Sunday, December 21, 2014

Low Fat Vegan Nacho Cheese Sauce

Reliving The Indulgences Of My Youth:

A Simple Recipe For Low Fat Vegan Nacho Cheese Sauce

photo by Chihping Fu
by Ras

     I am a junk food junkie. That may come as a surprise, since I am a proponent of sustainable, healthful eating and innovative race fueling strategies, such as fat fueling and preferring whole foods over gels and mixes. But the fact is, I loves me some junk food. I make an effort to choose to eat well the majority of the time, but like any addict, there's always a little voice in the back of my mind attempting to lead me into temptation.

     In this context I can honestly say nachos are my crack. I've never met a nacho I didn't like, running the gamut from gourmet platters of real bubbling melted cheese over chips in respectable restaurants to mini mart plastic clamshells of tortilla triangles that you self-serve cheese sauce onto from a pump dispenser. And for some reason, one thing I really miss in vegan food is that low-brow nacho cheese sauce as is served in a nationwide fast food chain whose name sounds disturbingly similar to "Toxic Belch".

     Obviously, the sauce is just a component of a good plate of nachos. So to make a properly satisfying vegan version, what's needed is a cheesy tasting sauce that can fill the role of nachos cheese in the recipe. All of the other ingredients for a great plate of nachos are already vegan: tomatoes, olives, onion, and avocado, among others.

     I have refined a recipe for Low Fat Vegan Nacho Cheese Sauce which has that hot, saucy texture and a cheesy flavor, and which ties the other flavors together perfectly. If you have experience cooking from scratch, you will probably recognize the fundamentals of a gravy recipe, with nutritional yeast, yellow mustard, and jalapeno added to take the flavor in a new direction. Here's the what and how of it:

Low Fat Vegan Nacho Cheese Sauce


  • 3 Cups unsweetened plant milk (soy seems to make the thickest and richest sauce, but almond, rice, hemp, or any other kind of vegan milk will work)
  • 1 1/4 Cups nutritional yeast
  • 1/4 Cup whole wheat flour
  • 1/4 Cup softened Earth Balance (or other brand) vegan margarine
  • 3 Tablespoons yellow mustard
  • 1 teaspoon granulated garlic
  • 1 teaspoon granulated onion
  • 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons salt (the salt can be omitted, but it is a predominant flavor in nacho cheese sauce)
  • 1/4 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 3/4 Cup minced pickled jalapenos, to taste
     Begin slowly heating the milk in a saucepan on medium low. Unsweetened milks don't scald as easily, but be careful to heat it slowly. As the milk heats, combine all the dry ingredients except the nutritional yeast in a small mixing bowl or glass measuring cup. Mix thoroughly with a fork. Then add the margarine and combine with a fork until completely blended to make a seasoned roux. As the milk nears the boiling point, add 1/4 cup of the hot milk to the roux and blend with the fork until smooth. The more patient you are with this step, the smoother your sauce will be. Add another 1/4 cup from the hot milk and repeat this step. Then add the diluted roux to the saucepan of milk and brink to a simmer. Thoroughly stir in the nutritional yeast until completely blended. Then add the mustard and minced jalapenos, reduce heat to low, and simmer lightly for 2 to 3 minutes, or until sauce achieves desired thickness.

     Spread tortilla chips on a plate, ladle sauce over them and add toppings as desired. My favorite combination is black olives, diced tomato, chopped green onion, and diced avocado, as pictured below. Other toppings can include refried beans, textured vegetable protein, or seasoned soy curls, among myriad other possibilities. This nacho cheese sauce is also good served in a small bowl on its own to dip chips in, or in burritos. One of Kathy's favorite uses is to spread it on bread to make a grilled cheese sandwich and then add sliced tomato, onion, and fresh basil leaves. This sauce keeps and reheats just like gravy. Enjoy!

photo by Ras/
Vegan Nachos Supreme, complete with holiday appropriate color. iFeliz Navidad!

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