OMG-vegan butternut queso

OMG-vegan butternut queso // @thefirstmesspin it!squash tangle // @thefirstmesspin it!pre-roast butternut // @thefirstmesspin it!secret weapons // @thefirstmesspin it!
On the surface, this glow-y orange business is a trashier outing than we’re all used to here, but a craving’s a craving and OOOOH. Em. Gee. This one turned out pretty great. The “queso” itself is bonafide wholesome–the application of it determines the trash factor for real. The first thing you have to do when you fix up a vegan nacho cheese-y situation, is let go of any pre-conceived notions/misguided hopes that your creation will taste like a vat of dairy thickened with that good old butter (more dairy) + white flour roux. Sorry if this sounds harsh, but taking vegetables and health food staples, but then also hoping for cheese is very bad math.

I’ve had entirely cashew-based versions of vegan nacho cheese before and loved it every time, but I do find it rich. A cashew-based anything is really tasty, but the fattiness sometimes makes for a flat-seeming overall flavour. Then I thought of butternut squash pasta sauce and how naturally creamy it is (and also how undeniably orange it is). And then I went into the backyard to check on my gnarly and twisted up butternut vines. The little squashes still aren’t ready, but they are steadily making a fine mess in a hidden corner of my vegetable garden. I wound up buying one at the store solely for this purpose. So!

My point with hippie nacho cheese-making: it can’t just be all the fatty and rich plant-based things blended together. People obsess over cheese because of umami characteristics (among other reasons)–the fifth taste that hints at a crucial presence of sneaky-satisfying glutamates in foods. It’s pleasantly savoury in a way that may not be immediately apparent. Also, addicting. Before you even begin to replicate a food like queso with vegan considerations, you’ve got to strategize on how to make it really work. It’s key to remember that all-out replication might not be an appropriate end goal. I was just aiming for a squash-y, lightly cheese-y and spicy sauce to eat with nachos (a woman can dream, right?).

I roast the butternut squash to get some caramelization, but not too much. You need the moisture for a lush consistency. I sauté shallots and jalapeño down to almost paste-like consistency, just to fully develop the sugars in the shallots and to tame the bite of the jalapeño. Then I went in with some of my pantry stock, more specifically items that had natural umami qualities: tamari, miso, and dijon mustard. These add-ins help to strike out the predominantly sweet flavour of the squash. The broth I used to thin the mixture was rich with shiiitake mushrooms–another savoury pal of ours. The nutritional yeast is the more obviously cheese-y flavoured (+ Vitamin B12-rich) component. If you’re hesitant to buy it only for this, I urge you to try it sprinkled and mashed into avocado toast. A final addition of finely minced pickled jalapeños really balanced everything out for me.

From here, you can go all trashy nacho with the salty toppings and beer like me (salt yaaaay) (but also, I used cilantro flowers so maybe this is more delicately refined than I had previously thought?!), or you could sensibly pour it over some roasted vegetables and brown rice, or something. I’m trying leftovers on roasted cauliflower tomorrow. Anyway, I’m on my way to a food blogger event and a much-needed break in Pennsylvania this week. Catch ya on the Instagrams + big, cheese-y love to you all :)

scooped // @thefirstmesspin it!ingredients for vegan butternut queso // @thefirstmesspin it!OMG-vegan butternut queso // @thefirstmesspin it!OMG-vegan butternut queso // @thefirstmesspin it!OMG-vegan butternut queso // @thefirstmesspin it!

OMG-vegan butternut queso recipe
serves:
makes about 3-ish cups
notes:
All the little add-ins like dijon, garlic, cumin, and hot pepper can easily be adjusted for quantities that suit your taste–I did a lot of adjusting and re-blending before I got mine the way I wanted it. Just make sure you salt the mix adequately and deeefinitely use the nutritional yeast, babes ;) Also, a hot tip if you forget to soak the nuts/seeds: simmer them in a small pot of water for 10 minutes to speed up the softening.

1 small butternut squash
olive oil
salt + pepper
1 large shallot, fine dice
1 jalapeño, fine dice (use seeds if you like it hot)
2 tsp ground cumin
1/4 cup of raw cashews/pine nuts/ sunflower seeds, soaked for at least 2 hours
2 cloves of garlic, peeled + rough chopped
1 1/2 tbsp nutritional yeast
2 tsp dijon mustard
1 tsp tamari soy sauce
1/2 tsp light miso
vegetable stock (to get the blender going)
squeeze of lime juice OR splash of pickled jalapeño brine
1/4 cup minced pickled jalapeños

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit and line a baking sheet with parchment.

