I will warn you up front that there are some random ingredients in our "cheese" sauce (a.k.a. cheez). These ingredients are used in small amounts and add a depth of flavor, in my opinion, that you don't get from a basic plant-based cheese sauce recipe. If you don't have access to these items just leave them out and you will still have a pretty tasty result! I have included some substitution options as well. So here we go...
When I first started experimenting with plant-based cheez sauce I did the usual thing and found an easy looking recipe on the internet. They were all nice enough, but they just didn't have that creamy cheese texture, or they didn't have that cheese-like tang I was looking for in a sauce. Some recipes required cooking carrots and potatoes before you could even get started on the sauce--who wants to deal with that?! Some tasted more like gravy than cheese...it was a frustrating experience trying to get that signature dairy cheese flavor--even a hint of it! So I started looking at the ingredients on the back of some of my favorite cheese substitutes. This was not as fruitful as I had hoped since they can hide their flavors under "natural flavors" but I think I have come close--short of aging my own nut cheese!
Aside from flavor (we will get to the ingredients in a minute), you want a creamy texture. That means you want to emulsify the oil. This is VERY important or you will end up with a greasy sauce. After blending all of the ingredients until smooth, keep the blender on high and SLOWLY drizzle the oil in. Soy milk works the best for creating that thick and creamy texture. All other milks will require corn starch or some other thickener over heat to thicken properly. This is not difficult, so don't be scared off! It just takes a little patience, and a high-speed blender works best. (If you have a regular blender you will just have to be even more patient!)
I have mentioned some of the ingredients needing a little explanation, so here goes...
Marmite: This product is from across the pond, so you will likely have to order it. I have found it locally in a farmer's market on occasion. It is malted yeast extract. They do feed the yeast wheat products so if you are super sensitive to gluten you may wish to find an alternative product (there are other brands that are GF), or leave it out entirely.
Subs - Try using some miso to get that "umami" flavor. Miso tends to be salty, so you will want to cut back on the added salt a bit.
Lactic Acid: This product sounds like it would be sourced from dairy, but it can be derived from plant sources as well. It comes in a white powder and a little goes a long way. If you want to get into making your own "cheeses" this is a great ingredient to have on hand. It even does wonders adding bite to your cheesecakes without adding citrus flavor.
Subs - Vitamin C powder has a very similar taste and may be more readily available in stores. It may be a bit cheaper as well.
Soy Milk: There is something about soy that emulsifies so well with the oil. It creates a very thick and creamy texture. The recipe calls for unsweetened milk, but I have used sweetened. Obviously this will add a hint of sweetness to your cheese but it won't ruin it. We often used 'original' soy milk at the restaurant with no complaints!
Subs - I understand that many out there have an aversion to soy products, or legit allergies. Feel free to use an alternative plant-based milk, but you will want to add 2-3 tablespoons of corn starch, or something like it, in order to get your sauce to thicken. It will be a bit watery until you heat it. If you use a thickening agent you will need to stir your sauce often to avoid burning.
Cashews/Tahini: These little guys add a creaminess as well as another layer of flavor. If you are allergic to them you can leave them out.
Subs - Experiment with other nuts that you enjoy or add a starchy vegetable like cooked potato.
Bragg's Liquid Aminos: This is pretty much the healthy GF version of soy sauce. The flavor is milder however so you will want to cut the amount to about half if you are subbing traditional soy sauce or tamari.
Subs - Feel free to sub soy sauce or tamari as mentioned above, or there is also coconut aminos as well but I have not used this product so I do not know how it will effect the flavor of your sauce.
Now that you know all of my secret ingredients, have fun tweaking this recipe to your own taste! The possibilities for this sauce are just as endless as traditional cheese sauce! Pour over nachos, load up a baked potato, bake scalloped potatoes, mac 'n' cheese!
Plant-Based Cheese Sauce
PREP TIME 15 | COOK TIME 10 | TOTAL TIME 25
Cuisine: American Comfort Food
Dijon Mustard (squeeze) 2 tsp
Cashews 1/4 cup
Garlic, minced 1 Tbsp
Yeast Flakes 1/2 cup
Marmite 1 tsp
Liquid Smoke 5 drops
Lactic Acid Powder 1/2 tsp
Lemon Juice 1 Tbsp
Carrots 1/4 cup
Red Bell Pepper 1/4 each
Braggs 2 Tbsp
Tahini 1 1/2 Tbsp
Salt 1 tsp
Onion Powder 1 Tbsp
Soy Milk (unsweet) 2 cups
Oil 3/4 cup
Place all the ingredients in the blender, except for the oil. Blend until smooth. Emulsify the oil into the blended mixture by slowly pouring the oil in while the blender is on high. This should form a creamy mixture. Heat in a medium pot over medium heat.