[Updated on September 8th, 2021] Wondering what to do with all of those leftover mashed potatoes now that Thanksgiving Day has passed? Well, if you love homemade cheese sauces, I have just the recipe for you. You can also make this recipe at anytime using potato flakes or leftover baked potatoes. If you want a sweeter variety, swap the potatoes in this recipe with some sweet potatoes instead, you’ll get more vitamin A that way (as the precursor beta carotene).
This sauce will store very well frozen in the deep freeze or freezer compartment of your refrigerator. To use it again, just thaw it in the fridge the day before, or place the frozen bag in lukewarm or cool water for several hours. I don’t recommend microwaving it. A slow gradual thawing is best to maintain the texture. Once your sauce is thawed, you can warm it up on the stove in a saucepan until it has warmed through and is easily pourable. If you cannot pour it easily (think a thick Velveeta cheese or queso sauce consistency), then add some warm water to thin it out a bit (use the pasta water if making a macaroni casserole).
I have experimented with many recipes for making homemade queso that I found throughout the years, but I liked the idea of using all vegetables instead of cheap and nutritionally devoid starch powders. One day I had some leftover baked potatoes and since I usually use these to make “creamy” soups, I thought I’d try thinning the potatoes until they were a good consistency for macaroni and cheese. I had done this with cauliflower in the not to distant past, but it was a VERY bitter tasting sauce that only I ate. I wanted something “creamy” and delicious that my son would also enjoy. It turns out, there are MANY such vegan “cheese” sauce recipes online. Mine is certainly not the original. You can use either sweet potatoes or carrots, for the color of the sauce. Nutritional yeast is optional, depending on your preference. People seem to either love or hate the taste, but it does lend an “eggy” or “cheesy” flavor to your meals.
Bob’s Red Mill instant potato flakes, make 4 servings for a large casserole or extra to freeze (for a family of 4-6), or just 2 servings for a smaller family (2-4 people); Or, use 2 large baked potatoes (we love Yukon, but russets make an even creamier sauce); If using leftover mashed potatoes, you want 1.5-2 cups (this makes a much fattier meal)
1 cup chopped carrots, or sweet potatoes
1 medium onion, chopped (use purple for added nutritional content)
2/3 cups of soaked cashews (you can soak in hot water for 15 miutes, or cool water in the fridge for 4 hours)
2 Tbsp nutritional yeast flakes (less if you are just trying it for the first time or omit it if you do not like it; the recipe will still be wonderful!)
1 tsp salt, more for taste once sauce is done (I suggest to add salt to your individual plates to decrease sodium content of meals; it tastes best when added fresh)
1-3 garlic cloves, depending on taste (blend raw if you love garlic, or cook them minced with the onions if you want to dull the taste some)
1 tsp mustard, use the type you prefer but dijon is preferred (use 1/4 tsp of adding mustard powder)
1/4 tsp black pepper, more to taste
- Heat a cast iron or nonstick pan over medium heat. Once heated, stream-fry your onions and garlic for 3 minutes.
- Add in your chopped carrots or sweet potatoes, and cover with 1-2″ of low sodium veggie broth or plain water and cook until tender, about 15 minutes should do, but check with a fork. The vegetables should be easily speared with a fork.
- In a blender, combine the veggie mix with the drained soaked cashews, nutritional yeast flakes, salt, pepper, mustard and instant or precooked potatoes (without the skin for a smoother sauce; leave the skin on if you and your family can enjoy it that way!). Blend until it is very smooth and easily pourable.
You can use this cheese sauce to make a variety of meals and dips. Use it as a veggie and chip dip. Make nachos with it (add some spicy ingredients such as jalapenos and fire roasted bell peppers). You can add it to rice and veggie casseroles (an American favorite being broccoli and rice with cheese sauce). Or, you can pour it over a casserole dish of cooked pasta, broccoli and/or peas, and top with a gluten-free bread crumb crust! Feel free to share ways you use it in the comments below.
Some tips for altering or using this recipe are below:
- To lower the glycemic index we have replaced the potatoes with cooked carrots only. Once blended I would assume the GI increases some but is unlikely to be as high as white potatoes. It is just as creamy and makes an even deeper orange color which is good for any kiddo hooked on Kraft colored mac and cheese.
- To lower the glycemic index, we have also replaced the white potatoes with an additional 1/2 cup of cooked carrots plus 2 heaping tablespoons of Forager sour cream (or other dairy free sour cream of your choice). The Greek yogurt style vegan options work as well. This does increase the fat content quite a bit.
- When making to pour over macaroni and bake, cook your pasta last. You can steam your broccoli in the background while you mix up the sauce, but you do NOT want to overcook pasta, especially gluten-free varieties. Cook the pasta to al dente only before mixing with the sauce. Sprinkle gluten-free breadcrumbs that you have mixed with vegan parmesan over to top and cover to bake as dairy free cheeses can burn easily. Since all items are precooked, you only need to brown the top; try 375°F for 20 minutes.