April 16, 2022

Vegan Recipe Review: Nachos! (Cheese Sauce)

Since I started eating a vegan diet in January, I've been doing this recipe series to try out new ways of eating (mostly) familiar foods. I've always loved trying new things--even if it doesn't sound good to me at all--because I never know what I may take a liking to!

Each week, I pick a recipe (usually via Pinterest or one that is recommended to me) to prepare--exactly as written--and taste. When my meat-eating family is here and willing, they taste it as well and give me their honest opinions. I've been trying to pick a variety of recipes so that I'm not always making the same dish with a different sauce or something like that.

This week, I decided to get VERY adventurous (for me and the ingredients I'm used to, anyway) and I chose to make vegan nacho cheese. I've been staying away from the "cheese" recipes because they just sound so odd to me and I just can't imagine them tasting good enough for me to buy the ingredients needed.

However, making cheese out of cashews seems to be somewhat of a rite of passage when eating a vegan diet. So, I decided to make the nacho cheese sauce first, because I figured if there was anything my family could hop on board for, it's nachos! I love nachos as well, and they've become a food that I usually prepare when we're having people over to play games or have a bonfire or something like that. I'll set out loads of nacho chips, a big crockpot of nacho cheese (the canned stuff), chili or taco meat, and all of the toppings so people can load them up. Everybody loves nachos!

On Pinterest, several random recipes that looked good to me led to the same blog--It Doesn't Taste Like Chicken--and that is where I chose to use this recipe for nacho cheese. She actually calls it "Melty Stretchy Gooey Nacho Cheese". Sounded promising.

So, the ingredients to make this "cheese" are: raw cashews, water, tapioca starch, nutritional yeast, lemon juice, salt, white miso paste, paprika, maple syrup, onion powder, turmeric, and garlic powder. You can see why I was skeptical! (You can find the recipe on It Doesn't Taste Like Chicken. I'll link to it again at the end of the post.)

The "special" ingredients that I wouldn't normally buy or have never used before include the raw cashews (I love roasted cashews, but had never bought raw), tapioca starch, nutritional yeast, and white miso paste. I ordered the cashews and nutritional yeast from Amazon, and bought the tapioca starch and miso paste from my local Kroger--I was really surprised they had the miso paste, because I'd never even heard of it. It was in the (very small) Asian foods section.

This is what nutritional yeast looks like, in case you are wondering:

It's a popular ingredient and even condiment in a lot of vegan recipes, but the thought of it kind of grosses me out and I wasn't crazy about the taste on pasta or popcorn. (It supposedly has a cheesy flavor.)

And this is white miso paste. I wasn't expecting it to be in such a big container--I assumed it would be in a squeeze tube, like toothpaste. Haha! It stays good for a year in the refrigerator, though.

Preparing the recipe is actually really easy. Like all of the "cheese" or "cream" recipes I've checked out, you start by soaking the cashews (this recipe said you can boil them for 10 minutes instead, which softens them; that's what I chose to do). This is what they look like after they're boiled. They expand a little and get soft:

Then you just throw everything into a blender and blend until completely smooth. It was very liquidy, which I expected because the recipe said so. In this picture, I was just trying to show how liquidy it is:

Then you pour it into a pot and heat, stirring, until it becomes the texture of nacho cheese.

The first time I did this, the pan was too hot (I had it on medium-high, per the recipe instructions) and it burned immediately. There were lots of brown chunks in it after scraping the bottom, so I decided to throw it out and try again. This time, I put the heat on medium-low and that worked much better. After a couple of minutes, it was ready to taste! (This is a terrible picture, but it was hard to take a picture with my left hand while stirring with my right hand.)

I didn't want to pour it all over nachos without tasting it first, so I just grabbed a chip and dipped it. I was completely surprised at how good it was! It amazed me that those ingredients had turned into this really good nacho cheese. I had Jerry and the kids taste it at this point, too. The verdict:

Jerry - Not totally crazy about it; couldn't put his finger on what it was. He didn't entirely dislike it, though.
Noah - Said it was better than canned nacho cheese, but he's not a big fan of canned nacho cheese either. (He uses shredded cheddar on nachos.) Still, the fact that he said it was better than the canned stuff was worth mentioning.
Eli - Even more shocking than the ingredients list turning into cheese was the fact that Eli actually LIKED it!

I'd bought a can of nacho cheese for the family in case they didn't like the vegan stuff and I offered to open and heat it, but Eli said he'd eat the vegan stuff. And Jerry said he would too, considering he was going to load the nachos with other stuff as well. Noah just pulled the cheddar out of the fridge. So, I didn't even have to open the can of nacho cheese! 


