Looking for dairy-free cheese sauce for nachos, casseroles, mac’n’cheese or to pour over vegetables? This paleo and vegan cheese sauce alternative is super tasty and easy to make. Made with almond meal or ground cashews and nutritional yeast as key ingredients, it’s a fantastic recipe to add to your healthy eating repertoire.
Let’s get one thing straight – non-dairy cheese sauces will NEVER taste as good as real cheese sauces. Nor will they have the same stringy, gooey consistency. BUT, you can still make a pretty creamy and damn delicious paleo and vegan cheese sauce substitute that is similar in texture and savouriness to that made from dairy.
I wanted to make a dairy-free, cheesy white sauce so I could recreate dishes like cauliflower cheese, paleo nachos and lasagna bechamel sauce. My adaptations and experiments produced this cheese sauce recipe and I have to say that I licked every last bit in the saucepan. The coolest thing is that you can also add it to other sauces, soups and casseroles for extra creaminess.
How To Make Paleo & Vegan Cheese Sauce
This is not a blended sauce like say cashew cheese but you could use a blender to mix the ingredients. This is a cooked sauce made with stock (veggie stock for a vegan version and feel free to use chicken stock if you like), ground nuts like almonds or cashews, and nutritional yeast as key ingredients. I am also using so miso, garlic and lemon juice to flavour the sauce and to get that lovely, umami cheese profile.
The sauce is mixed and cooked in a pot and I am using some tapioca flour (or arrowroot) to thicken it. Both of these flours can be found in most baking sections of a supermarket and in health food stores (or online).
Nutritional yeast flakes (sometimes they go under the name of Savoury Yeast Flakes) can be found in most health food shops and online. They are neutral when it comes to Is it Paleo? Learn more about nutritional yeast here and here. They contain B-complex vitamins and protein and have a lovely nutty, cheesy, savoury flavour.
You can use any miso you like but I prefer the lighter coloured Shiro miso. Make sure to get organic, fresh miso which is full of probiotics (not the dried powdery stuff). Read my take on miso here.
How To Use This Dairy-Free Cheese Sauce
Once the sauce is cooked (only takes a few minutes) and thickened, you can use it in many ways.
I have served it as a paleo nacho cheese sauce; used it in a gluten-free mac’n’cheese when a vegan friend came around for dinner; poured it over fish and mussels (a la Mornay sauce), and my favourite way is to pour it over cooked cauliflower with some toasted almond on top (a la vegan and paleo cauliflower cheese).
How To Turn This Into A Thicker Cashew Cheese
So, the cool thing is that you can the same ingredients in this recipe to create a thicker cashew cheese sauce or dip. Presoak half a cup of cashews for 4 hours, then add to a blender with half of the stock, to begin with, and then blend with the rest of the ingredients minus the tapioca flour. Add more stock to create the consistency you like.
More Paleo & Vegan Condiments
- 1 + 1/4 cup vegetable or chicken stock
- 1/4 cup macadamia oil or olive oil
- 1 + 1/2 tablespoon tapioca flour or arrowroot flour
- 1/4 cup savoury/nutritional yeast flakes
- 1 tablespoon white miso paste shiro
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice
- 1 teaspoon onion powder
- 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder or 1 small garlic clove, finely diced
- 1/2 cup almond meal or ground cashew nuts
- A pinch of sea salt to taste
- Add the stock, oil and tapioca flour to a small heavy bottom saucepan. Whisk together until well combined and tapioca is dissolved more or less. Then bring the mixture to the boil and remove from the heat.Whisk again, it should thicken quite a bit.
- Now add the nutritional yeast flakes, miso, lemon juice, onion powder, garlic powder and a pinch of salt. Whisk together and then add the almond meal or ground cashews. Whisk again until well combined.
- Place the saucepan back on the heat and stir for about 2 minutes over medium-low heat. Make sure to stir a lot to prevent the mixture from sticking to the bottom. If you want a thinner sauce, skip the last 2 minutes of stirring over the heat and if you wanted it thicker, stir for a little bit longer.
- User right away or store in the fridge in an airtight container.