy ingredients and omits the Mexican-inspired spices of the queso recipe.
This cashew cheese sauce is also oil-free, and to make it no-cook, we're ditching the tapioca starch and increasing the cashews for added richness and creaminess.
We also have a secret ingredient! A small amount of rolled oats lends even more creaminess to this no-cook cashew cheese.
Raw cashews - the naturally occurring starch in cashews helps thicken this cheese sauce and gives it a velvety smooth consistency.
Nutritional yeast - even if you think you don't like cheeses made with nutritional yeast, I encourage you to give this a try. Also, I highly recommend this non-fortified nutritional yeast by Sari. Its flavor is much better than the ones fortified with B12 and folate.
Roasted red peppers - you want roasted red peppers in a jar similar to the product in that link. The ingredients should be red peppers, water, salt, and citric acid. Avoid ones that contain sugar because the sweetness interferes with the cheese flavor.
Rolled oats - as mentioned above, oats help make the sauce extra creamy since we're not using any additional starch like tapioca.
Miso - miso, or fermented soybean paste, gives the cheese sauce a subtle, cheesy, fermented quality. I really like chickpea miso for vegan cheese recipes, but white miso also works.
Hot sauce - this is totally optional and you'll probably want to omit it for most uses. Include hot sauce only if you want more of a nacho cheese vibe.
Can it be made without cashews?
If you're looking for a nut-free cheese sauce, this recipe may not be your best starting point.
UPDATE: Check out this new Nut-Free Vegan Mac and Cheese. It uses raw sunflower seeds, is based off of this cheese sauce recipe, and it's amazing!
I often make my Oil-Free Vegan Queso with soaked, raw sunflower seeds instead of cashews, and it works really well!
The extra flavor from chipotle, cumin, salsa, etc, covers up the mild sunflower seed taste. And since that recipe is written to use a smaller amount of cashews, it's easier to replace them. But as I always say, feel free to experiment!
It's easy to slightly tweak the ingredients so that this sauce suits your needs. For example:
- By slightly adjusting the amount of cashews you can make the sauce milder and thicker or tangier and thinner.
- Adjust the amount of roasted red pepper and hot sauce (if using) for a nacho cheese flavor.
- Adjust the amount of salt and miso to get the saltiness juuuuuuust right for your palate.
- Tweak the lemon juice and rice vinegar for the desired level of tanginess.
Ways to Use Cashew Cheese Sauce
Pour this velvety sauce on baked potatoes, and dip fries and wedges in it. And don't forget cheesy mashed potatoes!
Cheesy orzo? Vegan mac and cheese? Lasagna? Enough said.
Fold this sauce into your next tofu scramble for an epic vegan brunch, or simply drizzle it onto baked tofu steaks.
From steamed broccoli and cauliflower to sautés and roasted veggies, this cheese sauce never met a vegetable it didn't like!
And of course, there's always nachos!
I hope you enjoy its flavor and versatility as much as we do. If you try the recipe I would love to hear from you! Leave a comment and star rating below to let us know how you enjoyed this easy cashew cheese!
More vegan cheese recipes:
Vegan Cheese Sauce (Oil-Free; No-Cook)
- ¾ cup water
- 1 cup raw cashews - Decrease to ¾ cup for a tangier, slightly less rich sauce. See Notes re: soaking.
- ¼ cup rolled oats - Ensure certified gluten-free, if needed.
- ¼ cup nutritional yeast
- 2 ounces roasted red pepper from a jar (about 1 small pepper)
- 3 tablespoons lemon juice (about 1 large lemon)
- 2 tablespoons rice vinegar
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- ½ teaspoon onion powder
- 2 teaspoons chickpea or white miso (I'm a fan of Miso Masters brand) - Chickpea miso is soy-free, if needed. If you don't have miso, increase salt to taste.
- ¾ to 1 teaspoon fine sea salt
- 1 to 2 teaspoons hot sauce, optional - This creates more of a nacho cheese flavor.
- Combine all ingredients in a high-speed blender, and blend on high for 1 to 2 minutes or until completely smooth. *If using a standard blender: about 1 hour before you plan to make cheese sauce, place cashews in a bowl, cover with boiling water, soak for an hour, then drain and proceed.
- After blending, taste and adjust salt/acid balance, as desired. Even the slightest tweaks in salt, lemon, rice vinegar, cashews, or water can "fix" the flavor if it's too tangy or salty for your preference.
- The sauce will get warm during blending. It can be used right away, or refrigerated until ready to use. The cheese sauce will thicken as it cools.
Estimated Nutrition (per serving)
Nutrition information is an estimate and will vary depending on the exact amounts and specific products and ingredients used. We calculate this information using the online calculator cronometer.com. For the most accurate nutrition information we recommend calculating it yourself to reflect the specific ingredients used in your dish.