Made with raw cashews and red bell pepper, this vegan cheddar cheesy dip or sauce is an irresistible treat. Used in either way (or as a spread), it packs a flavorful punch.
Though there’s no actual vegan cheese used here, the combination of cashews, red bell pepper, nutritional yeast, and smoky seasonings gives this a delicious, cheddar cheese-like flavor and texture.
As a dip or spread: It’s fantastic on sliced fresh baguette, bruschetta, or whole-grain-crackers. It’s also great with an array of raw vegetables, especially celery, cauliflower, broccoli, and Belgian endive. And it’s so quick and easy to prepare.
As a sauce: Toss with hot or cold cooked pasta, or dollop it onto baked potatoes or cooked grains. It’s also excellent as a sauce for the cruciferous veggies — broccoli and cauliflower in particular.
What gives this preparation its special kick is barbecue seasoning blend, which you can find in the spice section of any well-stocked supermarket. McCormick Grill Mates® is one of the popular brands; other brands can be found in specialty stores or online. These seasoning blends are fantastic flavor-boosters for plant proteins. Flavors include smokehouse maple, mesquite, chipotle, and there are lots of others. They’re all good; choose your favorite!
Though sautéing a bell pepper doesn’t take much time or effort, this recipe offers the option of using a red bell pepper from a jar if you prefer.
The barbecue seasoning will add a nice smoky flavor without spiciness, but if you do want to kick the smokiness up a notch, use the smoked paprika rather than the sweet paprika option. The nutritional yeast adds to the cheesy flavor.
- 1 cup raw chopped cashews
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 medium red bell pepper, chopped (or see Note)
- 1/2 cup cannellini beans, drained and rinsed, or drained and crumbled firm tofu
- 1/4 cup nutritional yeast flakes
- 2 to 3 tablespoons lemon juice, to taste
- 1 teaspoon prepared yellow or Dijon mustard
- 2 teaspoons barbecue seasoning blend, such as mesquite (see Note)
- 1 teaspoon sweet or smoked paprika
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- Pinch of dry mustard, optional
- Combine the cashews with enough hot water to cover in a heatproof bowl. Allow to stand for about an hour.
- Heat the oil in a small skillet. Add the bell pepper and sauté over medium heat until it starts to brown lightly here and there, stirring frequently.
- Combine the soaked cashews, bell pepper, and all the remaining ingredients in a food processor. Process until smooth. Stop the machine and scrape down the sides with a rubber spatula from time to time. It takes a good few minutes to make this smooth.
- To serve: If using as a dip or spread, transfer to an attractive crock or shallow bowl and surround with fresh bread, grilled bread (bruschetta), crackers, and/or raw vegetables. If using as a sauce, toss with hot noodles or dollop onto baked potatoes or hot cooked grains. It’s also a great sauce for steamed broccoli and cauliflower.
Variation: Use a fresh hot chile pepper (seeded and chopped) to give this a spicy kick.
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