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Plant-Based Nacho Cheese Sauce (Oil-Free)

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Luscious and creamy with a slight kick, this Plant-Based Nacho Cheese Sauce is a healthy low-fat vegan queso you’ll want to drizzle on everything. Use it on anything from nachos to pasta to a dip for oil-free fries and more. You can make this vegan nacho cheese sauce in only 5 minutes and it’s good for the rest of the week.

A portrait-style photo of a pewter spoon pouring yellow plant based nacho cheese sauce over a white bowl of it on a brown granite countertop with a pale purple and white striped cloth napkin.

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This vegan nacho cheese sauce is SO GOOD! I just want to put it on everything! It goes perfectly on my bell pepper nachos, especially when topped with my low fat edamame guacamole. YUM.

It’s also phenomenal on a Plant Based Burrito Bowl! But also… I put some leftover sauce on a baked sweet potato and some frozen stir fry veggies (that I steamed) last night and it was also delicious.

Are you tired of all vegan cheese sauce recipes being comprised of cashews? I am. They’re expensive and kinda high in fat. And while I do eat a tiny amount of nuts in my diet, it’s usually a few walnuts for nutrients, not a sauce made up of mostly cashews.

So my quest to make the perfect low fat vegan queso began. I tried potato carrot cheese sauce and that’s pretty good. I’ll definitely put that recipe on the site soon.

But I’m lazy, and I don’t always want to boil potatoes and carrots.

So I tried white bean cheese sauce. And that’s very good too. But then I started having trouble sourcing no-salt-added white beans. (I know I can make my own from dried, but as we’ve established, I’m lazy.)

And besides, the white beans just didn’t get as silky as I wanted them too.

That’s it! That’s the… secret sauce, if you will.

Silken tofu! It’s already silky. And I can keep it in my fridge till I’m ready to use it. Which means I can have a cheese sauce in only 5 minutes!

But how do we make it a vegan nacho cheese sauce? By adding a little kick, of course!

Now unfortunately, my tummy is sensitive to spice. So I’ll give you options for making this spicy or completely mild or anything in between.

Side portrait-style photo looking down into a blender filled with the ingredients to make the vegan nacho cheese sauce.

Ingredients

See the recipe card below for the full ingredients list (with amounts) and instructions.

  • Silken Tofu: So this recipe calls for 16 ounces silken tofu. You can find 16-ounce packages of silken tofu in the refrigerator section at your local grocery store, that’s where I buy mine even in my little town that has almost nothing. But if you can only buy your silken tofu in the shelf-stable 12-ounce aseptic containers, you can either use 1 + ¼ of those, or just use one pack and add 2-4 tablespoons of soaked raw cashews, soaked raw sunflower seeds, cooked white beans, or dehydrated potato flakes.
  • Lemon Juice: While I love fresh squeezed lemon juice, I don’t always have it on hand. Bottled lemon juice works fine here, just use one you like.
  • Fire Roasted Green Chilies: This is one of the ingredients that gives us a little kick, though these are considered quite mild to people who love spicy food. I love the flavor these add to the vegan queso. I buy these canned and they DO have added sodium. See the substitutions section below for zero added sodium options.
  • Cholula Original Hot Sauce: I like to add a little Cholula sauce to my plant-based nacho cheese sauce, and as with the previous item, it has a bit of added sodium. See the substitutions below for other options if you need to.
  • White or Yellow Miso Paste: This is to replace the salt in the recipe, but I also love the little hint of umami flavors. Per Dr. Michael Greger of NutritionFacts.orgthe soy in miso has a protective effect so the sodium in miso paste will not affect us negatively. Please feel free to omit or use a pinch of salt if that is what you prefer.
  • Nutritional Yeast: This adds a lovely cheesy flavor AND helps thicken our vegan nacho cheese sauce.
  • Spices: For flavor, I used granulated onion, granulated garlic, smoked paprika, ground turmeric, ground mustard, dried thyme, and fresh cracked black pepper (freshly cracked is SO much better than buying it ground. If you hate grinding your own, try an electric pepper mill. It’s made a world of difference for my hand which has mild dysfunction due to disability).

