This mind-blowing Creamy Vegan Queso has convinced me: ANYTHING IS POSSIBLE. If you’ve been working up the nerve to ask for a raise, are considering purchasing a Powerball ticket, or just want a good excuse to book a one-way ticket to a remote tropical island, DO IT. As soon as you take a bite of this luxuriously creamy, hopelessly addictive, and (yes I am going to say it) cheesy dip that does not, in fact, contain cheese, you’ll agree with me that life (at least easy vegan queso life) has no limits.
This recipe is sponsored by McCormick.
I’d seen vegan white queso dip recipes floating around the web through the years, but I couldn’t reconcile them with a certain illustrious two-ingredient cheese dip recipe of my youth. If you grew up in the Midwest, you know the one.
If you need a hint, the primary ingredient in this starts with a “Velv” and ends with an “eeta.”
While I’ve never been a fan of the V-word myself (it’s a little bland, and something about the crayon-orange color unsettles me), whenever I see a dip made with it at a party, the dip vanishes.
Maybe it’s the fact that, whatever criticisms I may have, it does melt perfectly smoothly. Maybe the taste is nostalgic for some. Or maybe it’s because no human I’ve ever met can stand within 15 yards of queso and not take a bite…or seven.
I decided to see if I could come up with a recipe for a queso dip that would be just as creamy, cheesy, and addictive as the notorious V, without the processed cheese. I recalled a delightful cashew-based mac and cheese that I tried at a vegan spot in New York City (SO GOOD), combined it with the lessons I learned creating this Instant Pot Cauliflower Mac and Cheese, and voila!
A mind-blowing Vegan Queso that’s entirely plant based, made of wholesome ingredients (cashews! cauliflower!), and guaranteed to be licked clean at any party, whether or not your guests are vegan.
Looking for a guaranteed-to-please dip to serve during a certain football game this Sunday? This is it!
Why I Love This Creamy Vegan Queso
The majority of vegan queso recipes I found are made almost exclusively with raw cashews, which, when blended with liquid, have a velvety, rich texture that is extraordinarily similar to melted cheese. Cashews’ flavor, however, is much more mild, and I didn’t feel like it would create a vegan queso with the same level of mmmmmm that I’m after when I sink my chip into a hot bowl of melty cheese.
The solution: roasted cauliflower!
I supplemented the cashews with cauliflower, onions, and whole garlic cloves that I roasted with McCormick Less Sodium Taco Seasoning. In the oven, the veggies become deeply caramelized and add serious complexity to the queso.
The taco seasoning is quick and convenient (less pulling spices from the cabinet = less time separating us from our tasty dip), and with 30% less sodium, it allows you to control the amount of salt in your dish. It’s a nice option to have on your shelf for fast meals and easy seasoning. The less sodium version does contain a small amount of whey, which is a milk product, so if this is a concern you can swap the same amount of McCormick’s Original Taco Seasoning to keep the queso 100% dairy free.
Once the roasted cauliflower and onions are out of the oven, blend them up with the cashews. If you have a fancy high-speed blender (such as a Blendtec or Vitamix), you can proceed right away without any further prep.
If you have a regular blender, you can absolutely still make this Vegan Queso, but do soak the cashews first so that they come out perfectly smooth. I have more detail for you in the recipe directions, along with a handy shortcut if you are in a hurry.
This recipe for Vegan Queso includes nutritional yeast, which is loaded with nutrients and tastes wonderfully “cheesy.” I regularly add nutritional yeast to my salads and roasted veggies, and you can use it in any one of these recipes with nutritional yeast.
Nutritional yeast is truly important for making this vegan cheese dip taste like, well, cheese. I strongly recommend including it. You can purchase nutritional yeast in most grocery stores, and it’s also sold online here.
The final recipe flourish is a can of diced tomatoes and green chilies. These little tomatoes are the other half of the famous two-ingredient queso whose taste first inspired this easy Vegan Queso. I added them to this recipe too, both for memory’s sake and because I really do enjoy them.
