Vegan Nacho Cheese Sauce

This easy vegan nacho cheese sauce is easy to make from scratch with healthy ingredients. It’s a delicious melty sauce to pour over some Air Fryer Tortilla Chips for impromptu nachos. Ready in minutes, its everything you want from a creamy, spicy cheese sauce. This plant-based nacho cheese dip is so good, you might even forget that it’s also healthy!

A hand holds a tortilla chip with lots of vegan nacho cheese sauce on top. The bowl of the sauce is below it and there are other ingredients like chopped tomatoes and red onions on top.

When I was growing up, the only way we made nacho cheese was with a big block of orange goo, called American cheese, AKA Velveeta. I had no idea what I was eating in those days, but with knowledge comes power. And these days I choose to make my vegan nacho cheese with all the healthy (and delicious) ingredients.

This cashew nacho cheese sauce is something special because it’s made entirely with plant-based ingredients. Combining healthy and delicious in the same sentence is a favorite goal!

Why This Recipe is a Winner

  • Using cashews creates a deliciously creamy base for this sauce
  • Carrots add color with a hint of sweetness and texture
  • Combining chili powder and smoked paprika adds the perfect smoky nacho flavor that is irresistibly delicious time after time

What You Need

You can find the full printable recipe, including ingredient quantities, below. But first, here are some explanations of ingredients and steps to help you make this recipe perfect every time.

Here are the ingredients you’ll need for this recipe:

  • Raw cashews — I buy raw cashews at health food stores or online.
  • Carrot — You’ll need one medium carrot or 3 to 4 baby carrots.
  • Nutritional yeast flakes — You can find nutritional yeast, or ‘nooch’, at health food stores or online.
  • Lemon juice — You can use fresh-squeezed or bottled.
  • Miso paste — It’s important to use either yellow or white mild miso paste because it has a more subtle flavor to it. You can substitute a teaspoon of soy sauce or Tamari.
  • Garlic powder
  • Chili powder — I’m calling for 1 teaspoon of chili powder, but you can boost the nacho flavor by adding a bit more.
  • Smoked paprika — You can use regular paprika, but I highly recommend using smoked as it adds a smoky, chipotle flavor to this sauce.
  • Salt and pepper — For some of you this may be fine as is. If you prefer more salt and/or pepper, add more to taste.
  • Toppings — Add toppings such as chopped cherry tomatoes, diced red onions, and chopped cilantro or parsley.

Ingredient Spotlight

Looking down on a pile of raw cashews.

What Cashews are Best

Cashews are technically a seed that’s been categorized as a nut and sometimes considered a legume. Talk about confusing! Whatever they’re called, they can add luscious creaminess to plant-based recipes. If you’ve only had roasted cashews, it’s time to try them raw. You can find raw cashews in most health food stores and online and they provide the perfect consistency to use in making cashew cheese sauce.

How to Make Vegan Nacho Cheese

  1. Add cashews and sliced carrots to a saucepan over medium heat.
  2. Bring to a boil and reduce heat to a simmer. Cook for 5 minutes, until the cashews and carrots are tender. Remove from heat to cool slightly, then drain the water.
    Looking down on a saucepan full of cooked cashews and sliced carrots.
  3. Add cooked cashews, carrots, nutritional yeast flakes, lemon juice, miso, and spices to a blender.
    Looking down on a blender jar with ingredients like carrots, cashews, nutritional yeast flakes, chili powder, and more.
  4. Pulse until broken down into smaller pieces. Use a rubber spatula to wipe down the sides of the blender jar and lid. 
  5. Add water 1/2 cup at a time and pulse again, gradually turning up the speed to create a smooth consistency. Continue adding water until you achieve the desired consistency.
  6. Let cool for 5 to 10 minutes to thicken. 
  7. Serve immediately with toppings and tortilla chips.
  8. Use immediately, or transfer the sauce to an airtight container, cover, and refrigerate for up to 7 to 10 days.

Storage Tips

Serve this sauce immediately, or transfer it to an airtight container, cover, and refrigerate for up to 7 to 10 days. It may thicken during storage. If so, add a tablespoon or so of plain soy milk while reheating.

Serving Suggestions

Here are my favorite ways to serve this vegan nacho cheese sauce:

Looking down on a bowl of vegan nacho cheese with chopped veggies on top and tortilla chips all around the bowl.

Frequently-Asked Questions

What goes well with nachos?

You can serve a number of dishes with nachos, such as Vegan Tacos, Black Bean Burritos, and Pinto Bean Soup.

How do you thicken vegan cheese sauce?

