Creamy, Zesty "Cheese" Dip

August 30, 2015
6 Ratings
Photo by Bobbi Lin
  • Prep time 3 hours 10 minutes
  • Makes 1 1/2 to 2 cups
Author Notes

Make this sauce at your own risk: It's smoky, tart flavor is absolutely addictive, and once you try it, it'll be hard to stop smothering your veggies, burritos, nachos, baked potatoes, and salads. It's your new favorite cheese sauce, except it's magically dairy free, thanks to the creaminess of blended cashews! —Gena Hamshaw

What You'll Need
  • 1 cup raw cashews, cashews, soaked for at least 3 hours, drained, and rinsed
  • 3 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1/3 cup nutritional yeast
  • 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons water
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  1. Blend all of the ingredients together in a food processor or a high speed blender till smooth. If you use a food processor, stop frequently while blending to scrape the sides of the machine down. The queso sauce will keep in the fridge for up to 5 days, and it can be frozen for up to a month.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • CalAvocado
  • Lorraine Klara
    Lorraine Klara
  • Nora
  • allythomp
  • Jenna Cardinale
    Jenna Cardinale

25 Reviews

CalAvocado October 27, 2022
I make this weekly. My toddler son with severe dairy and egg allergies is obsessed with it and wants it on everything. It’s the best!
Lorraine K. February 6, 2019
I made this for the Superbowl, first... I looove queso! But looking to have a healthier version. These were some great base ingredients and I can't wait to make it again but will definitely not add the paste, will add some grated parmesan instead for a cheesier instead of tart taste. I will reduce the water (way too thin with all that water, my family complained) also will remove the lemon and add olive oil til the best chip-sticking consistency. I know it changes the pure vegan but still healthier as the cashews are healthy!
diane W. February 4, 2019
My daughter says that this is the best thing that I’ve made since she became vegan! It was perfect on nachos for Super Bowl Sunday
Nicole August 6, 2018
We've tried at least a dozen vegan cheese sauces and this is by far our favorite. I double the recipe and blend in a Vitamix, and then after I transfer it to a sauce pan to warm on the stove, I stir in a can of Rotel diced tomatoes and green chilis (the Original variety).
Alison July 24, 2018
In my opinion yes the nutritional yeast is a must-have. It mimics the cheese flavor and has the necessary umami.
Nora July 24, 2018
Is nutritional yeast a must-have ingredient? What does it do to or for the spread? Thanks.
nutcakes January 16, 2018
I would suggest that newbies to nutritional yeast cut the amount in half to begin. I wish I had. For me, the taste of it was overwhelming like eating crushed vitamin tablets. I thought the texture was velvety and it clings to the chip, but I couldn't get over that taste. The rest of the seasoning was nice. The vegan loved it, one other person thought it was just okay, but one guest said it made her sick. I'm glad I finally made something with cashew cream base. So easy and I'd try it again, but this round the leftovers went to the vegan. We served this before a black bean soup with lime pickled onions and avocado. I got to borrow a Vitamix, would love to have one.
Mie L. May 19, 2017
Have you ever tried sun dried tomatoes instead of paste? I don't have any paste, but thinking it should work out?!
Alison January 31, 2017
This is seriously fantastic!! I "toast" the tomato paste in a small bit of olive oil before adding to the mixture and it takes away the raw tomato taste. Also, since I use a food processor, I blend for 5 minutes as previously suggested and there is no graininess. Thanks for the fantastic recipe!!
nutcakes January 16, 2018
Good suggestion on the tomato paste and I used that tip.
Vegan B. December 4, 2016
Pre-soak your cashews in hot water for about 20-30 minutes and that will greatly help with the grainy-ness.
nutcakes January 16, 2018
Thanks for that tip, worked well. It was very smooth but I did use a Vitamix.
allythomp January 1, 2016
Outrageously good, dare I say better than actual cheese queso. I used half the amount of tomato paste, added a pinch of cumin as well as some garlic powder. Lastly, I lightly sautéed some green onions and red bell pepper and blended those in lightly at the end... stirring in some chopped cilantro to finish. So good with salty Juanita's chips!
anniebananie November 16, 2015
Use raw cashew butter instead of raw cashews if you don't have a high speed blender. I sub 1/3 to 1/2 cup of the butter for 1 cup cashews, then you won't have that grainy texture. I buy it at Whole Foods but I'm sure you can get it elsewhere.
Gemma October 24, 2015
I made this following the recipe exactly and was very disappointed. Both the taste and texture resembled cashew butter mixed with raw tomatoe paste. There was nothing cheese like about this dip.
Gina September 29, 2015
Jenna C. September 28, 2015
Can this be heated?
lilroseglow September 6, 2015
Is there any reason to make this if I'm not a vegan? I mean, would I celebrate the awesome taste and experience if I wasn't trying to subsitute? I'm not vegan, so I would only want to make the recipe if it was good on its own epicureal merits.
Alexandra G. September 13, 2015
Anything cashew based is really tasty, plus it's a lot healthier and easier to digest if that matters to you.
txchick57 September 4, 2015
I'll make this this weekend. Is there anything that doesn't draw whiny complaints about dietary restrictions?
louisez September 4, 2015
Helen -- I use a food processor, and find it helps to process 5 minutes or so, scraping the sides of the processor a few times.
Helen M. September 4, 2015
Yeah I guess I will just process longer. Thanks for the advice!
Helen M. September 4, 2015
I have had problems with a grainy texture to things I have made with blended cashews. I don't have anything so high speed as a Vitamix, but is there anything else I can do to avoid the grit?
makebistro September 7, 2015
Pass it through a fine sieve after blending
louisez September 3, 2015
I made this last night, and it was a big hit (I've never made one of your recipes that wasn't). I preordered your book months ago -- am really looking forward to it.