Cut the squash down the middle, lengthwise. Scoop out the seeds with a spoon and discard. Rub the flesh of the squash with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Place squash halves, cut side down, onto the parchment lined baking sheet. Slide the tray into the oven and roast until squash is tender when pierced with a knife, about 40 minutes. Let squash cool slightly.

While squash roasts, heat a small sauté pan over medium heat. Pour a good bit of oil into the pan and add the diced shallots. Stir them about and cook until very fragrant, about 2 minutes. Add the diced jalapeno and cumin to the pan and stir. Season the mixture with salt and pepper. Cook until vegetables are very soft and have taken on a sort of dry-paste consistency, about 7-10 minutes, lowering heat if necessary. Remove from the heat and set aside.

Scoop the cooked squash flesh into a blender pitcher. Discard squash peels. To the blender, add the soaked nuts/seeds, garlic, nutritional yeast, dijon, tamari, miso, a tablespoon or so of olive oil, salt, and pepper. Add enough vegetable stock to the blender to get everything moving. Gradually bring the blender speed to high and blend the mixture until you have a smooth purée. If you need to add more stock at this point, also make sure to add another little splash of olive oil as well (this helps with the lush texture). Add the sauteed mixture of shallots and jalapeno to the blender and blend mixture until smooth again. Taste the queso at this point and re-season, add lime juice/jalapeno brine etc. to your liking. You can also add vegetable stock/more olive oil to achieve your desired viscosity.

To serve, heat the queso in a small saucepan over medium. Once you get some bubbles coming through, serve it up nacho-style, over roasted vegetables, with pasta, or any other way you can dream up.

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  • Katrina @ Warm Vanilla Sugar24/09/2014 - 4:10 am

    This queso is straight up dreamy!! So creative!ReplyCancel

  • valentina - sweet kabocha24/09/2014 - 4:35 am

    This seems so much delicious! Are pickled jalapeños essential? In Italy we haven’t this kind of products :)ReplyCancel

    • Laura Wright24/09/2014 - 7:13 am

      Hey Valentina! I wouldn’t say it’s totally necessary. Maybe if you make it, just try to find a bigger jalapeño pepper and use a bit of extra lime juice when you’re blending it all up.
      xo LauraReplyCancel

  • Katie @ Whole Nourishment24/09/2014 - 7:25 am

    Butternut squash queso!! Wow, I love it. I’ve had a pasta cheese sauce based on butternut so I can imagine this is delicious. And though I’ve had some good cashew-based sauces, I completely agree they can be flat sometimes, and that’s why this sounds like the best reinvention, ever!ReplyCancel

  • Claire (Eat Well. Party Hard.)24/09/2014 - 7:29 am

    Looks insane (the good kind), but it was the stellar .gif placement that won me over.ReplyCancel

  • Dillon24/09/2014 - 8:39 am

    OMG is right. This is creative genius right here. Can’t wait to try…ReplyCancel

  • Amy @ Parsley In My Teeth24/09/2014 - 9:01 am

    If this tastes anywhere near as good as it looks, it’s a winner. I haven’t been able to make a vegan cheese successfully yet, so I definitely want to give recipe a try!ReplyCancel

  • Abby @ The Frosted Vegan24/09/2014 - 9:24 am

    Ohhh lawd I am allll over this!! You are a genius Laura!ReplyCancel

  • Isadora @ She Likes Food24/09/2014 - 9:58 am

    Oh my gosh, you just combined two of my favorite things: butternut squash and nachos!! These nachos and that sauce look so amazing and I want to put that sauce on all the things :)ReplyCancel

  • Caitlin24/09/2014 - 10:50 am

    love your eloquent write up on this omg butternut squash cheese. it looks like everything and more a vegan cheese should be. also, you are queen of the gifs. ps- where in pennsylvania are you staying? i live near philly.ReplyCancel

    • Laura Wright24/09/2014 - 2:19 pm

      Hey Caitlin! We’re going to be in the area of Bethlehem Pennsylvania. I have no clue what the geographical relation to Philly is there–just a point B programmed into my GPS at this point ;) Wish I was going to be around longer so we could have a little coffee hang.
      -LReplyCancel

