Food Crush

This Vegan Cheese Sauce Tastes Just Like Movie Theatre Nacho Topping, But It’s Super Healthy

It's pretty much a salad.

Vegan cheese sauce being poured over tortilla chips.

Photo, Lauren Toyota.

Nothing compares to vibrant orange, oozy, delicious cheese sauce. The delightfully artificial nacho topping that’s become a nostalgic movie theatre treat is something many of us avoid since it’s basically like adding molten plastic to your diet. But there’s an easy way to incorporate this neon orange food into a healthy lifestyle. Seriously. Vegan vlogger Lauren Toyota developed a nacho cheese sauce for her new cookbook, Hot For Food: Vegan Comfort Classics, that tastes as indulgent as the movie stuff but is pretty much a salad.

vegan cheese sauce Recipe: Lauren Toyota’s Nacho Cheese

So what’s in vegan cheese sauce?

Many creamy plant-based sauces have a cashew base. But this one is completely nut-free and it gets its luscious texture (and vibrant colour) from lightly boiled potatoes and carrots that are whipped up in a high-speed blender (a Vitamix or Magic Bullet work best). A variety of vegan pantry staples, including nutritional yeast, spices (garlic powder and onion powder), unsweetened non-dairy milk and pickled jalapenos, completely mask any lingering potato or carrot flavour.

Toyota says pickled jalapenos (plus three tablespoons of their brine) are the key to this recipe. They add a hint of spice and that essential tang. Brine — whether from jalapenos, pickles, kimchi or sauerkraut — plays a supporting role in many of Toyota’s vegan takes on classic comfort foods.

“That’s what’s fun about experimenting when you’re vegan,” she says. “You’re in your kitchen tasting something and you’re like, what’s this missing? I’ll just use anything [like brine] at this point to get the flavour I want.”

While this nacho cheese sauce dupe is great over tortilla chips, Toyota recommends using it to make mac and cheese, Philly cheese steak sandwiches or loaded fries supreme. You could pour it over roasted or steamed broccoli to spice up and everyday side dish, but it’s also delicious eaten straight out of the blender with a spoon.

To make sure you always have some on hand, Toyota says to double or triple the recipe and freeze it. When you’re ready for some faux-cheesy goodness, let it thaw in the fridge and warm it up on the stove or in the microwave.

Watch: Lauren Toyota makes vegan grilled cheese