This Easy Vegan Cheese Sauce comes with two variations for an allergy-friendly twist on a classic comfort food recipe that has all the traditional flavors you love with whole food ingredients full of healthy fats, vitamins, nutrients, and fiber. Use it to create mac & cheese, add it to casseroles, drizzle it over nachos, and more!
Boxed Cheese Sauce Made Better & Vegan
Who doesn’t love a good cheese sauce? Whether you’re making more traditional recipes like Baked Cauliflower Mac and Cheese, Vegan Jalapeno Mac and Cheese, using it as a dip with chips, or adding it to a casserole like my Tex-Mex Egg and Cheese Cauliflower Casserole, there’s no wrong way to eat it. Plus, it’s kid-friendly and super easy to use making it a meal prep staple!
While I love a good cheese sauce as much as the next person, I don’t always love the ingredients found in store-bought versions, such as milk protein powder and whey. Those ingredients can be hard to digest even if you don’t have a food allergy. So, I decided to create my own vegan cheese sauce recipe instead! However, in the process I got a little carried away, and I created not one but two recipes for all your allergy-friendly cooking needs.
One is perfect to use in instances when you need a thicker sauce such as with dips or pasta. The second is more of a slurry, perfect to add to soups. The best part? Both recipes are super simple and made with wholesome ingredients that will leave you full and satisfied without feeling sluggish.
Sounds good, right? So, let’s get cooking!
How to Make Vegan Cheese Sauce (2 Ways)
Making a Roux with Video!
If you’re unfamiliar, a roux is considered a thickening agent and made out of equal parts flour (gluten-free) and fat often used as a base for soups, stews, sauces, and more.
To make this roux-inspired vegan cheese sauce, start by melting butter in a saucepan over medium-high heat. Once melted, whisk in the flour, salt, pepper, and garlic powder making sure to stir for 2-3 minutes on medium-low heat or until the color of the sauce gets slightly nuttier.
Pro-Tip: The texture will likely be very viscous at first. Just keep stirring! The starchy flavor will cook out, and the texture will improve. Also, be sure to use a gluten-free all-purpose flour without any gums like xanthan gum.
Then, gradually add in the milk while constantly whisking. Keep adding a little at a time until the texture smooths out, and whisk in the vegetable broth. Next, whisk the sauce until all lumps are smoothed out and a soft boil is reached. Immediately reduce to low after it reaches a soft boil.
Note: The sauce will be very thick. To make it thinner, add an extra splash of vegetable broth.
To finish, continue whisking for 30 seconds, and add the nutritional yeast, turmeric, and paprika. Stir until all of the ingredients are well-mixed, and enjoy. See NOTES BELOW about reheating and texture of the sauce.
Watch the video here!
Making a Slurry
If you’re a bit pinched on time or want a thinner sauce, opt for the second cooking method instead! While the methods are similar, this version comes together super quickly and creates a sort of a thinner versus thick sauce. Great for coating pasta!
Begin by whisking the coconut or almond milk with the broth, nutritional yeast flakes, garlic, and arrowroot powder. Bring the mixture to a soft boil the reduce the heat to low. Then, stir continuously until a thickened cheese-like sauce is formed. Your sauce should be pretty thick after 5-8 minutes!
Pro-Tip: If you want an even thinner sauce, add a few tablespoons of milk.
The Difference between a Slurry and a Roux
As mentioned, a slurry is much thinner than a roux. Both can be used to thicken a recipe, but there are a few major differences. For example, a slurry is typically added at the end of cooking while a roux is commonly used to start a sauce. In addition, a slurry does not have to be cooked and requires no fat while a roux is cooked and created with fats such as butter and oil. A slurry comes together much faster than a roux and is a great option when you’re in a pinch. However, if you’ve got the extra time, a good roux never disappoints. The richer flavor and thicker consistency makes it much more versatile, perfect for mac and cheese, casseroles, soups, and more.
What is Nutritional Yeast?
A common ingredient in vegan cheese sauce recipes, nutritional yeast is a type of yeast species that is also used to make bread and beer. However, unlike baker’s and brewer’s yeasts, nutritional yeast is grown specifically to be used on its own as a food. This means that the active yeast cells are not alive in the final product which has a nutty or cheese-like taste. Plus, it’s loaded with nutrients such as all 9 essential amino acids, B vitamins, zinc, selenium, manganese, and more. As a result, nutritional yeast has a wide variety of health benefits including protection from chronic diseases caused by oxidative stress, boosted immunity, and lowered cholesterol levels.
Nutrition Tip: Be sure to use a quality nutritional yeast that is 100% naturally gluten-free.
Tips for making Vegan Cheese Sauce
To store your sauce, place it in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 4 days. See notes below about reheating and texture.
Yes, if stored in an airtight container, vegan cheese sauce will stay fresh in the freezer for up to 6 months.
