Vegan Queso Recipe | Cashews + Whole Food

Vegan Queso Recipe | Cashews + Whole Food

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I have an unholy love of cheese. It is my kryptonite, my bane, my weakness, my Achilles’ heel, the chink in my armor… Seriously, I think it is one of the best foods on the planet. It is one of the reasons I’m not sure if I could go completely vegan. So when I was first introduced to vegan queso, I was a bit skeptical to say the least.

However, cheese is one of the foods I am having the hardest time finding that isn’t completely wrapped in plastic packaging (not to mention the need to cut down on animal-based foods for the sake of minimizing my carbon footprint). Because of that, I’ve been making a personal effort to heavily reduce the amount of cheese I consume and to replace most of my cheese craving snacks with a vegan alternative.

So that being said, I’m super excited to share with you a vegan queso recipe that uses cashews as the main ingredient. It is tangy, smoky, spicy, and incredibly simple and easy to make. It is full of healthy fats and tons of vitamins and minerals. While I won’t say that it tastes exactly like cheese, it does come pretty darn close.

It takes only 8 ingredients (all of which can be bought in bulk if you have a good bulk section at your grocery store) and a blender or food processor to make. And like most of my recipes, it is easily customizable to your personal preference and can be added to a good number of different dishes. If it’s a dish that tastes great with queso, chances are this will work well in it too.

I’ve used this vegan queso for:

  • Kale chips
  • Spicy roasted chickpeas
  • Burritos
  • Tacos
  • Enchiladas
  • Savory oatmeal bowls
  • Nachos
  • And as a dip

How to Make This Easy Vegan Queso

This is a pretty straightforward sauce to make and requires very little preparation ahead of time. But there are a few things to keep in mind.

I heavily recommend using a high-performance stand-up blender for this queso sauce since you want this to be silky smooth with no chunks. If you have one, you won’t need to soak the cashews (even though I still do for about an hour). However, if you don’t have a blender like my Vitamix, you will probably need to soak the cashews ahead of time. In cold water, soak the raw cashews for 6 hours or as long as overnight. Alternatively, in a hot soak, add cashews to hot water and soak for an hour.

I like to use dried peppers for my queso but that may not be an option in some regions. When I lived in Austin, there were huge bins just full of every kind of dried pepper you can think of but here in the Pacific Northwest, I’m having a harder time finding them.

If dried peppers aren’t an option for you, you can use roasted ones instead. I would suggest substituting both the ancho and guajillo with either 2 roasted poblanos or 1 poblano and 1 jalapeno if you would like a little spice. You can roast them one of two ways: the stovetop or oven.

In the oven, turn your oven to a broil setting and place the jalapenos on a baking tray (affiliate link). Broil on the top oven rack for 5-10 minutes until the skins start to blacken turning them halfway to char as many sides as possible. Place them in a sealed container to steam for about 10 minutes or longer until the skins are easy to peel off.

Alternatively, you can use a cast-iron skillet (affiliate link) on the stovetop. Heat the skillet on a medium-high setting. Do not use any oil. Place the peppers in a dry skillet, turning occasionally to char all sides for 5-10 minutes. Similarly, place them in the sealed container to steam.

Either way you go, be mindful of your hands while and after handling peppers. I have not dealt with this problem but some people experience a burning sensation from peppers. And don’t touch your eyes or your little one’s food until you’ve removed the pepper oils. Pepper in the eyes is not a good time. Ouch! And from personal experience, washing your hands with soap and water won’t entirely get rid of it either.

Psst…Want to know a neat trick to get the pepper juice off your hands? Rinse them in vinegar. Seriously it works!

And speaking of heat…You can, of course, reduce or add more spice depending on your personal heat tolerance. If you are sensitive to spice, I would recommend omitting the cayenne and red chilis. Or you can reduce the amounts in half.

And speaking of peppers…Likewise, I use whole ancho and guajillo chilis. Since sizes can vary quite a bit, try to use whole peppers that come to around 5-6 inches in length. I do not recommend completely omitting these peppers from the recipe. These peppers lend complexity and a smokey flavor to the queso and neither are very spicy. If you do not have access to whole anchos or guajillos, you can substitute them for 1-2 tablespoons ancho powder.

I think that about covers it. So get those chips ready and let’s make some queso!

This is queso with the red chilis and cayenne.

Like savory snacks? So do I! You might want to check out my cheesy kale chips (v), spicy nacho pumpkin seeds (v), savory pumpkin hummus (v), and savory pumpkin seeds (v)!

v – vegan

If you give this recipe a try, I’d love to see your awesome creation! Leave a comment, rate it, and don’t forget to hashtag a photo on Instagram #sustainablesauceresses!

Or if you have any questions or feedback, you are always welcome to leave me a comment below. I’d really love to hear from you!

Vegan Queso

Here's a basic vegan queso that uses cashews as a base. It's low waste, healthy, and surprisingly close to the real deal. You only need 8 ingredients and 15 (or less) mintutes to make it.
Prep Time15 mins
Servings: 8 1/4-cup servings


  • cups raw cashews
  • 1/2 cup nutritional yeast
  • 1/4 cup sweet peppers (red, orange, or yellow)
  • 1 whole ancho pepper (or 1 tbsp. ancho powder)
  • 1 whole guajillo pepper
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 1/2 tsp. smoked paprika
  • 1/2 tsp. pink himalayan or sea salt (or more to taste)
  • 3/4 cup water
  • 1/2 tsp. cayenne (optional)
  • 1 whole red chili pepper, dried (optional)


  • Soak cashews in warm water for about 1-2 hours.
  • Place everything in a blender or food processor.
  • Add water and blend on the lowest setting. Add more water if needed.
  • Slowly turn to the highest setting and, if needed, add enough water to reach desired thickness.
  • Optional: if using a high-performance blender, you can run it on the highest setting for 1-2 minutes to warm it up.
  • Serve immediately or store it in a sealed container. Will keep in the fridge for up to 5-7 days or 1 month in the freezer.
  • Can be reheated in the microwave or on the stovetop over a medium-high heat. Add more water if it thicken up in the fridge.


If you would like it hot, add the cayenne and/or chili pepper. 1 whole chili = 1/2 tsp. chili powder
If you are having trouble finding dried guajillo peppers, you can substitute another whole ancho pepper instead.
If you have an allergy or reaction to peppers, replace those with 1 tsp. cumin powder instead.
If you don’t have time to soak the cashews, use hot water for the queso.

Did you give this recipe a try?

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