Seasoned and roasted Cauliflower bites are perfect for dipping into this spicy, vegan nacho cheese sauce. Low-fat and gluten-free!
Super Bowl Sunday is almost here. If you’re looking for a snack that you can eat without guilt while all of your friends and family are stuffing their faces with chips and guacamole, have I got a treat for you. Make that two treats!
There are plenty of low-fat dips out there–I have almost two dozen right here–but I often have trouble finding low-calorie foods to scoop them up with. Homemade baked tortilla chips are fine, but they’re far from calorie free. And I can chomp on only so many carrot sticks before I start to turn orange. These cauliflower bites are the perfect scooper: cooked but still a little crispy and healthy but highly seasoned.
Plus, here is my new favorite party dip. I’ve been making vegan nacho cheese sauce for years, mixing the sauce from my Macaroni and Cheeze with salsa, but I really love this version for its flavor and for the fact that it contains no nuts, seeds, or nut butters. Instead, it gets some of its richness and color from mashed sweet potato.
I start with a base of lightly-flavored cheese sauce and stir in a can of the original Rotel Diced Tomatoes and Chilies, which gives it a medium-spicy flavor. Rotel makes several flavors, so if you’re a spice-lover, you can use their hot version and if you don’t like the spicy, use the mild version. Whichever one you choose, you will be amazed at how rich and cheesy this spicy dip tastes.
Thank you to reader Judith for suggesting Buffalo cauliflower bites for the Super Bowl edition of my newsletter. And thanks for the inspiration from PETA’s Spicy Buffalo Cauliflower “Wings” and The V Word’s Roasted Buffalo Cauliflower Bites. Both recipes look delicious, though I’d skip the oil and substitute my Tofu-Cashew Mayo for the margarine.
For more Super Bowl party ideas, be sure to subscribe to NewsBites. I’ll be mailing out the Super Bowl edition to new subscribers all this week, so it’s not too late.
Roasted Cauliflower Bites with Vegan Nacho Cheese Sauce
Roasted Cauliflower Bites
- 1 head cauliflower
- 1 teaspoon mild chili powder
- 1/2 teaspoon salt optional or to taste
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
- 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1/4 teaspoon chipotle chile powder optional
Vegan Nacho Cheese Sauce
- 1 cup plain sugar-free non-dairy milk
- 1/4 cup nutritional yeast see note below
- 1/4 cup mashed cooked sweet potato or canned pumpkin
- 2 tablespoons potato starch or cornstarch
- 1 tablespoons lemon juice
- 1/2 to 3/4 teaspoon salt or to taste
- 1/2 teaspoon dry mustard
- 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1/4 teaspoon onion powder
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1 10-ounce can Rotel Diced Tomatoes and Chilies or salsa diced tomatoes drained and liquid reserved
- chipotle chili powder to taste
Roasted Cauliflower Bites
- Preheat oven to 400F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or silicone baking mat.
- Cut the cauliflower into individual bite-sized florets. Try to keep them about the same size. Rinse them in a colander under running water. Shake off excess water but don’t dry. Spread them out on the baking sheet.
- Combine all seasonings in a small bowl. Sprinkle over the cauliflower, turning the florets so that all sides are seasoned. Bake in preheated oven for 15 minutes; turn florets and bake another 15 minutes or until they are beginning to brown in spots. Remove and serve warm with nacho cheese or other dipping sauce.
Vegan Nacho Cheese Sauce
- Put all ingredients except Rotel tomatoes and chipotle into the blender. Blend at high speed until smooth. Pour into a saucepan and cook, stirring constantly, over medium-high heat until boiling. Reduce heat to low and continue cooking and stirring until mixture becomes very thick. Stir in the drained tomatoes. If sauce is too thick, add a tablespoon or so of the reserved tomato liquid. Check seasoning, and add chipotle powder to taste if you’d like it spicier.
- Serve warm with Roasted Cauliflower Bites, tortilla chips, or crackers or atop burritos and tacos.
Nutritional info is approximate.
Happy, healthy snacking!
