Vegan Nacho Cheese

This vegan nacho cheese sauce is easy to make and tastes unbelievably like the real thing! Essentially a plant based queso, it’s creamy and packed with favor.

How to Make Vegan Nacho Cheese

Let’s talk vegan nacho cheese! Yes, it’s possible to mimic the flavor and texture of that plastic-y, processed food nacho cheese without dairy. This whole food plant-based (WFPB) queso sauce tastes so creamy and delicious, no one will believe it’s got no actual cheese. It will have you swearing off processed nacho cheese forever (who knows what’s in that stuff!). Let me tell you: Alex and I are huge cheese fans. But lately more and more vegan recipes have been creeping into our kitchen repertoire. And we think you need to add this one to yours! (You’ll thank us later.)

Healthy vegan nacho cheese sauce recipe

How to make vegan nacho cheese

The magic of this vegan nacho cheese recipe is in one word: cashews. Cashews are essential in many vegan recipes to make a creamy dairy free cashew cheese sauce. Alex and I use cashew cream in this Vegan Pasta Marinara and No Mayo Potato Salad to make them creamy! After cashews are soaked, they blend into the perfect consistency that can carry any flavors you like. (A few more creamy cashew recipes…)

How to make vegan nacho cheese? Here are the basic steps:

  • Soak: Soak cashews for 1 hour (30 minutes if you have a high speed blender).
  • Add flavorings: To a blender, add the drained cashews with canned green chiles, yellow mustard, and spices (chili powder, cumin, onion powder, garlic powder, and turmeric).
  • Blend: Blend until a creamy sauce forms!

Where to find green chiles

The special ingredient in this vegan nacho cheese is a can of green chiles, which add a tang and complexity. You should be able to find it near the Mexican ingredients in your local grocery. Make sure to buy mild green chiles: they’re mild but do have a subtle spiciness! Once it’s blended, you won’t notice too much heat.

Video: how to make vegan nacho cheese!

Ways to serve vegan nacho cheese

This vegan nacho cheese sauce we created especially for our Loaded Vegan Nachos! They feature our popular Smoky Lentils & Rice or Lentil Tacos filling, served atop tortilla chips and piled with toppings. This chip dip would be perfect as a gameday snack to nosh on while watching football! Here are all the ways we like to serve this vegan nacho cheese sauce:

Whole food plant based queso

It’s kid friendly, too!

A few other notes: the recipe is totally kid friendly! Larson absolutely loved this cashew cheese sauce and loved dipping small pieces of tortilla chips! Important: this sauce is messy! Because it has turmeric, if it lands on clothes it makes a yellow mark. So, when Larson eats it we strip off his clothes and put on his silicone bib.

This recipe is…

Vegetarian, gluten free, vegan, plant based, refined sugar free, and naturally sweet.

How to Make Vegan Nacho Cheese | A healthy vegan nacho cheese sauce recipe
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How to Make Vegan Nacho Cheese | A healthy vegan nacho cheese sauce recipe

Vegan Nacho Cheese (Easy Blender Queso!)


1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars (20 votes, average: 4.45 out of 5)

  • Author: Sonja
  • Prep Time: 35 minutes
  • Cook Time: 0 minutes
  • Total Time: 35 minutes
  • Yield: About 1 cup 1x

Description

This vegan nacho cheese sauce is easy and tastes unbelievably like the real thing! Essentially a plant based queso, it’s creamy and packed with favor.


Scale

Ingredients

  • 1 cup raw unsalted whole cashews
  • 1 7 ounce can mild green chiles
  • 1 tablespoon yellow mustard
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon chili powder (make sure it’s not spicy!)
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon turmeric (for color, optional)
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup water

Instructions

  1. Soak or boil the cashews: Place the cashews in a bowl with water and allow them to soak for at least 1 hour (or longer, overnight if you think ahead.) OR Time saver trick! Place the cashews in a pot on the stovetop and cover with 2 inches hot water. Bring to a boil, then boil 10 minutes (for high speed blender) or 15 minutes (for standard blender). 
  2. Drain the cashews. 
  3. Place all ingredients in a high speed blender and blend on high until creamy and fully combined. Place in a sealed container and store in the refrigerator.
  • Category: Sauce
  • Method: Blended
  • Cuisine: Mexican

Keywords: Nacho Cheese, Vegan Nacho Cheese, Queso, Vegan Queso, Mexican, Cashew Cheese, Vegan Cashew Cheese, Nacho Cheese Sauce

Looking for more vegan recipes?

Here are some of our favorite vegan recipes!

Last updated: January 2020

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About the Authors

Sonja Overhiser

Cookbook Author and writer

Sonja Overhiser is author of Pretty Simple Cooking, named one of the best healthy cookbooks of 2018. She’s host of the food podcast Small Bites and founder of the food blog A Couple Cooks. Featured from the TODAY Show to Bon Appetit, Sonja seeks to inspire adventurous eating to make the world a better place one bite at a time.

Alex Overhiser

Cookbook Author and photographer

Alex Overhiser is an acclaimed food photographer and author based in Indianapolis. He’s host of the food podcast Small Bites and founder of the recipe website A Couple Cooks. Featured from the TODAY Show to Bon Appetit, Alex is author of Pretty Simple Cooking, named one of the best vegetarian cookbooks by Epicurious.

9 Comments

  • Reply
    Jereen
    September 5, 2018 at 8:40 pm

    Looks like my question did not go through. You mention white wine vinegar in the text but it is not listed in the ingredient. Should it be and how much should I use? Also how do I heat it up: microwave or stovetop?

    • Reply
      Sonja
      September 5, 2018 at 9:14 pm

      That was a mistake in my article, the recipe was correct — no white wine vinegar! If you want it warm, you can use warm water when you make it! Or heat it gently over the stovetop.

  • Reply
    Whitney
    September 10, 2018 at 7:58 pm

    I would have never thought of cashews! That is brilliant. I only learned recently that most cheese isn’t vegetarian due to the rennet. While I am not a strict vegetarian I do try to cut out meat when possible. I have also been wanting to try some vegan recipes so I can’t wait to try this! Looks delish!

  • Reply
    Elle
    January 27, 2019 at 7:47 pm

    YUM!! Yay! I am so excited about this sauce. Out of necessity I subbed Dijon mustard for yellow and was out of onion powder. I thought it tasted a little too Dijon-y so I added 2 TBSP of nutritional yeast and BAM. Perfect vegan nacho cheese.

    • Reply
      Sonja
      January 27, 2019 at 7:51 pm

      Ooo we are so glad to hear this! Glad a little nutch could make up for the Dijon – ha! Thanks for making it! :)

  • Reply
    Cheryl Guerriero
    May 10, 2019 at 7:36 am

    I’ve been making a simpler version of this for years but am interested in trying yours with the different spices.

    Are your chips home made or bought in-store? If home made, can you share the recipe? They have an interesting look.

    • Reply
      Sonja
      May 10, 2019 at 12:09 pm

      Hi there! Those chips were purchased: we looked for organic corn chips that have only 3 ingredients: corn, oil, and salt! However, we also have a homemade tortilla chips recipe too! Here’s how to make them: https://www.acouplecooks.com/homemade-tortilla-chips/

  • Reply
    Jacki
    January 23, 2020 at 11:59 pm

    Does this work without the mustard?? If not what can i replace it with??

    • Reply
      Alex Overhiser
      January 24, 2020 at 1:12 pm

      Hi! The mustard adds color and flavor so it’s pretty essential to this one!

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