Vegan Queso Recipe | Cashews + Whole Food

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 does come pretty darn close.

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 tastes great with queso, chances are this will work well in it too.

I’ve used this queso for:

  • Kale chips
  • Spicy roasted chickpeas
  • Burritos
  • Tacos
  • Enchiladas
  • Savory oatmeal bowls
  • Nachos
  • 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 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 both the ancho and guajillo with either 2 roasted poblanos or 1 poblano and 1 jalapeno if you would like a little spice. 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 in a dry skillet, turning occasionally to char all sides for 5-10 minutes. Similarly, place them in the sealed container to steam.

Either way you go, be mindful of your hands while and after handling peppers. I have not dealt with this problem but some people experience a burning sensation from peppers. And don’t touch your eyes or your little one’s food until you’ve removed the pepper oils. Pepper in the eyes is not a good time. Ouch! And from personal experience, washing your hands with soap and water won’t entirely get rid of it either.

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 omitting the cayenne and red chilis. Or you can reduce the amounts in half.

And speaking of peppers…Likewise, I use whole ancho and guajillo chilis. Since sizes can vary quite a bit, try to use whole peppers that come to around 5-6 inches in length. I do not recommend completely omitting these peppers from the recipe. These peppers lend complexity and a smokey flavor to the queso and neither are very spicy. If you do not have access to whole anchos or guajillos, you can substitute them for 1-2 tablespoons ancho powder.

I think that about covers it. So get those chips ready and let’s make some queso!

This is queso with the red chilis and cayenne.

Like savory snacks? So do I! You might want to check out my spicy nacho pumpkin seeds (v), savory pumpkin hummus (v), and savory pumpkin seeds (v)!

v – vegan

If you give this recipe a try, I’d love to see your awesome creation! Leave a comment, rate it, and don’t forget to hashtag a photo on Instagram #latesummermama!

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!

Vegan Queso Recipe
Prep Time
10 mins
Cook Time
5 mins
Total Time
15 mins

This easy vegan queso uses cashews as the main ingredient. It is simple to make and only needs 8-10 ingredients.

Course: Appetizer, Main Course, Side Dish, Snack
Cuisine: American, Mexican
Keyword: easy vegan queso recipe, vegan cashew queso, vegan queso recipe
Servings: 16 servings
Calories: 132 kcal
Author: Tina
  • 1 1/2 cups cashews, raw
  • 1/2 cup chopped bell peppers (red, yellow, or orange work best)
  • 1/2 cup nutritional yeast
  • 1 whole ancho pepper about 5-6" long
  • 1 whole guajillo pepper about 5-6" long
  • 6 cloves garlic
  • 1/2 tsp. smoked paprika
  • 1 tsp. Himalayan salt or sea salt
  • 3/4 – 1 cup water (to desired thickness)
  • 2 red chili peppers, dried (optional)
  • 3/4 tsp. cayenne powder (optional)
  1. 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.

  2. Place all ingredients except water in the blender or food processor.

  3. Add 1/2 cup of water and turn on the blender or food processor. Add more water to reach the desired thickness.

  4. Blend until smooth. If you are using a high-performance blender, let it run for 90-180 seconds to heat it up.

  5. If you are not using a high-performance blender, gently heat on the stovetop for 5-10 minutes at a mid-low heat or in the microwave for 1-2 minutes on a low setting.

  6. 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.

Recipe Notes

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?

Tag @late_summermama on Instagram and hashtag it #latesummermama.

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Happy Blending!

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