If I was to rate the things that people always say they’d never be able to give up, cheese would usually come fairly high up the list, usually first place. Fortunately you don’t have to give it up to go vegan, you just make it without the cruelty.

Sticking To Sauces

Before you get into the bulk of the article, we wanted to preface it by saying that we won’t be covering blocks of cheeses because that’s a whole different article. There’s just so much to cover when it comes to cheese, whether it’s block cheese, cream cheese, cottage cheese, melty cheese, or other forms. This article will be purely focused on how you can create your own cheese sauces from scratch using all sorts of ingredients, but if you really want you can find store bought ones.

You should note that this article isn’t exhaustive mainly for the reason that I honestly have no need to know more than 5 ways of making a cheese sauce because what’s the point? With the following 5 bases you can make just about any cheese sauce with any texture and for any purpose you could have. There’s bound to be other ways, like using ‘mochi’ which is a glutinous Japanese rice cake (not like the baked cake, more like a urinal cake, excuse the reference). However, outside of Japan you’d be hard pressed to find it and likely it would be sold at health foods stores with a markup of 9000%.

Also in addition to the bases, there are likely other ingredients that I’ve never heard of or never used that could quite easily make a better cheese sauce than I ever have, so keep that in mind also. Now without further deliberations…




Cauliflower is incredible as a cheese sauce, possibly my favourite. It’s cheaper than cashews and requires less blending, but to make the best cheese sauce you should steam it (not boil). It’s one of the more mild choices when it comes to taste, kind of earthy and nutty, but you can definitely smell it.

Best for: By far, I’ll always use cauliflower in Carbonara over any other base. Carbonara is kind of eggy and while I wouldn’t describe a cauliflower as eggy, it’s kind of there.

Worst for: Thick sauces like a fondue. If you’ve cooked with cauliflower, you’ll know if you overcook it, it begins to disintegrate due to the water content.


I’m going to be honest, artichokes are the base I have least experience with, mainly because they don’t look like something a human should be eating. Fresh artichoke is a bit bizarre to work with, it’s the heart that you want for your sauce. You can buy artichoke hearts in a can which will work. The taste of artichokes is somewhat unique – Try them.

Best for: I’ve only used this in basic sauces like a pasta and cheese sauce or pasta bake, though it might be better if you’re using lots of ingredients because I can taste the artichoke. I don’t mind it, but it’s not my favourite taste.

Worst for: I’d assume making fondue out of it would be slightly better than the cauliflower as it seems to hold together better, but still not the best. That’s a guess though.


By far, THE MOST commonly used ingredient as a base for cheesy vegan sauces because the texture is pleasant and it doesn’t have a strong taste. Without a decent blender however, you’re going to be there for quite some time. ESPECIALLY if you forgot to soak your cashews like I do every time.

Best for: Pretty much any cheese sauce this works well for, you can even make mozzarella out of it for pizza. The texture is definitely thicker than that of artichoke or cauliflower.

Worst for: Anyone who forgets to plan ahead or has a blender that doesn’t have the power of a thousand suns and a bank balance of an estranged sultan.


For me, it’s been a rare experience to see tofu used as the base for a cheese sauce, but that’s not really for any good reason. Silken tofu is wonderful for any sauce base really. The only reason I can think of it being less used is if you bake it, you get a bizarre texture that’s almost lumpy. Blended and poured on sauces though tofu works well.

Best for: Tofu thickens when cooking so if you’re looking to make a sauce that thickens over time, tofu is the best. However it’s best on dishes you can stop cooking at ANY time, meaning like a fondue or a pour over sauce.

 Worst for: If you make the bechamel for a lasagna use and then bake it, the texture may change before the pasta is cooked and you then know it’s going to get worse.


If you’ve spent a decent amount of time in the kitchen, you’ve probably made a roux at some point. A roux is a mixture of butter and flour, usually used in gravies, but works well as your base for a cheese sauce. Just make your roux and add milk and then your flavours. It gets thicker as it cooks and it can take a little time, so be patient.

Best for: Perfect for a lasagna specifically. If you home make your bechamel then you want to make it with a roux. You can make bechamel with tofu, but the issues with that are covered already. With a bechamel made from a roux, this doesn’t happen (if you don’t make it too thick). Also is good for fondues if you’re using agar.

Worst for: Wouldn’t say worst, but there are better alternatives for cheesy pasta sauces. Cashew or cauliflower for example are much better.


