Gluten Free - Dairy Free - Refined Sugar Free
Raise your hand if you are/were an avid lover of those cardboard-esque tortilla chips smothered in warm, creamy nacho "cheese". Come on, be honest. Nobody's looking.
I used to love those addictive little buggers. Back when I was a public school teacher, we would buy the 8 lb. cans of that stuff and stock up like we were prepping a bomb shelter. There is no telling how many years old each can was, but I can tell you one thing, it didn't matter because they seemed to never go bad and they just tasted so damn good. On days that we were firing up the old crockpots and selling nachos out on the playground, I would wake up with a little more pep in my step. That orange glow that came off the steaming cheese, topped with pickled jalapeños... just the thought of it would make me salivate. Guess what, I wasn't alone. Students and teachers would line up to buy their nachos and many skipped lunch to do so (myself included).
Well, a few years have passed since my days of indulging in industrial size vats of plastic cheese. Since changing my lifestyle, I don't crave it any more. Nor do I want the nachos I see at sporting events. I do, however, occasionally indulge in a dairy free version at restaurants from time to time. Upon some reflection of ordering vegan mystery cheese, I started to think, just because it's vegan or dairy free doesn't mean that it's necessarily healthful. You see, vegan/dairy free versions can still be made with tons of additives, artificial flavors, and ingredients that I have no right even trying to pronounce. So, I found myself in the kitchen with my trusty Vitamix, putting my kick ass culinary nutritionista skills to use. The result, in my humble opinion, a pretty dang good nutritious option for cheese sauce!
The recipe calls for soaking the cashews for a minimum of four hours prior to blending. This does a couple of things. It begins to break down the cashews, so that it's easier for your body to digest and absorb maximum nutrient value. The other reason, in this case, is for the purpose of making the nut much easier to blend. This leaves you with a creamier end product without any lumps or clumps. Nobody wants nacho cheese with clumps in it. This is also where a high-speed blender comes in handy to ensure that it can be as smooth as possible.
Before you read any further, take a second to go soak one cup of raw cashews in a small bowl of water. You'll thank me in about four hours when it's nacho time.
The way to achieve a cheesy flavor without adding dairy product, is by using nutritional yeast. Nutritional yeast is an inactive yeast made from beet molasses. Because it is inactive, it is not used for beer making or baking, and it is acceptable for someone with candida to consume. While it is not a replacement for whole food, it is a great addition to your meals to boost protein and B vitamins. This is great news for everyone, especially folks that consume little to no animal product in their diet because it is an exceptional source for vitamin B12, which is often lacking. A little bit goes a long way with nutritional yeast. Because we can't stock pile B vitamins, the body uses what it has when it has it. It's recommended that you only need about 1 tsp. sprinkled onto your meal/snack if you're adding it for nutritional purposes. (Hint: It's great for making cheesy popcorn). If possible, purchase an unfortified nutritional yeast to ensure that natural B vitamins are not removed and replaced with synthetic forms.
This nacho cheese can be heated or eaten straight out of the fridge. Pull the dip out of the refrigerator about 15 minutes prior to serving and the flavors will pop more than when it's ice cold. I have heated it a few times, but you have to stir continuously over low heat and watch it very closely. If you heat it too quickly, you will acquire many clumps as the mixture begins to bulk up from the heat of the stove. I prefer it at room temperature, so I don't really bother with heating the mixture.
Serve as a dip for tortilla chips and veggie sticks or drizzle on top of nachos, rice and bean bowls, tacos, or anything else that you can think of. Whatever way you choose, I'm sure that your body will thank you for feeding it real food ingredients rather than MSG and yellow #567.
DF Nacho Cheese
Soak time: 4+ hrs., Prep time: 10 min.
Makes: 2+ cups (16+ oz.)
- 1 cup raw cashews, soaked 4 hrs.
- 1 cup unsweetened almond milk (or other dairy free milk of choice)
- 1/2 cup nutritional yeast
- 1/3 cup sliced carrot (~1 carrot)
- 1 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
- 1 garlic clove
- 1/2 tsp. ground mustard
- 1/2 tsp. sea salt
- ~1/4 tsp. cayenne (plus a pinch for added heat)
- Pinch black pepper
- After soaking the cashews for 4 hrs. in a small bowl of water, drain and rinse well.
- Combine all ingredients in a high-speed blender. Blend until smooth and creamy, pausing to scrape down the sides of the wall every now and then.
- Taste and adjust by adding more cayenne, if added heat is your preference. Go slow though because a little bit goes a long way with cayenne.
- Chill in the refrigerator for a minimum of 1 hour before serving. This allows the flavors to meld.
- Serving options: make a nacho dish loaded with veggies, top your favorite tacos, use as a dip for tortilla chips, add a dollop to your favorite bean and rice bowl, or anything else your heart desires.
Prep: soak the cashews overnight, while you’re sleeping. This way they’re ready to blend first thing in the morning.
Soaking: If you forget to soak the cashews ahead of time, boil a few cups of water and pour over the cashews to quick soak for 20 minutes. You will lose nutrient value by doing this, so try to plan ahead when possible. Note: if you don’t have a high-speed blender then a longer soak will be most helpful to ensure that there are no lumps or clumps.
Storage: keep in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days or freeze for future use, leaving 1” headspace to prevent cracking. Stir or re-blend after thawing.
Shopping: save some duckets by buying cashew pieces (rather than whole cashews) and/or purchasing in bulk.
How do you enjoy nacho cheese best? Let us know in the comments below.