Queso! I adore it, but I always overdo it, and waddle out of Mexican restaurants with a belly full of cheese. Unfortunately, my queso-digesting powers seem to be diminishing rather than improving with age. So, I decided to come up with a dairy-free version to rival my favorite restaurant’s.
This stuff is remarkably queso-like. You can serve it in a bowl or drizzle it over nachos, burritos, or maybe even French fries. I won’t judge. I aimed to create the tastiest vegan queso, not the absolute quickest queso, which usually just consists of cashews blended with spices. For mine, you’ll build flavor on the stovetop, then transfer everything to a blender. It’s totally worth the effort.
Let’s talk about the ingredients inside my queso. It starts with sautéed onion, like all delivious savory recipes. Then, russet potato comes into play, which has a magical tendency to become silky smooth, creamy and a little stretchy once blended. I grated the potato, which is faster than chopping it, and it cooks very quickly that way.
Fresh garlic and dried spices offer some complexity and familiar queso flavor. I included onion powder and garlic powder, which might seem redundant, but the combo makes this sauce taste irresistible—that’s a little trick I learned from Serious Eats, along with the potato factor.
Then, add raw cashews for more body and creaminess, and some water, which finishes cooking the potatoes and softens the cashews so they blend more easily. Once cooked, transfer everything to a blender (my Vitamix handles this queso like a champ).
Nutritional yeast offers some umami and “cheesy” flavor/color, and sun-dried tomatoes provide another little umami boost. Vinegar, hot sauce and salt round it out. Once blended to creamy oblivion, stir in some fire-roasted tomatoes, which are infinitely better than Ro-Tel.
Voilà (or the Spanish equivalent)! You have the best vegan queso, which is so good that my cheese-eating girls’ night crew couldn’t stop going back for more. My best friend from childhood is coming to town soon and I’m going to make her some, too. We’ve eaten a lot of queso in our years together, but she has realized that dairy doesn’t agree with her skin, so this queso will be the perfect alternative.
Watch How to Make Creamy Vegan Queso
Creamy Vegan Queso
- Prep Time: 15 mins
- Cook Time: 15 mins
- Total Time: 30 minutes
- Yield: 3 ½ cups 1x
- Category: Appetizer
- Method: Stovetop
- Cuisine: Mexican
The best vegan queso recipe—it’s incredibly creamy, yet made without any dairy or processed ingredients! This healthy dairy-free nacho cheese will satisfy the diehard cheese fans in your life, too. Recipe yields about 3 ½ cups queso.
- 2 tablespoons avocado oil or extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 medium yellow onion, chopped
- 1 cup peeled and grated russet potato (4 ounces, about 1 small or ½ medium potato), preferably organic
- 4 cloves garlic, pressed or minced
- ½ teaspoon smoked paprika
- ½ teaspoon ground chili powder
- ½ teaspoon ground cumin
- ½ teaspoon garlic powder
- ½ teaspoon onion powder
- ½ teaspoon salt, more to taste
- 1 cup (5 ounces) raw cashews*
- 1 ½ cups water, more as necessary
- ¼ cup nutritional yeast
- 1 tablespoon rinsed oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes
- 2 teaspoons hot sauce (I used Chipotle)
- 1 teaspoon white wine vinegar or distilled white vinegar
- ⅔ cup well-drained fire-roasted tomatoes (I recommend Muir Glen brand) or chunky salsa
- 2 tablespoons chopped pickled jalapeños, optional
- Optional toppings: additional fire-roasted tomatoes or salsa or chopped fresh tomatoes, chopped fresh cilantro, thinly sliced fresh jalapeños or pickled jalapeños, and/or finely chopped red onion
- In a large saucepan, warm the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion and a pinch of salt and cook, stirring often, until the onion is tender and turning translucent, about 5 minutes.
- Add the grated potato, garlic, paprika, chili powder, cumin, garlic powder, onion powder and salt. Stir to combine, and cook, stirring constantly, for 1 to 2 minutes to enhance their flavors.
- Add the cashews and water, and stir to combine. Let the mixture come to a simmer. Continue simmering, stirring frequently and reducing heat as necessary to avoid a rapid boil, until the potatoes are completely tender and cooked through, about 5 to 8 minutes.
- Carefully pour the mixture into a blender, but keep the pot handy for later. Add the nutritional yeast, sun-dried tomatoes, hot sauce and vinegar. Blend until the mixture is completely smooth, about 2 minutes, stopping to scrape down the sides if necessary. If the mixture won’t blend easily or if you would prefer a thinner consistency, add water in ¼ cup increments, blending after each one.
- Taste, and blend in additional salt until the queso is utterly irresistible (I typically add about ½ teaspoon more). Pour the mixture back into the pot and add the tomatoes or salsa and jalapeños, if using. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until the mixture is very warm.
- To serve it as a dip, transfer to a serving bowl and top with any garnishes you’d like. Or to make nachos, drizzle it generously over a bed of tortilla chips and garnish as desired. Serve immediately. Leftovers taste even better the next day! Store cooled leftover queso in a bowl, covered, in the refrigerator for up to 5 days. Gently reheat on the stove or in the microwave, stirring frequently, until warmed throughout.