Substitutions

  • Silken Tofu: If you can only find soft or regular tofu (don’t use firm), you can use this and just add a little plain unsweetened non-dairy milk (just enough to blend). If you don’t want to use tofu at all, you can do 1+½ cups drained and rinsed canned (or cooked from dried) white beans, 2 cups boiled and drained peeled potatoes (or gold potatoes, which you can leave the skin on), or 1 cup of either soaked raw cashews or soaked raw sunflower seeds (and you will need water or plain unsweetened non-dairy milk to blend, and how much depends on how long you soaked them so start with equal parts nuts/seeds and liquid and adjust from there.
  • Lemon Juice: If you don’t have fresh or bottled lemon juice, you could do apple cider vinegar or white vinegar to taste. I’m not sure how lime juice would taste but you could try it!
  • Fire Roasted Green Chilies: If you’re OK with added sodium, pickled jalapeños are a great substitute here (and don’t use as much lemon juice or vinegar). If you want zero added sodium you can: roast your own chilies (or saute them in a pan) OR add something else spicy that you like such as crushed red pepper flakes or cayenne pepper.
  • Cholula Original Hot Sauce: Again, if you like another hot sauce better, use that. For zero added sodium, just add your preferred spice to add heat to your tastes.
  • White or Yellow Miso Paste: Instead of miso you can use salt or a potassium chloride salt substitute. Or leave it out, and maybe add a bit more lemon juice and seasonings.
  • Nutritional Yeast: If you hate nutritional yeast or you can’t have it, you can just add more of the seasonings, hot sauce, and lemon juice to taste. If you need to thicken the sauce (since the nutritional yeast does help thicken it), you can use potato flakes, cooked white beans, soaked raw cashews or raw sunflower seeds, or even a cooked potato.
  • Spices: You’re free to substitute or change the amounts of any of the spices in this recipe, just adjust everything to your own personal tastes. Write down what you change, so if you like it you’ll be able to come back to it next time! And if you’re like me, you’ll want to make this vegan nacho cheese sauce every week!
Side portrait-style photo looking down into a blender filled with the blended vegan nacho cheese sauce.

How to Make Plant-Based Nacho Cheese Sauce

This recipe is SO easy, you’re going to love it! Watch me make this recipe or follow the step-by-step instructions below. Note that the video might start about 10-15 seconds before I start the vegan queso, due to some weird technical issue I had embedding the video (this video encompasses all three recipes, the bell pepper nachos, edamame guacamole, and plant-based nacho cheese sauce).

  1. Blend: Add all the ingredients to your blender and blend on high for at least 1 minute to 90 seconds to ensure everything is smooth. You may want to stop and scrape down the sides at least once. Even my Vitamix doesn’t catch everything sometimes (when I use a lot of spices, they like to stick to the side of the blender).
  2. Adjust flavors: Taste the mixture. Does it need more acid? Add more lemon juice. More salt? Add more miso paste or salt, depending on what you’re using.
  3. Use or store: If you’re using this vegan queso right away, you can either drizzle it directly on whatever you want (like bell pepper nachos!) or you can warm it either in the microwave or in a small pot over medium-low heat. If storing, you can pour it into an airtight container and refrigerate it for up to 5 days. Tip: since this recipe has turmeric in it, I recommend storing it in a glass jar or container since it will stain a plastic container. I do not recommend freezing sauces with tofu in them.
A blender pouring yellow plant based nacho cheese sauce into a white bowl on a brown granite countertop.

Expert Tips

  • Don’t be afraid to play with flavors: Add more or different seasonings, more spice, more acid, more nutritional yeast, salsa if you want it chunky, or anything you like! This vegann cheese sauce recipe is fairly forgiving.
  • Vegan Nacho Cheese Sauce Too Thick? If it’s too thick, add a little plain unsweetened non-dairy milk.
  • Or too thin? If it’s too thin, add a little more nutritional yeast (or see my substitution ideas for this ingredient in the section above).

Serving Suggestions

Well, since the whole reason I’m posting this plant-based cheese sauce is because of the amazing bell pepper nachos I made, I highly recommend you pour this delicious sauce on them, especially with some edamame guacamole.

But honestly, just now I finished lunch which was just cooked quinoa and a one-pound bag of frozen French cut green beans, smothered in leftovers of this amazing vegan nacho cheese sauce. SO GOOD!

I pour this sauce on all types of veggies like broccoli, cauliflower, squash, mixed vegetables, etc. It’s also great on potatoes, cooked grains, etc.

If you want to serve your vegan queso with chips, try cutting corn tortillas into triangles, squeezing a little lime juice on them, and baking or air frying them until they’re crispy!

You could also serve this sauce with cut raw veggies, on burrito bowls or even IN a burrito, the sky’s the limit!

More Plant-Based Recipes to Try

A portrait-style photo of a pewter spoon pouring yellow plant based nacho cheese sauce over a white bowl of it on a brown granite countertop with a pale purple and white striped cloth napkin.

Plant-Based Nacho Cheese Sauce Recipe

A landscape-style photo of a pewter spoon pouring yellow plant based nacho cheese sauce over a white bowl of it on a brown granite countertop with a pale purple and white striped cloth napkin.

