Nut-Free Vegan Cheese Sauce (Oil-Free and Soy-Free)

Jump to Recipe
You’ll never believe this Nut-Free Vegan Cheese Sauce is, well, nut-free! It’s also soy-free, oil-free, and Paleo and has just 30 calories per 1/4 cup! It’s creamy and luxurious but made with nourishing, wholesome ingredients. Say hello to mac’n cheese, quesadillas, grilled cheese sandwiches, and nachos!
Prep Time: 20 mins
Cook Time: 20 mins
Total Time: 40 mins
5 from 19 votes

I love making vegan cheese alternatives, but I’ve gotten so many requests to make a nut-free vegan cheese sauce.

I personally love my cheese recipes that contain cashews, tofu, and/or miso paste. Two of my favorites are the Butternut Cheese Sauce in this Crispy Baked Mac and Cheese and the Creamy Tofu Ricotta in this Vegetable Lasagna.

But I also wanted to create an allergen-friendly recipe that was free of all nuts and soy, as well as made with nourishing, whole food plant-based ingredients. And I am so excited to share this nut-free vegan cheese sauce recipe with you all! Despite not containing any nuts or soy (or even oil), it is luxuriously creamy and silky smooth. And it’s so healthy that you’re basically just eating vegetables, so lather on as much cheese as you’d like.

nut-free vegan cheese sauce in pan

Ingredient Rundown

Let’s talk about the main ingredients that make up this sauce!

Cauliflower: If you’ve been in the vegan food space for awhile, you’re already aware of cauliflower’s secret powers. Once cooked, it gets creamy and rich, and brings a luscious texture to this cheese sauce without requiring cashews.

Butternut Squash: This brings some heft and a velvety texture to this sauce. And, of course, that golden yellow-orange color reminiscent of cheese. I’ve tried making vegan cheese sauces with carrots and sweet potatoes instead, but they bring an unwanted sweetness (cheese should not be sweet)! To save time, I sometimes opt for pre-peeled, pre-cut butternut squash at the grocery store.

Garlic: This recipe calls for a copious amount of garlic (10 cloves). Since the ingredient list is minimal and there are no soy products involved (which add umami), adding a lot of garlic is essential to making this sauce flavor.

Nutritional Yeast: Since we’re using a lot of vegetables (8 cups), we need a generous amount of nutritional yeast to bring that cheezy flavor. The recipe calls for 1/2 cup, but you can add up to 3/4 cup for a more pronounced cheezy flavor.

Coconut Milk: While cauliflower does make this sauce quite creamy, we need a little helping hand from some full-fat coconut milk. Not a lot though. Just 3/4 cup for 8 cups of vegetables and 1 1/2 cups of vegetable broth.

Nut-Free Vegan Cheese Sauce (Oil-Free and Soy-Free)

How to use Nut-Free Vegan Cheese Sauce 

  • For mac and cheese!
  • Drizzle over roasted or steamed vegetables
  • Make homemade nachos
  • Add to a quesadilla
  • Spread over homemade pizza and bake in the oven

And be sure to check out my Youtube video for three easy recipes using this Nut-Free Vegan Cheese Sauce!

Nut-Free Vegan Cheese Sauce (Oil-Free and Soy-Free)

Who should make this Nut-Free Vegan Cheese Sauce?

  • Anyone who has nut allergies
  • Anyone with a soy intolerance
  • Anyone eating a whole food plant-based diet
  • Anyone watching their caloric intake
  • Anyone who wants a nutrient-dense, plant-based alternative to cheese!

Watch! How to make Nut Free Vegan Cheese Sauce

Is this Nut-Free Vegan Cheese Sauce Healthy? 

I never calculate or include calories in my recipes, as I try to maintain a balanced space here. But, since this cheese sauce is so remarkably cream yet healthy, I do want to point something out.

There’s less than 125 calories in 1 CUP of this sauce, or about 30 calories per 1/4 cup serving! So yeah, really, lather on as much cheese as you’d like! Personally, I think 1 cup is a perfectly acceptable serving amount :) And of course, there’s a great deal of nutrients in this cheese sauce, thanks to the fiber- and vitamin-rich cauliflower and butternut squash

If you try out this recipe, please leave a comment below with your feedback – it always helps out the blog and I love hearing from you!

