Cashew-Less Vegan Queso

Cashew- Free Vegan Queso Dip! Made with a secret ingredient to keep it creamy, velvety and totally cashew, soy, gluten and dairy free! #vegan

It always happens. Just as I’m about to drift off to sleep at night, a recipe idea zings into my brain out of nowhere. This time, for vegan queso.

Roasted Eggplants


I’ve tried vegan cheese based with cashews. It’s good, and it’s the first way I learned to mock cheese texture and flavor without using dairy. But I knew there had to be a better way.

I mean, not that I’m into counting calories, but cashews are very high in calories and fat and you can detect them in sauces unless you really build up the flavor from spices and otherwise.

So, the thought was, “What else is creamy but neutral and would make a good base for cheese sauce?”

The zinger I got at midnight whilst falling asleep: EGGPLANT!

Roasted Eggplant

Eggplant is amazingly versatile, especially once roasted. I enjoy it in pastas, whirled into baba ganoush or even roasted and layered into a hearty veggie sandwich. I adore the creaminess of baba ganoush and suspected its eggplant base would make an excellent base for vegan queso.

DING DING DING. I was correct.

Vegan Queso Recipe!

This sauce starts with roasted eggplant. I speed up the process by slicing it into thin rounds and broiling. A little steam in foil and then you can pull away the skin with ease. Then, just throw it into a blender with almond milk, nutritional yeast and a handful of spices and you’re good to go.

Look at that creamy queso goodness.

Vegan Cashew-less Queso Dip! Healthier and creamier than nut cheese and SO delicious!

A little cornstarch in the mix helps it thicken up once heated in a saucepan for serving. This is an optional step but I recommend it for that ultimate luxurious cheesy texture. (If you don’t use cornstarch, try another thickener, such as arrowroot powder.)


All that’s left to do is add in a few Tbsp of slightly drained Rotel (just like real queso dip!) or your favorite chunky salsa. This really sends the texture and flavor over the top to mock the real thing.

Rotel Vegan Queso Dip!Easy Vegan Queso Dip! Cashew, soy and glutenfree! #vegan #glutenfree

Oh. My. Word.

You’re not gonna believe how delicious this is. And guess what? HUSBAND APPROVED!

John tried it, and he doesn’t like cashew sauces, and he really liked this dip! We agreed that it was ridiculous how close it was to real queso dip. Seriously amazing!

Cashew-Less Vegan Queso! Thick, creamy, velvety and almost undetectably close to real queso!

So what does it taste like?

Super cheesy
Slightly spicy
Perfectly dippable
Totally pourable
Begging to be added to all your favorite dishes

Don’t worry. I have a few recipes in the works utilizing this dreamy dip! And another bonus, it reheats extremely well! If you’ve ever made cashew cheese you know it doesn’t exactly reheat well. But with this, you can just pop it in the microwave or put it back in a saucepan and it’s just as good!

Creamy Vegan Queso Dip! Cashew, Soy and Gluten Free! #vegan #glutenfree #queso

Yet ANOTHER bonus? This dip is cashew-, soy-, dairy-, and gluten-free!

And did I mention it’s way lighter in fat and calories than nut- and dairy-based quesos? Just 55 calories and 3.5 grams of (healthy) fat per serving! What’s not to love? Make this dip! And if you do, take a picture and tag it #minimalistbaker on Instagram so I can see! Cheers!


Cashewless-Vegan-Queso-DipTHE BEST Vegan Queso Dip! CASHEW FREE! Cashew, soy, gluten, dairy free and SO creamy and delicious!

4.4 from 31 reviews

Cashew-Less Vegan Queso
Prep time

Cook time

Total time


10-ingredient, creamy, velvety Vegan Queso that’s cashew-, soy-, and gluten-free! Eggplant gives it that creamy texture that’s also lighter in calories than queso and reheats extremely well. Ridiculously close to the real thing! Let the dipping begin!
Recipe type: Appetizer, Sauce
Cuisine: Vegan, Gluten Free
Serves: 6

  • 7-9 rounds of eggplant, sliced 1/4-inch thick (~half of a medium eggplant)
  • Olive oil
  • Sea salt
  • 1.5-2 cups unsweetened original almond milk
  • 2-3 Tbsp nutritional yeast (see instructions)
  • 1/4 tsp finely minced fresh garlic (I used crushed garlic from Trader Joe’s)
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp chili powder
  • 2 tsp cornstarch (optional for thickening | sub another thickener if desired)
  • 1/4 cup chunky medium salsa, slightly drained (OR 1/4 10-ounce can of Rotel original diced tomatoes and green chilies)
  • OPTIONAL: Smoked paprika and hot sauce for added color and flavor upon serving.