How to Make This Queso for a Crowd
This recipe yields a large batch of Vegan Queso (about 6 cups), so it works well for a large party.
You can keep it warm in a small crockpot to serve with chips or raw veggies if that’s more your style, drizzle it over a big plate of nachos (YUM), or use it to make your own homemade cheese fries.
How to Store and Reheat
- To Store. Store cooled leftover queso in an airtight container or a bowl covered with plastic wrap in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.
- To Reheat. Gently reheat on the stove or in the microwave, stirring frequently, until warmed through.
Since this Vegan Queso is healthy (hello cashews and cauliflower!), I also felt quite virtuous snacking on it with carrots (and FINE, chips) for a midafternoon snack. We also used the leftovers to top baked potatoes, amp up a pan of roasted broccoli, and make a round of Instant Pot Shredded Chicken Tacos even more delicious.
- 5 cups cauliflower florets from about 1 medium head cauliflower
- 4 cloves garlic peeled but left whole
- 1 medium yellow onion cut into 1/2-inch slices
- 1 1/2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 tablespoons McCormick Less Sodium Taco Seasoning (plus 1 1/2 teaspoons) divided (use Original Taco Seasoning to make 100% dairy free)
- 1 cup raw cashews soaked in cool water for at least 4 hours or overnight or in boiling hot water for 1 hour and drained (for quicker alternatives or if you have a high-powered blender, see Notes)
- 1 1/4 cups unsweetened almond milk or milk of choice, plus additional as needed
- 1/4 cup nutritional yeast
- 1/8 teaspoon kosher salt omit if using Original Taco Seasoning or add to taste
- 1 can diced tomatoes and green chilies (10 ounce can) , drained, or 1 1/4 cups well-drained chunky salsa
- Optional toppings: sliced jalapeño fresh cilantro, diced tomatoes, finely chopped red onion
- Place the oven racks in the upper and lower thirds of your oven and coat two rimmed baking sheets with nonstick spray. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
- Place the cauliflower, garlic, and onions in a large bowl. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with 2 tablespoons taco seasoning. Toss to coat, and then divide evenly between the two baking sheets. Spread each into a single layer so that the veggies do not overlap. Roast until golden and tender, about 30 minutes, tossing once halfway through and switching the pans’ positions on the upper and lower rack.
- Transfer the roasted vegetables to a blender, and add in the soaked cashews, almond milk, nutritional yeast, salt, and remaining 1 1/2 teaspoons taco seasoning. Blend until very smooth, adding water a few tablespoons at a time as needed to reach your desired consistency. (I added about 1/2 cup water for a very thick queso.) If your blender has a heating feature, continue blending until the mixture is hot. If not, pour the queso into a saucepan and heat over medium on the stove until very warm. Stir in the drained tomatoes or salsa. Taste and add kosher salt or a little bit of additional taco seasoning as desired.
- To serve as a dip, transfer to a serving bowl and sprinkle with desired toppings. For nachos, drizzle the queso generously over a bed of tortilla chips and garnish as desired (place in the oven for a few minutes to make extra warm if you like). Serve immediately. This vegan queso is also delicious over fries, baked potatoes, and roasted vegetables.
- If you have a high-powered blender such as a Vitamix or Blendtec, you can likely skip soaking the cashews all together (my KitchenAid high-powered blender has no trouble breaking them down). If you don’t have a high-powered blender but are still in a hurry, I have also read that you can grind the cashews in the blender until they resemble a fine powder (stop before they turn into cashew butter). Heat 1 1/2 cups of the broth (or water) on the stove, and then pour the hot broth into the blender and blend until smooth (beware of hot steam escaping from the top of the blender and sputtering). Proceed by adding the other ingredients.
- Store cooled leftover queso in an airtight container or a bowl covered with plastic wrap in the refrigerator for up to 5 days. Gently reheat on the stove or in the microwave, stirring frequently, until warmed through.
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I am sharing this post in partnership with McCormick. As always, all opinions are my own. Thanks for supporting the brands and companies that make it possible for me to continue to create quality content for you!