Vegan Queso Recipe - Pamela Salzman Skip to content

Vegan Queso Recipe

Vegan Queso | pamela salzman

My oldest daughter is a freshman in college, if you can believe it.  I totally cannot believe because I feel like I was just in college!  She’s going to school in Texas where she is enjoying a lot of (shocking, I’m sure) Tex-Mex food.  When we went to visit over Parents’ Weekend, our first meal was at Torchy’s Tacos and the first thing my daughter ordered was two quesos.

cook the vegetables

Normally my daughter is a pretty healthful eater, but I know she has a weakness for Sprinkles cupcakes and melted cheese, although let’s assume not in the same bite.  Not that “queso” is actually cheese, even though that’s exactly what it means in Spanish.  “Queso” in a Tex-Mex restaurant is basically doctored up melted Velveeta or a Land O’Lakes product called Extra Melt. Uh, that to me isn’t real cheese.  And even if it were real cheese, pasteurized cow dairy is not awesome for you.  Small amounts, ok.  Fermented or cultured, a little better.  Sheep or goat dairy, I’m in.

other ingredients for the queso

So I said to my daughter, “I can make a vegan version of this that I think is even better and won’t give you zits in the morning.”

“Whaaaat???  Since when?  You’ve been holding out on me!”

Maybe so.  In the meantime, I passed on the so called “queso.”


I did teach this vegan queso-type dip in my classes last year, and I figured it would be perfect to share before the Super Bowl.  This recipe is actually a twist on my vegan mac and cheese recipe, jazzed up with jalapeño, black or pinto beans, and my new favorite product, Whole Foods organic frozen fire-roasted corn.  If you haven’t made the mac and cheese, I am in love with it.  Delicious and mostly veggies – no fake cheese, no nutritional yeast but still crazily resembles cheese sauce.  And this version is a Tex-Mex-healthy-not-cheese-party that I am in love with, too.

back into the pot

This vegan “queso” I have used on nachos for the kids, on baked potatoes with salsa, on breakfast tacos and on spaghetti squash.  Love it!  I will come clean and tell you I much prefer it with butter over Earth Balance. Updated: Miyoko’s vegan butter works perfectly. If you absolutely cannot have butter, use the Earth Balance or Miyoko’s.  If you have a choice, use the butter.  I always use butter.  Because it’s better.  And then this isn’t vegan, but it’s cheese sauce made out of vegetables!!

add jalapeño, black beans and fire roasted corn

This queso can be made a day or two ahead and reheated.  It does not freeze well.  Updated: it will be fine frozen, but you have to reblend it after defrosting it.  But you won’t need to freeze it because you’re going to eat it ALL!!  I don’t even care who wins the game on Sunday.  Just give me a super bowl of queso!

vegan queso | pamela salzman

vegan queso | pamela salzman

2.06.21 I am updating the recipe to reflect the fact that some salts may be “saltier” than others.  

5.0 from 3 reviews
Vegan Queso
Serves: 4-6
I often serve this with no add-ins. So feel free to leave out the jalapeno, corn and beans if you like.
  • 2 Tablespoons chopped shallots
  • 1 cup (about 7 ounces) chopped Yukon gold potatoes (you can leave the peel on)
  • ¼ cup chopped carrots (about 1 small carrot)
  • ⅓ cup chopped onion
  • 1 cup water
  • ¼ cup raw cashews (soaked for 1-5 hours and drained if your blender is weak)*
  • 5 Tablespoons unsalted butter (not vegan) or Miyoko's or organic Earth Balance (both vegan)**
  • 1½ - 2 teaspoons sea salt (use less if using vegan butter or if you've never made this before)
  • ¼ teaspoon garlic, minced (about 1 medium clove)
  • ¼ teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 Tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice (optional, but add it if you have it)
  • ¼ teaspoon black pepper
  • pinch of cayenne pepper
  • 1 small jalapeno, seeds discarded, diced (about 3 Tablespoons)
  • ½ cup frozen fire-roasted corn, defrosted
  • ¾ cup cooked pinto or black beans, rinsed and drained if using canned
  • Accompaniments: tortilla chips, sweet potato chips, baked sweet potato wedges, baked fingerling potato halves
  1. In a medium saucepan, add the shallots, potatoes, carrots, onion and water and bring to a boil. Lower to a simmer and cook, covered, for 15 minutes, or until vegetables are very soft.
  2. Place the cashews, butter, salt, garlic, mustard, lemon juice, black pepper, and cayenne in a blender or food processor. Add the softened vegetables and cooking water to the blender or food processor and process until perfectly smooth. Taste for salt and adjust seasoning if needed.
  3. Pour sauce back into pot, and add the jalapeno, corn, and beans. Warm over medium-low heat for 4-6 minutes. Can be made ahead and reheated.
*Options here: to save the step of soaking cashews, cook the cashews with the vegetables. OR use the same amount of RAW cashew butter or JOI almond butter base (it's blanched and raw and has no flavor) or cooked white beans if you are nut-free.
**only use Earth Balance if you can't use Miyoko's vegan butter or can’t or won’t tolerate butter. The dip turns out better with Miyoko's or dairy butter, in my opinion.