Recipe adapted from Serious Eats and my vegan chipotle carrot queso.
*Raw cashew notes: Most recipes like this suggest soaking the cashews for 4 hours in advance to make them easier to blend and to digest. I honestly never soak mine since I have a powerful Vitamix that blends them right up. The cashews in this recipe are cooked in hot liquid, so they’re softer and even easier to blend. However, if you don’t have a great blender or if you’re concerned about the digestibility factor, go ahead and soak them in advance.
▸ Nutrition Information
You should really credit J Kenji Lopez-Alt for the extremely heavy inspiration drawn from his recipe…
Cookie and Kate let me just say ya’ll are a 2/2 in my book. You’re vegan sour cream was amazing but this queso mixed with homemade salsa knocked my socks off!
Hi Kate, I’m interested in trying this recipe. Would it be okay to omit the nutritional yeast? Do you have a substitute? Also, I LOVE YOUR BLOG!!
Hi Archi! The nutritional yeast really helps to give the cheese-like flavor and consistency. I wouldn’t recommend it.
We cannot get over how good and queso-like this is! Thank you so much
We have a nut allergy and just wondering if you think using cooked white beans instead of cashews is worth trying? We’re not sure if sunflower seeds are safe either.
Hi Jane, I wouldn’t know without trying it and I haven’t had much luck with mimicking the creamy texture with something else that you get with cashews. Sorry!
I made this last night and tricked my whole family. Everyone could’ve sworn they were eating real cheese queso! I only gave it away to my husband… my kids didn’t need to know. Wonderful recipe!! It was so good, I bought your cookbook too. <3
I’m happy it was such a hit, Malia! Thank you for your review.
Really good! First time trying to make queso like this, I didn’t have sun dried tomatoes and still yummy (curious what that adds) I did add quite a bit more (probably a tablespoon or two) hot sauce!
this was one of the best ive had! and i have had lots of different vegan cheese sauces. So flavorful and rich! I reduced the water by more than half, i like mine thick.
I just tried making this for the first time. Your recipe was DELICIOUS and easy! It is honestly way better than real cheese dip and definitely great that I don’t have to worry about dairy issues! I added a bit more hot sauce for more spiciness!!! Amazing.
Can you do this without onions? I have trouble with sautéed onions, the powder form is fine. Also, I have no idea if nutritional yeast is available here. Need to Google local bio stores ;)
Hi Vesna! I think the onions really help give this some of it’s delicious flavor. Leaving it out, not sure you will get a great result.
Just a thought, scallions (green onions) are very “onion-like” and do not create a lot of the digestive issues some people experience with onions. Perhaps you could use them instead.
Very tasty and creamy! The creaminess really came together on blending. My queso didn’t come out as bright as I would have liked, but my sun-dried tomatoes were pretty brown, so I’m sure they are the culprits.
I think I will still add extra salsa on top for serving as a dip, but so far it’s a great sauce. I plan on making my sweet potatoe layered bake and using this instead of cheese.
For anyone who is unable to get fireroasted tomatoes, a great trick is to use regular diced tomatoes (in this case drained) and add them to a pot with 1-4 drops of liquid smoke. Cooking them gently will help reduce some acidity and the liquid smoke adds the fireroasted flavour.
Thank you for sharing, Minnie! I’m happy you loved it. I appreciate your tips.
Love, love, love. This was truly an incredible vegan queso recipe. Made it for taco night and I had to have my husband push it across the table so I’d stop eating it. I am not a big fan of nutritional yeast, but I could barely taste it. I made it mild so my toddlers could enjoy it and they did for sure! I’m looking forward to the leftovers. Definitely recommend this recipe.
Wonderful, Hannah! Thank you for taking the time to review.
Have you had success freezing this for later?
I haven’t tried it, sorry!
Awesome! I work on eating healthier & this is a good start. Used what I had on hand- canola oil, sweet onion and peppericini. Came out incredibly delicious! It wasn’t as yellow as the pics, but still! It also was a lil thin for my liking so I added lil bits of instant potatoes until it thickened up! Little bit of work but well worth it. Im using it as a dip wth tortilla chips!
Excited to try this! I see that someone else successfully left out sun dried tomatoes. Do you have any recommendations for substitutes or do you think it will be fine without?
Hi! I think the flavor is really great with, but you could omit. I can’t guarantee the results.
Months later, but I made without. Just added some salsa and it was fantastic!
Can this be frozen ? I made too much!
Hi! I haven’t tried it, but I believe others have and didn’t mind the results.
Hi – is there a substitute that you know of for the Nutritional yeast in this recipe? This ingredient is actually MSG which is known to not only be bad for your brain and overall health but also contributes to Alzheimer’s later in life.
This recipe is perfect! Everyone in my family enjoyed it. My search for the perfect quest recipe is over. Thank you!!
