Delicious, creamy, cheesy plant-based queso that is dairy-free and oil-free. Enjoy it as a dip or baked on top of your favorite burritos, nachos, or whatever you'd like! It's ready within 30 minutes if you've pre-soaked your cashews - we just use a few, or go with the nut-free option. This recipe satisfies vegan, vegetarian, gluten-free, oil-free, whole food plant-based, and general lifestyles.
By simply adding salsa to my Everyday Vegan Cheese Sauce recipe, we've got a plant-based queso! So good with your favorite bean dish. Here, it's pictured on top of Vegan Potato Nachos.
What is queso?
Queso is generally known as a melted cheese sauce with peppers that can be used as a dip. I'm using the term loosely here, as there is no actual melted cheese (in fact, there's no dairy at all) and it's not simulating the pull of melted cheese. It is, however, a cheesy sauce with peppers in it that can be used as a dip. I mostly use it to top nachos or other Mexican bean dishes, and my husband enjoys it as a dip for his tortilla chips.
Ingredients and Substitutions
For this recipe, we're using just a few simple ingredients.
Potatoes: I prefer to use yellow potatoes for color, nutrition value, and texture. Second best would be red potatoes, which will give the sauce tiny specs of red, as in the cheese sauce pictured. The next best after yellow or red potatoes would be standard baking potatoes. You can peel them, but I don't usually.
Sweet potato or carrot: I prefer sweet potato for this recipe, though carrot works if you don't have any.
Cashews, or extra potato: To keep this cheese sauce oil-free, cashews provide that nice rich texture and flavor. If you are wanting to go nut-free, adding more potato will give you the creamy factor without the added fat that the nuts provide.
Shallots or red onion: Shallots provide a really nice flavor. If you don't have any, red onions work well - other onions would be fine, too, in a pinch.
Garlic: One of the backbones of flavor in this recipe, so don't be stingy with it! The bigger the garlic cloves, the better.
Nutritional yeast: This is the main ingredient for providing that cheesiness we're after.
Salt: You may require a bit less if using the nut-free option. If you are wanting to cut back on salt, you could try replacing it with an extra vinegar.
White Wine Vinegar: This is the vinegar I like to use, but other light-colored vinegars could be used. Lemon juice could replace vinegar quite nicely, too.
Salsa: Use your favorite salsa containing peppers. Different salsas will supply different flavors. If you want a more traditional queso, choose one that is heavy on the chili peppers.
Plant-based Milk: Any unsweetened plain plant-based milk will do. I usually use oat or soy.
See recipe card for quantities.
You will just need a pot with a steamer basket that fits it and a high powered blender. If you don't have a blender that seems like it could handle this recipe, you can try a food processor. A food processor would work best with the nut-free option.
It's easy to make this queso.
First, coarsely chop the potatoes and carrots or sweet potatoes, then steam them in a steamer basket inserted in a pot with a couple inches of water. Steam by bringing the pot to a boil, then reducing to a simmer and covering with a lid. Simmer for 15 minutes or until the potatoes are soft when pierced with a fork.
Combine all the ingredients in a strong blender and blend until creamy.
Add more milk if needed to blend well.
Use as a warm dipping sauce or bake it into your favorite Mexican dishes.
Warm the queso and use as a dip, or pour the queso over Mexican dishes and bake.
The queso takes on a vibrant golden color when baked and the top layer can become toasted.
This queso can be stored in a sealed refrigerated container for up to a week. I have not tried freezing it yet.
You can replace some of the salsa with green chiles, jalapenos, or any other peppers you'd like.
We're using a plant-based milk alternative along with cashews and potatoes that bring a rich creaminess and nutritional yeast for a cheesy flavor. The combination, along with the other ingredients, makes this a great dairy-free alternative.
Looking for other sauces and condiments? Try these:
These are my favorite dishes to eat with queso:
Plant-based Queso Recipe
- knife and cutting board
- measuring cups and spoons
- steamer basket
- pot that fits steamer basket
- high speed blender or other strong blender or food processor if nut-free
- 2 ½ cups potatoes coarse chopped, yellow or red; for nut-free, add another heaping ½ cup
- 1 sweet potato about ½ cup coarse chopped or use carrot
- ¼ cup cashews soaked for 2 hours; or additional steamed potato for nut-free
- 2 shallots about ½ cup coarse chopped, or red onion
- 2 garlic cloves coarse chopped
- ¼ cup nutritional yeast
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 2 teaspoons white wine vinegar or apple cider vinegar
- ¼ teaspoon turmeric
- ½ cup salsa with peppers in it; or substitute jalapenos, green chiles, or other peppers with some of the salsa.
- 1 cup plant-based milk plain unsweetened, like oat or soy
- Reminder: pre-soak the cashews for at least 2 hours prior.
- Steam veggies: Pour a couple inches of water into a pot and set it to boil. Chop the three potatoes and sweet potato or carrot into one-inch pieces and place them into your steamer basket. When the pot comes to a boil, add the basket and lid and steam for 15 minutes, until the potatoes are very tender.
- Blend: While the potatoes cook and steam, drain the cashews and put them into a high-speed blender. Coarsely chop the shallots and garlic and add them, too, plus the remaining ingredients. Once the potatoes are ready, let cool a bit if needed, then add them and blend until smooth. Add more milk or use a tamper to help blend.
- Store in a jar or other airtight container in the refrigerator, to be used within the week.
general food safety
- Cook to a minimum temperature of 165 °F (74 °C)
- Do not use the same utensils on cooked food that previously touched raw meat
- Wash hands and ingredients well before using
- Don't leave food sitting out at room temperature for extended periods
- Never leave cooking food unattended
- Use oils with high smoking point to avoid harmful compounds
- Always have good ventilation when using a gas stove