Easy Dairy-Free Cheese Sauce for Pasta, Potatoes, and Vegetables


This simple, fast and easy dairy-free cheese sauce recipe was originally shared with us by a reader. I’ve added some options to help modify this recipe to taste, and some instructions to make sure the sauce is smooth. It’s a very basic sauce that can add a pleasant cheesy flavor to everyday foods. Use it to make dairy-free (and gluten-free) mac and cheese or pour it over baked potatoes and steamed vegetables.

Easy Dairy-Free Cheese Sauce Alternative Recipe - also vegan, soy-free, gluten-free, and optionally nut-free. Good for mac and cheese, potatoes, and vegetables.

Special Diet Notes: Easy Dairy-Free Cheese Sauce

By ingredients, this recipe is dairy-free / non-dairy, egg-free, gluten-free, optionally nut-free, peanut-free, soy-free, vegan, plant-based, and vegetarian.

Easy Dairy-Free Cheese Sauce Alternative
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
This recipe was shared with us back in 2006 by a reader. They recommended this sauce for making macaroni & cheese or cheesy potatoes. We have made some minor modifications the recipe and instructions to help adapt the recipe as needed and to ensure more seamless results.
Recipe type: Sauce
Cuisine: American
Serves: 4 to 6 servings
  • ¼ cup raw cashews (see the Nut Options below)
  • 2 cups water, divided
  • ¼ cup diced tomatoes
  • ¼ cup nutritional yeast flakes, or to taste
  • 2 tablespoons non-GMO cornstarch or arrowroot starch
  • ½ tablespoon lemon juice, or to taste
  • 1 to 1½ teaspoons sea salt, to taste
  • ¼ teaspoon garlic powder
  • ½ teaspoon onion powder
  1. Grind the cashews in a spice grinder or small food processor until powdered.
  2. Pour the cashew powder into your blender. Add the 1 cup water, tomatoes, nutritional yeast, starch, lemon juice, 1 teaspoon salt, onion powder, and garlic powder. Puree until smooth. Add the remaining 1 cup water and briefly blend to combine.
  3. Pour the mixture through a sieve into a saucepan. Place the pan over medium heat, and cook, stirring constantly, until the sauce thickens, about 5 minutes. Taste test and add more salt, if needed.
Nut Option: Cashews produce the creamiest results, and we think they provide the best flavor. But you can substitute almonds (preferably blanched) or macadamia nuts, in a pinch. For nut-free, sunflower seeds work fairly well.

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About Author

Alisa is the founder of GoDairyFree.org, Food Editor for Allergic Living magazine, and author of the best-selling dairy-free book, Go Dairy Free: The Guide and Cookbook for Milk Allergies, Lactose Intolerance, and Casein-Free Living, and the new cookbook, Eat Dairy Free: Your Essential Cookbook for Everyday Meals, Snacks, and Sweets. Alisa is also a professional recipe creator and product ambassador for the natural food industry.


  1. Hi. I glanced at a free cheese alternatives but am wondering if they will help me leave dairy cheese alone. I LOVE cheese: American, Cheddar, Mozzarella, etc. I overuse it n my omelets, sautéed spinach, kale, onion concoction, and so forth. Are there alternatives to that if not aforementioned?! Thank you

  2. Nicole Randall on

    Hi, I live in South Africa and have no idea what Nutritional Yeast is…? My daughter has dairy and soy allergies as well as peanuts and most legumes. I’m interested in your cheese substitutes, not so much for her but for me! When I’m breastfeeding (nursing) I have to be on her allergy-free diet. We have instant dry yeast that comes in sachets for breadmaking but I’m pretty sure that’s not what you’re referring to. Is it called by any other name?

    Nicole Randall

    • Hi Nicole, nutritional yeast is quite different from the yeast that you would use in breadmaking. It is an inactive yeast that has a pungent almost cheesy flavor and is typically fortified with B vitamins (hence the “nutritional” name). It comes in flakes or powder that are a mustardy yellow color and quite lightweight – not nearly as heavy as active yeast. I’m not sure where you could source it in South Africa – perhaps online or from a natural food store?

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