Can you imagine a world in which a child cannot enjoy the pleasures of a bowl filled with hot macaroni and cheese or a nacho cheese dip to dunk a warm pretzel in? If your little one has a milk allergy or is lactose intolerant, you can imagine such a place. But sometimes your child (and perhaps you) just needs a good, comforting bowl of mac and cheese or a sauce to put on top of broccoli.
Why Dairy-Free Cheeses Do Not Make Great Cheese Sauce
Milk-free cheeses may be a bit challenging to children who have had cheese made from dairy products in the past. The texture is a little bit different than cow’s milk cheese as well as the flavor. Not all milk-free cheeses cook the same way, with some appearing un-melted even if they are fully cooked. Some adults may opt to avoid dairy-free cheese products altogether, but many kids are still drawn to the idea of cheesy foods, hoping you can come up with an alternative.
If you wait long enough to introduce milk-free cheese products, your child’s palate may approve if you incorporate them into foods like pizza or sandwiches – but not cheese sauces. Most milk-free cheese products do not work well in recipes for sauces. They either break down wrong, making the texture seem slimy or off, or they fail to break down at all, resulting in a lumpy finished “cheese” sauce.
Does this mean that you should throw in the towel at the prospect of dairy-free cheese sauce? Heavens no. Several commercial, dairy-free cheese sauces are available today, and you can also make your own at home that your child will not believe is dairy-free.
Commercially Made “Cheese” Sauce
Whether you are short on time or are not up to the challenge of making milk-free cheese sauce from scratch, commercially processed cheese sauces are available. Your best bet is to look for vegan “cheese” sauces as there are more products on the market for vegan cheese sauces than those that are marketed as only milk-free.
Daiya makes a tasty and “deliciously dairy-free” Cheddar Style Deluxe Cheeze Sauce. You can serve it over your favorite noodles, potatoes or vegetables or as a pretzel or fondue dip. It comes ready to serve, so you do not even have to mix it.
Victoria Vegan Original Alfredo Sauce is another good dairy-free cheese sauce option for pasta comfort food.
Homemade Dairy-Free Cheese Sauce
Try several different recipes to find your family’s favorite “cheese” sauce. Below are some of our favorite options.
Amazingly Good Vegan Cheese Sauce: This is one of the best milk-free cheese recipes that uses nutritional yeast. Your kids may not believe it is dairy-free.
- 2 cups of water
- ½ cup carrot, peeled, cut and cooked
- 1/3 cup white flour (or 4 tablespoons arrowroot or cornstarch if you want it gluten-free)
- ¼ cup nutritional yeast flakes
- 2 teaspoons onion powder
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- 2 teaspoons salt
Combine all ingredients in a blender until smooth. Pour mixture into a pan and turn on medium heat. Stir constantly until it boils and thickens. When thick, remove from heat and allow it to cool for 3 to 5 minutes, then pour over potatoes, noodles or vegetables.
Creamy Cashew Cheese Sauce: This recipe calls for a few simple ingredients and produces a tasty nacho cheese-style sauce.
- 2 cups cashews, soaked and drained
- 2 garlic cloves
- 3 tablespoons nutritional yeast
- 1 ¼ cup water
- 1 teaspoon salt
- ¼ teaspoon dry mustard
- ¼ teaspoon turmeric (for color)
Soak cashews in at least 4 cups of water for a minimum of two hours. If you do not have the time, boil 4 cups of water and pour over cashews, allowing them to soak for 45 minutes to an hour.
When ready to make the sauce, add drained cashews and all other ingredients to a blender and blend until a thick sauce is produced. You can add a little more water if needed. Taste and adjust seasonings.
You can also add different flavors and seasonings to this sauce like cilantro, jalapeno, paprika or onion powder.
Cheese sauce does not have to be off-limits for your milk-allergic child. Let them enjoy the finer things in life, like food covered in cheesy sauce.