YT - cheesy cauliflower alfredo (thinner pasta in pan) (1 of 1).jpg

Nut-Free Vegan Cheese Sauce (Oil-Free and Soy-Free)

5 from 19 votes
You’ll never believe this Nut-Free Vegan Cheese Sauce is, well, nut-free! It’s also soy-free, oil-free, and Paleo and has just 30 calories per 1/4 cup! It’s creamy and luxurious but made with nourishing, wholesome ingredients. Say hello to mac’n cheese, quesadillas, grilled cheese sandwiches, and nachos!
Prep Time: 20 mins
Cook Time: 20 mins
Total Time: 40 mins
Course: Condiment, Sauce
Cuisine: American
Diet Vegan
Keyword: gluten-free, no added oil, nut-free, soy-free, vegan cheese
Serving size: 6 cups

Ingredients

  • 4 heaped cups of cauliflower florets (about 1 medium head of cauliflower, ~400g)
  • 4 cups (about 18 ounces or ~500g) of butternut squash, chopped into 3/4 inch pieces
  • 32 ounces (~945mL) water (stovetop method only)
  • 32 ounces (~945mL) vegetable broth
  • 1/4 cup (60mL) water (can substitute with 1 tablespoon olive oil or avocado oil)
  • 10 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 cup nutritional yeast (add more for a more pronounced cheesier flavor)
  • 3/4 cup (~195ml) canned full-fat coconut milk
  • 1 teaspoon hot or sweet paprika
  • A pinch of cayenne pepper, (optional for a lightly spicy version)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • Black pepper to taste

Instructions

INSTANT POT METHOD

  • Add the cauliflower florets, chopped butternut squash, and 4 cups vegetable broth to your Instant Pot. Secure the lid and set the Pressure Release to Sealing. Select the Pressure Cook setting at high pressure and set the cook time to 4 minutes.
  • Once the 4-minute timer has completed and beeps, perform a quick pressure release by carefully switching the Pressure Release knob from Sealing to Venting.
  • Open the pot and transfer the vegetables to a blender. Reserve 1 1/2 cups of the cooking broth. Add 1 1/4 cups to the blender, leaving 1/4 cup to the side.
  • While the vegetables are cooking, heat the 1/4 cup water in a nonstick skillet over medium heat (alternatively, instead of the water, you can heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil or avocado oil). Once the water is simmering (or the oil is shimmering), add the minced garlic. Cook for 3 minutes, stirring frequently to prevent sticking, until the water mostly evaporates and the mixture is fragrant.
  • Transfer the garlic mixture to the blender with the cooked vegetables and reserved cooking liquid. Add the nutritional yeast, coconut milk paprika, salt, and black pepper to taste. Blend until the sauce is smooth, thick, and creamy, adding the reserved 1/4 cup cooking liquid as needed to thin out the sauce. Season to taste with additional salt and pepper as needed.
  • If you have leftovers, transfer them to an airtight container and store in the fridge for up to 1 week. Or you can freeze them in smaller portions for a longer period of time.

STOVETOP METHOD

  • Add the 4 cups of water and the 4 cups of vegetable broth in a large deep skillet or Dutch oven and bring the mixture to a boil.
  • Add the cauliflower florets and chopped butternut squash, cover the pan, and cook for 8-10 minutes, or until the vegetables are fork-tender.
  • Transfer the vegetables to a blender. Reserve 1 1/2 cups of the cooking liquid. Add 1 1/4 cups to the blender, leaving 1/4 cup to the side.
  • Follow remaining steps 4 and 5, as outlined above.
  • If you have leftovers, transfer them to an airtight container and store in the fridge for up to 1 week. Or you can freeze them in smaller portions for a longer period of time.

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68 comments on Nut-Free Vegan Cheese Sauce (Oil-Free and Soy-Free)

  1. Jessie

    I’m so glad I decided to make this cuz it’s delicious!! The garlic tastes so good in this sauce. I want to pour this over everything!

  2. Stephanie

    This recipe is delicious! Will be making again 🥳

  3. Willis

    Delicious and nutritious! I added a splash of vinegar for depth of flavor, a bit more heat, and a ton of nutritional yeast as suggested for cheese lovers. THANK YOU Nisha!

  4. Carla Adams

    This is really good stuff. Kudos to the creator, Nisha! I can’t believe this worked and that it is so healthy! I am going to make broccoli soup like another person recommended. I am also sharing this recipe with my friends😆

  5. Ruth

    Thank you for this recipe, so keen to try it. Is it freezer friendly?

