Loaded Nachos with Cashew Cheese Sauce

I'm always open to new ideas and, though I don't follow a strict vegan diet, I do like most of my meals to be vegan friendly. I have already been following a vegetarian diet for over 20 years, so vegan meals come rather naturally to me. Cheese is one thing though that is hard to replicate. Store-bought varieties made with tofu are usually rubbery and unappealing.

I have found substitutes using nuts and usually containing nutritional yeast that not only satisfy my cravings, but are delicious in their own right, and high in protein with a much lower sodium content than traditional cheese, thus providing an alternative for those following a low sodium diet.

This time I went with a Cheddar-like cheese sauce made with cashews, nutritional yeast and tapioca starch. It's soft and luxuriously melty and happens to be an ideal topping for nachos. This sauce would doubtless be wonderful mixed into cooked pasta too.

I adapted this recipe for cheese sauce from Fuss-Free Vegan: 101 Everyday Comfort Food Favorites, Veganized by Sam Turnbull. A recent acquisition, there are plenty of recipes I can't wait to try. Beautifully illustrated, the book is divided into convenient sections that bring classics to life but without dairy or meat. Your morning is covered, your appetizer cravings, staples such as soups and salads, burgers and sandwiches and plenty of unique mains that do not require scouring grocery stores to find obscure ingredients. Even desserts and vegan staples are given ample consideration. If your pantry is well-stocked with staples, this is the cookbook for you, whether you are a vegan, enjoy vegan meals or just want tantalizing ideas that require little fuss. Your favorite comfort foods are presented in abundance complete with stunning photos that are sure to whet the appetite. Even the fanciest recipes contained within the covers are essentially fuss-free. I highly recommend this book and please do visit Sam's snazzy website for more ideas and inspiration.

Any number of toppings on these nachos may be used, and I've made some suggestions here. I like loaded-up nachos and the cheese sauce will easily last for a few days in the refrigerator. To reheat, transfer to a small saucepan over low heat, add some water to thin out the sauce, and enjoy another plate of nachos. You may even want to consider making your own nacho chips at home which I have experimented with in the past. 

Cheese sauce:
  • 2/3 cup raw cashews, soaked in water for 6 hours or overnight, and drained
  • 1 1/4 cup water, or more as needed
  • 1/3 cup nutritional yeast
  • 3 1/2 tablespoons tapioca starch
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons brine from jar of green olives
  • 2 to 3 teaspoons lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon maple syrup
  • 1 teaspoon smoked or hot paprika
  • 2/3 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt, or to taste
Suggested nacho toppings:
  • shallots, peeled and cut into thin strips
  • pitted and sliced green olives
  • pitted and sliced Kalamata olives
  • a few generous scoops of refried beans (I made my own)
  • jalapeƱos, cut into half rings or circles, and seeded
  • chopped tomatoes
  • chopped dill pickles
  • finely chopped fresh parsley
Instructions:
  • To make the sauce, combine all of the ingredients into a food processor or blender and process until smooth. Transfer to a medium saucepan. Over medium heat, stir the sauce continually until it begins to form into clumps after which time it will shortly turn into a thick gooey sauce — about 5 minutes. Cook for another minute and add a bit more water if you think the sauce is a bit too thick. Remove from heat and use right away.
  • To assemble, layer a plate with tortilla chips with your choice of toppings and top with the cheese sauce while still warm.
  • Store leftover cheese sauce in the refrigerate and reheat over low heat, adding more water to thin out the sauce.
Makes about 2 1/2 cups of cheese sauce

Nachos with Cashew Cheese Sauce