When I first learned about this vegan nacho cheese sauce technique, I was pretty skeptical… but also intrigued. I could not imagine how in the world a grated sweet potato could transform into a rich and creamy, dippable “cheese”. But lo and behold, transform it did!
I initially spotted the technique on 101 Cookbooks (one of my all-time favorite blogs), bookmarking it for a rainy day. Then while in quarantine, I revisited the idea.
On one Friday night – back when we couldn’t go anywhere or see anyone – I’d planned to make loaded vegan nachos. I’m talking refried beans, pickled onions, fajita veggies, guacamole, and Heidi’s vegan queso – all made from scratch – piled between layers of crunchy tortilla chips. The whole endeavor took almost two hours but hey, not like I had anywhere else to go. And it was so worth it! They were the best nachos I’d ever made.
So about this “cheese”. When I finally tried it, I honestly couldn’t believe how much it tasted like the real thing (and not at all like sweet potato, like I’d anticipated). It was creamy, a little smoky, and every bit as addictive as you want queso to be.
I ended up making a few tweaks to the recipe – adding miso, nutritional yeast, and smoked paprika to amplify that umami cheesiness; pickles jalapeños for a little heat and brininess; and minced cilantro for a hit of freshness (I also love the pretty green specks).
Firstly, don’t be put off by the list of ingredients. It is a little long, but the recipe itself actually comes together really quickly.
You start by soaking some raw cashews in boiling water to soften them – they will be responsible for the creaminess of this queso. Next, you saute a diced onion along with some spices. Then you add the cashews, a grated sweet potato, and water, and simmer the mixture for a few minutes. Finally, you blend it with nutritional yeast, miso, and lots of lemon juice.
This recipe makes a large-ish batch of queso (about three cups), which is enough for about two large trays of nachos. A great thing about this vegan nacho cheese is that it lasts up to a week in the fridge, so you can repurpose leftovers on tacos, burritos, or burrito bowls.
You won’t believe how much this vegan nacho cheese sauce tastes like the real thing! Layer it into nachos, slather on tacos and burritos, or eat it as a dip with tortilla chips. (Adapted from 101 Cookbooks)
- 1 cup raw cashews
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 1 medium onion, diced
- 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt, divided
- 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1 cup grated sweet potato (about 2/3 medium potato)
- 1 1/2 cups water, divided
- 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
- 1 tablespoon nutritional yeast
- 1 tablespoon miso
- About 1/4 cup roughly chopped pickled jalapenos
- 1 tablespoon minced cilantro
- Place the cashews in a bowl and add enough boiling water to cover. Soak for at least 30 minutes.
- Meanwhile, heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-low heat and add the onion and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Cook until soft and translucent, about 5 minutes. Then add the paprika, garlic, pepper flakes, and black pepper, and cook for 30 seconds more.
- Add the drained cashews, sweet potato, 1 cup water, and remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt. Bring to a simmer and cook until the potato is softened, about 5 minutes.
- Transfer the mixture to a blender, along with the lemon juice, nutritional yeast, and miso. (See warning below). Blend until smooth and creamy, gradually adding the remaining water until it reaches a dippable consistency. Taste and adjust the seasonings, if needed. Stir in the jalapenos and cilantro.
Blender safety: Since the mixture is hot, it’s important that the steam has a way to escape the blender while you puree, so remember to take out the removable center of the blender lid before blending. If the steam is trapped inside, the lid will blow off when you start to blend and you’ll have a big mess on your hands.
- Serving Size: 1/4 cup
- Calories: 95
Keywords: nacho, queso, vegan cheese, cashews, miso