    1. Nisha

      Yes, it freezes pretty well. I like to freeze it in portions so it’s easier to defrost.

  6. Jennifer Sumner

    I would very much like to try this recipe. Unfortunately, the link to Jump to the Recipe is not working. Could you send me the recipe?

    1. Nisha

      whoops, all fixed now!

  7. Gregory Cushing

    We watched the video last night and decided to try the recipe today. We were skeptical as to whether we would like it so we made a half batch. It was very easy to make and we did like the flavor. I didn’t care for it on quesadillas so we also made mac and cheese and we loved that. Is there a way to make it thicker though? We all enjoy your videos. Next time I am going to use something to add a smoke flavor.

    1. Nisha

      Hi Gregory, I usually thicken my vegan cheese sauces with raw soaked cashews, but since this is a nut-free cheese sauce, you could try a boiled and peel russet potato to help thicken more. For something smoky, I’d try smoked paprika (or perhaps even liquid smoke if you have it).

  8. Charlotte Amberger

    Too bad this recipe has coconut as my son is allergic to coconut and most nuts except peanuts and walnuts and pine nuts.

  9. Christina M

    Hi Nisha,
    I made your nut-free vegan cheese sauce today and it tastes sooo good. I didn’t have fresh garlic so I used garlic powder and toasted it carefully in a pan which worked great! I planned on making macaroni and cheese with it but I didn’t have pasta so with the brilliant suggestion from my mom I made nachos for dinner. I layered on black beans, tex-mex jackfruit, and the cheese sauce and I’m seriously stuffed as I’m writing this now. It took a little to prep but I don’t mind, it was worth it!

  10. Jennifer C

    This sauce was simple to make and turned out great. I doubled the amount of nooch and ended up using an immersion blender in my IP to avoid having to clean a food processor too.
    I’m going to try to freeze some of this sauce for later use on chili cheese fries for Superbowl weekend.
    Thank you for sharing this recipe!

  11. Tamar

    Can you substitute sweet potatoes for butternut squash or used frozen puréed squash?

    1. Nisha

      Hi Tamar, I wouldn’t use sweet potatoes because the sauce will be quite sweet, which takes away from its cheesy flavor. I think frozen pureed squash would work fine.

  12. Sibelle

    I will try it , but I will roast the veggies for this sauce !
    I think the flavor will be more rich like that! :)

    1. Nisha

      Fantastic idea! Roasted veggies are my favorite, but I roast them in oil and wanted to omit the oil for this recipe since I get so many oil-free requests. I’m sure it will be even tastier with roasted veggies!

  13. Kelli Smith Bergner

    I just made your Vegan Cheese Sauce from you Vegan Instant Pot Cookbook. It is absolutely wonderful!
    I’ve never made a cheese sauce before as I was worried about comparing it to “real dairy”. No more!
    Love your cookbook!
    Thank you!!! (I’m rating your cookbook cheese sauce : ) )

  14. Priya

    Hi Nisha,
    Does this sauce have a coconutty taste because of the coconut milk used? And if so how dominant is the flavor ?

  15. Melissa

    My family does not like the taste of nutritional yeast at alllll! Is there a good substitute?

  16. janet

    Is there any substitute for that full-fat coconut milk?

    1. Nisha Vora

      you can try unsweetened oat milk. it’s not as creamy, but should still work.

      1. Irene

        What if you add irenebit of fresh lemon juice for the tang taste??

  17. Dee Hastings

    Made this sauce last night to make a vegan, plant based lasagna. It was delicious, absolutely the best cheese sauce I have made, so going to make much more to freeze. My non vegan husband really enjoyed too, so a real success! Thank you so much for this recipe, it will be my go to cheese sauce.

  18. Patricia

    Back again… I added green peas to the pasta and garnished it with chives – very pretty!

  19. Patricia

    HI there!
    it is an interesting sauce, creamy and delicious – and we like it. So long as we don’t use the word "cheese"… like others, we miss the tang of cheddar. I added turmeric root to the pot to make it more orange (and have more anti-inflammatory power) and liquid smoke / smoked paprika for taste. I’ll try using plain coconut yogurt next time, and maybe use frozen cut up squash and cauliflower to save time. Thank you for a great recipe!

