Vegan Yellow Cheese Sauce

May 10, 2022
Food
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This vegan yellow cheese sauce has a melty texture and is so versatile. Use it over nachos, baked potatoes, steamed broccoli, or casseroles. It also makes a perfect vegan grilled cheese sandwich!

A glass mason jar holds a yellow, vegan cheddar cheese sauce.

Hey friends. Still feeling the limited capacities and inward pull as I work away on my manuscript and ride the wave of everything else.

Many of you have asked me about weekend reading posts, and don’t worry, they’re not going anywhere. I’ll be getting back into the swing of them when I can. Right now, I can only do what I can do.

In spite of all this, I’m at least being consistent with my weekly meal prep. Having lunches and dinners taken care of for the week gives me so much peace of mind. And I’ve recently discovered that this vegan yellow cheese sauce is a meal prep hero.

The sauce isn’t brand new. It’s almost exactly the same mixture that I use to make my favorite, homemade vegan grilled cheese sandwiches. Over the weekend I was craving a baked potato with cheese sauce, and I asked myself whether it would work that way—as a condiment, rather than a sandwich filling.

It really does. On top of that, it’s easy to make, and it’s more wholesome than some of the commercial vegan cheeses out there. You can use it in all sorts of ways, and I’m now so hooked on it that I thought it deserved a post of its own.

What is yellow cheese sauce?

In all honesty, I wasn’t sure what to call this. Cheddar sauce? It’s not quite as sharp as cheddar, but it’s not too far off. Think mild cheddar meets American cheese—it’s someplace in that flavor zone.

The cheese sauce is thicker and less pourable than a lot of my other sauces, and it’s supposed to be. It’s a little melty and gooey, which is what makes it cheese-like.

A baked potato rests on a small white plate against a marble surface. It's topped with a creamy topping.

How to make vegan yellow cheese sauce

This is one of a very few creamy sauces in my cooking arsenal that isn’t made with blended cashews! (Good news for people with cashew or tree nut allergies.)

Instead, I use a non-dairy milk base. The milk should be unsweetened. My go-to is oat or soy, but I’ve also used unsweetened almond and cashew milks in the recipe, and they work well, too. The sauce gets some additional creaminess from tahini.

The source of melty, stretchy consistency in the cheese sauce is a mixture of flour (1/4 cup) and cornstarch (1 tablespoon).

A blender contains non dairy milk. It rests on a white marble surface.

You’ll begin by blending the sauce ingredients in a high-speed blender till smooth.

Next, you’ll warm the mixture in a saucepan over medium low heat. It’s important to stir constantly with a spoon or a whisk as you go, so that the sauce doesn’t develop lumps as it thickens up.

Be aware that the sauce will thicken up quickly! It’ll be very liquidy, very liquidy, and then suddenly quite a bit thicker. When it’s ready, the texture will be smooth, shiny, and melty.

A vegan cheddar cheese sauce is being prepared in a metal saucepan.

Variations and substitutions

Depending on your health needs or food allergies/sensitivities, there are a few ingredients you might wish to substitute in the recipe.

Tahini

If you have a sesame allergy, then you can use cashew butter in place of the tahini—it works really well. If you’re allergic to both nuts and seeds, then you can try using 1/4 cup of a tofu-based vegan cream cheese (like Tofutti).

All-purpose flour

You can easily make the cheese sauce gluten-free by using a gluten-free, all-purpose flour blend. I love the Measure for Measure flour from King Arthur.

Cornstarch

The cornstarch can be replaced with either arrowroot or double the amount of tapioca starch. Either will work well.

Meal prep and storage

Clearly, this sauce is one that I like to make ahead of time. But what about storage and reheating?

The cheese sauce will keep for up to five days in an airtight container in the fridge. It can be frozen for up to six weeks, too. The recipe makes about about one and a half cups total.

The cheese sauce will solidify a lot when you store it. However, it’s not hard to bring it back to a melty, sauce-like consistency. To do so, just heat the sauce in a saucepan over low heat, adding a splash of non-dairy milk to help loosen it up.

Stir constantly as you heat the sauce, until it’s once again its original consistency.

A bowl of steamed broccoli has been topped with a vegan cheddar cheese sauce.

What can I do with yellow cheese sauce?

My favorite thing about this sauce is its versatility. There’s no more worthy thing to meal prep each week than a component that can be used in many different ways. For me, this includes:

  • Hummus or dips that can be turned into snacks with crudités or chips, sandwich spreads, or filling for a dairy-free quesadilla
  • Sauces to pair with grain bowls or grain & bean skillets, salads, and more
  • Braised lentils or brothy beans to pair with grains, toast, veggies, and more
  • Pasta salads or grain salads that can serve as quick lunches or dinner sides
  • Baked tofu and tempeh for adding protein to anything and everything: breakfast tacos, lunch wraps, bowls, salads, dinner plates, or even as soup toppers

The yellow cheese sauce falls easily into this category. Here are just a few ways you might use it as the week goes by:

  • On a baked potato (of course!)
  • Over steamed broccoli
  • In a grilled cheese
  • Over nachos
  • In a vegan quesadilla
  • Over a casserole
  • As a sauce for quick, stovetop mac n’ cheese
  • In this skillet pasta dish
  • With your favorite tofu scramble
  • In a vegan burrito
  • As a topping for vegan enchiladas

That’s all just a starting point. There’s so much more possibility here. I’m going to start keeping a jar full of the cheese sauce in my fridge or freezer for any and all occasions.

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups unsweetened oat, soy, almond, or cashew milk (360 ml)
  • 1/4 cup nutritional yeast
  • 2 tablespoons tahini (30 g; substitute cashew butter)
  • 1/4 cup unbleached all-purpose flour (35 g)
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch or arrowroot powder (10 g; substitute 2 tablespoons tapioca starch)
  • 3/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon mustard powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon sweet paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon turmeric
  • Pinch freshly ground black pepper

Instructions

  • Blend all ingredients in a blender till smooth. Transfer this mixture to a medium sized saucepan.
  • Heat the cheese sauce over medium low heat, stirring constantly with a whisk or spoon as you go. Continue heating for 5 minutes, or until the sauce thickens rapidly. Stir vigorously as you go, so that the cheese sauce doesn't form clumps. When the sauce appears thick, smooth, and a little shiny, it's ready.
  • Use the cheese sauce immediately or store for future use.

Notes

The cheese is adapted from the “Melty White Cheeze” in Jo Stepaniak’s The Ultimate Uncheese Cookbook

I didn’t set any new years resolutions in January, but I have been trying to make more every day staples from scratch. I don’t stop myself from buying vegan meats or frozen meals or any other convenient product when I want it.

But I really like homemade dressings, sauces, and dips. And I was making vegan cheese at home long before store-bought was a very good option.

This yellow cheese sauce will now join my go-to cashew cheese recipe, tofu feta, and melty vegan cashew mozzarella as a DIY, dairy-free cheese that I can rely on week to week. And I’m really happy about it.

Hope you’ll find the recipe to be useful, too. And I’ll be back before too long, with some thoughts for NEDA week and some new food.

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