White Bean Cheese Sauce

Puréed white beans and cashews give this vegan cheese sauce an extra boost in protein and fiber. It's creamy, cheesy, and oil-free.

This White Bean Cheese Sauce is perfect for when you’re craving something warm and cheesy, such as mac and cheese, but you’re still trying to make those gains. Even if you’re not trying to pack on muscle, this recipe is still a great alternative to highly processed store-bought vegan cheese sauce.

This high-protein cheese sauce can be used in a few different ways, so let’s get into how to make this ultra versatile recipe!

bowl of high protein white bean vegan mac and cheese

Ingredients for White Bean Cheese Sauce (with Substitutions)

  • White beans. These are the base for our sauce. Full of protein and fiber, white beans have a great balanced texture that’s smooth and creamy but robust enough to create a rich sauce. White beans work best in this recipe because of their neutral color and very soft texture. Other varieties of beans, such as chickpeas, will lend a more grainy texture to the sauce.
  • Raw cashews. Soaked raw cashews give our sauce extra creaminess thanks to their healthy fat content. If you prefer not to use cashews, check out the section below with several options for substitutions.
  • Carrot. This contributes a touch of bright orange color and a little bit of sweetness. You can substitute in sweet potato or butternut squash, or omit it altogether if you’re in a pinch.
  • Coconut milk. Another ingredient to add creamy richness to the sauce. In my opinion, this recipe works best with full-fat coconut milk — it will give you the best mouthfeel. If you can’t eat coconut or don’t like it, you can also sub in your favorite unsweetened plant milk here. Just make sure it’s a variety you think will taste good in this context.
  • Miso paste. A little bit of miso goes a long way in this recipe to boost the umami. If you don’t have miso, you can add in 2 teaspoons of soy sauce to add similar salty, savory notes.
  • Spices and nutritional yeast. Garlic powder, onion powder, and smoked paprika round out the flavor of this sauce while nutritional yeast packs a ton of cheesy, umami flavor.
  • Lemon juice. A little bit of lemon juice brightens up the sauce.

How to Make White Bean Cheese Sauce

  1. Boil your carrot (and cashews). Bring a small pot of water to a boil. Add carrot and allow to cook for ~10 minutes, or until tender. If you haven’t soaked your cashews yet, toss them in with the carrots. This is a good time to measure out other ingredients!
  2. Blend everything up. Once the carrots are tender, add them to a heat-safe blender along with all of the other ingredients and blend until smooth.
  3. Adjust the liquid. Depending on a few factors, you may need to add extra liquid to your cheese sauce to get the perfect consistency. Add in more water a few tablespoons at a time, blending well between additions, until the texture is to your preference. If you’re using it as a dip, leave it on the thicker side. If you plan to add it to pasta, you may wish to thin it out a little more so it’s pourable.
  4. Taste and adjust to preference! You can add a little extra salt if you prefer, or more lemon juice if you like it more tangy.
  5. The cheese sauce is ready to use as a dip as-is, but you can also warm it on the stove if you like.

Ways to Use Your White Bean Cheese Sauce

This recipe can be used in a variety of ways, but I usually use it for either mac and cheese or turn it into nacho cheese.

High-Protein Vegan Mac & Cheese

This plant-based cheese sauce is perfect for a high-protein mac and cheese. Boil your pasta of choice according to the package instructions until it’s al dente, Strain it, and add it back to the pot along with your desired amount of cheese sauce. Return it to the stove to gently heat through, and enjoy.

If needed, add in a splash of reserved pasta water to thin it out and help bind it all together.

If you’re looking to really up the protein factor of this dish, there are many different protein pastas out there nowadays! Some popular options are the Barilla Protein+ (our personal favorite), Barilla Red Lentil Pasta, and Banza Chickpea Pasta.

High Protein Nacho Cheese Sauce

Another great way to use your white bean cheese sauce is to make vegan nacho cheese. For this, we’re going to need a few extra ingredients.

In order to spice the sauce up a little, we’re adding canned jalapeños (or green chiles), green onion, and cumin to the mix. Add these right to your blender along with the standard ingredients. Finally, garnish with some fresh tomatoes and cilantro.

Now our high-protein cheese sauce is fully ready to be drizzled onto a bed of nachos or simply used as a dip for tortilla chips.

Can You Make this Sauce Without Cashews?

While cashews are my personal go-to for most creamy vegan sauces and dips, I understand that not everyone can eat cashews, whether due to allergies or simple preference. Here are a few potential substitutions for this vegan cheese sauce recipe. Please note that all of them will impact either the texture or flavor in some way.

Sunflower seeds

Substitute an equivalent volume of raw sunflower seeds for the cashews for a nut-free vegan cheese sauce that is still thick and creamy. You only need to soak sunflower seeds for 30 minutes since they’re so small. They don’t have quite as neutral a flavor as raw cashews, so you will pick up a slightly nutty flavor in your cheese sauce.

