Bath toys come alive sometimes. It’s true! Ok, well maybe not Toy Story alive, but they can turn on by themselves in the wee small hours of the morning and make me jump off the couch in fear. I know because it just happened to me while I was writing this post about protein-packed vegan cheese sauce. And although I am shaken, I am also grateful, because I had no idea how I was going to start this post and thanks to the possessed My Little Pony bath toy, I have a strong, albeit creepy and totally unrelated to vegan cheese sauce, opening story.
Now that my heart has stopped racing, I can tell you more about this sauce. It’s, in a word, fanfreakingtastic. You may have seen the popular vegan cheese sauce made of potatoes and carrots. This is very similar to that sauce, except it has a whole bunch of other stuff added to make it packed with protein and nutrients and to give it a super creamy texture without any oil at all. It’s kind of magical, really. Not unlike creepy pink pony toys that turn on by themselves. Back to the sauce, shall we?
Let’s meet the cast of characters for this vegan cheese sauce, in no particular order.
- Red lentils (the protein-packed part, along with fiber and nutrients)
- Rolled oats (when cooked and blended they have the creamiest texture)
- Raw cashews (optional, but totally recommended for extra body and creaminess)
- Yukon gold potatoes (when cooked and blended they get almost stretchy, it’s super cool)
- Carrots (for color and nutrition, yo)
- Miso paste (adds a wonderful fermented taste to help boost the cheesy factor)
- Nutritional yeast (a flavor bomb, bringing the cheeze flavor to the party)
- Lemon juice or apple cider vinegar, bringing the tang to complement the miso)
- Salt (to wake everything up)
I love to sneak red lentils into almost anything. You’ll start to see this pop up more and more in recipes to come, but I’ve already done it in Protein-Packed Marinara Sauce and in 3 of the 5 meals in the 5-dinner meal plan that I just released. They are super versatile, and because they break down when cooking, they are easy to hide. Not that they shouldn’t shine, but there are some recipes where they are better off cloaked in mystery. Like if you served this vegan cheese sauce to someone and prefaced it by saying, “it’s got lentils!”, chances are, they might not have high hopes for their taste buds. Little do they know…
Cooking this vegan cheese sauce is so easy. Add the potatoes, carrots, lentils, oats, and cashews (if using), into a sauce pan and add at least 4 cups of water to cover everything by an inch or two. You can also add a couple of cloves of garlic if you like. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and cook for 10 minutes or until everything is nice and soft. Then, we strain! Use a large measuring cup or bowl to catch the cooking liquid, because you might need to add some when blending to loosen everything up.
Add the strained ingredients into a blender along with the lemon juice, miso, salt, and nutritional yeast. Then puree until it’s super smooth and creamy. If you happen to have an immersion blender (which I highly recommend, they are awesome), you don’t have to dirty a blender, you can just add everything back into the pot and blend it there, adding reserved cooking liquid as needed. And then you end up with this magically delicious goodness just ready to be poured over anything in need of a vegan cheese bath.
In case you’re short of ideas on how vegan cheese sauce should be used, I present to you exhibits A, B, and C.
Exhibit A – Vegan Mac and Cheese. Boil macaroni noodles. Toss with sauce. The end. Seriously, it’s that easy, and oh so yummy.
Exhibit B – Slathered over cooked broccoli. For when you’re feeling extra virtuous.
Exhibit C – Vegan Nachos. Do I really need to say anything else? Didn’t think so.
Now the only question is – which exhibit do you eat first?
Protein-Packed Vegan Cheese Sauce
- 2 cups yukon gold potatoes (peeled and diced (450 grams approx))
- 1 cup carrots (peeled and diced (150 grams))
- 1/3 cup red lentils (picked over and rinsed)
- 1/3 cup rolled oats
- 2-3 cloves garlic
- 1/3 cup raw cashews (optional for extra creaminess)
- 4 cups water
- 1/2 cup nutritional yeast flakes
- 2 Tablespoons miso paste (soy or chickpea)
- 1 Tablespoon lemon juice or apple cider vinegar
- 1 teaspoon salt
- In a 4 quart saucepan or larger, cover potatoes, carrots, lentils, oats, and garlic cloves with water. If using cashews, add at this point.
- Bring to a boil, then reduce to a low boil/high simmer for 10 minutes.
- Remove from heat and let sit for 5 minutes.
- Strain over a large bowl using a fine mesh strainer and return the solids to the pot or blender. Reserve the liquid for blending if needed.
- Reserve the liquid in case it is needed during blending.
- Add nutritional yeast, miso, vinegar, and salt, and stir to combine.
- Blend until creamy using either an immersion blender in the pot, or a standard blender. If the mixture is too thick, add reserved liquid 1/4 cup at a time until it can easily be blended.
- Adjust salt to taste, and serve as desired.
