Vegan cheesy rice is a versatile side dish that pairs with just about any plant-based protein or veggie. I have a few tricks to make a vegan cheese sauce rich, creamy, and tangy without the cheddar!
Growing up, did your mom ever make those packets of cheesy rice for dinner? They were an easy side that you’d boil on the stovetop, and they tasted a little bit like mac-and-cheese, but with rice instead of pasta. Or maybe you were lucky enough to have cheesy rice made from scratch, with lots of melted cheddar stirred into the sauce. Either way, cheesy rice is total comfort food, and that’s why I knew I had to give it a plant-based makeover. Enter: this vegan cheesy rice recipe.
My vegan cheesy rice is a savory and surprisingly cheesy vegan side dish made with a whole bunch of pantry staples—the ingredient list looks long, but you probably have almost everything in your kitchen already!
If you’ve made my vegan mac and cheese recipe, you’ll recognize some of the ingredients here—raw cashews for a rich dairy-like texture, carrot for colour, and nutritional yeast for that cheddar-y flavour. And just like that, you’ve got an irresistible plant-based cheese sauce.
Best of all, this vegan cheesy rice comes together quickly, and it’s sure to be devoured just as fast. Perfect for a weeknight dinner!
Notes on Ingredients
Scroll down to the recipe card to find the ingredient quantities and recipe instructions.
- Rice – You can get a head start on this recipe by cooking the rice the day before.
- Raw cashews – Be sure to buy raw cashews, not roasted or salted.
- Onion – Use a yellow or white onion for this recipe.
- Plant milk – Any you like or have on hand, as long as it’s unflavoured.
- Nutritional yeast
- Dijon mustard – This adds a little extra oomph to the vegan cheese sauce.
- Lemon or lime juice
- Paprika – Sweet paprika is best, or try smoked paprika for a subtle smoky flavour. Don’t use hot paprika unless you want your vegan cheesy rice to be spicy!
- Garlic powder
- Black pepper
What Is Nutritional Yeast?
Nutritional yeast is a popular vegan ingredient made from inactive yeast cells grown on sugarcane or beet molasses. It has a nutty, cheesy flavor, so it’s often used as a plant-based alternative to cheese in savory dishes. Nutritional yeast is high in B vitamins, minerals, and protein, and it may also be fortified with other essential nutrients like zinc, magnesium, and iron, so it’s a super healthy addition to vegan diets!
How to Make Vegan Cheesy Rice
Ready to meet your new favourite vegan side dish? Let’s get started!
Cook the rice. Follow the package directions to cook the rice.
Cook the cashews, carrot, and onion. In a medium saucepan, combine the cashews, carrot, and onion with enough water to cover. Set the saucepan over high heat and boil for 15 minutes.
Blend. Drain the water from the pan and add the cashews, carrot, and onion to a blender, along with all of the other ingredients (except the rice). Blend on high until the mixture is smooth and creamy; season to taste with salt and pepper.
Finish. Pour the cheese sauce over the cooked rice and stir to combine. Serve immediately.
Tips for Success
This recipe is easy as can be, but these tips and pointers will help you make sure your vegan cheesy rice turns out perfect!
- Use the right kind of rice. Brown rice, jasmine rice, or plain white rice are fine to use for this recipe, but avoid sushi rice since it is too sticky and wet.
- Adjust the consistency. If the sauce seems too thick, you can thin it out by adding more plant milk.
- Make it your own. You can make broccoli cheese rice by folding in cooked broccoli florets, make it extra cheesy by topping the rice with shredded vegan cheddar, or add some heat with your favourite hot sauce. Don’t be afraid to switch things up!
For a classic comfort food dinner made vegan, pair your vegan cheesy rice with vegan Southern meatloaf or BBQ tofu, green beans, and some vegan cornbread or vegan buttermilk biscuits. Or keep it simple and serve the rice in a bowl with a big pile of roasted veggies on top!
How to Store Leftovers
Store leftover vegan cheesy rice in an airtight container for up to 1 week. Reheat it in the microwave, or in a saucepan on the stovetop with a splash of plant milk.
Can This Recipe Be Frozen?
Yes, you can freeze this vegan cheesy rice dish. Freeze it in an airtight container or freezer bag for up to 3 months; let it thaw in the refrigerator before reheating according to the instructions above.
Vegan Cheesy Rice
- 4 cups rice 880g
- 2 cups raw cashews 330g
- 1 large carrot chopped (1 cup) (150g)
- ½ small onion chopped (2/3 cup) (100g)
- 3 cups plant milk 690g
- 1 cup nutritional yeast 70g
- 3 tablespoons oil 36g
- 2 tablespoons dijon mustard 30g
- 2 tablespoons lemon or lime juice 20g
- 1 tablespoon Paprika 7g
- 2 ½ teaspoons Salt 14g
- ½ teaspoon garlic powder 1.5g
- 1 teaspoon black pepper optional (2g)
- Cook the rice according to the package instructions.
- In a medium saucepan, add the cashews, carrot, and onion. Fill the saucepan with water until everything is just covered.
- Place the saucepan over high heat and boil for 15 minutes.
- Strain the contents of the saucepan and add them to a blender. Add all remaining ingredients to the blender (except the cooked rice) and blend on high until it forms a smooth sauce. Taste and add additional salt or pepper if desired.
- Pour the cheese sauce onto the cooked rice and stir to combine. Serve immediately.
- Store refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 1 week.
- Brown rice, jasmine rice, or plain white rice are fine to use for this recipe. Avoid sushi rice since it is too sticky and wet.