Pouring vegan cheese sauce from blender pitcher into a mason jar

Creamy Vegan Cashew Cheese

Kid-Friendly, Vegan, Gluten-Free, Oil-Free

Creating a vegan cheese can seem intimidating, given that most of us don’t make cheese from scratch. Aging it and making sliceable or shreddable consistencies can be really time intensive. But in all my years as a vegan, I found that cheese sauces can actually be very simple to create, they pack tons of flavor, and can be used in a wide variety of dishes.

This recipe was adopted from It Doesn’t Taste Like Chicken, adding miso and fresh garlic to create a sharp, salty flavor, and to provide an option to eliminate soaking and stovetop cooking by using a high speed blender. The heat generated from this type of blender is sufficient to thicken the sauce without needing to do extra dishes at the end!

But alas, if you don’t have a high speed blender and want to try out this recipe, you still can! I’ve included a version of the recipe below where you can thicken the cheese sauce on your stove after blending. Just make sure to soak the cashews in water for at least 10 minutes (or even overnight in the refrigerator) prior to blending. This will help them soften up and allow a regular blender to create that smooth consistency.

This creamy cheese is really versatile and can be adjusted easily for different dishes. For example, adding a dash of cayenne pepper and chili powder makes this a great queso alternative. Or you can add paprika to make it into a tasty cheesy dip for veggies and crackers. We like to use it for quesadillas (see recipe here), lasagna, and grilled cheese sandwiches. 

Ingredients for vegan cheese sauce
Simple ingredients, including cashews, nutritional yeast, tapioca flour, salt, apple cider vinegar, miso paste, and garlic create a creamy vegan cheese sauce

Creamy Vegan Cashew Cheese

  • Servings: About 2 cups
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Print

This version whips up extra quickly if you have the benefit of a high speed blender.


Ingredients

  • 1 cup raw cashews (see below for Ingredients 101: Cashews)
  • 2 cups water
  • ½ cup tapioca flour (I like Bob’s Red Mill Tapioca Flour)
  • 4 tbsp nutritional yeast (purchase in bulk or try Bragg Nutritional Yeast)
  • 1 tbsp apple cider vinegar (any brand such as Bragg)
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 1 tbsp miso paste

Directions

  • High Speed Blender: Boil enough water for 2 cups. Add all ingredients except the miso to a high speed blender. Choose the highest speed or the soup setting, if it is available. Blend 2 times for about 90 seconds each time. You should have a thick, creamy cheese. Add miso and pulse for 10 seconds, just enough to combine.
  • Regular Blender: Soak cashews in water for at least an hour. Add all ingredients except the miso to the blender. Choose the highest speed and blend until everything is broken up and well combined. Transfer the mixture to a saucepan. While on medium heat, whisk everything together for 5-8 minutes, until the cheese becomes thick. Remove from heat and whisk in the miso.
  • Immersion Blender: Soak cashews in water for at least an hour. Add all ingredients except the miso to a deep saucepan. Use the immersion blender to combine all of the ingredients together. Place the saucepan on medium heat and continue to blend until the cheese becomes thick, around 2-5 minutes. Remove from heat and blend in the miso.

Store the cheese in an airtight container for up to 7 days in the refrigerator.


Kitchen 101: High Speed Blender

High speed blenders offer advantages over traditional blenders including the ability to heat your mixture right in the container.

The high speed blender has a powerful motor and is able to do tasks that other blenders can’t, such as making nut butters, grinding grains into flour, and liquifying whole fruits and vegetables. 

If you are ready to make the investment, there are 2 main brands worth looking at: Vitamix and Blendtec. At around $400, they aren’t cheap but are certainly worth it! Both are made in the USA and backed by decades-old companies that stand by their warranties. The main difference to me is that the standard Vitamix blender is too tall to fit under cabinets and requires a tamper to push the ingredients into the blades. 

For those who are looking to spend less, check out the older models such as the Blendtec Original or pre-owned ones like the Vitamix Explorian. Both are still phenomenal options!

Seven years ago I bought my first blender for under $50 to see if I would actually use it. After a month of chewing my lumpy kale smoothies and not getting much other use out of my blender, I decided to upgrade. Ever since, my Blendtec has been my single most used kitchen appliance.

Ingredients 101: Cashews

Cashews are the perfect base for a cheese sauce because they provide a sweet, buttery flavor. They are softer than most other nuts and blend easily into a smooth texture. Raw cashews work best in this recipe, but if you use roasted ones, you’ll get a slightly different texture.

Similar to other nuts, cashews are high in protein, vitamins E and K (which are antioxidants), along with many other minerals. The fat in cashews is predominantly unsaturated, which is known to improve heart health and lower risks of heart disease.