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EtainMay 7, 2014 at 12:01 am
Wow!! I found your blog last week when I was on the hunt for a healthy low fat vegan red beans and rice, but your whole blog blew me away!! The first thing I made was the cauliflower cheese sauce for pasta. My boyfriend who just became vegan loved it, I agreed. I made it again another night, added chipotle powder and cilantro to the mix and poured it over rice stuffed sweet potatoes and topped it with corn salsa. But tonight I made this! The cauliflower tasted great!! I made mine spicier 🙂 For the nacho cheese I didn’t have any ‘milk’ so I cut up corn and blended with a bit of water, then I added the remaining ingredients. I think it made the sauce thicker than intended but WOW!!! This nacho cheese sauce was amazing!! Thank you so much for sharing!
One day I’ll get to those red beans! Lol!
Amy SnelgroveJuly 29, 2014 at 5:37 pm
I am new to vegan cooking and I was wondering how long I should cook the sauce on low for it to thicken up all the way. Once it started bubbling it thickened up, but not as much as the photo, and definitely not enough to warrant thinning out. I saw your comment that the starches take a while to develop and I was wondering if maybe I pulled it off too soon?
I ate every last bit, and plan on making this a regular recipe, so I want to make sure I am making it correctly.
nlh110August 27, 2014 at 3:46 pm
Does anyone else have trouble keeping this a day or two? I made it yesterday, used exact recipe and it was fabulous. Today I wanted leftover and the sauce is very runny, stirring didn’t help any. Would reheating it work if I added more cornstarch today? Or am I missing something?
Susan VoisinAugust 27, 2014 at 3:53 pm
I don’t know why that’s happening, but adding cornstarch while it’s cold and then bringing to a boil should work to thicken it up.
waldrippAugust 30, 2014 at 11:27 pm
I made this today for our college football tailgate, knowing that I might be the only one who ate any of it. This is not a group that is interested in healthy food! It was hilarious to see my niece try to keep the horror out of her face when she heard the words “nutritional yeast” for the first time! Guess I shouldn’t have tried to explain what was in it! But once they gave it a try they were going back for more! This cheese sauce is pretty amazing! I will be making this again, for sure! Thanks so much!
BrittneySeptember 14, 2014 at 11:59 pm
I didn’t have any sweet potato when I last minute decided to make this, so used rinsed and drained Northern Beans. Came out great.
RaycaSeptember 16, 2014 at 4:09 pm
I tried this recipe and it was out of this world. What I mean is, it was great out of the oven and off the stove. But that’s it. It needs to be eaten as soon as it’s done. The cauliflower, after refrigerating, was like limp noodles. The dip was not soupy, it was like water! Just awful. Other worldly. I have no idea how my thick, creamy, sauce could have gone to a watery mess but it did.
Christina HSeptember 30, 2014 at 10:17 am
YES, a vegan cheese sauce without cashews. I can’t stand nut-based cheeses :-/
lalonOctober 9, 2014 at 10:15 am
This was yummy! I didn’t have any Rotel tomatoes, so I used my favorite salsa and added some Louisiana hot sauce. Oh I can think of all kinds of things to use this sauce on!
Sheri AOctober 30, 2014 at 4:52 am
Hi Susan! I made this cheese sauce for the first time yesterday. It was simmering on the stove nice and warm when my college age daughter and her friend stopped by. They squealed ” QUESO !!” When they saw it and inhaled 3/4 of it with some chia/quinoa chips I had just purchased! It was a hit!!!! After they ate it I told them it had sweet potato in it… They were in disbelief!! Haha! I will be making this a lot in the future! Thank you for being so awesome and sharing all your great recipes with us!!!! Xoxoxo
JaniceNovember 5, 2014 at 10:28 pm
This was so yummy!
Trader Joe’s carries mashed sweet potatoes in the frozen isle. They are little 2 tbsp pucks of mashed sweet potatoe so you don’t have to make a lot. Nothing added to them either.
DianaNovember 22, 2014 at 10:14 pm
The Cheese Sauce was a HIT!!
NoniJanuary 1, 2015 at 6:08 pm
Non dairy milk? Is that dried? I’m confused.
Susan VoisinJanuary 1, 2015 at 6:29 pm
No, it’s just regular soy milk, almond milk, rice milk, hemp milk, etc., whatever non-dairy milk you usually use.