  1. Slice your eggplant into thin rounds just under 1/2 inch (not quite 1/4 inch), then sprinkle both sides of the flesh with a little sea salt and arrange in a colander to help draw out some of the moisture and bitterness. Let set for 10-15 minutes, then rinse with cool water and thoroughly pat dry between two clean towels.
  2. Preheat oven to high broil and place an oven rack near the top of the oven. Arrange the dried eggplant rounds on a baking sheet lightly spritzed with non-stick spray and drizzle both sides of the eggplant with a little olive oil. Sprinkle with a very small amount of salt.
  3. Broil on high for 4-5 minutes on each side, watching carefully as to not let them burn. Flip at the halfway point to ensure even cooking. Once the eggplant appears tender and both sides have golden brown color, remove from the oven and wrap loosely in foil to steam.
  4. After a few minutes, unwrap and peel the eggplant skin away. It should come right off. If you pack your roasted eggplant into a 1-cup measuring cup, it will be almost 1 cup.
  5. Place eggplant in a blender with the 1.5 cups (to start) almond milk, 2 Tbsp nutritional yeast, minced garlic, cumin, chili powder and cornstarch and blend on high until smooth and creamy. Taste and adjust seasonings as needed. I added a pinch more sea salt and a little more nutritional yeast. To thin, add more almond milk.
  6. Transfer to a small saucepan and warm over medium to medium heat until slightly thickened and bubbly – about 5 minutes. The longer you go the thicker it will become.
  7. NOTE: If it isn’t looking as thick as you want, thicken with a slurry of cornstarch by adding an additional 1 tsp cornstarch to a small bowl with a little almond milk and 2-3 Tbsp of the cheese mixture. Whisk to combine and then stir back into the pot. This should thicken it right up.
  8. Once hot and thickened, remove from heat and stir in DRAINED salsa or Rotel. Don’t put the liquid in or it will make it runny. Pour into a serving dish and top with a little smoked paprika and hot sauce for flavor/color.
  9. Serve with chips, crackers or veggies. Keep warm in a mini crockpot or over a tea light warmer if you have one. Microwaves well.
  10. Refrigerate and cover leftovers. Reheats extremely well in the microwave or in a saucepan. Will keep for up to a few days, but best when fresh.

*Nutrition information is a rough estimate for 1 of 6 servings.

Nutrition Information
Serving size: ~1/4 cup Calories: 55 Fat: 3.5 g Saturated fat: 0g Carbohydrates: 4.7 g Sugar: .7 g Sodium: 326 mg Fiber: 2 g Protein: 2.3 g


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  1. Elizabeth says

    Since I’m allergic to tree nuts, thought this would be a good recipe… then saw almond milk as an ingredient. :( Any suggestions for a substitute that’s tree-nut free?

  2. Abs says

    Weird question but what shape are your aubergines? I ask because I’m from the UK where they are sorta egg-shaped but here in Malaysia they are more like a courgette shape. As it will greatly affect the quantity, I need to know. Or can you give a rough estimate by weight? Thanks.

    • Dana Shultz says

      It doesn’t matter! I’ve done this recipe with both egg and courgette shaped. Just buy a medium-large one. Use any leftover roasted eggplant for baba ganoush! Or make a larger batch of queso. Hope that helps!

  3. Peggy says

    Can you give a weight for the eggplant? I never know if my eggplant is small, medium or large. Such relative terms! Thanks!

    • Dana Shultz says

      I don’t know the weight, I’m sorry! that’s why I gave a 1 cup measurement once roasted. Hope that helps, Peggy!

  4. says

    Thank you, thank you, THANK YOU for this! My fiance loves queso (Texan, etc.), but I just can never bring myself to eat what is essentially a block of something they can’t legally call cheese with some stuff stirred into it. This might be a good compromise :)

  5. Kelley says

    Can’t wait to try this. I’m new to eating dairy-free and I have a son who is nut/peanut allergic. I like the idea of using rice milk. This looks like cheddar cheese, is there a way to make a “cheese” that looks and tastes like mozzarella? I’m so grateful for you smart cooking people!