Nutritional Yeast

If you’ve been vegan for any length of time and haven’t heard of nutritional yeast, then we want to know which rock you’ve been hiding under.

Nutritional yeast (flakes) are a magical substances made of the happiness of unicorn babies. It’s really hard to describe them but what you need to know is if you’re making anything even remotely cheesy, they are a godsend. They add a savoury, cheesy flavour to your dishes. Some people say they taste chicken-like which I guess is good if you’re trying to replicate the taste.

I put nutritional yeast on meals that aren’t even cheesy or typically have cheese on, like pastas, rice dishes, stews etc. It’s pretty much crystal meth for vegans, not that I’d know, but I’ve watched Breaking Bad.

White Miso

Okay, you must use white miso or it just doesn’t work. Dark miso is just far too rich and overpowering and just doesn’t have the right taste to begin with, so don’t sub it out for something else. I’ve only discovered white miso in the last year or so, but it’s made such a difference in creamy and cheesy sauces.

White miso is very savoury and kind of salty, so it works as that savoury undertone you might find in a cheddar. That kind of back of your tongue tartness that you get with a mature cheese. You can kind of recreate that tart bite with lactic (vegan) acid, but it’s so easy to mess up and having your mouth taste like a mouthful of acid. It also doesn’t really give you the depth of flavour that miso has.

Both nutritional yeast and miso together make a super cheese because nutritional yeast is almost cheesy in taste, but isn’t tart and salty like cheese. Miso is the missing layer of flavour.

Herbs and Spices

Mustard Powder – Whilst not typically cheesy, it adds the tangy tart bite that you need in a cheesy sauce. If you don’t have miso, you definitely want to use mustard powder, because without it you’re missing a large amount of depth. Use the yellow mustard powder, it tends to work best.

Garlic Powder + Onion Powder – Garlic powder is the other half of what you’re missing that miso would give you. Nutritional yeast gets you on the level of being cheesy, but garlic powder gives your cheese a pungency (is that even a word) that you need. While mustard powder can be subbed out if you have miso, I wouldn’t sub out garlic powder because it gives something the miso doesn’t provide. Onion powder also does a similar job, just to a lesser degree (in my opinion)

Black Salt – I haven’t really experimented enough with the ingredient to really say for sure, but all I can say is it does add an extra taste to the dish that isn’t 100% salty, it’s something else. You want salty tastes showing up in your sauce, so whether you get it from salt, soy sauce, or miso, will change the overall taste. Play around with it.

Black Pepper – Perhaps not to be used in all cheesy sauces, but especially in a carbonara, you need to load up on the pepper for it to resemble the same sauce. For the record, I load up plenty on pepper for cheese sauces, but I do that for most meals so that doesn’t mean a lot.

Soy Sauce – While soy sauce does give you some saltiness, the colour is a drawback as it can change your sauce from creamy to something else. If you take your cheese sauce the way you take your men, go for it (Sorry!).

Nori? – This one I’m less sure of as a recommendation. I was never a versatile cheese officianado when I ate the stuff, I stuck with cheddar and brie, so I don’t know if there is a cheese that tastes kind of oceany. If there is and you’re trying to replicate it, or if you’re doing a cheesy sauce to go with a faux fish dish, you’ll want nori. It’s the stuff you wrap sushi in it (yes, vegans eat sushi too! Avocado, apple, carrot, cucumber and paprika sushi rolls are my favourite).

Turmeric – Purely for colour if you’re not using mustard powder, or even if you are, depending on how yellow/orange you want your sauce.

Smoked Paprika – You can use regular but for sure, the party is with the smoked version. Some cheeses are smoked, so if you’re trying to make a smokey sauce or fondue, hit them with the smoked paprika. It also changes the colour in a similar way to turmeric. I think sprinkling paprika on the top of your cheesy masterpiece is a top play to make, do it!

Lemon Juice – If you don’t have the bite that you want from the miso, lactic acid, mustard powder, or soy sauce, you should try out lemon juice next. I rarely use it, but I’ve used it once or twice, adds a freshness to the sauce that you don’t get from other ingredients.

Worcester Sauce – You’d need to find a vegan version, but this can add a tanginess and meaty depth.


Okay, so you’ve got your base and your flavours together, but what about the milks? Believe it or not, this actually can drastically affect the end product, depending on what other ingredients you put in, or how you cook the sauce.

