Vegan Queso Recipe | Cashews + Whole Food
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I have an unholy love of cheese. It is my kryptonite, my bane, my weakness, my Achilles’ heel, the chink in my armor… Seriously, I think it is one of the best foods on the planet. It is one of the reasons I’m not sure if I could go completely vegan. And, apparently, my little girl has inherited this amore of cheese as well.
However, it is also one of the foods I am having the hardest time finding that isn’t completely wrapped in plastic packaging (not to mention the need to cut down on animal-based foods for the sake of minimizing my carbon footprint). Because of that, I’ve been making a personal effort to heavily reduce the amount of cheese I consume and to replace most of my cheese craving snacks with a vegan alternative.
So that being said, I’m super excited to share with you a vegan queso recipe that uses cashews as the main ingredient. It is tangy, smoky, spicy, and incredibly simple and easy to make. It is full of healthy fats and tons of vitamins and minerals. While I won’t say that it tastes exactly like cheese, it certainly wouldn’t win any blind taste tests (still working on a vegan cheese that does taste like the real deal), it does come close enough to make me happy.
It takes only 8 ingredients (all of which can be bought in bulk if you have a good bulk section at your grocery store) and a blender or food processor to make. And like most of my recipes, it is easily customizable to your personal preference and can be added to a good number of different dishes. If it’s a dish that
I’ve used this queso for:
- Kale chips
- Spicy roasted chickpeas
- Savory oatmeal bowls
- And as a dip
How to Make This Easy Vegan Queso
This is a pretty straightforward sauce to make and requires very little preparation ahead of time. But there are a few things to keep in mind.
I heavily recommend using a high-performance stand up blender for this queso sauce since you want this to be silky smooth with no chunks. If you have one, you won’t need to soak the cashews (even though I still do for about an hour). However, if you don’t have a blender like my Vitamix, you will probably need to soak the cashews ahead of time. In cold water, soak the raw cashews for 6 hours or as long as overnight. Alternatively, in a hot soak, add cashews to hot water and soak for an hour.
I like to use dried peppers for my queso but that may not be an option in some regions. When I lived in Austin, there were huge bins just full of every kind of dried pepper you can think of but now here in the Pacific northwest, I’m having a harder time finding them.
If dried peppers aren’t an option for you, you can use roasted ones instead. I would suggest substituting the red chilis for 1-2 jalapenos. You can roast them one of two ways: the stovetop or oven.
In the oven, turn your oven to a broil setting and place the jalapenos on a baking tray. Broil on the top oven rack for 5-10 minutes until the skins start to blacken turning them halfway to char as many sides as possible. Place them in a sealed container to steam for about 10 minutes or longer until the skins are easy to peel off.
Alternatively, you can use a cast iron skillet on the stovetop. Heat the skillet on a medium-high setting. Do not use any oil. Place the peppers on a dry skillet, turning occasionally to char all sides for 5-10 minutes. Similarly, place them in the sealed container to steam.
Psst…Want to know a neat trick to get the pepper juice off your hands? Rinse them in vinegar. Seriously it works!
And speaking of heat…You can, of course, reduce or add more spice depending on your personal heat tolerance. If you are sensitive to spice, I would recommend reducing the cayenne pepper to ¼ tsp. and add that in ¼ tsp. increments until you get the heat level you want.
And speaking of peppers…Likewise, I use a whole ancho chili. It lends complexity and a smokey flavor to the queso. However, you can omit the ancho chili entirely or use 1 tbsp. of ancho powder instead.
I think that about covers it. So get those chips ready and let’s make some queso!
Looking for a vegan cheese queso alternative? This easy vegan queso uses cashews as the main ingredient. It is simple to make and only needs 8 ingredients.
- 1 1/2 cups cashews, raw
- 1/2 cup nutritional yeast
- 2 red chili peppers, dried
- 1 whole ancho pepper, dried
- 4 cloves garlic
- 3/4 tsp. cayenne powder
- 1/2 tsp. smoked paprika
- 3/4 tsp. Himalayan salt or sea salt
- 1/2 – 1 cup water (to desired thickness)
Soak cashews 6 hours to overnight in cold water or for an hour in hot water. If using a high-performance blender, this step is optional.
Place all ingredients except water in the blender or food processor.
Add 1/2 cup of water and turn on the blender or food processor. Add more water to reach the desired thickness.
Blend until smooth.
Best used that same day. It will be fine at room temperature for a few hours. Store leftovers covered in the refrigerator up to 5 days. Reheat on the stovetop or in the microwave.
1 whole ancho pepper = 1 tbsp. ancho powder
Substitute red chilis for 1-2 small roasted jalapenos (For instructions, see section above)
This recipe will make about 2 cups of queso.
Did you give this recipe a try?
Or if you have any questions or feedback, you are always welcome to leave me a comment below. I’d really love to hear from you!