I am not going to lie….when I first transitioned to a plant based diet, the food I missed most was cheese. I had never eaten much meat, but I absolutely LOVED cheese. Any kind of cheese….cheddar, goat, cream, brie..you name it, I ate it. But the truth is, cheese is higher in fat than butter. It is the most unhealthy of dairy. Not only is it full of casein and fat, but it contains an opiate like substance that addicts us. This is really so a baby cow will stick beside the mother but it fools our brains as well and we crave it. Not very long after becoming plant based, I had a layover in San Francisco. I went to Ferry Plaza Market and into Cowgirl Creamery. Literally, I had drool dripping from my mouth and tears in my eyes. But I did it….I walked around smelling and admiring but didn’t taste. It was the supreme test of will for me.When it was all said and done though, I still miss cheese. I miss the creamy, gooey, melty cheese. I do like Daiya for melting as a shredded cheese, but other cheese substitutes were very underwhelming. I may be plant strong, but I am a foodie and my quest for a delicious melty cheese continued. Then one day, I stumbled across Isa Chandra’s cookbook, Veganomicon. Wow. Isa is a genius. She is creative and her recipes always turn out great! She is the vegan Ina Garten. I tried several of her recipes all the while eyeing her “cashew queso” in the index. I had so far been disgusted with my search for good vegan cheese, and thrilled with Isa Chandra’s recipes. So I bit the bullet. I bought the raw cashews, soaked them and I am forever glad. Thank you Isa for giving me my cheese fix! I have adapted her recipe to use prepared salsa instead of the sautéed peppers and onions. I did this because I was too lazy to do the prep. This dip comes together in about 20 minutes and keeps in the fridge for about 3 days. It reheats very well. If it is too thick just add a little water or veggie broth. You can also take the thick dip and spread it on bread and toast as a grilled cheese. Yum. Folks, you will not miss cheese after you taste this dip.
Cashew Queso Dip
1 cup cashews, soaked in water for at least 2 hours or overnight
2 cups veg broth
2 tablespoons white miso (see recipe note)(for a soy free option use Miso Master Chickpea Miso)
2 teaspoons cornstarch or arrowroot
1/4 cup salsa
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground ancho pepper (or any mild ground red chili)
2 tablespoons nutritional yeast (optional)
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
Drain the cashews. In a blender or food processor, puree them with vegetable broth, miso and cornstarch until very smooth. This could take anywhere from 5 to 10 minutes depending on your device. Rub between your fingers to test; slight graininess is okay, but try to get it as smooth as possible. Add in the salsa and puree until incorporated.
Transfer mixture to a medium pot. Whisking often, turn heat up to medium until the queso comes to a slow rolling boil. Lower heat so that it doesn’t burn and cook for about 20 minutes. Whisk often and check to see that it’s thickening, if it’s not, then turn the heat up a bit. It should become nicely thickened but velvetty and pourable.
Stir in the lemon juice at the end. If the queso seems too thick, drizzle in a little water and whisk to desired consistency. Taste for salt, spices and lemon juice and adjust as you like.