Omnivores and vegetarians alike will love this plant-based party snack. Cashews, vegetables, and seasonings come together in a creamy, savory queso dip that also happens to be gluten-free. Top it with a scoop of salsa, serve a bowl of chips alongside, and get the party started.
While the word queso is directly translated from Spanish to English as “cheese,” here it refers to a cheese dip, served hot and melty.
Queso is ubiquitous in Texas—at restaurants all over the state, it’s served as an appetizer with chips. It can be served straight up or topped with pretty much anything you’d put on nachos—think salsa, hot sauce, jalapeños, cilantro, guacamole, or sliced avocado, pinto or black beans, seasoned taco beef or plant-based meat crumbles. You can serve it as basic or as jazzed up as you like.
As you may have noticed from the recipe title, this queso is vegan, so it doesn’t contain any actual cheese! You’d never know it from the flavor, though. It checks all of the same boxes as a dairy-based queso, with the flavor, texture, and meltiness that you expect from a cheese dip.
Ingredients in Vegan Queso
The first time I tasted this queso, I had flashbacks to movie theater nacho cheese, in a good way. The color is similar to dairy nacho cheese as well—with carrots as well as a touch of turmeric in the mix, its orangey, cheddar-like hue makes it even more appetizing.
This cheesy fake-out is achieved through a combination of ingredients you might find surprising: Potatoes, carrots, and onions are simmered in vegetable broth, along with chili powder and jalapeño for a mild touch of spice. Soaked, softened cashews add creaminess, and a little bit of nutritional yeast helps to round out the savory flavor of this dip. A squeeze of lime brightens everything up, as does a final scoop of pico de gallo on top.
Swaps and Substitutions
I find that the combination of carrots and Yukon gold potatoes make for the most cheese-like flavor and texture in this recipe, but you can sub in other vegetables too, if you like.
Russet potatoes or sweet potatoes can stand in for the gold potatoes, and you can use cauliflower, yellow beet, or parsnip in place of the carrot.
Cooking with Nutritional Yeast
Most of the ingredients in this queso are things anyone would have in their kitchen. The one exception might be nutritional yeast, especially if you’re not familiar with plant-based recipes.
Yellow in color, with the flaky appearance of croissant crumbs, it’s a cooking ingredient, totally different from the kind of yeast used for baking. High in glutamates, it hits the same savory notes as an aged cheese, and a little bit goes a long way.
Use a Blender!
You’ll definitely need a blender to make this recipe work, the more horsepower the better, to achieve the super creamy texture of this queso.
I recommend a jar-style blender rather than an immersion blender for the smoothest results. If you’re in the market for a new blender Simply Recipes guide to the best blenders, is the place to start!
Make Ahead Queso
Queso can be made up to two days in advance. Store it in a lidded container in the refrigerator, then when it’s time to serve, reheat it in a saucepan over low heat, stirring every minute or so, until it’s warmed through. I wouldn’t recommend freezing the queso, as this can affect the texture and cause it to separate.
Ways to Use Vegan Queso
Once you’ve made vegan queso, you can use it for lots of dishes beyond its traditional chips and dip preparation.
A food cart near me serves a delicious queso mac and cheese, and this recipe would make for a bomb plant-based version. You can also pour the queso on top of nachos, drizzle it onto tacos or enchiladas, or add it to a burrito or burrito bowl.
It’s great on veggies too—ladle some queso on top of roasted or steamed broccoli and you’ve got a delicious (and kid-friendly) side dish.
More Vegan Party Dips
- Sweet Potato White Bean Dip
- Baba Ghanoush (Eggplant Dip)
- How to Make Creamy Vegan Cashew Cheese Sauce
- Easy Muhammara
- Spicy Three-Chile Guacamole
- 1/4 cup cashew pieces
- 1 cup boiling water
- 1 tablespoon avocado oil
- 1 clove garlic, minced or pressed
- 1/2 cup yellow onion, diced
- 1 jalapeño, seeded and diced
- 1 carrot, diced
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/2 teaspoon chili powder
- 1/8 teaspoon ground turmeric
- 1 cup low sodium vegetable broth
- 1/2 pound gold potatoes, peeled and diced
- 2 teaspoons nutritional yeast
- 1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
- To serve
- 1/2 cup pico de gallo, for topping plus more for serving
- Tortilla chips
Soak the cashews:
In a small bowl, pour the boiling water over the cashews. Set aside.
Cook the vegetables:
In a 3-quart saucepan, heat the avocado oil over medium heat. Add the garlic, onion, jalapeño, and carrot, and sauté, about 4 minutes—the garlic and onions should begin to get a little bit browned and toasty, but you don’t want to let the garlic burn. Add the salt, chili powder, and turmeric and sauté for an additional minute.
Add broth and potatoes:
Add the broth and potatoes, bring up to a simmer, and continue to cook over medium heat, uncovered, for 10 minutes, until the potatoes are very tender, and the broth has reduced by about half.
Add ingredients to blender:
Add the mixture from the saucepan to a blender carafe. Use a slotted spoon to transfer the cashew pieces to the blender, then add 1/4 cup of the cashew soaking water. Reserve the rest in case you need more to get the blender going. Add the nutritional yeast and lime juice to the blender.
Blend the queso:
Blend at high speed for about 1 minute, until the queso is very smooth, adding more of the cashew soaking water if needed (it usually takes an additional 1/4 cup or so for me to get a pourable, nacho cheese-like consistency). Taste for seasoning, adding more salt if needed.
Garnish and serve:
Transfer the queso to a serving bowl. Top with the pico de gallo. Serve warm, with tortilla chips and more salsa on the side.