  • Nik@ABrownTable24/09/2014 - 10:55 am

    You’re a genius! The texture and color look perfect, I’m going to give this a shot soon, I know a few people that would love to try this.ReplyCancel

  • lynsey24/09/2014 - 11:21 am

    OMG yes… I love that this doesn’t have cashews. Not that I don’t love cashews, but they are kind of in a lot of things like this and this switch up is so wonderful. The colour too….. just one more OMG. xoReplyCancel

  • Lindsey24/09/2014 - 11:26 am

    i always notice the butternut mac & cheese recipes out there and think how would you cut the sweetness?! salt on its own can’t do it, so the fifth taste makes so much sense, laura! a perfect way i’m sure to make it all come together like a proper cheesy dish! have fun in PA!ReplyCancel

  • Millie l Add A Little24/09/2014 - 11:39 am

    This looks ridiculously tasty Laura!!! Yummy!ReplyCancel

  • Sophie24/09/2014 - 12:41 pm

    OH ho hohoho. This is so bitchin, Laura! Look at that consistency! That color! I love how you considered all the flavor profiles and how to achieve them, it must be insanely delicious. Dang! Although I do eat cheese, I am definitely going to try this — for health, and for my vegan/DF pals. What a treat! I LOVE YOU FOR THIS. And for all the gifs today!ReplyCancel

  • michelle24/09/2014 - 1:21 pm

    Laura, pretty please open a vegan restaurant!!!!
    Another inventive, healthy and gorgeous recipe.ReplyCancel

  • jaime // the briny24/09/2014 - 1:53 pm

    Laura, I so admire the way you communicate, both through word and through your beautiful photographs. your idea + recipe is brilliant, and I love all this talk about umami; it makes me really think about how I can pair tastes and play with flavors and ingredients in general. you are an inspiration!ReplyCancel

  • J.S. @ Sun Diego Eats24/09/2014 - 2:55 pm

    Not sure what kind of sorcery and magic is at your disposal but I think you just convinced me to buy nutritional yeast O_OReplyCancel

  • Brandon @ Kitchen Konfidence24/09/2014 - 7:44 pm

    Uhhhh, this looks pretty incredible. I’m not vegan, buuuuut I really want to try this recipe out. So creative!ReplyCancel

  • kristie @ birchandwild.com25/09/2014 - 10:55 am

    Oh.my. this sauce looks amazing. and these nachos remind me of a 27 ingredient nacho i had at a vegetarian restaurant in banff. they were amazing, but they didn’t have an amazingly colorful sauce like this!ReplyCancel

  • Pat25/09/2014 - 11:54 am

    Valentina, what about trying pickled pepperoncini peppers?ReplyCancel

  • Heather25/09/2014 - 12:11 pm

    This looks amazing! Reminds me I need to post the tex-mex hummus I make that keeps me from craving queso dip!ReplyCancel

  • renee (will frolic for food)26/09/2014 - 11:18 am

    holy mother of nacho cheese. the vegan cheese gods obviously shone down on your butternut squash baking brain because THIS. good god. me and fiancee (both dairy intolerant and all about the nooch) are going to be trashy nacho-fying this butternut queso recipe all the way. pile it up baby!!! thanks for developing this beauty!ReplyCancel

  • Christine26/09/2014 - 12:39 pm

    I can’t wait to make this – queso dip is one of those recurring cravings that I haven’t really satisfied since switching to a dairy-free diet. And with all the nacho fixings? Amazing!ReplyCancel

  • […] not only created what appears to be a spot-on vegan butternut queso, but she accompanied the recipe with insights and glimpses into her process which get my mind […]ReplyCancel

  • Karishma26/09/2014 - 5:12 pm

    being lactose intolerant, i always love tasty alternatives! this looks so gooood!ReplyCancel

  • […] vegan butternut queso. […]ReplyCancel

  • SouthernSpoon27/09/2014 - 8:15 am

    Delicious~ yet another use for butternut, love it. My lactose-intolerant sister-in-law is going to flip over these.ReplyCancel

  • Emily @ Sweets and Beets27/09/2014 - 6:41 pm

    That’s awesome. What a great idea!!ReplyCancel

  • Baby June28/09/2014 - 8:49 am

    Yessss! That looks incredible! I will definitely have to try this sometime this season, love love love that it is vegan :)ReplyCancel