If you’d like a thicker vegan cheese sauce, add more soaked cashews to the blender. You can also transfer the sauce to a saucepan and cook over medium heat with a tablespoon of cornstarch or arrowroot powder stirred in. Bring it to a boil and then reduce to a simmer for 3 to 4 minutes.

Vegan Cheese Dip Recipes

This vegan nacho dip is amazing. Here are more delicious vegan cheese dips you’ll love to try:

Those are some of my favorite vegan cheese dip recipes. Keep reading below for recipes from some of my favorite food blogging friends celebrating National Nacho Day!

A bowl of golden sauce has chopped veggies on top. There are tortilla chips and more veggies in bowls around the sauce.
A hand holds a tortilla chip with lots of cheese sauce on it, hovering over the bowl with more of the sauce. There are more tortilla chips and veggies in the background.

Vegan Nacho Cheese Sauce

This Vegan Nacho Cheese Sauce is made with healthy ingredients and is still everything you want from a creamy, spicy cheese sauce. Serve with chips or drizzle it over Steamed Broccoli.
5 from 4 votes
Course: Sauce
Cuisine: Mexican
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 15 minutes
Resting Time: 5 minutes
Total Time: 25 minutes
Servings: 6
Calories: 281kcal

Ingredients

  • 2 cups raw cashews
  • 1 medium carrot, peeled and chopped
  • ½ cup nutritional yeast flakes
  • 3 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons mild miso paste
  • ½ teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • salt and pepper to taste

Toppings

  • 1 cup cherry tomatoes, chopped
  • ½ cup diced red onions
  • ¼ cup chopped cilantro or parsley

Instructions

  • Add cashews and sliced carrots to a saucpan over medium heat. Bring to a boil and reduce heat to a simmer. Cook for 5 minutes, until the cashews and carrots are tender. Remove from heat to cool slightly, then drain the water.
  • Add cooked cashews, carrots, nutritional yeast flakes, lemon juice, miso, and spices to a food processor blender. Pulse until broken down into smaller pieces. Use a rubber spatula to wipe down the sides of the blender jar and lid.
  • Add water ½ cup at a time and pulse again, gradually turning up the speed to create a smooth consistency. Continue adding water until you achieve a desired consistency.
  • Let cool 5 to 10 minutes to thicken. 
  • Serve immediately with toppings and tortilla chips.
  • Use immediately, or transfer sauce to an airtight container, cover, and refrigerate for up to 7 to 10 days.

Recommended Equipment

(The products above contain sponsored links to products we use and recommend)

Calories: 281kcal | Carbohydrates: 20g | Protein: 11g | Fat: 20g | Saturated Fat: 3g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 4g | Monounsaturated Fat: 10g | Sodium: 233mg | Potassium: 503mg | Fiber: 4g | Sugar: 5g | Vitamin A: 2134IU | Vitamin C: 11mg | Calcium: 31mg | Iron: 4mg

The nutrition information shown is an estimate provided by an online nutrition calculator and should not be considered a substitute for a professional nutritionist’s advice.

National Nacho Day

Come celebrate National Nacho Day with me and some of my favorite food bloggers! Below are some awesome recipes for you to try in honor of this tasty national holiday.

Please note, many of these recipes are not vegetarian, let alone vegan. Feel free to reach out to me if you’d like help veganizing any of these recipes. Believe me, it can be done because vegan nachos are my favorite guilty pleasure.

Celebrating National Nacho Day with over 10 mouth-watering nacho recipes from a variety of bloggers:

5 Responses to Vegan Nacho Cheese Sauce

  1. Avatar thumbnail image for MarlyMary Reply

    Doesn’t taste anything like cheese sauce. Not bad, but shouldn’t be called cheese sauce.

  2. Avatar thumbnail image for MarlyIsabelle Reply

    5 stars
    What a genius way to turn nachos into a healthy, veggie-filled treat. I can see this being a huge hit with some of my friends who are on dairy-free diets… they’ll be so excited to have cheesy nachos they can eat!

  3. Avatar thumbnail image for MarlyAlicia Reply

    5 stars
    This looks great! I also grew up with the Velveeta + Rotel nacho sauce, and I’ve definitely found that making my own homemade sauce is just so much better! I have a bunch of nutritional yeast in the pantry that has just been waiting for the right recipe to come along, and this looks like the perfect way to use it!

  4. Avatar thumbnail image for MarlyJessica Reply

    5 stars
    You are a genius! I have some friends coming for football that don’t eat diary, so I am totally trying this.

  5. Avatar thumbnail image for MarlyKara Reply

    5 stars
    We love Rotel in just about anything at our house. This sounds so good!

Rate / Comment

Your email address will not be published.

Recipe Rating




This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.