  20. Nirupama Munshi

    Mahek I’m from India too and I’ve been making similar sauces too for pastas mainly. You can use pumpkin instead of the squash. Nutritional yeast—same brand- is available on Amazon India, so is smoked paprika and cyanne pepper. Hope this will be useful to you.

  21. mahek

    HiI am from India… These are a few ingredients which i do not get here but want to try this sauce.. like butternut squash and nutritional yeast . Can you please give me some substitutions..

  22. Susie

    Thanks for the amazing recipe! I tweaked it a bit for my taste buds by adding in onion powder/flakes and a dash of ACV for some tanginess. Was perfectly tickled by how good this sauce is and hope more people try this out : )

  23. Hannah

    Absolutely loved it! We have enough ‘cheese’ sauce for weeks now ;-) Thank you so much for the recipes.

  24. Ying

    I’m so in love with your food . And not only me my whole family .This year with my husband we became plant based . I got an instant pot for Xmas and is my best friend . I found out your YouTube channel and every recipe I tried was a family approved.My older daughter loves your Tex mex brown lentil. All the family loves your the chili . And last week I did the pumpkin lasagna soup and this cheese OMG is the best .I love cheese and now I LOVE my VEGAN cheeseThanks so much

  25. Nancy

    While I do like this sauce, I found it to be a bit bland — not really having that cheese "tang" I was expecting. It was more like a good cream sauce (or even a good creamy soup). Any suggestions on how to give it that characteristic "sharpness" that we expect with cheddar cheese? Thanks!

    1. Nisha Vora

      Hi Nancy, it is a bit hard to attain a true cheesy cheddar flavor without using nuts and while keeping it quite healthy.
      If you are not allergic to nuts, I recommend the cheese sauce in this mac and cheese recipe that is really quite cheesy (as you can see from the comments in the post): https://www.rainbowplantlife.com/blog/creamy-vegan-pumpkin-mac-and-cheese

    2. Karen Joslin

      Nancy, try subbing a plain vegan yogurt for the coconut milk. It won’t be exactly the same as a sharp cheddar, but since it’s a cultured product like cheese is, it does lend a tanginess that’s otherwise difficult to replicate.

    3. Nick

      Try adding some white miso paste that will boost the Umami of your sauce and could give it a more cheesy flavor.

  26. Nandini Tivakaran

    Is possible to a sub butternut squash with carrots and cauliflower with potatoes?

    1. Nisha Vora

      Yes definitely, potatoes are a good sub for cauliflower. The thing with carrots is that they’re sweeter than butternut squash so your cheese sauce will taste a bit sweet. In my experience, it still tastes good but it does taste less "cheesy."

  27. Grace H C

    I made it HURRRRRRAY.. my mom is fasting the old fashion way ( no dairy products ).. So, I did it for both of us… it was DELICIOUS.. although we are carnivores. This is the results!1) we Allll loved it2) my very picky 17 years old son eat most of it 😩😩3) I decided to watch more of you on YouTube4) I’m ordering the book5) I want to try to go vegan6) I shared it with my group in NoomYaaaaaaaay 🤪😆🤪😆

  28. Clive

    Thanks Nisha
    Just made your vegan cheese sauce & loved it! It was nice & thick & full of cheesy flavour. A great versatile sauce & will use it in many recipes.

    1. Nisha Vora

      Hi Clive, so lovely to hear that! I’m so glad you found it to be flavorful, thick, and versatile :)

  29. Joanne Vargas

    I was very happy with this cheese sauce! It’s delicious! The consistency is so smooth and tasty!

    1. Nisha Vora

      I’m so glad to hear that you enjoyed the cheese sauce, Joanne! Thanks for sharing your feedback!

  30. Shrdevi pingle

    Am definitely trying this. Sounds great. Can I substitute red pumpkin for squash? Thanks

    1. Nisha Vora

      Thank you! I am not entirely sure what red pumpkin is – I don’t think we have the same thing here, or at least we must call it something else. If red pumpkin is not sweet, it should be fine. However, if it is sweet, I would hesitate to use it because the sauce will have a bit of sweetness, which will detract from the cheesy flavor.

  31. Patty

    Just wondering if you could replace the coconut milk with silken tofu? This looks delicious, but I can’t have coconut.

