Vegan Cheese Sauce
You can use this simple vegan cheese sauce in a wide range of dishes from mac & cheese to lasagne or poured over spinach stuffed pancakes! Get the recipe below.
The secret to silky smooth, dairy free cheese sauce
The most common worry I hear from new vegans is that they are worried what they will do without cheese! I’ve heard some “experienced” vegans suggest that newbies should avoid eating plant based cheese for the first 6 months. The idea being that they will have forgotten what “regular” cheese tastes like and so they won’t be put off by vegan cheese which often has a different taste and texture to dairy cheese.
The good news is that food science has come a long way in the last few years and it is now easier than you might think to make a simple vegan cheese sauce using the same method you have been using for years with dairy milk and cheddar cheese. You won’t find soaked cashews or carrot here. This recipe sticks as closely to a classic cheese sauce recipe as possible! The result? A simple vegan cheese sauce that everyone will love.
Making a dairy-free roux
I use the exact same method to make vegan cheese sauce as I did when I cooked with dairy. I start by making a roux with (non-dairy) butter and cornflour, I then add my (plant) milk slowly until I have a smooth, thin sauce.
For the melted butter I like to use Naturli or Flora. They are the most “buttery” vegan options on the market. I stir conflour into this until it has formed a thick, lump free paste before adding my milk.
I have tried a whole range of different nut and plant milks when making this plant based cheese sauce but the best is definitely soy milk. Nut milks are usually too sweet and coconut milk, unsurprisingly has a distinctive coconut taste! Soy milk, however, has a thick consistency and a good fat content. The result is a rich creamy sauce that you don’t get from other milks like oat milk.
Choosing the right vegan cheese
Gone are the days where vegans struggled to buy a decent dairy-free cheese. We are now spoilt for choice with brands like Violife and Koko sitting comfortably in supermarket refrigerators alongside the store’s own-brand offering. There are even vegan cheese mongers in London!
When making a vegan cheese sauce there are 3 brands in particular that I regularly use:
I like the Extra Mature Cheddar from Violife because it has a really good flavour. It is also the cheese that looks and behaves the most like a classic British cheddar. Alternatively you could use, the smoked cheese from Applewood. In my opinion it has the best melting ability. It gets really gooey and stretchy which makes for a really thick, stretchy cheese sauce. Last but not least is the Farmhouse cheese from KindaCo. It’s got a sharp flavour, just like cheddar and a really soft texture so makes for a really creamy cheese sauce.
These cheese are all either available from your favourite supermarket or online at stores like: the good kind supermarket, the vegan kind supermarket and green bay supermarket. You could use just one of these cheeses in this recipe or a mix. The choice is yours!
Nutritional yeast and other seasonings
Once you have added you cheese of choice to the pan, you might want to consider adding some other flavour enhancers such as nutritional yeast, garlic powder, onion powder and perhaps even paprika.
In the recipe you will find my suggested quantities but do make sure you taste as you go. You might want to tweak it slightly depending on the cheese you have used. For example if I was using the smoky Applewood vegan cheese alternative, I would leave out the paprika.
Vegan Cheese Sauce
- Place the non-dairy butter in a saucepan and warm gently until melted.
- Add in the cornflour to create a roux and cook on a medium heat for 1 minute, stirring well to make sure it forms a smooth paste.
- Remove the pan from the heat and add just a few drops of the soy milk at a time, beating to incorporate it well each time.
- Make sure you only add the smallest amount of milk at a time otherwise lumps will form.
- As the roux goes from a thick paste to a thick sauce you can add the milk in larger quantities. Once half of the milk has been added you should be able to pour in the rest without lumps forming.
- Place the pan back on a medium to high heat and stir the sauce as it comes to a boil.
- Once it has reached boiling point reduce the heat and let it simmer for 5 minutes to allow it to thicken.
- When the sauce has thickened take the pan off the heat again and add in the grated vegan cheese.
- Keep stirring until the cheese has melted completely (return it to the heat as needed to make sure the cheese melts completely).
- Finally, add in the remaining ingredients and stir until they are distributed throughout the sauce.
This cheese sauce is perfect for making ahead and then reheating when you want to use it. Just place it in a bowl, leave to cool and refrigerate. To stop it forming a “skin” on top as it cools, place clingfilm directly on to the surface of the sauce. This will stop the air getting to it and creating an unpleasant skin.