This creamy Vegan Nacho Cheese Sauce is creamy, smokey, and has just a touch of spicy heat. It is made with cashews, carrots, nutritional yeast, and jalapenos. It is best served hot as a nacho topping or with corn chips.
Why you’ll love this recipe
- Easy – some vegan cheese recipes can be complex, but this one is really just 3 steps. Soak raw cashews and boil carrots, blend everything together, and heat it on the stove. Done!
- Quick – this sauce is on the table in less than 30 minutes and only takes a few minutes to heat through on the stove. The longest part is waiting for the carrots to cook and the cashews to soften.
- Actually, it tastes like nacho cheese – this cheese has key Doritos-style flavors from smokey paprika, savory garlic, cheesy nutritional yeast, miso paste, and a little spicy kick from jalapenos.
This recipe uses something normal as far as vegan ingredients go. Here’s an overview of the key ingredients you won’t want to skip:
- Raw cashews – these are the base of our creamy sauce. Their mild flavor and fatty mouthfeel make them perfect for recreating vegan dairy substitutes. They blend up beautifully when softened into a thick, rich, buttery cream. Don’t buy roasted and salted as they will be too dry, and the seasoning will affect the final flavor.
- Carrot – this is what gives the sauce that classic warm yellow nacho cheese look! Some recipes call for turmeric to give a similar effect, but personally, the flavor is too earthy. Carrot is nice and mild, plus it’s a great little hidden veggie in this comfort food.
- Nutritional yeast – if you’re familiar with vegan cooking, this one won’t be a surprise 😉 But if this is your first time experimenting with dairy-free recipes, then this might be a new ingredient for you! Nutritional yeast is basically a cheesy-flavored sprinkle that looks like fish food but tastes awesome. It’s high in protein and B vitamins and is used in all sorts of savory plant-based recipes to add umami flavor. You can buy it online (there are some good bulk deals) or in the health food aisle of many supermarkets. If you’re in Australia – I normally get the Coles or Woolworths home brand as they’re easily available and at a decent price.
- Miso paste – miso paste is a fermented soybean paste that comes from Japan. It has a salty, rich, deep, savory flavor that goes way beyond what any veggie stock seasoning could achieve. I often use it to make vegan cheese recipes or in creamy sauces like my Cauliflower Alfredo or my Cheezey White Sauce.
- Pickled jalapenos – by pickle, I mean the sliced jalapenos you buy in a jar. NOT FRESH. Just a few slices of these babies will give a delicious spicy hit and give our cheese that nacho tang. If you’re not into spicy foods, feel free to leave out the slices and keep the pickle juice. It’ll have a yummy acidity, which helps complete the cheezy flavor experience, but less kick heat-wise.
- Garlic powder & smoked paprika – these two spices will also take this from an old cheese sauce to a NACHO cheese sauce. Make sure to use smoked paprika (not sweet paprika). If you don’t have garlic powder, you can substitute it with a small clove.
Here’s a shopping list of everything you’ll need for your convenience 🙂 Specific quantities are listed in the recipe card at the bottom of this post.
- Raw cashews
- Nutritional yeast
- Olive oil
- Miso paste (light)
- Pickled jalapenos
- Garlic powder
- Smoked paprika
Watch me make this recipe
I hope you love this recipe! It’s a yummy topping for vegan nachos or is even great on its own – dig in with corn chips straight from the pan. Make sure to eat it while it’s still hot for the best texture, as it will thicken up as it cools. If you’re looking for more tasty vegan cheese recipes, be sure to try my Melty Vegan Cheese or even Vegan Mascarpone Cheese. Let me know what you think in the comments below 🙂
Vegan Nacho Cheese Sauce
- High powered blender
- 1 cup raw cashews
- 1 carrot medium
- 1/4 cup nutritional yeast
- 1/2 lemon juiced
- 3/4 cup water
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 1 tbsp miso paste light
- 3 slices pickled jalapenos
- 1 tbsp pickled jalapeno water
- 1 tsp garlic powder
- 1 tsp smoked paprika
- salt to taste
- First, soften the cashews. If you have time, soak cashews in water overnight. For the quick version, boil cashews for 10 mins, then rinse under cold water and drain. *Note – if you do not have a high powered blender, I'd recommend soaking the cashews overnight or boiling them for 25 minutes to make them extra soft and to get the sauce as silky smooth as possible.
- Cook carrot in boiling water for 10 minutes or until tender. Drain.
- Add all ingredients to a high powered blender and blitz until smooth. Taste test and add salt if desired.
- Heat a lug of olive oil on medium heat in a fry pan. Add the sauce and heat until simmering and thickened (about 3-4 minutes). If the sauce gets too thick, add a splash of water and stir to combine. Remove from the stove and serve immediately with corn chips or on nachos.