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September 28, 2023

Vegan Cashew Cheese Sauce

Drizzle it on salads, grain bowls, or on sandwiches as a vegan sub for mayo. Our creamy, smoky vegan cashew cheese sauce is a versatile topping for any meal.


homemade vegan cashew cheese sauce in a jar on the counter topped next to a spoon for scooping

Put this Vegan Cheese on…

Magical Vegan Cashew Cheese Sauce

This creamy vegan cashew cheese sauce is delicious and healthy and will enliven any meal it touches. If you’ve ever had Yumm sauce (shoutout to our Pacific Northwest peeps!), this sauce is a little bit like that, but better! It’s as easy as tossing everything in a high-speed blender or food processor and hitting “start.” Unlike other vegan sauces, there’s no arrowroot powder or other hard-to-find thickeners, and it’s oil-free!

Raw cashews soaking in water in a black bowl

Is Soaking Cashews Necessary?

Soaking the cashews ahead of time is the one thing about this recipe that takes a little foresight. It softens them up, which means they blend easily and make for an ultra-silky cashew cheese sauce. However! If you have a Vitamix or similarly powerful blender and are pinched for time, you don’t have to soak them. Your cashew cheese sauce might be a smidge less creamy, but the final product will still be killer.

homemade Vegan Cashew Cheese Sauce in a vitamix blender

Vegan Cheese Sauce Ingredients

This sauce is made with pretty straightforward pantry items that you might already have at home. The one specialty ingredient that you might not have come across is nutritional yeast (see note below), a magical ingredient that gives a lot of vegan recipes that umami flavor often found in meat and cheese products. You’ll need to gather the following ingredients to make this rich and creamy vegan sauce:

  • Cashews, soaked for three hours

  • Tomato paste

  • Nutritional yeast

  • Smoked paprika

  • Chili powder

  • Chipotle peppers in adobo

  • Fresh lemon juice (from 1 lemon)

  • Garlic

  • Kosher salt

homemade vegan cashew cheese sauce in a jar next to a spoon
homemade Vegan Cashew Cheese Sauce being scooped out of a jar with a spoon

Is Nutritional Yeast Good For You?

YES! It’s the combination of the rich, savory umami of nutritional yeast and creamy, good-fat filled cashews that gives creamy vegan cashew cheese sauce its gloriously cheesy taste. If you’ve ever experimented with vegan cooking, you’ve probably encountered nutritional yeast—you may even know that it makes the world’s greatest popcorn topper, and therefore always have a container of it handy. If you’re not familiar with it, here’s what you need to know:

  1. Nutritional yeast is not the same as the yeast you bake with. Do not—we repeat DO NOT—substitute a packet of dry active yeast for the nutritional yeast called for in this recipe. They’re not at all the same. Conversely, nutritional yeast’s leavening ability is deactivated when it is processed, so you can’t bake with it. But that’s okay, because it’s full of flavor and its main reason for existence is to add umami to your food!

  2. Nutritional yeast is super good for you! It’s especially important for vegans and vegetarians, because it’s one of the very few sources of B12 that is not derived from an animal product. Just one tablespoon offers about 40% of your daily recommended dose of B12.

  3. The taste! It’s not just for vegans, it really is delicious. Our best comparison—and one you’ll hear a lot—is that it’s similar in flavor to parmesan cheese. A sprinkle of nutritional yeast lends a super satisfying dose of unctuous umami to any dish.

homemade Vegan Cashew Cheese Sauce in a jar with a spoon made with cashew, tomato paste, nutritional yeast and spices

What Can I Put Cashew Cheese Sauce On?

We love to drizzle this sauce on everything! If you need a few suggestions may we recommend one of these great recipes? Break out the tortilla chips, because vegan cashew cheese sauce is the best topping for nachos. Might we suggest subbing this in for vegan nacho cheese sauce the next time you make our Texas Nachos? You can give Portobello Mushroom Fajitas or our Falafel a generous drizzle. Cashew cheese sauce also loves vegetables! Use it as a little dipping sauce for Roasted Carrots, Roasted Cauliflower, or Steamed Broccoli and feel like vegetable royalty. You can also keep it classic, and add cashew cheese sauce to our Quinoa Bowl. Like we said, versatile!!

