Vegan Butternut Queso

Vegan butternut queso makes a terrific dip but it can also be drizzled over anything that needs a cheesy, spicy upgrade. Creamy butternut squash and non-dairy milk are combined with nutritional yeast, chopped tomatoes, cashews, and a load of spices. Get ready to start dipping everything!

A bowl of butternut queso surrounded by tortilla chips, a hand dipping one into the queso.

Adapted from Hannah Kaminsky | The Student Vegan Cookbook | Harvard Common Press, 2021

Nothing starts a party (or study session) off right like a big bowl of spicy queso and plenty of tortilla chips for dipping. You could bring on the fire with diced jalapeños, a squirt of sriracha, or chipotle in adobo if you really like it hot!–Hannah Kaminsky


You sure can. This recipe comes from a cookbook for students or people just starting out–often without the comforts of home, like a high-powered blender. Kaminsky assures us that it’s possible to make this delish dish even without the power tools. You can substitute canned pumpkin purée and cashew butter, instead. Cooked squash can also be mashed up pretty easily with a potato masher or a fork, but the cashews will definitely need something with a little more force.

☞ Contents

Vegan Butternut Queso

A bowl of butternut queso surrounded by tortilla chips, a hand dipping one into the queso.
If you're looking for a way to make a vegan version of your favorite snack, this butternut queso, with cashews and nutritional yeast, is perfect. Add as much spice as you like, from mild to fiery.

Prep 15 minutes
Cook 15 minutes
Total 30 minutes
6 servings
123 kcal
5 / 3 votes
Print RecipeBuy the The Student Vegan Cookbook cookbook

Want it? Click it.


  • 2 cups unsweetened non-dairy milk
  • 8 ounces butternut squash peeled and diced
  • 1/2 cup raw cashews
  • 1/4 cup nutritional yeast
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt plus more if needed
  • 1 (3 oz) Roma tomato diced
  • Tortilla chips or crudité for serving


  • In a medium saucepan over medium heat, combine non-dairy milk, butternut squash, and cashews. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to a simmer, and cook until butternut is fork-tender, about 15 minutes.
  • Dump into a blender and purée on high speed. Add nutritional yeast, chili powder, onion powder, garlic powder, cumin, and salt and blend once more to incorporate. Gently fold in tomato. Taste and adjust seasoning, if needed.
  • Pour into a serving bowl and enjoy warm with tortilla chips or crudité.
Print RecipeBuy the The Student Vegan Cookbook cookbook

Want it? Click it.


Pumpkin Queso variation

Swap the cubed butternut squash for 1 cup pumpkin pureé. Combine with non-dairy milk and cashews and cook until heated through, about 8 minutes. Proceed with recipe as directed.

Show Nutrition

Serving: 1servingCalories: 123kcal (6%)Carbohydrates: 12g (4%)Protein: 6g (12%)Fat: 6g (9%)Saturated Fat: 1g (6%)Polyunsaturated Fat: 2gMonounsaturated Fat: 3gSodium: 242mg (11%)Potassium: 371mg (11%)Fiber: 2g (8%)Sugar: 4g (4%)Vitamin A: 4430IU (89%)Vitamin C: 14mg (17%)Calcium: 137mg (14%)Iron: 2mg (11%)

#leitesculinaria on Instagram If you make this recipe, snap a photo and hashtag it #LeitesCulinaria. We’d love to see your creations on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter.

Recipe Testers’ Reviews

It is virtually impossible to make a silky, smooth nacho cheese at home that answers to your basest nacho cravings. The problem is that nacho cheese doesn’t really taste like cheese (and certainly doesn’t act like it). By sidestepping the cheese altogether, this vegan butternut queso manages to do what its dairy counterparts fail at: an addictive, pourable nacho cheese with great flavor and perfect texture, one that I’d happily serve to my meat-and-potatoes uncle (and that he’d happily eat!)

I made this with homemade oat milk and was a little worried that the texture would be off since oat milk thickens so much when heated, but it ended up being exactly the right choice. As far as I’m concerned, the option of adding chipotle chiles in adobo should be mandated! I blended in three chiles at the end, and it really brought it all together while giving it a bit of a kick.

This exceeded my hopes, and I already had a pretty good baseline for how well vegan queso might work (this cashew queso is on regular request in our house and while they have very similar flavour profiles and spicy options, they arrive there in a slightly different way, both equally easy and satisfying.)