Don’t believe me? Google “Curdling plant milks”.

I still think this is a lie, I see it all the time on facebook people asking how to stop a certain milk from curdling. I’ve tried all the milks that apparently curdle and some that don’t and no curdling as of yet. The only milk I could imagine curdling is soy or oat, both because part of dealing with soy milk production involving curds and oats turning into oatmeal. So, with this in mind, depending on what you do with the sauce will affect which is the best milk. I mostly use soy or almond, I don’t have enough experience with all the milks for all the cheesy sauces to make a recommendation. 

You’ll also note that when you drink soy milk, oat milk, cashew milk, hemp milk etc, all have a different texture and taste. Try to think how a certain milk might work as a cheese sauce. I hate hemp milk to drink, but it actually makes a really great fondue because it’s got a naturally nutty/bitter taste to it.



I’ve already mentioned the main bases above, but sometimes it isn’t as simple as blend up cashews and milk with some spices (most of the time it is). There’s plenty of more experimenting that you can do by using vegetables.

(Oh, White beans also work as a base for a cheese sauce, but you’re really going to need to soak and blend them because you don’t want their texture to show up)

Potatoes – Surprise surprise, just another thing that potatoes work their magic in is cheese. Don’t ask me how or why, they just do. Potatoes don’t drastically change the sauce and most recipes would never call for it, but they do add a certain something that’s unexplainable.

Carrots and Celery – Can use either/or, both add their own unique flavour to the dish and carrots more than celery add some texture. Make sure you blend them up though, otherwise you’ve got one of the weirdest cheese sauces.

Onion and Garlic – If you don’t have onion powder or garlic powder, this would be the obvious solution.



I’ve been talking about sauces and excluding block cheese and I still hold true to that statement, but I wanted to talk about stringy cheese for a moment. Not like the plastic cheese you used to eat, but the kind of stuff you’d put on a pizza or use as a fondue. Depending on the type of firming agent that you use, the different texture of cheese you’ll get.

If you use tapioca starch (arrowroot), you’re going to get a much more stretchy cheese, much like fondue. Trust me, it’s really, really stretchy. Unbelievably so actually, you won’t realise it isn’t actually cheese. I was going to recommend trying agar (which you can if you like) but it won’t be as good as tapioca.


Super Simple

Here’s a super simple recipe which anyone can do and the result which you can see on the Instagram page.  Flat mushrooms and cream cheese baked in the oven create the most amazing appetiser or starter.

Cook the mushroom stems with 4 cloves garlic, some chives, smoked paprika, salt and black pepper, a little tamari, set aside while you make the cream cheese.

“The cream cheese is just cashew nuts and some milk/water. Add enough lactic acid to give just the start of the acidic bite you get with actual cheese. 1 tsp-1tbsp of lemon juice to taste. 1/2 tsp salt. Black pepper. 1 Avocado. 1/4 cup fresh chives. 1/2 cup nutritional yeast. Just blend it up.”

I don’t actually know how much milk I add because it’s just eyeballed, but it’s just enough to make sure everything is blended and not too thick. It thickens up when you bake it. Chop up some sweet peppers fine and mix them with cream cheese.

Now you’ve got cream cheese with mushroom stems, garlic cloves, chives, smoked paprika, salt and black pepper + tamari. You’ve added sweet red peppers and now you’re ready to add to the mushrooms. Spread over the bottom of the mushrooms and sprinkle more chives and nutritional yeast, salt and pepper on and bake in the oven at 180 degrees until lightly browned on the tops. Takes me around 10-15 minutes.

*Note: I used to add lactic acid, but then I discovered miso and it changed everything. Add enough miso to give bite to the cream cheese. By bite, I mean tartness, not texture bite.

A cheese sauce recipe probably would have been more applicable to this article, but I’ve been looking for a place to share this recipe and I’m not going to tell you what the best way of making a cheese sauce is. It’s so personal and we like all different tastes, so you can play around with the ingredients in the section above and make something you love.

A post shared by Veganknowhow (@veganknowhow) on

Hopefully you’re a little more clued in when it comes to making cheesy sauces and are super motivated to get in the kitchen and play around with the ingredients. I’d be interested to see what kinds of tastes you can create using some simple ingredients. Let me know!

By |2018-03-04T19:53:08+00:00February 11th, 2018|Categories: Featured Food and Recipes|0 Comments

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