  6. Rachel says

    Did you know that if you add tapioca starch it will make the dip stretchy. If you are looking for that texture. I plane on doing this dip, plus tapioca, for Mac and cheese.

  7. says

    I just made it and it’s soooo good. I used too much garlic and only had soy milk on hand but it still came out great with a few extra seasonings. Thanks for the recipes! I think I’m gonna use some of it as a creamy pasta sauce;)

  8. Holley Wright says

    Hi, I made this last night for my 18 yr old son and husband, both manly eaters and myself, it was FANTASTIC!!! my only regret is that I didn’t double it! We practically licked the bowl…thanks so much!
    my daughter (who is at college) is lactose intolerant, and I think this would be great on nachos for her!!

    • Dana Shultz says

      Ah, so great to hear it! Definitely double it next time ;D Thanks for sharing, Holley! (and P.S. TRY IT ON NACHOS. SO GOOD)

  9. Bird says

    Just made this and it is so brilliantly good!! This is genius, thank you for sharing it with us :) I went with 1 1/2 cups of almond milk and 3 tsp cornstarch and it made a great consistency, and chulola hot sauce :).

  10. Aimee B. says

    Sadly, this wasn’t one of my faves. It ended up looking like dijon mustard in color despite adding in extra nooch and smoked paprika. The taste was O.K., but I’m not sure I’d make it again. I think I’d rather make baba ganoush with my eggplants. That said, you can’t please everyone as we all have different tastes. I think it’s great that you got so creative and I love your blog. Keep the recipes coming! <3

  11. Brook says

    One word… Meh… Color, not at all like your pics– looked like watered down mustard color, . Flavor , blah, super bland, even after tweaking the spices. The texture however was pretty good–nice and creamy, but tasted nothing, absolutely nothing, like cheese. Boyfriend didn’t like it either…..sorry, but this was a definite flop in our house.

    • Dana Shultz says

      Bum! Thanks for your feedback. It’s definitely one that has to be played with to get it to your liking. I add more nutritional yeast and paprika for color. And to thicken, I add more cornstarch. If you let the dip sit out too long, it will turn an unpleasant color. But fresh, it should be a golden color. Hope that helps!

  12. says

    I cannot believe I am just finding this blog. I am so happy that I did! My first recipe to make will be this vegan queso dip, because, lucky me, I happen to have an eggplant straight chilling in my crisper as we speak. Is it wrong to have nachos for dinner on a Thursday? Or is it oh so right?

  13. says

    What a lightbulb moment! I adore baba ganoush and make it frequently, and part of the adoration is the luxuriously smooth texture (long as you blend long enough). Will absolutely try this, but I may try a cheater version using just a bit of cashews too. I don’t have a problem with nuts but I do think they get used WAY too much sometimes in vegan cooking. Balance, people! At any rate, such a revelation to have another option, thanks Dana.

    • Dana Shultz says

      Great idea! Mixing in some cashews would probably work great. Let me know how it goes, Carolyn!

  14. Wendy says

    I am officially voting you “Queen of the Geniuses”! This dip was just WONDERFUL! I honestly did not expect to like this recipe because I am not a fan of eggplant but decided it looked too good to not try it. I left out the cumin cuz I don’t care for it and the nutritional yeast that I use doesn’t have the lovely bright yellow color that would have made this look just like cheese so mine was just kind of tan in color. My husband and I didn’t care because we loved the dip so much next time I will have to make a double batch. Thanks for sharing this yummy recipe!

    • Dana Shultz says

      oh yay! Thanks Wendy! So glad you guys enjoyed it! And thanks for the ‘Queen’ compliment! *blushing*

  15. Natalie says

    This was so delicious! As a somewhat new vegetarian exploring vegan options, I was a bit hesitant to try this recipe. A few “cheezy” recipes I have tried in the past have sadly missed the mark. But this was a revelation. I have to be honest and say it did not satisfy my craving for classic, cheeeesy queso, but it completely made me forget about queso while I was eating it! The dip is a wonderfully rich, yet light explosion of Mexican flavor :) I could not stop eating this and can’t wait to incorporate it into other Mexican dishes I make. It also has a slight sweetness to it that surprised me and made me double dip with no shame!