Hello! Can I use a Yukon gold type potato vs. russet? Have a Costco sized bag to consume Thanks!
Hi, I find russet works best for the creamy result.
I just made it and I don’t know what I did wrong. Mine isn’t as golden color as yours and the texture looks like its trying to be creamy but is grainy. I have a blendtec. As for the color, mine is beige despite putting in the nutritional yeast. I even put extra in hope it would help the color.
Hi Kim, I’m sorry to hear that! Does your blender tend to work on other dips, sauces and smoothies? Did you cook the ingredients long enough before adding them to the blender? They may have needed a bit more time.
It works beautifully on others and even really well on soups. Maybe you are right about the cooking time. I might have either did too little or too long. It still tasted great.
This is delicious! I was unable to get fire roasted tomatoes at my local grocer so settled for Rotel, but it was still dee-lish! I too have a Vitamix and it blended it into the creamiest , smoothest bowl of yum mines. I did blend half of the jalapeños and about 1 tablespoon of rotel in with it, then added the remaining Rotel and jalapeños at the end to give it some texture……so, so good! I doubt anyone will be able to tell that it contains no cheese.
Hello! Thank you for your recipe! The only one question: Could it be frozen after cooling?
Hi! I haven’t tried it so I’m not sure. Let me know if you do and how it holds up!
This is magic! I never thought this mix of ingredients would turn into the best tasting queso I’ve had in ages. And I can eat it without fear of terrible stomach ache. Thank you thank you!
You’re welcome, Shelley!
Okay, I just finished making this recipe for a group of girls, 2 of whom are DF. No one else has tried it yet. I AM SCRAPING THE VITAMIX CLEAN WITH MY HANDS Y’ALL. This queso is other-worldly, and I am neither V nor Veg.
Would highly recommend a chipotle-based hot sauce since the smokiness tempers the heat in a way that even the spice-averse can handle. Though I think I snuck in an extra 2 teaspoons, lol.
I also ended up almost doubling the amount of nutritional yeast to tame the cashew flavor a bit more. This is a really easy recipe to customize as you’re doing the blending/tasting dance. Bravo Kate!!
This is absolutely the best vegan recipe! I’ve made a few others with and without the cashews, this recipe is hittin, I’ve had non vegans love it!!!
Thank you soooo much for this! I’m a Texan living in Sweden and I was able to find all of the ingredients at my local grocery store. My family is overjoyed with having queso back in their lives
hi! this sounds awesome. I don’t own a blender, do you know if it is possible to make this is a food processor?
Hi Alaina, you can try it! It may not get as creamy and you will need to soak the cashews.
WOW! I’m not vegan, but my SIL is lactose intolerant so I found your recipe to make something he could enjoy too. This is so tasty and has a really nice texture! I venture to say if you didn’t tell someone it wasn’t real cheese they would have no clue! I subbed 2t tomato paste for the sun dried, and 1/2 a chipotle pepper for the hot sauce. Thank you so much!
You’re welcome, Wendi! I appreciate you taking the time to review.
I have tried a lot of Vegan quesos and this one is remarkable!! It freezes well and may even be better!
Thank you so much for this recipe!
Hooray! That’s great to hear, Collette.
So good! Thank you for creating a vegan queso that tastes as good or better than the real deal. Happy!
You’re welcome, Cheryl! I’m glad you loved it.
I was sceptical about this recipe but it was delicious. I will definitely make again, even though I am not vegan.
Great to hear, Drey!
Holy smokes!! I’m always skeptical of vegan cheese recipes it this was a rare exception. It actually tastes like queso. So good – couldn’t get mine as smooth as I would like to trick the dairy eating folks in the family but maybe because I used a food processor? Is there a way to use the food processor with better results? Followed recipe exactly as written.
I’m sorry to hear that! Sometimes the power of the food processor or blender matter. I’m still glad you enjoyed it, Taylor.
I’m don’t usually like cheese analogs. That said, I have a dairy allergy and that plastic cheese in a can overrides not only my preference for fewer highly processed thing in my diet but also the voice in my head that tells me all the extra whey will make me flare. I will happily mix this into pasta, dip chips and pretzels in it, and pour it over nachos and baked potatoes in it any time. It scratches the itch for a good cheesy sauce really well. Thank you for saving me from myself!
Nice, but I would never mistake it for the real thing. More of a creamy spicy tomato dip. I did add more nutritional yeast to bring out that cheesy umami mid-flavor a bit more. And I imagine it can be served at room temperature and not get gross the way real queso does!
Is it ok to use regular salted cashews? It’s all I have on hand. Thanks!
You can try it. Be sure to modify the salt as needed. Let me know how it turns out!
I will definitely try this creamy and cheesy vegan Queso. The magic of sauteed onions and russet potato is everything in this appetizer and adds a great taste to this dish.
Let me know what you think! I hope you love it.
As someone trying to avoid cholesterol, curious as to where the cholesterol is coming from in your recipe? Being plant based there should be none. Couldn’t determine which ingredient is coming from.
Hi Maryann, I recommend checking out my Nutrition Disclaimer.