Vegan Cheese Sauce: Not an Oxymoron (well…sort of an oxymoron)!

I looove cheese sauce, which is a bit of a problem if you’re trying to eat vegan. The best REAL cheese sauce I’ve ever made or tasted is also the quickest and easiest from Bristol Foodie. It tastes great on anything from vegetables to pasta.

I have, however, been trying to keep to a plant-based diet of late, so when I was confronted with a craving for something cheesy, I took to the internet to find a quick and easy vegan “cheese” sauce. There were many, but they all contained about a dozen ingredients, and I wanted something as quick and easy as the real one. I then remembered a great little book I’d picked up for Em called Vegan A Go-Go by Sarah Kramer: a cookbook for vegans on the road. Sure enough, the book contained a great (and easy!) recipe for fake cheese sauce. I made only a couple of small changes. Here’s the recipe:

1/2 cup nutritional yeast flakes

2 TBSP flour

1/2 tsp salt

1 cup water (I used broth–BTB’s No-Chicken base)

2 tsp oil

1 1/2 tsp Dijon mustard

1 1/2 tsp Braggs or tamari (I just used regular soy sauce).

Directions: “in a small saucepan on high heat, whisk together all ingredients. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to simmer for 2-4 minutes, stirring constantly.”

It turned out very well, and I’ve now tried it atop both a veggie dog and a veggie burger.

So heartened was I by my success that I decided to attempt vegan queso. Now, I’ve never actually tasted queso and, in fact, had never even heard of it until I read about it on a vegan forum where someone was raving about a new commercial vegan queso that tasted just like the real thing.

Well, I looked up queso and found that it’s just the type of low-class food my hillbilly heart loves: in fact most recipes for real queso call for not much more than a block of melted velveeta and a cup of salsa.

And so began my quest for a delicious vegan version of queso….and, indeed, all it had to be was delicious; it didn’t need to taste like the real thing since (as mentioned above), I’ve never actually tasted it.

This recipe is from Isa Chandra Moskowitz’s amazing Post-Punk Kitchen and it’s called

Cashew Queso

I made a couple of changes, which I’ll note below, and it turned out to be delicious.

1 cup cashews, soaked in water for at least 2 hours or overnight (I soaked mine for an hour and a half and they fine, but I started with hot tapwater).
2 cups veg broth
(I used Better Than Bouillon’s Vegan No Chicken Base)
2 tablespoons white miso
(I used red because it’s what I had)
2 teaspoons cornstarch or arrowroot

1 tablespoons olive oil
1 small yellow onion, diced
1 red bell pepper, diced (I used a smoked bell pepper because we had a bunch we’d just smoked–this gave the queso a nice smokey flavour)
1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and sliced (I didn’t have one, so I stirred in about a quarter cup of green salsa)
3 cloves garlic

2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground ancho pepper (I used red chili)
2 tablespoons nutritional yeast (optional, but I included it)
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

The instructions on PPK are as follows: 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.

In the meantime, preheat a 4 quart pot over medium heat. Saute onion, red pepper, and jalapeno in oil with a pinch of salt until soft, about 7 minutes. Add the garlic and saute about a minute more.

Transfer vegetables to the blender where the cashew mixture is. Add cumin, ancho, nutritional yeast and salt. Blend again until very smooth, scraping down the sides of the blender with a spatula to make sure you get everything.

Transfer mixture back to the 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.”

I followed the instructions, but screwed up the lemon juice by adding it too early, so I just added more again at the end. I topped it with some fresh chopped cilantro, and J and I had some as a dip with tortilla chips. It is so delicious that even James liked it (and he usually won’t eat vegan versions of cheese).

Here’s a picture in process:

Image

…and here’s the finished product–it tasted great with a little cilantro sprinkled on top:

IMG_1696[1]

One thought on “Vegan Cheese Sauce: Not an Oxymoron (well…sort of an oxymoron)!

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