P.S. If you happen to have two cups of mashed potatoes in your fridge, you can use those instead of the potatoes called for in the recipe. Leftovers are meant to be transformed into something else, am I right? That’s why I included mashed potatoes in this 5-dinner meal plan along with, you guessed it, vegan mac and cheese. One meal becomes another, that’s what kitchen efficiency is all about! Learn more about the meal plan here.
P.P.S. I shot all of the photos for this post with my iPhone 7Plus. I’m pretty excited about how they came out. Technology, man. I love it.
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Because of your red lentil marinara, I’ve started putting them into other stuff too. I made a paella last week with a handful thrown in. It’s such a great idea to add a little extra protein here and there! I can’t wait to try this sauce.
Wow this looks amazing – what if I don’t have potatoes? Is there a substitute? (I have everything else on hand…)
Good question! I’ve made it without potatoes before, successfully. If you happen to have cauliflower, you could substitute that, or just bump up the oats, lentils, and cashews by 1/3 cup each. Hope that helps!!
This looks delicious! Will the sauce reheat well if you have leftovers?
Thank you! The sauce reheats very well. 🙂
What is Nutritional Yeast Falkes and where do I purchase them at?
Nan Wecker says
You can purchase at natural area of grocery stores. It is also in bins at Winco etc.
Nancy Lefavour says
Hey Beth! Can this be frozen? I made some tonight and have a lot left over.
Hi Nancy! Yes indeed, it freezes really well! 🙂
amanda - runtothefinish says
wohooooo dairy free lovers everywhere rejoice!! i’m always trying to find a good option that’s not store bought and this looks fantastic
Looks great! Is it gluten free?
Lydia F says
Looks amazing! Any susbsitute for Miso paste?
Thanks Lydia! You can leave it out, it just bumps up the “cheesy” flavor a bit. Totally ok without it, although you may benefit from doubling the nutritional yeast. Hope that helps!
Alexie Herrmann says
Any idea how much protein?
I cannot have nutritional yeast????. I’m forever looking for a cheese sauce without it and have tried a few out there with cashews that come close but I’m also trying to avoid all that nut fat. Any ideas for substituting nutritional yeast? Love that I found your YouTube and website!
Wow! Thank you so much for this recipe, i gotta try it out!
This was amazing! Even more amazing is that I only had half the ingredients both times that I made this, but I just couldn’t resist. Thanks for sharing!
Oh, I’m so excited that you love this, and enough to make it twice!! What did you use it on?
I’m not usually one to comment, but as a lifelong queso lover (and new vegan), I have to comment–I can’t believe how amazing this tastes. I was feeling pretty skeptical while cooking up the weird-looking vegetable-lentil soup-oatmeal, but now I’m standing in front of my blender eating it with a spoon. I wanted a nacho-style sauce, so added half a jalapeno into the blender; also didn’t have miso, so I used some tahini and soy sauce. I can’t get over how good this is. – seriously, so good. Thank you!!
Robyn Francis says
I’m glad to hear that it pleased a queso lover! I’m going to have to try this!!
Wow! This is amazing. I made it today & used it in quesidillas. It’s even better than the ‘real’ thing! Thanks Beth. Keep up the good work.
PS: I didn’t add any salt as the miso is salty.
This tasted *nothing* like cheese. Tastes like what it has – potato and lentils. The only thing I did differently was added more flakes instead of miso, as suggested above. Looks the part, but zero cheesiness.
Is there any reason not to use russet, instead of Yukon gold?
I only have green lentils, would they work instead of red?
Hey Candis, so sorry I missed this comment, some are going to my spam filter before I can even see them. Green lentils unfortunately won’t work for this sauce, because they don’t break down the same way the red ones do. Sorry!
Got the red lentils, made the sauce…. absolutely love it! I tried another recipe before and it left me wanting the real thing. This one however, actually tastes and smells like cheese. Thank you so much for sharing your recipe, I’ll be using it often.
I’ve made several plant based “cheese” sauces but I’m pretty sure this is the best so far. Definitely the best texture. Not only does it look like real cheese sauce, it also has the right mouth feel. I made some mac and cheese which I ate with roasted broccoli. Completely delicious! Thanks for all your great recipes Beth, I really appreciate it.
Sue Li Jue says
Instant Pot directions please? It seem totally IP-able!! Maybe I will attempt and let you know. I have a couple of cheese sauce recipes that I use regularly, but am always on the outlook for “the” cheese sauce. Could this be it???
thank you for all your hard work!!
Hi Sue! I hope I stated your name correctly. 🙂 I do need to update this with IP instructions, thank you for the reminder. The tough part is not letting the potatoes cook to mush or the sauce won’t have the right consistency. So if I were starting out testing this in the IP I would cover the potatoes, carrots, lentils, oats, garlic, and cashews with water, leaving at least an inch of water above the ingredients. Then cook at high pressure for 3 minutes and do a quick release (there will likely be a lot of steam). Quite honestly because of the time involved to come to pressure I’m not convinced that this will be faster than the stovetop method, but if you have an immersion blender you can puree right in the pot once you add the seasonings after draining. and using the IP would make it easier to make a double batch. Hope that helps!
