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

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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 18 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

NUT-FREE VEGAN CHEESE SAUCE | 1 sauce, 3 recipes
NUT-FREE VEGAN CHEESE SAUCE | 1 sauce, 3 recipes

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

5 from 18 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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91 comments on Nut-Free Vegan Cheese Sauce (Oil-Free and Soy-Free)

  1. Leah

    5 stars
    Hi Nisha!

    Is it correct that if I sautee the garlic with olive oil instead of water, I should do this for just ONE minute and on low heat instead of medium? I am a very inexperienced cook (and with some anxiety around cooking), so I always follow your recipes to the letter. I stirred the garlic constantly. It didn’t stick but it still became browned so, so very fast I took it off the heat after less than a minute. Being confused and not knowing my mistake, I nonetheless threw the (what in hindsight was probably caramalized/borderline burnt…) garlic in my batch and I imagine that’s what completely ruined it. It has an overwhelming, bitter taste that I don’t know how to rebalance. Is this what I did wrong? And is there anything I can still do? The color and texture look divine but every time I have a taste I regret it instantly :’)

    Thank you for all that you do! ❤
    – Leah

    1. Support @ Rainbow Plant Life

      Hi Leah! Yeah garlic can be finicky. Make sure to saute your onions for a little while before adding the garlic, and also the size of the minced garlic makes a difference in how long it will take to cook. Also, if the oil is too hot it can burn the garlic very easily. Try using a lower heat and moving the garlic around the pan more. Look out for when it begins to turn golden brown and immediately remove it from the hot pan.. Good luck!

  2. Marianne

    5 stars
    I made this and LOVED it! I need some healthy alternatives to dairy as it upsets my tummy and I’m trying to watch my weight … this was perfect… so tasty! I roasted my garlic for this … so yummy!

    1. Support @ Rainbow Plant Life

      Awesome, Marianne. Thanks for your comment and for taking the time to review!

  3. Siobhan

    5 stars
    Not a vegan, just interested in cooking more plant based food. So I do eat cheese and have to admit the taste of this impressed me. Not as gooey as cheese but really lovely and creamy. Can’t wait to use in my cauliflower mac ‘n’ cheese recipe and bean torta.

    1. Support @ Rainbow Plant Life

      That’s so great to hear, Siobhan! Thanks for the kind review :)

  4. Jonathan Bubis

    Looks like Velveeta, feels velvety on the lips, and tastes heavenly! Thanks for bringing me back to my childhood while affirming my current healthy lifestyle!

    1. Support @ Rainbow Plant Life

      Hi Jonathan, we’re thrilled to hear you enjoyed this recipe! Next time, would you mind leaving a rating alongside your review? Star ratings are big help to readers who are thinking of making the recipe. Thanks!

  5. Michaela

    5 stars
    I’ve made this (not!) cheese sauce twice now and absolutely cannot get over the texture of it at all. I do not have an impressive blender and I’m not used to getting things smooth, but this sauce blends up perfectly and is just astonishingly creamy and smooth. Also tastes excellent, so far I’ve only topped enchilladas with it and used it in place of a plant-based bechemal sauce in recipes but can’t wait to use in more stuff! Thanks Nisha for the excellent recipe :D

    1. Support @ Rainbow Plant Life

      So happy you love it, Michaela!

  6. Mandy

    5 stars
    This is the best vegan cheese sauce ever, hands down!
    Make this. You won’t regret it!

    1. Support @ Rainbow Plant Life

      Thrilled to hear you love this recipe, Mandy!

  7. Mandy

    This recipe is a STAPLE in my house. I make it at least once a month. We love it with brown rice pasta snd steamed broccoli. Yummm!

    I usually roast a full head of garlic and then squeeze the roasted cloves out into the blender rather than mince and sautee because I’m lazy. I also enjoy the flavour that the roasted garlic imparts!

    Tonight I will be mixing some of the cheese sauce with some pickled jalapeño and will be serving it with corn chips at a my friend’s place. I can’t wait!

    1. Mandy

      5 stars
      Oh, and while this variation wouldn’t be nut free: sometimes I sub out the coconut milk for 1/4-1/3 cup of cashews and some extra broth because I always have cashews on hand, and don’t always have canned coconut milk.

      When I do use the coconut, I only use the creamy part that rises to the top of the can and I save the water for smoothies. 💕

      Truthfully, though, this recipe is PERFECT as it is written. I’m just sharing my modifications in case someone else hates chopping garlic too. 😆

    2. Support @ Rainbow Plant Life

      Hi Mandy, we’re thrilled to hear you enjoyed this recipe! Next time, would you mind leaving a rating alongside your review? Star ratings are big help to readers who are thinking of making the recipe. Thanks!

  8. Brooke Ford

    4 stars
    I LOVE most of these recipes and while this has a fantastic texture it was just too sweet for me with the coconut milk. I think I would actually love it omitting that entirely – maybe it would be more cheesy. In my other “cheese” sauces I also add half a red bell pepper for some “zing”. But I LOVE your recipes and videos.

    1. Support @ Rainbow Plant Life

      Hi Brooke, did you use canned unsweetened full fat coconut milk? If so, it should have a miniscule sugar content. If you use coconut milk in a tetra pak, the manufacturer may have added additional sugar and the cheese sauce will not turn out as thick and creamy.

      Red bell pepper sounds like a tasty addition to a vegan cheese sauce! We hope you have better luck making this recipe using unsweetened canned coconut milk in the future!

  9. Michael Davis

    Been missing cheese sauce for a very long time, as I continue to try and eat a plant based died, however, those days are gone. Thank you for this recipe, it is quick, easy, and tastes great, making it again this next week for my dinners.

  10. Noneed

    This is not nut free. Coconut is a tree nut, and some with allergies do react to it.

  11. Kate

    5 stars
    So good!
    I added some jalapeños into the blender and lots of smoked paprika

  12. Betty S. Phillips

    Going to make this cheese …

  13. Katharine Nellons

    can’t wait to try this, having problems with my liver so I try to stay away from nuts. Looks delicious, will make with gluten free pasta.

  14. Jessie

    5 stars
    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!

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