Nutty and nice: cashews as cheese sauce

mac and cheese nachos

Before I was vegan, I was a cheese addict. The toughest thing to give up was the gooey, salty creaminess of brie, mozzarella and camembert. Although the Daiya brand is a great non-dairy alternative, I wanted to make my own cheese sauce and had heard about using cashew nuts. But I was lazy and thought it was too much work.

So I was late to the party for cooking with cashews. I decided to try it with mac and cheese, my all-time favourite comfort food as a kid. It surprised me how quick and easy it was to throw the cashews along with garlic, onion and spices into a blender. Total blending time: one minute.

Health benefits

And cashews are good for you. They have protein (about 18 grams per cup), plus iron, zinc and copper. In fact, cashews have the second-highest amount of copper (behind sesame seeds), a mineral that supports bone and tissue integrity, antioxidant protection and energy production.

Cashews help lower cholesterol levels and the risk of heart disease. They are a good source of magnesium, which contributes to higher metabolism and bone health. Although cashews — and nuts in general — are high in fat, most of these fats are the monounsaturated kind that are good for your heart.


Back to the mac and cheese. I prefer to use the raw, unsalted type of cashews from the bulk food store. Be sure to soak them in water for at least four hours before putting them in the blender. This will make them softer and easier to whip into a sauce.

  • You can make the cashew “cheese” sauce as garlicky and spicy as you like.
  • For extra zing, I used fresh red chilis diced up, plus chili powder. You could even add curry powder or smoked paprika.
  • I also sprinkled turmeric, which gave the sauce a rich yellow hue. (And turmeric has its own health benefits, in terms of anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties).

In addition to mac and cheese, there are many ways to use cashew cheese sauce in vegan cooking: on top of nachos, pizzas and casseroles; in grilled cheese sandwiches; lasagnas; pastas; tacos; quesadillas; cheesecakes; as butter, dips and spreads.

For this post (pictured above), I introduced my mac and cheese to a bed of blue corn nachos—the perfect match for my crispy, melty carb cravings this weekend.

What “cheesy” dish would you like to try?

4 thoughts on “Nutty and nice: cashews as cheese sauce

  1. This made me giggle on so many levels. Such a relatable read! I used to live on mozzarella on white toast. About the cashews: you can never be late to the cashew party! Long shall it reign! =D I make mac and cheese a lot myself, which reminds me that I should maybe post it on my blog as well. I use turmeric to add colour and my main seasonings are fresh garlic, a sprinkle of mustard powder, a little bit of lemon juice, thyme, salt and pepper. When I have some left over roasted carrots I use those as well, they add even more colour and a fabulous flavour! Depending on my mood I sometimes also add curry or some peas. Never tried smoked paprika in mac and cheese – which baffles me. I am addicted to smoked paprika! I also soak my cashews over night but when I am in a pinch or crave mac and cheese “right NOW!” then I cook them. I add the liquid that is needed to make the sauce to the nuts and bring them to a quick boil. It is a good quick fix if you are in a hurry. =)

    Depending the turmeric: i just read the other day that when you intend to use turmeric as health/nutritional boost then you should always add black pepper. It increases the bioavailability of the curcuminoids in the spice immensely. I am currently working on a large post about turmeric so you’re getting some first hand info about my next post before I actually blogged it. =D

    To answer your question in the post. I would love to try daiya cheese. Technically it is not a dish on it’s own but I would love to try it. I live in the UK and we have a very limited range of vegan cheeses here and it’s awful. It either tastes so bad that I would rather spread shredded newspaper on my pizza (yes, it is THAT bad) or it comes with a hefty price tag.

    Thanks for linking to my cheesecake recipe, much appreciated, Keep spreading the “nutty” vegan message.

    Love, Gloria


    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Gloria, for the black pepper tip! I hope you’ll find better vegan cheeses in the UK! Daiya is a Canadian brand and hopefully they will distribute abroad eventually. But I think cashews make the best cheese sauce, so keep it up!


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