Learn how to make the BEST cashew cheese sauce! This easy recipe blends cashews, jalapeños, and simple spices to give you an ultra-creamy vegan cheese sauce to pour over nachos, enchiladas, pasta, and more.
Can you believe this luxurious cashew cheese sauce is made from nuts? It’s true!
Cashews, along with jalapeños, lemon juice, and seasonings, are blended into a creamy all-purpose vegan cheese sauce that you can serve with mac and cheese, nachos, and more. The consistency and flavors are so realistic, you’ll have a hard time believing it’s made from whole foods and pantry staple ingredients!
Just like my Nacho Cheese Sauce, this spicy cashew cheese recipe has a touch of heat and smoky flavors thanks to a jalapeño pepper. It won’t set your mouth on fire, though. Instead, the kick of spice makes this sauce especially perfect for Mexican-inspired recipes. Try it in a vegan burrito, over a plate of nachos, or with your favorite tacos!
How to make vegan cashew cheese sauce
Find the complete printable recipe with measurements below in the recipe card.
To soak the cashews, add them to a bowl and pour boiling water over top. Set aside until they’ve softened slightly.
Add the drained cashews, fresh water, jalapeño, lemon or lime juice, nutritional yeast, and seasonings to a high powered blender. A regular blender won’t be able to blend the nuts smooth enough, you really need a high powered blender of some kind.
Blend until you’re left with a very smooth and thick cheese sauce. Taste and adjust the seasonings as needed. Enjoy!
Tips for success
- A high-powered blender is best at pulverizing the cashews into a creamy sauce. If you must use a regular blender, soak the cashews for a few hours or overnight and blend longer until as smooth as possible.
- Is your cheese sauce gritty? Just keep blending! You want the sauce to be super smooth and have no remaining cashew pieces.
- The cheese sauce is quite thick after blending. If you want a looser sauce for pasta or nachos, blend in a splash of water until it reaches your desired consistency.
- My favorite way to indulge in cashew cheese is to heat it in a saucepan on the stove. This also helps thicken the texture, which is what you want if you’re serving it as a party dip or pouring it over a plate of nachos.
The subtle smoky heat from the jalapeño in this cashew cheese sauce makes it perfect for Mexican-inspired meals! I love it poured over a plate of loaded vegan nachos, in a burrito or burrito bowl, drizzled over tofu tacos, added to enchiladas, and so much more.
Want a simple snack? Make the cheese sauce and serve it with tortilla chips for dipping. You can even add pico de gallo, fresh cilantro, pickled jalapeño slices, red salsa, or pickled red onions on top for added flavor and an enticing presentation.
Use it to jazz up simple cooked vegetables! It’s delicious drizzled over steamed broccoli or cauliflower, or on top of a loaded baked potato with crumbled tofu bacon.
- Instead of cashews – You could try making this with raw slivered almonds, but I haven’t tested it.
- Nut free – Raw sunflower seeds might work for a nut free version but, again, I haven’t tested this. Or you can stick with my nut free vegan cheese sauce!
- Less spicy – This cashew cheese sauce recipe isn’t overwhelmingly spicy with the whole jalapeño, seeds and all. If you or your guests are sensitive to spice, remove the jalapeño seeds and veins before blending, or omit the jalapeño from the recipe.
- More spice – Add one more jalapeño or substitute the jalapeños for slightly spicier serrano peppers.
Store the leftover cashew cheese in an airtight container in the fridge for 5 to 6 days. It freezes well, too!
Before serving, let the sauce thaw, then re-blend it or whisk it well. Either serve the cheese sauce cold or reheat it in the microwave or a saucepan on the stove.
Want more cheesy vegan recipes?
- Stretchy Vegan Mozzarella Cheese
- Vegan Cheddar Cheese
- Vegan Beer Cheese
- Shreddable Vegan Mozzarella
- 5 Minute Vegan Cream Cheese
- Soak the cashews: Bring 3-4 cups of water to a boil (I use my tea kettle). Pour the hot water over the cashews and let soak for 5 minutes or up to an hour.
- Blend: Drain the cashews, discard the soaking water and add to a high powered blender. Add the water, jalapeño, lemon or lime juice, nutritional yeast, garlic powder, onion powder, turmeric, salt, pepper and blend until very smooth. Scrape down the sides of the blender if needed.
- The cheese sauce should be quite thick. If you want it more loose for pasta or nachos, add a little water and blend until you have reached your desired consistency. Taste; add more salt or seasonings as desired.
- If serving with pasta, there is no need to warm it on the stove. Just add to warm, drained and cooked noodles and stir. For serving with chips, I suggest warming it in a pot on the stovetop over medium heat, whisking until thick and warm.
- Store in a covered container in the refrigerator for 5-6 days. It can also be frozen, simply re-blend or whisk well once thawed.
If you don’t want this spicy at all, leave out the jalapeño or at least removed the seeds. It’s not very spicy even with the whole jalapeño, seeds and all, but if you are serving those sensitive to spice, I would at least remove the seeds.
It may work with raw sunflower seeds or raw slivered almonds, but I haven’t tested it. For a nut free cheese, check out this Vegan Cheese Sauce (Nut Free).