There aren’t a whole lot of traditional Japanese dishes that call for cheese…or any dairy, actually. Dairy products were not a part of the Japanese diet until they came over from other countries. The consumption of cheese and milk is still less in the East than in the West these days. However, milk has made its way around the world and left a lasting impression on global cuisine. Most often I have seen dairy in Japanese baking, but not so much in savory cooking.
I have not missed dairy one bit since I went vegan. I often get strange looks from people when I tell them that I miss cheese, milk and cream the least. It’s pretty easy to explain why when everywhere you look you can find a new trendy dairy-free product. Also, when you don’t eat dairy, you don’t want it. It’s an interesting phenomenon.
Of course, that isn’t to say that vegans don’t enjoy a creamy, savory dish once in a while! Over time, I’ve learned how to make many mock dairy dishes including plant based alfredo sauce, ice cream, cashew milk, and queso dip among others. One of my favorite things to make from scratch is queso (or a creamy cheesy dip that kind of reminds you of the bagged neon orange stuff from movie theaters. YUM/YUCK!).
This dip is one of the best crowd pleasing recipes because it’s just as delicious and addictive as actual queso dip and it’s so easy to customize! The recipe I based this variation off of is a knock-off “nacho” style queso. (It’s neon orange in color, but it’s totally natural, I promise!) I may post that recipe at some point, but for now, I’m keeping things Asian. ^_^v
The base of this sauce consists of cashews and water. How easy and affordable is that? The not so affordable part of this recipe is the (almost) requirement of a Vitamix or other high-speed blender. You can achieve the same results with a food processor, but you will need to wait a little longer. I prefer using my food processor for thicker mixtures like hummus. Because the consistency of this recipe is more liquid than solid before cooking, I like to use a blender to make sure it comes out smoothly.
The best part about this “queso” is that it’s totally customizable to your taste! If you like things more spicy, add some chillies to it. If you like it more nutty, add some more tahini. If you like it more sweet, add mirin or maple syrup. Oh, and if you don’t like the taste of seaweed (I used dulse), you can omit it. But, I must say, it’s pretty delish. ;P
Miso Queso Dip
Yield: about 2 cups cooked
- 1 cup raw cashews*
- 1 1/2 cups water
- 1 1/2 Tb white miso
- 2 Tb tahini
- 3 Tb nutritional yeast
- 1 tsp smoked paprika, optional
- torn dulse (or dulse granules), to taste, opt. (purple seaweed that imparts a smokey umami flavor
- black pepper, to taste
- hot sauce (Frank’s, sriracha, etc.), to taste (you can also use powdered chili/chipotle/cayenne, etc.
* I didn’t soak my cashews because I used pieces. If you are using whole ones, you may want to soak them before blending to speed up the process. I would recommend soaking for a minimum of 2 hours.
- Measure out all ingredients into blender/food processor canister. Place the lid on and blend/process until completely smooth. Scrape down the sides of the canister if you need. The mixture should look like a thick cream when it’s ready.
- Taste the mixture for flavor and adjust the seasonings to your liking.
- Pour the blended mixture into a medium sized saucepan.
- Heat the mixture on med-low heat and stir often with a wooden spoon, making sure to scrape down the sides and bottom of the saucepan as you go.
- Continue to stir and heat the mixture until it thickens, about 10 minutes. Once it is thickened, try to serve it immediately. The queso tends to get a skin on it if it sits out too long.
- If you are going to reheat the queso, you might need to add a little water to obtain the same consistency as when you first made it.
- Serve the dip with crackers (I used seaweed rice crackers here), chips, raw veggies, etc. or use it as a sauce for tacos, burritos, mac and cheese, what have you! It pairs nicely with scallions. ^_^
- Cheese out!