Vegan Cashew Queso

A tortilla chip dipping into a bowl of vegan cashew queso.

Why does anyone need vegan queso made from cashews?

I remember the first time I had real queso- at a Tex Mex place in downtown Dallas with my three best friends.

Buzzed off jalapeño margaritas, we dunked crisp, salty tortilla chips in the melting, white sauce uncontrollably until the sides of the ceramic bowl had been scraped clean.

It was one of the most delicious things I had ever eaten; perhaps every meal since has paled in comparison.

Overhead shot of cashew queso on a sheet tray with tortilla chips.

This recipe does not try to compete with that authentic, unfathomably creamy Tex Mex queso. Nothing can.

Cashew queso is for the vegans and the vegetarians. For the lactose-intolerant and the dairy-free. For the health conscious and the eco-friendly. 

Cashews, nutritional yeast, turmeric and salt in a blender.

It’s for busy people who don’t have the time or the desire to make real queso on a weeknight, or those of us living in New England who probably couldn’t find the right cheese anyway.

For you, this recipe shines with a bag of chips, a desperately dry sandwich, or Sheet Pan Burritos in need of toppings. 

It tastes great from a spoon, snuck surreptitiously before guests arrive. It pairs well with extra-spicy salsa.

It’s not really queso; but it is really, really good.

A few Cashew Queso tips

A lot of vegan cashew “cheese” recipes call for soaking the cashews for a few hours or overnight. I’ve never done that and the cashews turn into a thick, creamy sauce every time without fuss (or a fancy blender).

In addition to some sort of nut, the key to any vegan cheese is nutritional yeast. Look for it in the spice isle and buy the biggest jar they have. It magically makes everything it touches taste nutty, creamy, and cheesy- wouldn’t that be a great superpower? 

Vegan Cashew Queso

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Serves: 4

This recipe is for vegans, health nuts, and for New Englanders who desperately lack the authentic stuff. It's for you, and it's delicious. Modified from The Detoxinista.

Ingredients

  • 1 lime
  • 1 cup unsalted cashews
  • 1/4 cup water (plus more, if needed)
  • 3 tablespoons nutritional yeast
  • 1/2 teaspoon turmeric
  • 14 oz . can diced tomatoes with green chiles, drained (reserve liquid)
  • Sea salt

Instructions

1

Cut off both ends of the lime so that it stands up on a cutting board. Standing it on one end, use a paring knife to cut off the skin and pith from top to bottom. Cut the remaining lime lengthwise into 4 sections.

2

In a blender, combine the lime segments, cashews, water, nutritional yeast, turmeric, the liquid from the can of diced tomatoes and green chiles (I was able to get about 1/4 cup of liquid from the can), and 1 teaspoon sea salt.

3

Blend about 1 minute, until a smooth and creamy "cheese" sauce is created, scraping down the sides with a spatula half way through. Add a tablespoon or two more water, if needed for blending.

4

Transfer the cheese mixture to a large bowl, then stir in the can of diced tomatoes and green chiles. Taste and add an additional ¼ teaspoon salt if needed.

5

If you’d like it warm, heat it in a saucepan, covered, over very low heat for about 2 minutes until it starts to steam, stirring frequently. Then let it steam, covered and off heat, about 2 minutes more. It’s important not to heat it too much or else it will get clumpy.

Nutrition

  • 218 Calories

Notes

If you'd like to pair this with a white wine, try a tart, acidic trebbiano, Australian viognier or subtly sweet California riesling. Red wines with supple fruit flavors like Paso Robles cabernet or a grenache blend from the Southern Rhone Valley would also work nicely. A crémant de Bourgogne, a sparkling Vouvray or a really nice Prosecco would be delicious. The acidity and bubbles in a sparkling wine would pair nicely with the richness from the cashews.

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