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.
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.)
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:
- Queso dip: Throw it in a bowl and dip chips! To dress it up as a fancy vegan appetizer, top with salsa fresca like in our Refried Bean Dip.
- Nachos: Duh. Go to Best Loaded Vegan Nachos. Or, Tater Tot Nachos. Need we say more?
- Grain Bowl: A big bowl meal is much more delicious with vegan nacho cheese! Try this Southwestern Bowl or Burrito Bowl with vegan nacho cheese.
- Chili: Our popular Vegetarian Chili turns into a vegan chili when topped with this cashew cheese sauce!
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.Print
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.
- 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
- 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).
- Drain the cashews.
- 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!
- Vegan Sloppy Joes
- Best Vegan Lasagna
- Easy Sheet Pan Dinner
- Minestrone Soup (Instant Pot Version)
- Curry Lentil Soup
- Vegan Alfredo Sauce
- Vegan Peanut Butter Cookies
- Very Veggie Vegan Pizza
- Chocolate Tahini Vegan No Bake Cookies
- Vegan Banh Mi Sandwich
- Simple Homemade Hummus
Last updated: January 2020
About the Authors
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 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.