Jalapeno Cashew Queso & Fresh Tomato Lime Salsa

I’ve always been skeptical of cheese substitutes. As an ex-cheesemonger and verified glutton, I have high expectations of anything that claims to replace my favourite food.

That said, I’m also trying to consume far less dairy – and animal products in general – these days, and so I thought I’d finally give making my own quesoless queso a shot.

The results?

I couldn’t believe my tastebuds. I was expecting “good for vegan cheese” and got “really friggin’ good.” It’s not the exact same as a cheese, but it satisfied my need, especially alongside the fresh, tangy salsa I made.

For the recipe,click here. To learn more about the process, keep reading.

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I read approximately 1498 recipes (and their reviews) before embarking on my own experiments. From what I read, the holy trinity of vegan queso was a cashew base for creaminess, nutritional yeast for cheesiness, and tapioca starch for stretchiness.

I eventually settled on the Melty Stretchy Gooey Vegan Nacho Cheese from It Doesn’t Taste Like Chicken as my starting point. My first batch was pretty decent, shockingly good in fact. But I couldn’t help tinkering.

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First, I downed the paprika a bit because it was pretty strong in batch one. It was mighty salty too, so I reduced that as well. I added a hit of mustard because I thought it might add even more sharpness, it did. Then, I figured I might as well add some of the homemade, lacto-fermented jalapenos I had sitting in my fridge along with some of their brine. This made it even saltier, so the added salt was decreased even further. Then, because three tablespoons of nutritional yeast tasted so good, I decided to bring it up to four.

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The final result? Holy heck was it ever good. My boyfriend turned it into quesadillas on the barbecue (with kimchi in them, duh) and I can honestly say, I didn’t miss the cheese.

It ain’t four-year-old cheddar, but it’s pretty close to trash queso you get in a jar. Try this out next time you’re in the mood for some trash nachos or quesadillas and you won’t be disappointed.

Oh yeah, and the salsa was just a combination of stuff in my fridge and garden I put together in a bowl and enjoyed, so I’ve included a recipe for that too.

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Jalapeno Cashew Queso

Makes about 1 1/2 cups
Based on the recipe by It Doesn’t Taste Like Chicken

1/2 cup raw cashews, soaked overnight
1 cup water
3 tablespoons tapioca starch
1/4 cup nutritional yeast
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 chopped pickled jalapeno
2 teaspoons miso paste
1 teaspoon maple syrup
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
1/4 teaspoon mustard powder
1/4 teaspoon turmeric
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder

2 tablespoons pickled jalapeno brine
1/2 teaspoon – 1 teaspoon salt, to taste

Drain and rinse the cashews, and combine them with the water in a high speed blender. Whiz them around for a good two minutes until completely smooth.

Add all the other ingredients to the blender – except the jalapenos and salt! – and blend to combine.

Pour the mixture into a medium sauce pan and cook over medium heat until thick and cohesive. it took me about eight minutes.

Add the chopped jalapenos and start adding the salt in small increments, tasting as you go. When it tastes good, you’re good to go.

Fresh Tomato Lime Salsa

Makes about 2 cups

4 tomatoes, roughly chopped
4 radishes, thinly sliced
1 cup cilantro, chopped
1 scallion
Juice from one lime

Mix all of the ingredients in a bowl and let sit for one hour before serving. If you’re fancy, seed and squeeze the excess juice out of the tomatoes first.

Put on queso.IMG_20170720_094602_117

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