Many of you have been loving my cauliflower mac and cheese recipe. I know that was only a couple of weeks ago, but I JUST remembered the Super Bowl is coming up (as you can see, I excel at planning ahead). So I spent a day earlier this week furiously testing this vegan cauliflower queso recipe. Made from silky smooth cauliflower and creamy cashews cooked with familiar nacho cheese flavors, this is my best vegan nacho cheese yet.
As you may recall, I’ve never fully embraced the vegan potato carrot cheese because of the strange and sweet carrot flavor. Someone pointed out on my previous recipe that cauliflower has a slight sweetness to it too. (But importantly, still no weird carrot taste). I think that works fine for cheezy pasta but I wanted this cauliflower queso to be extra funky and tangy. So I tempered that mild sweet flavor with a fairly aggressive amount of pickled jalapeno juice and hot sauce. Not to worry – if you have kids or others with sensitive taste buds, you can swap in some vinegar for less heat.
I’m trying to eat as many different plants per day as I can right now. (I was inspired after seeing a talk by Jeff Leach about the human gut microbiome). We have a whiteboard on the fridge where we’re writing every unique plant that we eat in a nontrivial amount. So I’m pretty stoked that I can eat nachos while also adding another veggie to my list. Sometimes I get a little down on myself if I’m not eating “healthy enough” and this easy type of food tracking is great for both encouragement and feeling a sense of achievement. And for making room for vegan nachos
Anyway, I’ve seen many queso recipes call for Rotel. That’s cool too, but I kept things thematic and added a little bit of salsa to my cauliflower queso, as well as amping it up with sauteed onion, garlic and jalapeno. The rest of the jar of salsa went on my nachos (recipe coming soon… hopefully). Don’t have salsa? Tomato paste will do! There’s just a little bit of nutritional yeast and miso here for umami flavor too.
A few steps and dishes are needed to turn cauliflower and cashews into this delicious vegan queso dip, but I find with proper mise en place this recipe is actually quite easy! Something really delights me about not needing to mince the garlic. Thinly slicing it instead saves maybe 2 minutes of time, but judging by my emotions you’d think it was 30.
While I was getting ready to publish this I found some old photos from 2015 when I was testing a disgusting sweet potato queso. I’m so happy that I discovered vegan nacho cheese made from cauliflower, as it’s unimaginably better looking and tasting than that old one. This recipe seriously, sort of, almost, slightly tastes like dairy based nacho cheese that I used to eat a long time ago :). You can use it as a dip, or thin it out a little bit more and drizzle it on nachos, in burritos, and more.
I know folks will ask if this vegan cauliflower queso can be made in the Instant Pot or another pressure cooker. I haven’t gotten around to testing this yet but I imagine that 5 minutes under pressure would do the trick, so you can perhaps reduce the total cooking time of this recipe from 30 minutes to 20 once you factor in reaching pressure and the natural release time. Again – *not tested*. Let me know if you do this!
QUANTITY: If you're using this for nachos, you'll probably end up with extra. Feel free to halve the recipe. If you're using it for a dip, then I'd recommend the full recipe
REDUCED SPICINESS: Here are my recommendations for updates if you don't want this to have a kick. Add 3 tbsp of sliced bell pepper to the saute mixture. Reduce the jalapeno pickling liquid to 1 tbsp and add 1 tbsp of distilled white vinegar. Adjust other seasoning to taste.
SOY-FREE / PALEO: Use chickpea miso or another non-soy-based miso. Or for strictly paleo, omit the miso, increase the nutritional yeast by 1 tbsp, and add 1 tbsp fresh lemon juice.
NON-DAIRY MILK: Plain soymilk is my most recommended for this recipe. Plain almond milk also works. Oat milk is not recommended due to its natural sweetness.