If your cheese sauce has been in the freezer, first defrost it in the fridge. Then, add it to a saucepan on medium heat, and whisk in 1-3 tablespoons of milk or broth until the desired consistency has been reached.
Once the sauce cools (when storing in the fridge), the texture will become a bit more viscous. Similar to that of hummus. To thin it out again, simply reheat in a saucepan and whisk in non-dairy milk or broth if needed.
If your sauce isn’t as vibrant as the pictures, it is likely due to the nutritional yeast used. Each version varies in weight and B vitamins are included which can alter the color. The taste should remain the same, but if you want to create that beautiful yellow hue, try adding turmeric and paprika to the mix.
More DIY Sauces & Dips
- Dairy Free Cauliflower Alfredo Sauce
- Vegan Cashew Cream Sauce
- Yum Yum Sauce (w/ Unrefined Sugar)
- Easy Vegan Salsa Con Queso
- Tandoori Roasted Cauliflower Dip
Easy Vegan Cheese Sauce Recipe
- Total Time: 12 minutes
- Yield: ⅔ cup 1x
- Diet: Vegan
This Easy Vegan Cheese Sauce comes with two variations for an allergy-friendly twist on a classic comfort food recipe that has all the traditional flavors you love with whole food ingredients full of healthy fats, vitamins, nutrients, and fiber.
Roux Version (thick and creamy)
- 3 Tablespoons unsalted vegan butter or 3 Tablespoons oil
- 2 Tablespoons non-gmo cornstarch or 35g gluten-free all-purpose flour (without thickeners or binders)
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt
- freshly cracked black pepper
- 1 cup coconut milk, canned (non-dairy milk may be substituted – richness of sauce will vary)
- ⅓ cup vegetable broth
- 4 Tablespoons nutritional yeast or ½ cup finely shredded vegan cheese
- 1 teaspoon turmeric for color
- ½ teaspoon smoked or sweet paprika
Roux Version (thick and creamy)
- To prepare the roux, melt butter into a medium saucepan over medium heat. Once melted, whisk in flour, garlic powder, salt, and pepper. Stir and cook for 2-3 minutes on medium-low until the color of roux gets slightly nuttier in color. The texture might be very viscous at first, but keep stirring with a spatula or spoon to cook out the starchy flavor.
- Gradually whisk in milk. Whisk constantly as it will be very thick. Keep adding a little at a time until it smooths out.
- Next, whisk in the vegetable broth. Depending on the type of flour you use, you need to add more to help thin it out. Whisk until all lumps are removed.
- Once it reaches a soft boil, reduce to medium low or low and whisk for 30 seconds.
- Add the nutritional yeast, turmeric, and paprika last stirring over low heat or off heat.
- Serve immediately or store the sauce in the fridge for up to 4 days. Note: it will change the texture and thicken once chilled. To thin it out again, simply reheat in a saucepan and whisk in 1-2 Tablespoons milk/broth if needed.
Nutritional yeasts vary by weight and B vitamins. Which can alter the color. So if your sauce isn’t very yellow, add turmeric and paprika.
- Prep Time: 5 minutes
- Cook Time: 7 minutes
- Category: condiment
- Method: stovetop
- Cuisine: american
- Serving Size:
- Calories: 90
- Sugar: 0.8 g
- Sodium: 183.6 mg
- Fat: 5.7 g
- Saturated Fat: 3.3 g
- Carbohydrates: 6.7 g
- Fiber: 0.9 g
- Protein: 1.8 g
- Cholesterol: 0 mg
Keywords: cheese, vegan, cheddar cheese, non-dairy cheese, mac and cheese, cheese sauce
This recipe has been tried and tested time and time again, and the consensus is always the same. It’s great! You’ll never go back to the boxed versions again. Let me know how you’ll use this easy vegan cheese sauce in the comments below!
Cynthia Roche-Cotter (no relation!)
my first vegan cheese sauce was surprisingly delicious and I used almond milk instead of the high calories in Delicious coconut milk and it is still good and creamy. very good tip too cook the oil and cornstarch to get rid of the starchy flavor. look forward to using it again with my broccoli over baked potato
I’m so glad! Thanks for sharing tips and for feedback! I love the sauce on broccoli as well and in vegan broccoli cheese casserole.
How is this vegan if you use milk and butter
That’s plant based milk and we used soy free vegan butter. Should be referenced in recipe card. We’ll make sure to update that if not.
Vegans use vegan butter and milks. There are myriad options. I prefer Earths Balance and Silk unflavored Soy milk.
Just emailed you. But what went wrong? May I ask what brand of nutritional yeast you used? Sorry to hear this but would love to remedy the problem!
This is by far the best cheese alternative yet! I love it!
So glad! Thanks for feedback Lauren!