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

  1. Stephanie

    5 stars
    This recipe is delicious! Will be making again 🥳

  2. Willis

    5 stars
    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!

  3. Carla Adams

    5 stars
    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😆

  4. 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.

  5. 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!

  6. Gregory Cushing

    5 stars
    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).

  7. 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.

  8. Christina M

    5 stars
    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!

  9. Jennifer C

    5 stars
    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!

  10. 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.

  11. 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!

  12. Kelli Smith Bergner

    5 stars
    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 : ) )

  13. Priya

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

  14. Melissa

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

  15. 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??

  16. 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.

  17. Patricia

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

  18. 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!

  19. 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.

    1. Farrah

      Thanks Nirupama. This is exactly what I was looking for. :)

  20. 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..

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