Missing lasagne, mac & cheese or pasta carbonara? Charlotte Willis demonstrates how easy it is to replace cheese sauce in your cooking, whether you’re cooking from scratch or in a hurry…
Cashew Cheese Sauce
What Is It? A popular choice amongst plant-based eaters, the humble cashew nut transforms into a cheesy-flavoured base for sauces, cream cheeses and cheesecakes after being soaked overnight and blitzed in combination with a plant milk and other flavour-enhancing ingredients. Blended cashew nuts create a smooth cheese sauce, which is thick, creamy and filling.
Basic Recipe 1 cup of cashew nuts (soaked overnight in cool water), 2-3 tbsp nutritional yeast, 1 clove of crushed garlic, seasoning, 5-7 tbsp water or unsweetened soya milk and 1 tbsp lemon juice are combined together in a high-speed blender or food processor until a smooth liquid has been achieved. This can be warmed by slowly heating on a stovetop.
Nutritional Info Cashew nuts are a great source of minerals such as iron, magnesium, zinc and copper. They also contain a great source of healthy dietary fats which help balance cholesterol levels and aid the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins such as vitamin D and A.
Vegan Cheese & Béchamel Sauce
What Is It? A traditional vegan béchamel sauce gets a complete flavour-overhaul with the addition of your favourite vegan cheese! Crumble in a mild cheddar, a punchy blue cheese or a combination of three (or more) of your top cheese picks for the supreme cheese sauce alternative!
Basic Recipe 3 tbsp of soya or non-flavoured, oil-based vegan butter (such as Naturli Vegan Baking Block) is melted in a pan over a medium heat. Whisk in 2 tbsp of flour (you can use a gluten-free alternative such as buckwheat flour here) and heat whilst continually stirring for approximately 2-3 minutes. Pour in 2 cups of unsweetened soya milk (or oat milk would work well) and whisk well until the sauce is thickened. Remove from the heat and add in your cheese, then stir through until melted. Season to taste.
Nutritional Info Due to the high fat content of this sauce, I would only opt to use a béchamel alternative every now and again.
White Bean Cheese
What Is It? Using white beans as a base of a sauce might sound completely bizarre to some. However, this wholesome recipe is a great alternative for anyone looking to increase their fibre content, or reduce their dependence upon pre-made, highly-processed foods.
Basic Recipe 1 cup of cooked white beans (such as cannellini beans) are blended together with ½ cup of unsweetened plant-based milk, 5 tbsp nutritional yeast flakes, ¼ tsp garlic powder, a pinch of turmeric and seasoning in a high-speed food processor or blender. This can be warmed on a gentle heat in a pan, or kept and frozen for times of cheesereflated needs!
Nutritional Info White beans are a fantastic source of protein, fibre and B vitamins, adding to the nutritious nature of this wholesome vegan cheese sauce. Nutritional yeast is also a rich source of plant-based protein, and the lack of fats in this recipe make it suitable for those trying to shift a few pounds without skimping on flavour.
Vegetable- Based Cheese Sauce
What Is It? If you’re after a thick, creamy and dip-able vegan cheese sauce, this recipe is the one for you! The base of this wonderful veg-based sauce is a combination of potatoes and carrots, which are boiled or steamed until soft, before being blended with cheese sauce flavours. A revolutionary sauce which is pretty simple to make!
Basic Recipe You’ll need to peel and steam/boil 2 cups of potatoes and 1 cup of carrots until soft. Once cooked, transfer to a high speed blender and add in 1/3 cup olive oil, ½ cup of water, ½ cup nutritional yeast, ½ tsp garlic powder and ½ tsp onion powder, 1 tsp lemon juice and seasoning. Blitz until smooth and heat on a low temperature in a stove top pan to warm.
Nutritional Info This cheese sauce is rich in vitamin B12 due to the addition of the nutritional yeast flakes, whilst the vegetable base of the sauce help to increase your 7-a-day intake.
Store Bought Alternatives
What Is It? If cooking isn’t your forte, or perhaps you’re strapped for time one evening, there are many fantastic alternatives to purchase straight from the shelves of your nearest supermarket. These sauces can be easily incorporated with a simple array of grilled or pan-fried veggies and pasta for a quick 15 minute meal!
Basic Recipe Some of the sauces may require you to add a serving of plant-based milk to create the desired consistency, or simply add to your dish straight from the carton! What could be easier?
Brands Waitrose sell a delicious vegan cheese sauce, which can be used directly from the carton and added into your recipe. Free & Easy also make a vegan cheese flavour sauce mix powder, which only requires the addition of cold water, creating a stunning vegan cheese sauce from a staple ingredient powder which can be kept in the cupboard. The ultimate vegan hack!
Nutritional Info The nutritional info for each of the pre-made products will vary based on the sauce used. Be sure to check the packet for information.
Charlotte is a freelance journalist and health writer who has worked with the Vegan Society and other online vegan publications. Her fields of expertise and interest include vegan nutrition, holistic healthcare, mindfulness and fitness. She is currently researching and studying the various links between food and psychological health while pursuing a doctorate degree in counselling.