  • Elenore28/09/2014 - 3:36 pm

    Yeeeeessss! I love a good butternut mac’n cheese but this?! I mean yeah. OMG!ReplyCancel

  • Shelly @ Vegetarian 'Ventures28/09/2014 - 8:29 pm

    Uh – you are a genius! Seriously – your creativity with both your recipes and photographs blow me away every time! PS Have a great tip! Looks like a blast!ReplyCancel

  • Kate @ ¡Hola! Jalapeño30/09/2014 - 5:33 pm

    This is no joke!! Brilliant idea!ReplyCancel

  • Meredith01/10/2014 - 1:25 pm

    Your pictures are always so beautiful!!! I will certainly have to try this soon now that the temperature is dropping a little. Have fun in PA!ReplyCancel

  • Kris01/10/2014 - 5:10 pm

    This is totally my dinner on Friday night. OMG can’t wait!ReplyCancel

  • Steve Lassoff01/10/2014 - 11:03 pm

    These look so good! We will share these on Pinterest.ReplyCancel

  • […] Butternut squash queso… are you kidding me? YUM! […]ReplyCancel

  • […] the biggest squash fan, so I’m always looking for unique squash recipes. I saw Laura’s OMG-Vegan Butternut Queso and knew I had to try it. It was so good! You definitely can’t skip the pickled jalapeño […]ReplyCancel

  • […] don’t think you need to be vegan to drool over this butternut queso. And now I want […]ReplyCancel

  • angela brown15/10/2014 - 5:16 pm

    Oh my gosh, this is genius! Such an awesome idea. I plan to eat a (giant) batch of this over the weekend! Thanks for sharing. Also, beautiful pics! – angela :)ReplyCancel

  • michelle17/10/2014 - 2:27 pm

    Soley upon your recommendation, I bought Green Kitchen Travels. The photos are in fact gorgeous and the food does look delicious. But in my opinion, your food is even more elevated and interesting. The flavor combinations and mix of ingredients in your work is just downright fantastic. I have made a ton of your recipes and every one has been delicious. You have opened up door to food I would have never tried be it for your recipes. We need more awesome female chefs. Especially those cooking vegan and whole foods. I sincerely hope that you will follow up on your obvious talents. Open a restaurant, start a kickstarter to create a food truck…Here in NYC there is always a line down the block at the Cinnamon Snail food truck. Laura, go for it!ReplyCancel

  • Lora18/10/2014 - 9:32 am

    This looks like a great recipe and I am going to give it a try tomorrow. Question though… what do you mean by trash?ReplyCancel

    • Laura Wright18/10/2014 - 12:13 pm

      Hi Lora, I think when I said “trashy” I was just recalling those crazy movie theatre/baseball game nachos with the radioactive-looking cheese goo on top. Nothing too serious ;)
      -LReplyCancel

  • […] OMG. Need to make this STAT. […]ReplyCancel

  • Elizabeth25/10/2014 - 9:14 pm

    Made this tonight for vegan nachos and it was AMAZING. I used the juice of 1 lime plus a fair bit of water to keep our (lousy) blender going, since I had no veggie stock. I didn’t see the minced pickled jalepenos mentioned in the instructions so I forgot them. But it was perfect! Seriously, this is one of my favorite things I’ve ever eaten. Thanks for a fantastic recipe! :]ReplyCancel

    • Laura Wright26/10/2014 - 12:03 pm

      Hey Elizabeth! Glad you liked the b’nut queso and I’ll fix up that pickled jalapeno error right now. So sorry about that!
      -LReplyCancel

  • Audrey04/11/2014 - 10:58 am

    So – I tried making this and felt like I followed the recipe to the T, but it just didn’t come out well. From your pictures, it looked like a melted cheese gooey mixture which is what I wanted, but no matter how much i cooked it or added more veggie broth, it was still a mashed butternut squash type of texture (a little creamier maybe). Not sure what I did wrong…ReplyCancel

    • Laura Wright10/11/2014 - 8:45 am

      Hi Audrey,
      I’m sorry this recipe didn’t work out for you! Were you using a food processor or blender to purée the squash? I used a powerful blender so that might have accounted for the ultra smooth texture. Although, I know some people have already made this with a more typical blender and had no problems, so I’m not sure. If you found you were adding more liquid to the processor/blender, it’s also important to use a bit of extra oil in the mix as well to get that lush texture. Perhaps your squash was a bit bigger than mine and this could have accounted for the need to add more liquid? Either way, your notes are very helpful and I’ll be making some adjustments for this recipe. I hope it doesn’t discourage you from trying again!
      -LReplyCancel

