America's Test Kitchen LogoCook's Country LogoCook's Illustrated Logo
Recipe Spotlight

This Magic Cheese Sauce Isn't Made from Cheese

You'll want to put this plant-based cheese sauce on everything.

Published Apr. 2, 2021.

A good cheese sauce can be used in many ways: poured over tortilla chips, smothered on roasted vegetables, or even slathered on a burger if you’re feeling saucy. The possibilities are endless.

But say you don’t eat cheese. Do you just forgo the magic of a melty cheese sauce forever? Fear not. Test cook Nicole Konstantinakos set out to solve the mystery.

And boy did she solve it. You’ll never believe that this “cheese” sauce, featured in our Complete Plant-Based Cookbook, is vegan.

Sign up for the Notes from the Test Kitchen newsletter

Our favorite tips and recipes, enjoyed by 2 million+ subscribers!

Nicole experimented with many different ingredients during development but ultimately settled on something surprising and untraditional: she boiled potatoes and then blended them.

This is a perfect example of what not to do if you’re making mashed potatoes, but this gluey, sticky mess ended up being the perfect base for a cheese-like sauce. 

IACP Award Winner

The Complete Plant Based Cookbook

The Complete Plant-Based Cookbook is your one-stop guide to preparing delicious plant-based meals. Featuring 570+ plant-based recipes, this cookbook offers delicious meals for vegans, vegetarians, and omnivores alike.

Next was the question of how to make it look like cheese. Nicole blended in carrots, which helped contribute color. Nutritional yeast, a staple in vegan cooking to add savory flavor, was also essential here. The addition of mustard powder added to the depth of the flavor profile.

After adding some vegetable oil for texture and vinegar for tang, we had a vegan “cheese” sauce that looked like cheese; smelled like cheese; and most importantly, tasted like cheese. No foolin’.

Equipment Review

The Best High-End Blenders

We investigate the new crop of pricey blenders to see what you get—and whether it’s worth it—when the sky’s the limit.
See Our Winner

You can use this sauce like you would any regular cheese sauce, but some of our suggested ways to use it include adding it to our plant-based Double Smashie Burgers or in our Loaded Meaty Nacho Dip, which you can also find in the book.

Vegan Cheese Sauce

Makes about 2 cups

What You’ll Need:

  • 12 ounces russet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 1 small carrot, peeled and cut into ½-inch pieces (⅓ cup)
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1½ tablespoons nutritional yeast
  • ½ teaspoon distilled white vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon table salt
  • ⅛ teaspoon mustard powder

  1. Bring 2 quarts water to boil in large saucepan over high heat. Add potatoes and carrot and cook until tender, about 12 minutes; drain in colander. 
  2. Combine cooked vegetables, 1/3 cup water, oil, nutritional yeast, vinegar, salt, and mustard powder in blender. Pulse until chopped and combined, about 10 pulses, scraping down sides of blender jar as needed. (You will need to stop processing to scrape down sides of blender jar several times for mixture to come together.) Process mixture on high speed until very smooth, about 2 minutes. Serve. (Sauce can be refrigerated in airtight container for up to 3 days; reheat in microwave, stirring every 30 seconds, until glossy and pourable. Adjust consistency with hot water as needed.)

This is a members' feature.