Soft or silken tofu

You can substitute in about 12 oz of soft or silken tofu for the soaked cashews. Depending on the brand and level of firmness of your silken tofu, you may need to tweak the amount of liquid you add to the vegan cheese sauce when blending. I recommend starting with just 1/2 cup each of the water and milk, and adding more as needed to achieve your perfect texture.

The vegan cheese sauce will feel a little less rich on the tongue if you make this substitution, since tofu is relatively low in fat and not as creamy as nuts or seeds. If you like, you can increase the amount of vegan butter in the recipe to bring back some of that rich and creamy mouthfeel.

Other nuts

Personally I do not enjoy substituting in other varieties of nuts for cashews in creamy vegan sauces. In my opinion, raw cashews have the most neutral flavor and are easiest to blend to a velvety smooth consistency.

You can try subbing in raw soaked almonds, but you would need to remove their skins after soaking, which can be a lot of work. I also find that blended almonds still have a slightly gritty texture that I don’t love in sauces. Macadamia nuts are an option, but they are quite pricey so I prefer to save them for recipes where their delicious unique flavor won’t be obscured by heavy spices like in this recipe.

Storage & Reheating

This recipe yields right around 4 cups of cheese sauce. It keeps well in this fridge for 5 days in a sealed container. It’s best reheated on the stove over medium heat, stirring often to keep it from sticking to the bottom of the pot. It may thicken slightly in the fridge, so add an extra splash of water as needed to thin it back out to your preferred consistency.

It also freezes well! Keep it in a sealed container in the freezer for a month or two.

More High Protein Vegan Recipes

bowl of high protein white bean vegan mac and cheese

White Bean Cheese Sauce (Vegan, High Protein)

Puréed white beans and cashews give this vegan cheese sauce an extra boost in protein and fiber. It's creamy, cheesy, and oil-free.
4.8 from 10 votes
Print Pin Rate
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Author: Sarah Sullivan

Ingredients

  • 1 15 oz can white beans, drained
  • 1/3 cup nutritional yeast
  • 1/2 cup raw cashews soaked 4+ hours (or boil with carrot)
  • 1 large carrot peeled and chopped
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons white miso paste
  • juice of half a lemon about 1-2 tablespoons
  • 2/3 cup full-fat coconut milk or other plain unsweetened plant milk

For Nacho Cheese Sauce

  • 1/4 cup canned jalapeños or green chilis chopped
  • 2 green onions finely chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • diced fresh tomatoes to garnish
  • chopped cilantro to garnish

Instructions

Cheese Sauce

  • Bring a small pot of water to a boil. Add carrot and allow to cook for ~10 minutes, or until tender. If you haven’t soaked your cashews yet, toss them in with the carrots. This is a good time to measure other ingredients!
  • When carrots are tender, strain them and add to a blender along with all other ingredients.
  • Blend until smooth. (If making queso variation, add in diced jalapeños, green onions and cumin at this time and pulse to combine.)
  • Taste and adjust to preference! You can add a little extra salt if you prefer, or more lemon juice if you like it more tangy.
  • The cheese sauce is ready to use as a dip as-is, but you can also warm it on the stove if you like.
  • To warm: Warm it in a saucepan over medium heat. Stir often and keep an eye on it, as it will stick to the bottom of the pan otherwise. It may thicken slightly as it warms; you can simply add a tablespoon of extra milk or water at a time to achieve your preferred consistency.

Video

Notes

Coconut milk: I love full-fat coconut milk in this recipe because it adds an extra rich and creamy mouthfeel. If you want to substitute in a different variety of unsweetened, plain plant milk, that’s fine; the sauce will just be a little less rich.
Cashews: Check out the blog post for an extensive list of possible substitutions.
Miso paste: You can substitute in 2 teaspoons soy sauce if you don’t have any miso paste.
Carrots: This is mainly to add color, a touch of sweetness, and extra body. You can substitute in an equivalent volume of cooked butternut squash or sweet potato. In a pinch, you can leave it out altogether and the sauce will have a more neutral color.
Did you make this recipe?We’d love for you to leave a review on the website! You can also share a photo on IG and tag @sarahsvegankitchen_ or #sarahsvegankitchen.

4 Comments

  1. 3 stars
    This was okay but it’s not Mac and cheese. It’s nowhere near creamy enough. Tasty though

  2. 5 stars
    So good! Made a double batch and only had one can of white beans so did half cannellini and half garbanzo. Served with protein pasta and loosened the cheese with pasta water – then saved the rest for dipping chips or making a nacho entree.

  3. 5 stars
    This stuff is amazing! Thank you!

  4. 5 stars
    This was amazing! We went the queso route and added heirloom tomatoes. I think blending the tomatoes adds a lot!

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