    1. Nisha Vora

      Hi Patty, I haven’t tried it with silken tofu, but I think texture-wise, it should be a pretty good option. I can’t say how it heats up though, since I haven’t tried it. Another option is to use unsweetened plain oat milk. It’s not as creamy as full-fat coconut milk, but still quite creamy.

  32. Carol Duffy

    This is a great recipe, but to avoid all that squash chopping malarkey try cooking the squash whole in the IP FIRST, then simply peel, de-seed and drop in the blender with the remaining ingredients. MUCH easier….😃

    1. Nisha Vora

      Great point :) I love cooking whole squash in the IP too!

    2. Joanne Vargas

      Great tip Carol! Thanks

  33. Lana

    Hello there and what a wonderful recipe! Any chance it could be made without a nut or a coconut milk (still without oil)? Thank you so much for advising!

    1. Nisha Vora

      Hi Lana! Thank you! You will need some sort of fat source/thickener – otherwise it will just be pureed veggie sauce! I am struggling to think of a substitution that doesn’t involve nuts, coconut or oil!

    2. Marie

      Tapioca flour

      1. katycat

        Corn starch or arrow root powder

  34. Justyna

    Hi Nisha, I have followed this recipe today. The sauce turned out to be amazing! It is so tasty and flavourful and goes really well with pasta. You are a really talented cook. Sending you peace & love :-)

  35. Nicola

    I was skeptical about this recipe but followed it exactly and it turned out amazing!!! This is definitely a keeper to be made again and again. I can’t do cashews, so I was so excited to find a recipe that was nut-free.

    1. Nisha Vora

      Hi Nicola! I am so happy you loved my nut-free cheese sauce! I love how easy it is to whip up – definitely makes it a keeper in my book too :)

  36. Loren

    Hi, can this sauce be put in the freezer? As I want to give it a try but I’m in a uni house so don’t have my room in the fridge? Thankyou x

    1. Nisha Vora

      Hi Loren, I haven’t tried freezing this particular sauce, but it should work, as I have frozen similar sauces in the past. Just try freezing the sauce in a few containers, not just one large one. You could also cut the recipe in half if you don’t want as much leftovers :)

  37. Ayla

    Just tried it with a quinoa pasta! Definitely yummy! Perhaps not the cheesiest of flavors I’ve ever had. Maybe more nutr. yeast would change that but definitely a delicious sauce for all kinds of things as mentioned!! (If you are using a quinoa pasta specifically best to season the pasta a bit first I learned.)

    1. Nisha Vora

      Hi Ayla! I’m glad you enjoyed it! Yes, perhaps not the cheesiest, but as I mentioned below, I wanted to keep the recipe pretty simple and inexpensive and not require users to add a ton of nutritional yeast (because it can get expensive). I typically add miso paste in most of my cheese recipes for extra umami but wanted to keep it soy-free, so you get the picture :)
      As for pasta, yes I always recommend seasoning the pasta water from the start, even if using traditional pasta! Always infuses more flavor into each bite :)

  38. Kelsey

    I am so excited about this recipe! I love that the base is veggie goodness. I did find that I wanted more of a savory/cheesy flavor, so I ended up adding another full cup of nutritional yeast. It is a lot of nut. yeast, but I prefer the flavor this way. Thanks for the recipe! I am already looking forward to making this at Christmas time for my future father in law who is lactose intolerant. xoxo!

    1. Nisha Vora

      Hey Kelsey! Yes, I do think more nooch is a good idea, but I wanted to keep the recipe on the simple and inexpensive side so that users wouldn’t feel like they had to use a whole bottle of nooch! I am glad you enjoyed it and yay for making it around the holidays!

  39. Nani

    Looks divine! Have you ever tried it with something other than coconut milk? I can’t have it. Any suggestions?

    1. Nisha Vora

      Hi Nani! Thank you! I have not tried it with another milk, but I think a creamy plant based milk like oat milk or cashew milk should work!

  40. Moon

    How long does the cheese keep? (I’m sure it would all be gone in one meal but if there are leftovers)

    1. Nisha Vora

      Haha no it makes quite a bit so it would be hard to use in one meal. It stays good in the fridge in an airtight container for up to 1 week.

  41. Anne

    Is there anything that can be subbed for nutritional yeast? I’m allergic. 😢

    1. Nisha Vora

      I would try using a tablespoon or two of miso paste – it adds a rich umami flavor. Not the same as the cheesy flavor from nutritional yeast but it will add a lot of umami and depth of flavor!

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