I want to make something clear: I am in no way insinuating that one should not eat the processed, shiny orange queso dip they serve at the ballpark. In fact, I love the stuff. Before America’s baseball stadiums got a gourmet face-lift, the only vegetarian options that appealed to me were roasted peanuts and nachos (these days they have everything from mushroom tacos to veggie burgers…although I still default to nachos and/or fries, case and point).
There was a small food stand by the baseball stadium in college (it closed in 2011, may it rest in peace) with a self-serve nacho station. I spent many evenings smothering my chips in cheese, then layering on pickled jalapenos and salsa. Mm!
You get it. I love queso. But I cannot bring myself to prepare it at home. The thought of scooping cheese from a can makes me gag. And although I love homemade nachos with shredded cheddar, I always miss the mysteriously liquid characteristic of queso.
I’ve looked online for healthy homemade versions, but they often involve scary vegan ingredients like nutritional yeast which – last time I checked – they don’t carry at your average grocery store. No thanks!
The other day I was thinking back to the recipe that started it all – my vegan chipotle mac n’ cheese – and decided to simplify the cheese sauce for easy at-home nachos. Then I decided, since it’s not really bad for you, I would use it in a mac n’ cheese this week, too!
1/2 cup of cashews
1 large carrot
1 chipotle in adobo sauce*
1.5 tsp of tahini
About 1/2 cup of almond milk, slightly less
Spices: paprika, salt and/or garlic salt, turmeric
*Canned chipotles are one of my favorite ingredients. I use them one by one in recipes and keep the extras frozen in sandwich bags in the freezer.
Soak your cashews in water for at least two hours, making sure they are fully submerged in a glass or bowl of water.
When ready to prepare the queso, place a small pot over high heat with a couple of inches of water. Peel your carrot and chop off the stem, then slice into chunks or circles. Place these in the water and boil for roughly 15-20 minutes, until the carrot softens and is easily pierced by a fork.
Drain the cashews and, using a blender or food processor, combine the carrot, chipotle, cashews, tahini, almond milk, and spices. Blend until smooth. Add tahini if the consistency is too liquidy and almond milk (little at a time) if too thick.
Use as a cheese sauce for macaroni, serve with chips, or build your own nachos with veggies and toppings! I tossed my macaroni noodles with a touch of extra virgin olive oil in addition to the cheese sauce for an extra rich flavor.