What I love about this vegan butternut queso is how the butternut squash delivers not only a subtle sweetness but substance. In fact, having saved half in the fridge overnight, I noticed it set up and did not separate. You might stir it, and if patient, reheat it gently, but it also was completely satisfying and tempting cold (try that with cheese!)

My choice for spiciness was to use Rancho Gordo New Mexico red chile powder and then add some chopped roasted jalapenos to garnish the top. Depending on the receptiveness of those you share this with, you could even use dry chipotle in place of the milder chili powders.

I am always excited to find a no-guilt substitute for foods that I might nosh on until the bowl is empty. I did try to temper the chip consumption by also having a bowl of celery sticks, but honestly, this tastes terrific on anything. Even potato chips. I will eat this with any chip. Or off a spoon. There are no compromises, and you honestly feel good eating it.

Yum!!! Que?…soooooo delicious! This vegan butternut queso was so delicious, addictive, and versatile. As we wolfed it down with plain, salty tortilla chips, we mused on all the different things we might add to it next time. It really is a great base for creativity.

My husband doesn’t tolerate spicy foods, so I gave him a bowl without any extra seasonings. It was a tad bland. I then added some smoked Spanish paprika and that really livened it up. Adding a little extra nutritional yeast and cumin rounded it out and made a great dip for the heat-intolerant. Also, being able to add seasonings after cooking makes this wonderfully versatile for multiple guests with different preferences. My bowl was seasoned with chipotle Tabasco–a simple, smokey addition that I enjoyed immensely.

I would definitely use twice the tomato next time–the chunkiness really added to the enjoyment, but we used all the tomato in only half the dip. Other great additions might be diced peppers, onions, and/or tomatillo. Will definitely make this again.

One recommendation for hardcore dairy lovers–I think it’s important to set up the expectation that this is a vegan dish. Knowing that ahead of time I thought this was awesome. It’s possible if I had been expecting a true queso dip, I might have been disappointed. Still, I may pull the switch on my granddaughter and see if she notices!

One serving note: I made this with canned pumpkin and it seemed a bit thin… but letting it cool a bit helped it to thicken up nicely. Served with plain, salty tortilla chips. Addictive and fabulous!

This vegan butternut queso is a fun recipe and definitely delicious, but it might be a stretch to call it a true substitute for the cheesy, indulgent dip we all know and love. I’m a big fan of nutritional yeast and its mock cheese flavor, but when combined here with the cashews and almond milk, there’s a subtle sweetness that competes with the usual pungency and tang that make an authentic melted cheese dip so irresistible.

That said, this is still a great dish to serve for anyone who eats vegan or who just wants a much healthier alternative to accompany some salty chips or even some grilled or steamed vegetables. We served it over burgers with roasted jalapeños and bacon jam and it was a terrific finishing touch on the Mexican flavors.

The recipe comes together so quickly and the spices are adjustable if you like more or less of a chili hit. (I highly recommend the addition of some chipotles in adobo for a solid boost in the heat, but some chopped, pickled jalapeños would also be terrific!) The queso is thinner at first but thickens up (more like the photo) after sitting for just a bit.

As a frequent guest of Texas, I am reticent to call this “queso”, but this vegan butternut queso is a perfectly good dip on its own. My two guests loved it. Mine was not as smooth and glossy as the photo. The spice levels were good; I added a bit of cayenne to mine for some kick.

Originally published September 2, 2021


#leitesculinaria on Instagram If you make this recipe, snap a photo and hashtag it #LeitesCulinaria. We'd love to see your creations on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter.


  1. 5 stars
    This recipe was one of my first forays into vegan cooking. My guests (Vegan and NonVegan) were surprised by the appealing slightly sweet-spicy flavor and texture. So was I! I used oat milk because I like the flavor and consistency. I simmered the spices in the oatmilk/butternut squash mixture near the end of the cooking time to enhance their flavor. Rather than stirring in a diced tomato (which I forgot to buy), I stirred in 1/4 cup of my favorite salsa. I garnished with some finely sliced green onions. Next time I will add some chipotle chilies to the blender for more heat.

Have something to say?

Then tell us. Have a picture you'd like to add to your comment? Attach it below. And as always, please take a gander at our comment policy before posting.

Rate this recipe!

Have you tried this recipe? Let us know what you think.

Upload a picture of your dish