I’m always a fan of finding new ways to hide vegetables in traditionally “unhealthy” dishes. Not that I am deliberately trying to be sneaky but…
It’s a true fact that many of us could use more veggies in our diets. If there is a way to add them in without adversely altering the taste of a more traditional dish, I am all for it!
Believe it or not, eggplant is the secret to making this vegan cheese work without cashews. Once broiled and blended it makes a nicely creamy base for your sauce.
Are you familiar with queso? After doing a little research, I learned that this Tex-Mex dish (also known as chile con queso) originated in the Mexican state of Chihuahua and is traditionally made with Velveeta, cream, and chili peppers. It is normally eaten with some kind of tortilla chip but can also be incorporated in enchiladas, fajitas, and quesadillas.
I knew there must be a way to recreate this recipe without processed, mystery cheeses. I am fairly happy with how it turned out! Nutritional yeast lends umami and you can adjust the spice levels per individual preference.
Just for fun (and because I had no chips on hand), I whipped up a batch of tortilla chips for dipping. Making your own chips is SO easy and fun because you can completely customize the flavors. I have a definite soft spot for Tostitos “Hint of Lime” chips; they were my inspiration here.
This dish is best enjoyed the day it is prepared because the bright orange color will fade over time. This recipe is inspired by Minimalist Baker and produces about 2 cups of queso. I hope you enjoy!
Please remember to tag @garlichead on Instagram so I can see your lovely creations💃
- 1 medium eggplant, PEELED and sliced into 7-9 rounds of 1/4 inch thickness (you may have leftover eggplant, just reserve this for another use)
- Olive oil
- 1 cup plain almond milk, unsweetened
- 1/2 cup water
- 4 TBS nutritional yeast
- 6 cloves fresh garlic, minced
- 2 tsp cumin
- 1 tsp chili powder
- 3 tsp cornstarch
- 1/2 tsp turmeric, for color
- Hot sauce
- Sliced bell peppers, for serving
For lime chips:
- 3 whole wheat or corn tortillas, cut into 8 triangles each
- Olive oil spray
- Pinch each of sea salt, chili powder, cumin, and lime zest
- 2 TBS fresh lime juice
- Place your eggplant slices into a colander in the sink and sprinkle both sides liberally with salt. Let drain for 20 minutes. This is known as “sweating” your eggplant and is important because it draws out natural bitterness. Once this is complete, rinse off the salt and dry slices on a towel.
- Lay eggplant on a lightly oiled baking sheet, taking care to not overlap edges. Drizzle with a little more olive oil and add a sprinkle of sea salt. Broil on high for 4 minutes per side. Remove from the oven set aside to cool. You should end up with about 1 cup of eggplant mush.
- In the bowl of your food processor, combine eggplant, milk, garlic, cumin, chili powder, cornstarch, and turmeric. Add water if needed to thin. You should have a nicely pourable mixture.
- Heat the queso on the stove for about 5 minutes over medium heat, stirring frequently to let thicken. The longer you cook the more viscous it will become.
- While mixture is thickening, preheat your oven to 350 degrees F and lightly oil your baking sheet. Place cut tortillas in a single layer and after misting with olive oil, sprinkle on some sea salt, chili powder, cumin, and lime zest. No specific measurements here, just adjust to your preference. Drizzle lime juice over entire sheet and pop in the oven for 5 minutes.
- Once the chips begin to brown, flip each over so sides crisp evenly. Bake 4-5 minutes more and remove from oven. Let cool on cookie sheet; they’ll get even crunchier at this stage.
- Serve your queso warm and with lime chips/vegetables of choice. I like to drizzle a swirl of hot sauce on the top for a bit of kick and a pretty color contrast.
If you’d like a more vibrant yellow, be sure to use an eggplant that is not overly ripe (as that would have darker spots inside). You can also add more turmeric (up to 2 tsp) without altering the overall flavor profile.
This recipe will keep in the fridge for a few days but is best eaten immediately.
As stated above, this dip can be used in a variety of other recipes (really anything “Tex-Mex”) that call for cheese sauce. I hope you get creative!