  • juyne15/12/2014 - 11:17 am

    Holy Yum with a capital Y!!!! This recipe is so delicious I did not think it was going to make it to the table. I had to make it non spicy for my daughter and it still was amazing!!!ReplyCancel

  • Ursula13/01/2015 - 9:22 pm

    Finally got to making this, it’s as delicious as it looks! It’s perfect. Thanks!ReplyCancel

  • […] are veg and gluten-free friendly, but if you want to take it the extra mile and make them vegan, Laura’s butternut queso would put these over the […]ReplyCancel

  • […] I didn’t have tofu on hand and my cashew supply is running a little low (because I was making this and just inhaling it like nobody’s business). So, I set out to create a vegan lemon bar […]ReplyCancel

  • Cecile21/02/2015 - 1:49 pm

    Thank you thank you thank you, it’s amazingly good! I used Espelette pepper instead of jalapeños because… well… I’m in France but it works pretty well. Did I mention thank you?ReplyCancel

  • • Breatheasyoga & Wellness08/03/2015 - 4:47 am

    […] OMG-vegan butternut queso via The First Mess  […]ReplyCancel

  • Cuban Nachos - Sun Diego Eats28/04/2015 - 9:45 am

    […] Vegan Nachos (not an ethnicity mind you but could be construed as a culture no?) with chunks of avocado and a nacho cheese doppelgänger in the form of butternut squash queso. […]ReplyCancel

  • Links I Love | title28/05/2015 - 5:31 pm

    […] a killer plate of nachos with cheese sauce all over it, right? Wrong. The First Mess created a Vegan Queso made with butternut squash. While she’s not claiming that it tastes just like the goopy […]ReplyCancel

  • Vegan Quesadillas29/05/2015 - 6:52 pm

    […] Cashew Cheese 3 Ways. Healthified – so delicious – remakes for get togethers like Laura’s Butternut Queso. You name it, some beautifully creative soul has whipped up their own version…   (except […]ReplyCancel

  • […] l’’ai repérée sur le site http://thefirstmess.com/2014/09/24/omg-vegan-butternut-queso-recipe/ en fouinant pour retrouver les délices de cette sauce ultra-riche dont je me suis gloutonnée […]ReplyCancel

  • jaime / the briny21/10/2015 - 8:40 pm

    laura! i finally got around to trying this, having kept it in the back of my mind since you first posted it: OMG is right. i’m still short on words from the euphoria blast these flavors gave me. i had to make some minor changes (no broth, so a combo of water, jalapeno brine, and a splash of lime at the end, etc.) and i had to add a lot more liquid than i had imagined, but i was so content to travel on this recipe adventure train despite any uncertainty. i put the queso on nachos with spanish green olives, crumbly sunflower seed cheese, crispy-fried cuminy mung beans, quick pickled onions, and fresh jalapeno slices and cilantro. it was magic. i’m so glad there’s a big jar of it left and i’m so so so glad you shared this recipe, you brilliant creature!ReplyCancel

  • Beverley27/10/2015 - 9:04 am

    I have made soooo many vegan queso’s from bloggers recipes and they’ve all been fine enough, and I though, oh well, a sacrifice has to be made in the name of veganism. But it turns out: no sacrifice necessary. This queso is beyond awesome. Better than the cheese version. Here in London we’re going to be having this every single day from now on! Wow, thanks for sharing.ReplyCancel

  • Kimberly FALLON28/12/2015 - 10:56 am

    How well does this keep? Being the only one in my house willing to give faux cheese a go, I’m likely to have leftovers. Has anyone made and had success reheating?ReplyCancel

  • […] amazingly good on popcorn. And, it’s called for in some of my favorite recipes, like this butternut squash queso dip, these cheesy kale chips and this vegan […]ReplyCancel

  • […] the Food Empowerment Project. The butternut & cashew queso was SO GOOD. I took the recipe from The First Mess, and use the leftovers for enchiladas the next day. I would highly recommend this recipe, it is […]ReplyCancel

  • […] lover over sweet. I make sweet potato fries a lot. I found I recipe I’m dying to try. It’s queso made from butternut squash and it has lots of different savory notes in […]ReplyCancel

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