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  1. OMG, this is SO good. I didn’t add the extras this time, but will try next! Pamela, you’re the BEST!!

    • Glad you loved it! My friends always ask for this when they come over.

  2. Hi Pamela. Following up on your recent IGLive, do you think I could make this recipe with leftover yam/orange sweet potato? Or does it need the texture of regular potatoes? Thx!

    • Totally! I’ve used sweet potatoes here and it’s still delicious. The queso will just have more of an orange tone.

      • Thanks! I’ll give it a shot

  3. I love this recipe! Just made it but for some reason it’s super salty! Any tips on fixing it? I used unsalted butter and 2 tsp sea salt like you directed. I am pregnant so that might be it!

    • Bummer, sorry! Were your beans salted? Frozen corn salted? That might have been the problem. If you don’t mind it being a little thinner, you could add some cashew milk or blend some cooked (unsalted) white beans into the mixture. It’s possible you are used to less salty foods than I am. Next time, make it with 1 1/2 teaspoons and add extra if needed.

    • Your sea salt could be saltier than the one Pamela used. I try to stick to Diamond Crystal Kosher Salt for this reason. It’s been harder to come by during Covid and when I don’t adjust, my recipes come out too salty.

      • Excellent point, Sarah! I should update the recipe in case. People can always add more salt. Thanks!

  4. Ahhhhmazing as usual! Do you think you could freeze this? I am planning for a big party. Thanks!

    • I cannot for the life of me remember if this froze well. I need to search the comments or my notes. The issue is the potato which I feel like could get grainy. It does hold up well in the fridge for a few days though.

      • Perfect thanks!

  5. We can’t find fire roasted frozen corn. Can you use regular frozen corn and add some spices or what do you suggest?

    • Just sub regular frozen corn as is!

  6. This is so good! I made mine with walnut oil because I’m out of avocado oil. I’m putting it on Smitten Kitchen’s weeknight nachos tonight, instead of the cheese she calls for.

    • That’s good to hear the recipe works with walnut oil! Yes to weeknight nachos!!

  7. Pamela you are a genius!!! Soooooo delicious!! This is now part of our Super Bowl menu!! Awesome!!!

    • Had it today at my house, too. Everyone always freaks out for it! Glad you enjoyed it. 🙂

  8. Hi: We have kids with lunch nut allergies. Is there a substitute for the cashews? It looks delic!

    • Correction – NUT allergies…

    • I haven’t personally made this without cashews, but if you read all the comments going back a couple of pages, some people have done this without. Adding a few extra vegetables or even a few canned butter beans seemed to work.

  9. Can you use ghee instead of butter? We have major dairy intolerances in the house.

    • Ghee has a much stronger flavor and would change the flavor of the queso. I would use Earth Balance or an avocado oil.

  10. Thank you Pamela. I made this for Super Bowl Sunday as a special treat for myself to enjoy during the half time show, (the only part I watch.) I think I ate my weight in Queso! It is so delicious!!! It makes a ton so I’ll be enjoying it and I guess sharing for days with hubby. For not being a vegan your vegan recipes are the best!

    • How great! I actually love the sauce on a baked potato with broccoli or a roasted sweet potato, or over eggs with salsa. Lots of ways you can enjoy those leftovers!

  11. Brought this dip to my office for everyone to sample. Of course they ALL asked for the recipe! It’s simply delicious! Thanks Pamela!

    • How awesome! 🙂

  12. Going to make this for the superbowl this weekend! Now if only you had a healthier chicken wing recipe…. I’ve got your Harira recipe on the stove as I type! Thanks for everything you do, your recipes are my absolute favorite!

    • Thinking about doing a Buffalo Cauliflower recipe one of these days!

  13. Going to try this today, perfect for our snow day! Just curious, why don’t you use nutritional yeast?

    • Great! I actually do use nutritional yeast in some recipes, but I’ve gotten a lot of negative feedback from my students who don’t love it.

      • Oh okay, thanks!

  14. This looks delicious! My kids are HUGE fans of your fish tacos and I am going to try this for them tonight!

    • Thanks, Nancy! My kids love this!

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I come from a large Italian-American family with 28 first cousins (on one side of the family!) where sit-down holiday dinners for 85 people are the norm (how, you might ask – organization! But more on that later …).

Some of my fondest memories are of simple family gatherings, both large and small, with long tables of bowls and platters piled high, the laughter of my cousins echoing and the comfort of tradition warming my soul.

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