It’s Hatch Green Chile season and pretty much every grocery store and many farmers markets in the Southwest have a big drum cage grill outside with a woodfire underneath and the pungent aroma of roasted chiles wafting out of it. While I use Hatch chiles for many meals this time of year, this new Creamy Vegan Queso with Hatch Green Chiles makes perfect use of them, both blended in and served on top.
What are Hatch Green Chiles?
They don’t look special. They’re a long green chile just like a typical Anaheim chile, well exactly the same, really. The only difference is the Hatch green chiles are grown in Hatch, New Mexico and have terroir on their side to make them a little extra. The altitude and soil, give the chiles a much more prounounced earthy, almost smoky flavor versus the typical green vegetal flavor of Anaheims.
Would you be able to tell the difference if you aren’t tasting them side-by-side? If they were both treated exactly the same way (i.e. freshly roasted.) Probably not.
Can you use any canned green chile in the queso? (Or any recipe calling for Hatch green chiles?) Yes, but having them freshly roasted* will give you the truest flavor of these unique chiles and really amp up the flavor of your finished recipe more than using a roasted Anaheim or other green chile. (That said, if you must use canned, look for the Hatch brand of chiles.)
What is Queso?
Queso is simply the word for cheese in Spanish. And for you authentic Mexican food purists, no, queso the dish is NOT a traditional Mexican food. It’s purely Tex-Mex.
I was born in Texas and have lived all but 10 years of my life here. I realized early on that Tex-Mex was the only real heritage food we had any claim to and pretty much ate it my entire life. Now I have several recipes on my site and in my repertoire that speak to the authentic, regional Mexican food, but Tex-Mex was my first taste of any ethnic food and queso pretty much ran in my veins along with salsa from the time I was old enough to eat until post-college.
Queso in Tex-Mex cuisine is a pourable cheese dip that is usually laden with tomatoes and green chiles and is typically orange due to the color of the pasteurized “cheese” that is the base of it. The best versions have some extra seasonings and a little acid to balance out the sweet flavor of the “cheese”. (Can’t help but use quotes around the word…you will see why.)
So you might be wondering how can I possibly like vegan queso? Because this vegan queso has all the ooey-gooey qualities of traditional queso you expect and tons of flavor.
How Do You Make Creamy Vegan Queso Without Cheese?
It takes a few more ingredients to replicate the consistency, but nothing fancy. Potatoes, cashews and a little coconut milk make up the creamy elements; red pepper and yellow onion provide the slightly sweet flavor; and spices, sea salt and a little citrus juice and vinegar bring the flavor. The expectation for queso isn’t that of a fine aged cheese, you’re simply seeking that comfort food gooeyness and a much less refined flavor profile of a little sweet and a little salty so these elements combined bring all that to the party (both literally and figuratively.)
Creamy Vegan Queso vs Traditional Queso
Again…we’re looking for pourable cheese, here and most likely an orange color. So Let’s compare the ingredients between a eating a true, gooey, liquidy queso and this Creamy Vegan Queso.
These are the ingredients in the “cheese” part of Traditional Queso (typically in an unrefrigerated box which is a scary thought all by itself):
Milk, Water, Whey, Milk Protein Concentrate, Milkfat, Whey Protein Concentrate, Sodium Phosphate, Contains 2% or less of: Salt, Calcium Phosphate, Lactic Acid, Sorbic Acid, Sodium Citrate, Sodium Alginate, Enzymes, Apocarotenal, Annatto, Cheese Culture.
Then you add the tomatoes, chiles and such when you melt it.
This makes the longer list of ingredients (many of them spices) for Vegan Queso look pretty good and obviously less crappy for your body!
Potatoes, yellow onions, red pepper, light olive oil, cashews, garlic, chicken broth, coconut milk, lemon juice, Hatch green chiles, pickled jalapenos, nutritional yeast (optional), sea salt, spices (including turmeric and paprika for the orange color).
How to Use Creamy Vegan Queso
Dumbest headline ever, right? Total DUH!! Besides dipping grain-free chips, hello Siete brand! (or airfryer Fries) in it, you can make vegan nachos using beans or your favorite meat-free sub. If you’re Paleo or Whole30, you can use chorizo, ground beef or turkey, grilled chicken, etc. instead then top whatever version you make with the requisite guacamole, dairy free yogurt (Forager is my fave) and chopped cilantro. You won’t ever miss the real thing, I promise.
A note on Creamy Vegan Queso When You’re Doing Whole30**
This can be a SWYPO food (a W30 term), so if queso gets you going down a slippery slope, wait til you’re done and try it on your reentry process. If it’s not and you’re looking for something to augment a fun Mexican dinner or pool party, go for it!
Creamy Vegan Queso with Hatch Green Chiles
Note: If you have a Vitamix, you can make this recipe without any prep, if you don’t, soak the cashews for at least 4 hours before making.
Creamy Vegan Queso with Hatch Green Chiles | Paleo and Whole30
To serve: Chopped green chiles, pickled jalapenos, roasted red peppers, green onions, cilantro, salsa, guacamole, etc.
2 tbsp light olive or avocado oil
1/2 cup chopped yellow onion
1/2 cup chopped red pepper
1 cup boiled and peeled potato (about 2 4 oz potatoes or 1 larger one)
4 cloves garlic
1 cup raw cashews
1/2 cup coconut milk
1 cup vegetable broth
1/4 cup water (or more broth)
4 oz chopped Hatch green chiles, (canned are fine if you can’t find fresh)
1/2 tsp garlic powder or granulated garlic
1 tsp onion powder or granulated onion
1 tsp cumin
1 1/2 tsp paprika
1/2 tsp chili powder
1/4 tsp turmeric (for color)
1 tsp sea salt
2 tsp hot sauce
1 tbsp nutritional yeast (optional)
1 tbsp pickled jalapeno juice
1 tbsp lemon juice
- *Saute onion and pepper in olive oil until soft and slightly browned. Reserve a little for garnish.
- Add all remaining ingredients to blender and blend until smooth.
- Serve with chips or over nachos, fries, whatever topped with chopped cilantro, chiles, etc.
- *To DIY roasted green chiles, go here after you read this post.
- **Here’s a great article regarding cheese on Whole30: https://www.oliveyouwhole.com/whole30/whole30-compliant-cheese-brands/