Low Calorie Dairy Free Instant Pot Cheese Sauce

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Since The Kid has a dairy allergy, she’s never had “real” cheese. Other than the traumatic Easter incident years ago involving a trip to the ER and an epipen on the side of the road. Needless to say, since then I’ve never even played with the real thing. I have messed around with several variations of dairy free mac and cheese. Even roasted red pepper cheese sauce.

There’s a food truck in Austin called Arlo’s that makes The Kid’s favorite vegan mac and cheese in the world. As a cheese-eater, I can confirm theirs is somehow magical. I’ve been attempting to make my own version to save ourselves a 3 hour drive, and I think this recipe comes pretty darn close. It’s creamy, it’s cheesy, and I like the ease of making it.

I used one of my new favorite kitchen gadgets – my electronic pressure cooker. They’re also called an Instant Pot which is a brand name, but the one I have by Elite does the job just fine and cost less.  I use it quite a bit to make beans from a bag of dried beans and other things like 5 Minute Mushroom Risotto.

It really cuts down on the cooking time and in this recipe you don’t have to plan ahead and soak the cashews. A great benefit for those times when you want dairy free cheese sauce in about 10 minutes. One tip about the potatoes. I used white potatoes NOT russet or baking potatoes. The smaller white potatoes cook softer and are less grainy than russet.

Dairy Free Instant Pot Cheese Sauce Vegan Cheese Sauce

  • 2 cups water
  • 1/2 cup (~100g) yellow onion, sliced
  • 2 cloves garlic OR 1 tsp minced garlic from a jar
  • 1 cup (~100g) sliced carrots
  • 1 1/2 cups (~300g) white potatoes, cut into chunks
  • 1/4 cup (28g) cashews
  • 1/2 cup (40g) nutritional yeast
  • 2 Tbsp (42g) white miso paste
  • 1 tsp sweet paprika
  • 1 Tbsp lemon juice
  • 2 Tbsp apple cider vinegar
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt OR kosher salt

Cut your onions, carrots and potatoes into chunks. I didn’t bother peeling the carrots or potatoes. I just washed them and cut the stem end off the carrots. Place all of the ingredients into the instant pot or pressure cooker. Put the lid on and lock it into place with the release set to Airtight.

Use the manual setting and cook at high pressure for 6 minutes. When it’s finished, carefully release the pressure manually and remove the lid. Pour the contents into a blender and puree until the sauce is thick and creamy. If the sauce is too thick, you can add a little water or almond milk to thin it slightly.

Makes 5 cups of cheese sauce at approximately 160 calories per cup – 8g protein, 23g carbs, and 4g fat.

As the cheese was pressure cooking, I threw pasta shells on the stove to boil. By the time they were done and drained, the cheese sauce was ready to drizzle. I loved the flavor and the recipe made quite a bit. I put some in the fridge to use on baked potatoes, in quesadillas, on more pasta, and for nachos. I threw some in the freezer for later since it freezes well.

The sauce does thicken when cold but it will loosen up when you reheat it. If you need to, add a little water to thin it again after heating. I love that this is a great option for dairy free cheese that doesn’t take a lot of time to make and it’s also lower in calories than typical vegan cheeses (or even dairy based cheese). Plus you get to sneak a few veggies into your meal as well.


  1. Awesome recipe! I am dairy free and trying to get my kids to go there as well BUT cashews are the trigger food for my gallbladder attacks. Is there anything I can substitute for the cashews in this recipe?

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