    I love your recipes, keep making amazing dishes :)

  16. Lynn Andrews says

    When making this recipe, my attitude was that this would be a nice additional veggie option for our nachos instead of a cheese replacement. It came out well, though not the same color, however, most eggplant dips tend to have a greyish tint. We served this with nachos and it was all gobbled up. We agreed that it didn’t really taste like queso but it was still very good. I’m going to try this again in a black bean beef quinoa enchilada bake this weekend. Thank you for the recipe.

    Sidenote: While we’re not vegans I was extremely interested in this recipe because if you compare prices of buying a jar of queso vs making this version, you get a better deal with the recipe. It’s cheaper and better for you and it makes more than a dinky jar, a win-win in my books :) Thanks again!

  17. Sara says

    Hi this was verrrry good, one quick question mine was not as pretty as yours more brown than orange. Any ideas on how to orange it up a bit?

    • Dana Shultz says

      The color will change depending on the amount of each seasoning you use. For a vibrant orange color, pack in lots of nutritional yeast and paprika. also, the longer it sits out, it will turn a little bit brown. But it still tastes amazing!

  18. Katrina says

    Alright, maybe I did something wrong (and I’ve never used eggplant so I’m not familiar with their flavor) but this turned out just awful. Like inedible awful. I’m going to have a third person try it to see what he thinks. Its rough textured and tastes. I don’t even know how to describe it. But nothing like cheese.

    • Dana Shultz says

      Might I ask, what kind of blender did you use? There’s no way it should be grainy or textured after blending. And not sure what went wrong with the taste! Sorry you had a bad experience.

  19. Abby says

    I love how this recipe doesn’t call for cashews! Cashews give vegan “cheese” such a sweet flavor that I can’t get used to. I’m excited to try this! What a great idea!

    • Alex says

      My recipe also came out brown. Not so much queso taste to be totally honest. A little bit disappointed because I thought this sauce would be it! I am going to eat it as an eggplant dip with pita bread, plan B.

  20. Liz says

    I made this recipe this evening and it was dee-lish. I char-roasted the eggplant which gave the sauce a nice smoky touch. Even my hard core cheese loving daughter and granddaughter loved it and they do not like eggplant. This recipe will be in regular rotation in my kitchen. Thanks so much for sharing!

  21. says

    I’ve just made this. I made a few errors (too much eggplant, accidentally put the salsa in blender). D’oh!! No matter. It’s very tasty as is and now I know what I should do to make it cheesier!

    • Dana Shultz says

      Nice! Yeah, it’s definitely the kind of recipe that each person has to customize to his/her taste. But once you figure it out, it’s liquid gold!

  22. says

    Yay for vegan queso! I’ve tried many different recipes and this one is definitely the best! The roasted eggplant gives this dip a much better flavor than cashews and is much creamier. I made a few minor adjustments to match my taste and it is delicious. (i.e. extra nutritional yeast and chili powder and a splash of beer) This recipe is definitely a keeper!

  23. Emily Rose says

    So I found this recipe today and because I had an eggplant in the fridge, I immediately started making this. I used the whole (large) eggplant so it was about double the recipe and when tasting and adding spices I added a bit too much cumin so I had to overcomensate with more nutritional yeast, much more. But that’s okay, I love nutritional yeast! In the end it turned out really great! My boyfriend really liked it as well and was excited about having another (easy) way to eat eggplant. When I go to heat some more up I’ll probably add a bit more salsa, but other than that I’ll pretty much be eating this for the rest of the week, while trying to find anything and everything I can put it on! Thanks for an amazing idea!!!

  24. Jaclyn says

    Exactly what do you mean by “a few minutes” on step 4? The directions weren’t clear enough and I had to get my leg amputated.

    One leg or two, it was still delicious.

  25. Rhonda says

    Wow, I am REALLY excited about this recipe since a) I planted eggplant this year and am wondering how I’m going to eat it all without getting sick of it and b) THIS IS A QUESO RECIPE WITHOUT SOY OR CASHEWS!!!!!! :)

    • Dana Shultz says

      You have the perfect situation: a little cashew resistant AND you’re swimming in an eggplant crop. Lucky lady!

  26. Bianca says

    This sounds crazy, but I’ve never had eggplant once in my life until a few days ago. Now that I’ve tried it, I’m hooked and just want to try and incorporate more of it into my meals, namely through this dip. I’m not vegan, though, so can I substitute cheddar cheese for the nutritional yeast? Thanks!