Plant-Based Nacho Cheese Sauce

Liz
Luscious and creamy with a slight kick, this Plant-Based Nacho Cheese Sauce is a healthy low-fat vegan queso you'll want to drizzle on everything. Use it on anything from nachos to pasta to a dip for oil-free fries and more. You can make this vegan nacho cheese sauce in the blender in only 5 minutes and it's good for the rest of the week.
5 from 1 vote
Prep Time 5 minutes
Total Time 5 minutes
Course Appetizer, Main Course, Side Dish, Snack
Cuisine American, Mexican
Servings 8
Calories 73.5 kcal

Equipment

Ingredients
  

Instructions
 

  • Blend: Add all the ingredients to your blender and blend on high for at least 1 minute to 90 seconds to ensure everything is smooth. You may want to stop and scrape down the sides at least once. Even my Vitamix doesn't catch everything sometimes (when I use a lot of spices, they like to stick to the side of the blender).
  • Adjust flavors: Taste the mixture. Does it need more acid? Add more lemon juice. More salt? Add more miso paste or salt, depending on what you're using.
  • Too thin or too thick? If it's too thick, add a little plain unsweetened non-dairy milk. If it's too thin, add a little more nutritional yeast (or see my substitution ideas for this ingredient in the article above).
  • Use or store: If you're using this vegan queso right away, you can either drizzle it directly on whatever you want (like bell pepper nachos!) or you can warm it either in the microwave or in a small pot over medium-low heat. If storing, you can pour it into an airtight container and refrigerate it for up to 5 days. Tip: since this recipe has turmeric in it, I recommend storing it in a glass jar or container since it will stain a plastic container. I do not recommend freezing sauces with tofu in them.

Video

Notes

  • Finding the Right Size Silken Tofu: You can find 16-ounce packages of silken tofu in the refrigerator section at your local grocery store, that’s where I buy mine even in my little town that has almost nothing. But if you can only buy your silken tofu in the shelf-stable 12-ounce aseptic containers, you can either use 1 + ¼ of those, or just use one pack and add 2-4 tablespoons of soaked raw cashews, soaked raw sunflower seeds, cooked white beans, or dehydrated potato flakes.
  • Substitution for Silken Tofu: If you can only find soft or regular tofu (don’t use firm), you can use this and just add a little plain unsweetened non-dairy milk (just enough to blend). If you don’t want to use tofu at all, you can do 1+½ cups drained and rinsed canned (or cooked from dried) white beans, 2 cups boiled and drained peeled potatoes (or gold potatoes, which you can leave the skin on), or 1 cup of either soaked raw cashews or soaked raw sunflower seeds (and you will need water or plain unsweetened non-dairy milk to blend, and how much depends on how long you soaked them so start with equal parts nuts/seeds and liquid and adjust from there.
  • Lemon Juice: If you don’t have fresh or bottled lemon juice, you could do apple cider vinegar or white vinegar to taste. I’m not sure how lime juice would taste but you could try it!
  • Fire Roasted Green Chilies: If you’re OK with added sodium, pickled jalapeños are a great substitute here (and don’t use as much lemon juice or vinegar). If you want zero added sodium you can: roast your own chilies (or saute them in a pan) OR add something else spicy that you like such as crushed red pepper flakes or cayenne pepper.
  • Cholula Original Hot Sauce: Again, if you like another hot sauce better, use that. For zero added sodium, just add your preferred spice to add heat to your tastes.
  • White or Yellow Miso Paste: This is to replace the salt in the recipe, but I also love the little hint of umami flavors. Per Dr. Michael Greger of NutritionFacts.orgthe soy in miso has a protective effect so the sodium in miso paste will not affect us negatively. Please feel free to omit or use a pinch of salt if that is what you prefer.
  • Nutritional Yeast: If you hate nutritional yeast or you can’t have it, you can just add more of the seasonings, hot sauce, and lemon juice to taste. If you need to thicken the sauce (since the nutritional yeast does help thicken it), you can use potato flakes, cooked white beans, soaked raw cashews or raw sunflower seeds, or even a cooked potato.

Nutrition

Serving: 0.25cupCalories: 73.5kcalCarbohydrates: 7gProtein: 7.6gFat: 2.6gSodium: 138.3mgPotassium: 357.8mgFiber: 2.5gSugar: 0.26gVitamin A: 0.02IUVitamin C: 6.6mgCalcium: 97.8mgIron: 4.53mg
Keyword plant based cheese sauce, plant based nacho cheese sauce, plant based queso, vegan cheese, vegan cheese sauce, vegan nacho cheese sauce, vegan queso, vegan recipe, wfpb
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4 Comments

  1. I just made this recipe. It is very tasty and made a lot (4 cups)! Mine is not as bright as your picture and I did add additional 1/2 tsp of turmeric. Seemed a little runny but I’m thinking it will firm up in fridge. Thank you, Liz!

    1. So glad you liked it! It will thicken in the fridge, but you could also blend in a half cup of white beans or dehydrated potato flakes if you needed it to be thicker right in the moment.

  2. 5 stars
    This was my first time trying out a cheese sauce with a tofu base and I really like it! I love how it’s much richer than a potato/carrot based sauce, but not as rich and fatty as a cashew based one. Love how it’s in between! Very yummy and flavored well. Will definitely be making this again.

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