When I recently made the lovely cauliflower alfredo sauce from Cupcakes and Kale, my recipe gears started to spin. While many of us have fallen hard for the endless possibilities of raw cashews, using cauliflower and beans to make a creamy spread opens up new doors (and less calories and fat). With different spices and varying amounts of liquid, it’s a veritable fount of creamy sauce possibilities.
The idea that stuck was a cauliflower queso with a hit of cheesiness from nutritional yeast flakes, depth from white miso, and a kick from chili powder, hot sauce, and pickled jalapeno slices. I wanted the sauce to stay mild enough, so that it could be layered with salsa, spicy chickpeas or black beans, and served over tortilla chips for a nacho platter. I wanted it to have enough body and flavor to stand out on its own, but not too much to overwhelm with other spicier ingredients. The texture isn’t the same as, say, one might find from a nacho cheese pump at the movie theatre or baseball stadium. (That’s a good thing, right?) It’s more similar to a bean dip in depth but with a whippy viscosity from the blended roasted cauliflower.
Using a Vitamix or other high-speed blender, this queso becomes surprisingly smooth and velvety. It can be used on its own as a dip or layered over steamed broccoli. Put a dollop on baked French fries and top with more hot sauce and jalapenos, or go the cheesy baked potato route and top with chopped Smoky Soy Curls or Wayfare Bacony Bits.
This queso also makes for a delightfully creamy quesadilla. Spread it between two tortillas and toast on a dry skillet over medium heat, flipping once, until the tortillas have reached that perfectly nutty shade of roasted marshmallow brown. You’ll never believe that there’s cauliflower inside of every bite.
Update: If you have any queso leftover, feel free to throw it in the freezer for later use in a covered container. It freezes and thaws beautifully.
Makes about 2 cups of queso
- ½ head cauliflower (approximately 2 heaping cups), broken into florets
- 2 tsp extra virgin olive oil, divided
- ½ small yellow onion (approximately ¾ cup), diced
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- ½ cup non-dairy milk + up to ¼ cup more if necessary (Rice milk is my favorite.)
- 1 cup Great Northern Beans, drained and rinsed
- ¼ cup nutritional yeast flakes
- 1 ½ tsp white miso paste
- ¼ tsp cumin
- ½ tsp chili powder
- 1 tsp hot sauce (Trader Joe’s brand is my favorite)
- 1 Tbsp pickled jalapeno slices
- Salt, to taste
Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Toss cauliflower florets in 1 tsp extra virgin olive oil and lay evenly across a parchment paper covered baking sheet. Roast cauliflower for 20 minutes, stopping once to toss for even roasting.
While the cauliflower is roasting, heat a skillet under medium heat, add remaining 1 tsp of extra virgin olive oil to pan. Sauté onions and garlic in pan for 5 or 6 minutes, until very soft, fragrant, and translucent. (Turn heat to low if they start to stick.)
In a high speed blender, combine roasted cauliflower, onion and garlic mixture, and the remaining ingredients. (Be careful not to be too heavy handed with the salt since miso, hot sauce, and pickled jalapeno slices are already salty.) Blend until the queso is completely smooth and velvety. If you’d prefer a more liquidy queso, add up to ¼ cup more of non-dairy milk and blend until fully combined.
Only one day left to bid on one of the tantalizing items up for bid on the fundraiser at Hobby and More supporting VSPCA – Visakha Society for Protection and Care of Animals. I donated one of my hand-built bowls, and there are all kinds of cookbooks, food items, jewelry, and more.