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Let's be honest — thinking of vegan cheese substitutes leaves something to be desired. Maybe you've taken a peek at the vegan cheese options in the grocery stores or even dabbled in coaxing a couple hunks of almond cheese to melt atop slices of bread under the broiler. In my experience, that stuff does not melt and will leave your cheese dreams hopelessly shattered.
So when coming up with a creamy vegan queso recipe, I wanted to make sure it was as good as the real thing! No shattered dreams here. We're dreaming big with veggies, cashews, and a ton of spices — and it's paying off by the chip-ful.
My husband came into the kitchen while I was prepping the veggies for the queso dip. He asked me what I was making, and when I said, "Um, I'm making queso," he gave me a quizzical glance and looked very skeptically at the piles of carrots and butternut squash I was chopping. "Where's the cheese?" he asked. I broke the news that there would be no cheese in this queso. Eventually he gave up on trying to understand my cheese-less antics, and left the kitchen.
As I cooked the veggies with plenty of spices, I heard his voice yelling from the living room, "Oh, gosh. That smells really good!" So I knew I was on the right track. The softened vegetables went into my Vitamix with green chiles, salsa, cashews, almond milk, and a bunch of nutritional yeast to give it that cheesy flavor. The results were mind-blowing. I dipped a spoon in the finished product, tasted it, and smirked a little bit, knowing that this dip could fool any cheese-lover.
I made up a party platter of vegan queso and chips, and called my husband in to the living room to help me "taste test." After the first bite, we both descended on the dip like a couple of famished hyenas — occasionally stopping to tell each other, with full mouths, how much this dip tasted like the real thing.
Creamy Vegan Queso Dip
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 large yellow onion, finely chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 large carrots, very finely chopped
1 cup thinly sliced butternut squash
2 teaspoons kosher salt, divided
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 cup low-sodium vegetable broth
1 (4-ounce) can green chiles, drained
1 1/2 cups unsweetened plain almond milk
1 cup raw cashews, soaked for 30 minutes or up to overnight and then drained
1/4 cup nutritional yeast
1/2 cup chunky tomato salsa or pico de gallo
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
Chunky salsa or Rotel
Chopped cherry tomatoes
Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan over medium heat until shimmering. Add the onions and garlic and sauté until the onions are soft and the garlic is fragrant.
Add the carrots, butternut squash, 1 teaspoon of the salt, cumin, chili powder, and black pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, for a couple of minutes. Add the vegetable broth and simmer, stirring frequently, until the vegetables are soft and tender. You want them to be soft enough to blend up in a blender without any problems.
Transfer the mixture to a high-powered blender. Add the green chiles, almond milk, drained cashews, nutritional yeast, salsa, vinegar, and remaining 1 teaspoon salt. Blend, scraping down the sides as needed, until the mixture has reached a thick and creamy consistency.
Taste and adjust the seasoning as needed. If it's cooled off, transfer to a saucepan and gently warm over low heat to desired temperature. Serve it in a bowl alongside tortilla chips and garnish it with your favorite toppings.
Storage: Leftovers can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.