Queso is a Spanish term for cheese, which is a dairy product. Traditional queso, whether queso blanco, queso fresco, or queso de bola, is made from milk and contains dairy.
However, in the modern food industry, many dairy-free alternatives are available for lactose intolerant, allergic to dairy, or following a vegan diet. Dairy-free queso is typically made from various plant-based ingredients such as nuts (like cashews), nutritional yeast, spices, and more to mimic the flavor and texture of traditional queso.
So, while queso is not dairy-free by default, dairy-free versions exist. Always check the ingredient list if you’re looking for a dairy-free version.
Dairy-Free Queso Recipe
- 1 cup raw cashews
- 1 cup diced peeled potatoes (about 1 medium potato)
- 1/4 cup diced carrots (about 1 small carrot)
- 1/2 cup nutritional yeast
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1/2 teaspoon onion powder
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon paprika
- 1/4 teaspoon turmeric (optional, for color)
- 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper (optional for heat)
- 1 cup water, plus more for soaking cashews
- Soak the cashews in water for at least 2 hours or overnight. If you’re short on time, boil them for 10-15 minutes until soft.
- In a small pot, boil the potatoes and carrots until tender. This should take about 10-15 minutes.
- Drain the cashews and the boiled vegetables.
- In a high-speed blender, combine the cashews, potatoes, carrots, nutritional yeast, lemon juice, garlic powder, onion powder, salt, paprika, turmeric, cayenne pepper (if using), and 1 cup of water.
- Blend until smooth. If the mixture is too thick, add more water, a tablespoon at a time, until you reach your desired consistency.
- Taste and adjust the seasonings as needed.
- Serve warm with tortilla chips or fresh vegetables. You can also use it as a sauce for nachos, tacos, or baked potatoes.
- Enjoy your dairy-free queso!
Note: This queso will thicken as it cools. To reheat, add a little water and heat it gently over the stove or microwave, stirring frequently.
Different Nut Options for Dairy-Free Queso
- Macadamia nuts
- Brazil nuts
- Pine nuts
Different Milk Options for Dairy-Free Queso
- Almond milk
- Soy milk
- Oat milk
- Cashew milk
- Rice milk
- Coconut milk
- Hemp milk
Best Dairy-Free Queso and Similar Sauces
Chipotle Bitchin’ Sauce
This almond-based sauce boasts a rich, smoky flavor from chipotle peppers. Its creamy texture and savory notes make it an excellent dip or spread. It brings a bit of heat but not overwhelmingly, making it a crowd-pleaser.
Made from coconut oil and fermented tofu, Chao Queso stands out with its smooth and stretchy texture that mimics traditional queso. It has a pleasing, mild flavor pairs well with many foods, making it a great all-purpose dairy-free queso.
Good Foods Queso
This plant-based queso dip balances creamy and chunky texture, featuring fresh ingredients like tomatoes, bell peppers, and almonds. It offers a subtly spicy flavor that’s not overpowering, perfect for a wide range of snacking options.
Credo’s plant-based queso has a unique, smooth texture and a well-rounded flavor profile. Its blend of cashews and bell peppers, combined with a hint of heat, creates a satisfying and flavorful sauce.
The Honest Stand Spicy Nacho
This sauce brings a spicy kick to the table, thanks to jalapeño peppers. Made from potatoes and cashews, it’s creamy, flavorful, and perfect for those who love a bit of heat in their dairy-free cheese alternatives.
Core + Rind Bold & Spicy Cashew Cheesy Sauce
This sauce stands out with its bold flavor and slightly grainy texture from cashews. It has a strong tangy note, complemented by a kick of spice, making it a great choice for those who like cheese sauce with a bit of punch.
Wayfare Nacho Cheddar Sauce
A dairy-free and vegan-friendly option with a smooth texture and a cheddar-like taste. It’s mildly spicy with a subtle sweetness, providing everyone with a well-balanced flavor profile.
Kite Hill Queso
Kite Hill’s almond milk-based queso has a creamy texture and a flavor that leans towards the milder side. It’s a good choice for those who prefer their queso not too spicy, with a noticeable yet not overpowering almond undertone.
Tips to Buy and Eat Dairy-Free Queso Sauce
Check the Ingredients: Always read the ingredient list to ensure no hidden dairy products.
Look for Certifications: Products labeled as vegan or with a dairy-free certification are a safe bet.
Try Different Brands: Each brand’s dairy-free queso will have a different taste and texture. Don’t be discouraged if you don’t like the first one you try.
Store Properly: Dairy-free queso can solidify when cooled. Store it in an airtight container in the refrigerator, and warm it before use, adding a little water if needed.
Ask the Restaurant Staff: Communicate your dietary needs clearly and ask for dairy-free versions if available.
Look for Vegan Restaurants: Eat at vegan restaurants as such places specialize in different dietary needs and ensure maximum effort to avoid cross-contamination.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is queso vegan?
Traditional queso is not vegan as it is made from dairy milk. However, vegan versions of queso use plant-based ingredients like cashews, almonds, or soy. Always check the ingredient list to ensure it is vegan.
Is queso vegetarian?
Yes, traditional queso is vegetarian. It’s a cheese product made from dairy milk, which is an animal product but does not involve killing animals.
Is queso gluten-free?
Most queso should be gluten-free as it’s a cheese product made primarily from milk. However, some processed or flavored queso might contain gluten additives, so always check the label if you’re following a gluten-free diet.
Can I freeze homemade queso?
While you can technically freeze homemade queso, it’s generally not recommended. Freezing and thawing can cause the texture to become grainy or separated. However, if you freeze it, ensure it’s stored in an airtight container.
How to store homemade queso?
Store homemade queso in an airtight container in the refrigerator. If the queso thickens after cooling, you can reheat it slowly on the stove or microwave, adding a little water or non-dairy milk to restore its creamy texture.