NoniJanuary 2, 2015 at 9:34 am
Thank you, Susan!
Rhea ParsonsFebruary 1, 2015 at 6:23 pm
I just saw this and I’m honored that I could have inspired you. I’m a big fan of yours. Thank you so much!
SyedMarch 17, 2015 at 5:07 am
Hey I love your recipe and can’t wait to try it out. Just a quick question are there any other extra calories from the spices for the roasted cauliflower? Your 65 calorie per serving for 6 servings bring it up to 390 calories but I google and found a large head of cauliflower only has roughly 200-250 calories so I was just confused.
Andrea StovallAugust 12, 2015 at 8:58 pm
I just tried this dish tonight and got 2 thumbs up from my husband! The sauce was very flavorful and made us feel like we were really eating nacho cheese sauce. The healthful cauliflower bites made for guilt free snacking. Thank you so much for posting this.
AlexandraJune 21, 2016 at 8:43 am
I made the cauliflower but used homemade ranch seasoning and they were so good! As another commenter said, they definitely satisfy a junk food craving! My husband really liked them too and he’s usually not a fan of stuff like that. I also made the “queso” and it is by far the best “cheeze” I’ve had. I personally didn’t like how much tomato flavor and texture the rotel gave it so next time I’m going to just use salsa to taste. Can’t wait to try it in a baked mac and cheeze!
MarySeptember 12, 2016 at 8:22 am
I made the roasted cauliflower and the sauce last night. It was delicious! I will certainly keep this recipe and make it again.
google maps street viewDecember 1, 2016 at 1:42 am
Cauliflower is so underrated, isn’t it, and that cheese looks great – a very interesting recipe.
Casquette FoxFebruary 17, 2017 at 8:20 pm
I can’t use the nutritional yeast though. Is it an absolute must to have in the recipe? Is there maybe an alternative to the yeast or maybe best to leave it out all together if I can’t have it?
Susan VoisinFebruary 17, 2017 at 9:08 pm
The yeast is what makes the cheese sauce cheesy. You could try leaving it out, but it wouldn’t be the same without it.
DiannaSeptember 16, 2017 at 4:04 pm
Delicious! I added 1/2 can of reduced sodium great northern beans which really made it creamy. I am not a fan of processed cheese nacho sauce but I really liked this.
Coroa de FloresFebruary 19, 2018 at 1:57 pm
Owww. Very good this site. I like thi foods. Congratulations
calgalMay 8, 2018 at 1:01 am
I’ve made this cheese sauce 3 times in the last two days – made a few tweaks until perfected to my taste. I subbed the dry mustard for 1/2 tbsp dijon mustard, used white sweet potatoes because I can’t get the orange ones where I live, omitted cumin, and used a 4-ounce can of diced green chilies instead of Rotel tomatoes. It is sooo delicious and is going in my favorites file folder. I just baked up some tortilla chips and this made the best dip! Thanks for another great recipe.
Kelly StoneJanuary 29, 2019 at 7:27 am
The Nacho sauce looks good and thinking of trying. Do you pre-cook the sweet potatoes before smashing?
Susan VoisinJanuary 29, 2019 at 8:04 am
Yes! Sorry, I should have specified that. Thanks for asking!
DianneNovember 9, 2021 at 4:09 pm
I like to make everything organic. If I didn’t use Rotels tomatoes and chilis, what would I substitute?
Susan VoisinNovember 9, 2021 at 10:28 pm
Finely diced fresh or canned tomatoes with minced jalapeños to taste should work. You could also try an organic salsa.
JoAnne LFebruary 12, 2023 at 12:58 pm
OMG! This is absolutely the best Nacho Cheesy dip out there. If only I found this yesterday for a Mexican dinner! I made it today and it is wonderful! Prepared as per the recipe and it’s thick and just enough spice/heat. Who needs those recipes with nuts or potatoes and carrots when we can have this! So good. I have followed this blog for years and glad to see it show up on FB on occasion!
Susan VoisinFebruary 12, 2023 at 4:26 pm
I’m so glad you liked it! ❤️