One of the questions I’m frequently asked about following an oil-free diet is “What do I use on baked potatoes or steamed vegetables or grits if I don’t eat butter or margarine?” Sometimes I mention salsa or mushroom gravy or the sauce from my Mac and Cheeze as options, but from now on, I’ll point people to this, my family’s new favorite all-purpose sauce. That’s right, all of us–including my picky teenager–prefer this cauliflower-based sauce to our old cheesy sauce. Daughter E put it best: “It’s less heavy, almost fluffy, and mixes into a baked potato better.” And that’s coming from someone who doesn’t like cauliflower very much.
Besides the flavor, which is tangy and delicious and holds no hint of cauliflower, what I like best about this sauce is that a generous 1/3-cup serving contains only 28 calories and has no added fat, gluten, or soy (if you use soy-free miso). The secret to its creaminess is cooking cauliflower until it’s practically falling apart before blending it in its cooking water until smooth. I used my trusty Vitamix, but I think that any good blender should be able to puree cooked cauliflower.
Each batch makes about three cups, so you’ll have plenty to keep on-hand to use for up to a week or two. Just pour it on anything you think could use a touch of cheesiness.
Besides drizzling it over baked potatoes and steamed vegetables, I’ve used it instead of margarine on grits, as a dip for tortilla chips, and even as a salad dressing (it was incredible!) And though I haven’t tried it, I can imagine it would be a delicious replacement for margarine on toast or garlic bread. I hope you love it as much as we do!
Don’t forget to check out my other Cauliflower Magic Tricks!
Cheesy Cauliflower Sauce
- 2 cups water
- 2 heaping cups small cauliflower florets
- 1 teaspoon granulated onion powder
- 2 cloves garlic peeled, or 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1/4 teaspoon smoked paprika
- 1/4 teaspoon dry mustard
- 1/8 teaspoon turmeric
- 1/4 cup nutritional yeast
- 1 tablespoon mellow white miso or soy-free chickpea miso or a little salt
- 1 tablespoon cornstarch or potato starch
- 1/2 tablespoon lemon juice
- salt to taste
- Bring the water to a boil in a medium saucepan. Add the cauliflower, onion powder, garlic, paprika, mustard, and turmeric. Cover tightly and reduce the heat to very low. Simmer until the cauliflower is so tender that it easily comes apart when poked with a fork, about 15-20 minutes.
- Carefully transfer the contents of the saucepan to a blender. Add all remaining ingredients. Cover and blend, starting on low and increasing the speed until you’re at the highest setting. (Be careful–hot foods can “erupt.”) Blend until you have a completely smooth sauce.
- Pour the sauce back into the saucepan, add salt to taste if you like, and heat until it begins to bubble, stirring occasionally. Allow it to cook and thicken for at least another 2 minutes. Serve hot.
Make a dip for tortilla chips by increasing the cornstarch to 2 tablespoons and adding 1/4 to 1/2 cup of salsa during the final cooking stage.
Nutritional info is approximate.
StephanieAugust 4, 2020 at 2:59 pm
I’ve been making your cauliflower cheese sauce since you developed it in 2015 and it’s my favorite! Over the years I’ve made and tried countless other vegan cheeses and sauces, but this still stands out as the best and the one I always come back to. Thank you!
Susan VoisinAugust 4, 2020 at 6:56 pm
I’m so happy to hear that! Thanks for taking the time to leave a review. ❤️
CleaSeptember 12, 2020 at 6:44 pm
I love this recipe! Wondering if it freezes very well. Thanks.
Susan VoisinSeptember 12, 2020 at 7:34 pm
I’m so glad you like it! I’ve never frozen it, but I don’t see any reason why you couldn’t.
KateJanuary 29, 2021 at 4:00 pm
This is delicious! I have made two batches as is, one of which I used to make mac and cheese with chickpea pasta and broccoli. My husband (who eats and loves dairy) loved it! This time I wanted to change it up a little bit, so I added 1/4 cup pumpkin seeds (soaked) and a half a cup of cooked white beans. I upped all the spices to taste. Amazing! It makes it a little more substantial thanks to the fat and protein from the seeds and beans. This is definitely a staple in our house. Thank you for sharing!
Elizabeth GoodMarch 26, 2021 at 8:58 am
Would kudzu, agar, or something else work if trying to avoid starches (such as the potato or corn) for thickening? Sounds like a great recipe!
Jenn FJuly 27, 2021 at 5:53 am
Your cheesy cauliflower sauce is an absolute favorite for my husband & I. We both follow a high carb, low fat lifestyle and are always in search of a great-tasting sauce to compliment all of the starch we eat. Well, we have found THE holy grail recipe right here, and we cannot thank you enough!!!!
We make a batch of this sauce every week to have on hand, and it goes quick in our household. We follow your recipe to a T – it is absolute perfection! On occasion, we throw in a red bell pepper (raw) when blending the cooked sauce, and that also is quite spectacular!
I just wanted to take 5 minutes and write this review as a way to thank you for creating and sharing so many wonderful recipes! Everything I have ever made from your blog is a hit in my house. Please don’t ever stop sharing your amazing creations!!!! Thank you!!!!
CarmenOctober 16, 2021 at 6:04 am
This is good stuff! Making it again right now. I keep a jar in the fridge and use it all week on potatoes, in pasta on wraps etc. This made going whole food plant based so much easier because it still satisfies my cheese cravings.
MaryamJanuary 14, 2022 at 9:50 am
Love this recipe. I’m wondering if there’s a way to jump from it to making either a spreadable or a cheddar-type cheese that is actually based of the cauliflower instead of nuts or seeds. Any ideas, anyone?
EileenJanuary 15, 2022 at 8:50 am
Hi – just had this with jacket potatoes and broccoli. Delicious! Added more lemon juice and salt after cooking. I think it might make a good butter substitute on toast. Tried 2 other ‘cheese’ sauces from the internet over a year ago. They were so vile they went straight in the bin. I’ll be sampling more of your recipes soon. Thankyou.
Susan VoisinJanuary 15, 2022 at 12:42 pm
I’m so glad you enjoyed it! Have you ever seen the show Cuckoo? ‘Jacket potatoes’ is an oft-repeated phrase in that comedy, and I have to admit that I heard that character’s voice as I read your comment. Wish I could unhear it. 😂
LyndaApril 23, 2022 at 4:51 pm
Costco sells boxes of individually packaged riced cauliflower. Could this be used and if so how would one substitute it?
Susan VoisinApril 24, 2022 at 8:34 am
Packaged riced cauliflower is easy to use. Just measure out 2 scant cups (just short of being full) of the riced cauliflower.
TracyJuly 5, 2022 at 4:21 am
we’re not vegans but high fat, high protein, carnivores who are allergic to dairy and this worked really well in tonights dinner as a cheese sauce substitute on a pasta bake. Cheese sauce was been sadly missing in my diet for years so thank you for creating this very acceptable substitute.
JaneMay 3, 2023 at 10:16 am
Is the yeast a necessary part of this recipe or can it be left.out?