Some Other Saucy Vegan Recipe Favorites

Tools You’ll Need

homemade Vegan Cashew Cheese Sauce in a jar with a spoon made with cashew, tomato paste, nutritional yeast and spices

Did You Give This Vegan Cheese Sauce A Try?

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Vegan Cashew Cheese Sauce

  • Serves: 10
  • Yields: 2 cups
  • Prep Time:  3 hrs 5 min


  • 1 cup raw cashews (see Note)
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • ½ cup nutritional yeast
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • 1 chipotle pepper in adobo sauce
  • 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice (from 2 lemons)
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt


  1. In the base of a food processor or high powered blender, combine the soaked cashews, tomato paste, nutritional yeast, paprika, chili powder, chipotle pepper, lemon juice, garlic and salt along with ¾ cup water. Process until smooth, about 3 minutes. Add more water 1 tablespoon at a time until desired consistency is achieved.

  2. Store in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 1 week.

Note: Soak the raw cashews in 4 cups of filtered water for at least 3 hours, up to 12 hours. Drain and rinse.

Nutrition Info

  • Per Serving
  • Amount
  • Calories84
  • Protein4 g
  • Carbohydrates5 g
  • Total Fat6 g
  • Dietary Fiber1 g
  • Cholesterol0 mg
  • sodium193 mg
  • Total Sugars1 g

Vegan Cashew Cheese Sauce

Questions & Reviews

Join the discussion below.

  • JoAnn

    I’ve followed this recipe to a T…(well the recipe I was directed to that says 2 lemons…and , it is so thick…I do hit see how it can be creamy like here yours…also, yours look has lighter in color, like I said I’ve followed the recipe

    Hi Joann, not sure what your question is? The color didn't match up or did you have an issue with the thickness?

  • JoAnn

    Should leftovers be refrigerated? How long will it stay fresh? TY

    Store in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 1 week. Hope you enjoy!

  • Julia

    Do you think it would be possible to use cashew yogurt for this recipe instead of soaking cashews?

    We have not tested that but probably wouldn't recommend it.

  • Mary

    Hi, I am not sure if it is stated anywhere, but does it matter what kind of cashews you use? Raw or roasted?

    Raw is best, hope you enjoy Mary!

  • Rachael

    How much water is used to soak the 1 cup of cashews? There are so many variables depending on the container they’re being soaked in. And do you drain the water before processing it?

    4 cups should be fine and yes, drain the cashew before processing. Hope you enjoy!

  • Suzanne

    Delicious!! I made mac, broccoli and cheese! I used quite a bit of the pasta water in the processing of the cheese. Have a bunch left over for a week full of treats…baked potatoes, nachos, and just egg omelettes!

    Thanks Suzanne, happy you loved it!

  • Breanna

    Delicious! Nice smoky change to a regular vegan cheese with the adobo chilis. Great even as a sauce for tacos for meat eaters. This will be a go-to for tacos or any other southwest style meal in the future.

    This is so great to hear Breanna! We are so glad you love it, thanks for trying it out!

  • NLA

    This is awesome! We made it along with the sweet potato tacos and it was great but now just thinking how many other things we can use this on. Was a hit with even the big meat eater in the house so glad to intro him to some options.

    Thank you Natasha! This is so great to hear, we are so glad everyone enjoyed it!

  • Ashley

    AMAZING! I only had about 30 minutes to soak the cashews, but it still turned out so creamy. We will definitely be making this again and again.

    Yay! Happy to hear that Ashley!

  • Elizabeth

    Tweaked this recipe just a bit due to items on hand and the desire to keep it very "mild" for a potluck.

    Didn't add chili powder. used only 1/2 tps of chipotle powder.
    No tomato paste on hand so grabbed 2 small campari tomatoes.

    Turned out GREAT; heated but remained nice and drizzly for a baked potato bar. A friend put some on his salad, LOL.

    Glad you liked it Elizabeth! Way to improvise with what you had on hand!