  27. Brittani says

    I made this tonight and liked it but was a little disappointed on the cheese flavor/color? Are your pictures true to color? Mine came out more brown which can be intimidating for guests your trying to convince.
    And I added extra nutritional yeast after first trying it and it still felt a little bland, any suggestions? On a happy note my children did eat some so for that I thank you! (Picky eaters)

  28. Carolyn says

    Just made for me and the hubs… Amazzzzzing!!! Never would have thought about using egg plant for a base and I’m glad I found this recipe!!! We just might drink it it’s so good!!

  29. Brandy says

    We have nut allergies in our family, so I can’t use almond milk. How important do you think it is in this recipe? Do you think I could sub for soy? Thank you!

  30. wendy says

    Came across this recipe on Pinterest and have to take a minute to tell you how awesome this is!! I’ve tried so many vegan recipes from Pinterest, some good, some not so much. This is a winner, can’t wait to make it again for my next get together.

  31. Shannon says

    So yummy! I successfully used rice milk, because we were out of almond. And I added a squirt of lemon juice, to give it a little extra cheesy tang. Also, lots of nooch for taste and a gorgeous color. It’s still definitely not going to fool anyone into thinking they’re eating dairy but it is creamy and delicious and makes a beautiful nacho topping. I’ve missed nachos. Thank you so much!

  32. Hayley says

    I love this recipe! It has the perfect texture, it’s cheap, easy, and low-cal. The flavor, while not exactly like dairy queso, was superb in it’s own right (though I think I’ll do the extra scoop of nooch next time) ;) Thanks for the recipe!

  33. Lisa says

    You are BRILLIANT. Followed the recipe fairly closely, then added a bunch of salt and lemon juice. Lovely yellowy color with flecks of purple. Eggplant for the win.

  34. Lindsay says

    This is delicious. My only problem is that mine came out a funny color. Maybe if I’m serving company I’ll cut more of the outside edge off.

  35. Rachel O. says

    I have been eyeing this recipe for awhile and finally made it tonight for nachos. It was so, so delicious. I used Pacific brand Unsweetened original almond milk, which I’d never noticed has vanilla in the ingredients (weird since it’s unsweetened!). I was certain I had ruined it but after blending everything together, the taste was fantastic! To those who were not pleased with the color, mine also came out a little unpleasant looking at first, but I added about a teaspoon of turmeric and it looked much “cheesier.” My husband thinks he hates eggplant but he LOVED this.

    • Eytan says

      After seeing all the comments that the color wasn’t yellow enough I also thought of using turmeric, figuring that the super mild taste of it wouldn’t be an issue and could even enhance the flavor. Thanks for confirming the idea. Going to try this with my wife now.

  36. Kris says

    This was great! I made a few modifications based on what I had around (blended in some sauteed jalapeno and onion, threw in some leftover pico de gallo, cut the spices down a bit b/c of the additions and left out the Rotel, and added extra nooch and cornstarch b/c of my personal preferences) – it was great! The color was nothing like in the pictures, and I wouldn’t think of this as a cheese substitute exactly, but the flavor totally hit the queso notes I was looking for. Adding more cornstarch also made it thick enough that I tossed it with some whole wheat macaroni and it was awesome there too.

    All around, a great recipe and I look forward to playing with it some more :) Thanks!

  37. Rachel says

    So glad I found this recipe. I’ve been looking for recipes free of cashews because my son is allergic to them. I’ve recently fell in love with eggplant and this is another way for me to utilize them for my needs. Thank you!!!

  38. Chelsea says

    Wishing I found your lovely website sooner. This recipe is my first (of many to come) to try from your website and it was incredibly delicious.

    Like other readers, extra salt and lemon squeeze worked as great additions. Just for fun I did chopped roasted poblanos instead of the tomato salsa at the end.

    As for the color, I found it totally appetizing and golden yellow without adding a ton of spices. Turmeric or extra chili etc would brighten the color just fine if that sort of thing is important to you or your guests that need extra convincing (we all have them!).

    What a winner of a recipe I’m so thrilled to have stumbled upon it!

    Thank you…vegan goddess!!!!!

  39. Franci Blanco says

    I tried this recipe the other night and it was really tasty, but mine came out grayish brown. All of my steps looked exactly like yours except after blending. :/

  40. Kate says

    For those who are allergic to nuts, I used soy milk in place of the almond milk, and added a bit of tahini. It turned out absolutely delicious.


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