There was a problem with the texture almost immediately. As soon as it started to cool off (only a minute), it started to thicken and it wasn't something you could pour over the nachos. It had the texture of very thick sour cream, so it kind of came off the spoon in clumps rather than drizzling. I have to stress that this all happened within probably 60 seconds. This is what it looked like after we'd each put some on our nachos--so just a couple of minutes:

Still, I managed to spread it around my nachos. Then I proceeded to add lots of toppings: taco "meat" (texturized vegetable protein--soy crumbles--seasoned with my homemade taco seasoning), black beans, jalapeƱos, olives, avocado, green onions, and tomatoes. It looked SO GOOD. (There is nacho "cheese" sauce under all the toppings, I promise.)

Ohmygosh, they were delicious! With all of the flavors together, I never would have noticed the difference between the vegan nacho cheese and regular canned nacho cheese. I just wish the texture would have stayed more of a sauce.

When I was cleaning up the kitchen afterward, I put the leftover nacho "cheese" in a container for the fridge, and you can clearly see what I'm talking about. It was one big clump.

The following day, Eli actually asked if he could use it to make nachos again. I was so shocked--but I said sure, I'll heat it up. I added the clump of cheese and a little water to a sauce pan over medium heat. I stirred and stirred and stirred, hoping to get it to a good consistency. Finally, it was sort of saucy, but there were smaller clumps in it. As soon as I stopped stirring, it would firm up again. So I had to constantly stir while attempting to drizzle it on Eli's nachos. He said it tasted just fine.

So, my final thoughts: I am shocked that the odd ingredients produced something that very much tasted like nacho cheese. If I didn't know better, I would have thought it was nacho cheese on my chips.

I'm bummed about the texture! I know I didn't mess up any ingredients (remember, I made it twice!). It's got to be something with the tapioca starch. I read the comments on the recipe and several other people said the same thing--that it tasted delicious but it gets way too thick too quickly.

I'm not going to give up on this recipe, though, because I really liked the flavor (and for Eli to like this was shocking!). Next time, I'm going to try using half of the tapioca starch and see what happens. It's so fast and easy to throw together and it tastes so good that it's worth experimenting a little to get the texture right.

Overall, I'd say this recipe was a winner! For Eli to like it (especially enough to have the leftovers when I had a can of nacho cheese in the pantry) was all it took to convince me. I could certainly see using this for quesadillas, baked potatoes, macaroni and "cheese", as a dip (if I can get the consistency right), and several other things. That plate of nachos was amazing!

Once again, here is the link for the recipe on It Doesn't Taste Like Chicken.


  1. I was vegan for nearly 20 years, until I had to start eating more omnivorously for health reasons. I always made a very easy, simple vegan cheese sauce recipe, much easier than this one! It was from a "hippie" cookbook published back in the 1970s, called The New Farm Vegetarian Cookbook.

    1⁄2 cup nutritional yeast flakes
    1⁄2 cup flour
    1 teaspoon salt
    1⁄2 teaspoon garlic powder
    2 cups water
    1⁄4 cup vegan margarine
    1 teaspoon wet mustard

    Mix dry ingredients in a saucepan.
    Whisk in water.
    Cook over med. heat, whisking until it thickens and bubbles.
    Cook 30 seconds, then remove from heat.
    Whip in Margarine and mustard.
    It will thicken as it cools. but will thin when heated or when water is added.

    Super easy, my kids loved it, and aside from the nutritional yeast (which I can find at Kroger these days, in the baking aisle by the regular yeast), no exotic ingredients like miso. I think the reason yours clumped up so much was the tapioca starch. The author probably wanted to make it gluten-free, but I have made this sauce gluten free by just using a gluten-free all purpose flour blend, and it was fine. So try this one if you want a looser sauce. It will firm up in the fridge but is easily warmed up!

    1. This sounds good..thanks for sharing!!

    2. It is really, really good. I have to avoid dairy (allergies) and I'm thinking of getting some nutritional yeast and gluten free AP flour and making this sometime this week. It's good for dipping baby carrots and veggies in, too!

  2. I'm glad you posted this experiment. I am not vegan, but I've often wondered how "real" some of the vegan cheese recipes taste. Even if it tastes OK, it still seems like a lot of work compared to just using cheese. By the way, I am your exception to "everyone loves nachos" - I have never cared for nacho/corn chips, and I definitely would not like the "loaded" nachos you show in your photo, even if they weren't vegan! lol

  3. Um. Well. Just give me the dish of no-longer-sauce "nacho cheese" and a spoon. It looks delish!

  4. I tried a vegan nacho cheese sauce made with cashews by a company called Siete and I didn't think it tasted like cheese at all. I may try your recipe since you liked it.

  5. Miso makes a great soup base - use instead of stock. Gives a great umami flavor and it really good for you!

  6. I don't like that people say nutritional yeast tastes like cheese. I feel like that ruins it for a lot of people, because it doesn't, really, taste much like cheese at all. I grew up having it on popcorn and occasionally in other foods as well, and quite like it, but I would never describe it as a cheese flavor.

    For me, the texture of the vegan cheeses is normally more of a problem than the flavors. A lot of them end up with a weird texture. But I'm also like Noah, I just don't like nacho cheese very much either.


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