Sue Li Jue says
Ah! thanks for that. I may try it but I do understand what you mean about the total time taken to cook and maybe the IP isn’t that much of a time savings. I will let you know if I attempt it.
I have made this several times and always mean to comment that it is easy and delicious. Tonight I didn’t have Yukon golds so I had to sub in russets. In case anyone was wondering if works well with russets too!
Sue Li Jue says
Well, I made this cheeze sauce just now:)
I guess I should have noticed the high amount of nooch in this recipe–I am personally not a nooch fan, so the flavor was a bit off (for me). Others seemed to really love it though:)
I decided to add a 1/4 tsp of vegan lactic acid to give it a tang– and that seemed to work to decrease the noochy-ness. The texture was great, color great and I am looking forward to adding some mac and veg to this or drizzling it over my vegan IP un-refried beans! Pretty good cooking day! Thanks for the recipe and the tips Beth!
I have not be this yet but plan to as it sounds delicious. Is this something that can be frozen after?
Hi Lisa! Yes, it freezes wonderfully. 🙂 Hope you’ll let me know when you try it.
We thought this was fabulous. Like a good old fashioned rich cheese sauce from before we went vegan. I reduced the nooch a little, ‘cos hubby likes the taste but doesn’t like to taste it, if you see what I mean!!
I’m unable to eat potatoes (it’s truly tragic) – could they be omitted, or subbed with something else?
Oh Alex, that truly is tragic. I’m so sorry! I’ve actually wanted to try a potato-free version of this sauce, so I will try to give it a go in the next couple of weeks. But until then, my best suggestion would be to omit the potatoes and increase the lentils, oats, and cashews by 1/4 cup each. That “should” replace the volume of the potatoes. One thing to be aware of is you may need to adjust the seasonings to compensate for the changed based ingredients. For instance after tasting you might need to add more lemon, miso, salt, or all three until it tastes just right to you. I hope that helps! When I have the potato-free version ready to share I will certainly let you know! And if you decide to give it a go I’d love to hear how it turns out. Take care!
Thank you for this amazing recipe! My husband is not vegan and he loves, loves, loves it! Thanks again.
Sarita, this comment made me SO HAPPY!!!!! I’m thrilled that this went over so well with your husband. 🙂
230 calories for ? What’s the serving size? Thanks !
Sorry that was unclear! I just updated the nutrition facts, turns out it wasn’t calculated correctly. The serving size is 1 cup, and there are 247 calories in a cup. I added all of the nutrition breakdown information as well. I hope that helps!
Excellent! Thank you 🙂
My pleasure! 🙂
Renee Mounteney says
This recipe looks great with one exception and I’m hoping you have some advice about it.
I am one of the very few people who is actually allergic (honestly I’ve been tested) to oats. It’s a big drag because it’s so good for you in many different ways but I can’t eat them…not even the gluten free kind
Do you have any ideas what I could use as an alternative?
Would be helpful for any recipe calling for oats thanks
Allison Duvall says
Mac n cheese is one of the only things my children will eat. I really hope it goes over well with them, because I love it. Does this sauce freeze well? It made quite a bit and I would love to have it on hand for quick dinners.
I have made several different cheese sauce recipes and they have all been ok. This one, however has been the creamiest and the most delicious by far. I went overboard once with the vinegar and was disappointed – in myself – not the recipe. Tried again following the recipe exactly with only a pinch more salt delicious! The 3rd time I made it, did not add the extra salt and it was even better. I wanted it on everything! I even warmed it like soup topped with salsa and ate it that way! This is by far my favorite cheese sauce recipe and the only one I’ve made several times.
This made me so happy to read!!! What was so coincidental was that I made a batch the same day I read this comment. I’m thrilled that you enjoy it so much. <3
Delicious and creamy. I did use the gram measurement and it appeared to be more than 2 cups of potatoes.
So it is not as yellow as your picture because of the carrot:potatoe ratio????
Still tasty and I know it can freeze well
So tasty! I swapped some of the potato for sweet potato and added a little more oats and cashews and it is SOOO GOOD. I added the extra cashews and oats for added cheesiness so I can just add a little to my cheesy bechemal sauces – I froze a lot of it in large ice cube trays for just this purpose. My macaroni cheese using that method was superb – just made a bechemal and added 1/2 cup of the cheese sauce at the end to serve 2. Put in some garlicky green beans and a sprinkle of smoked paprika and was in heaven!
This is so delicious and versatile. In case anyone is wondering, it works perfectly with red potatoes too if that’s all you have on hand. 🙂