The Best Queso You’ll Ever Make Is Dairy-Free

Photo shows vegan queso in a ceramic dish with a side of colorful tortilla chips. A bag of Daiya Mexican cheese shreds is on the side.

Nothing brings people together like a warm, spicy cheese dip—aka chile con queso, often simply called just queso. It’s everywhere, from the menus of practically every Tex-Mex restaurant in the country to multinational fast-food chains. These days, however, the holy grail of dips taste just as good made from plant-based  ingredients. Try making tasty queso at home with Daiya’s latest dairy-, soy- and gluten-free innovation, for this busy time of year and all of its gatherings, where vegans and flexitarians alike come together for game-day watch parties and holiday soirees. 

Daiya’s new Mexican 4 Cheeze Style Blend Shreds combines plant-based Cheddar, Monterey Jack, Asadero, and Queso Quesadilla-style shreds, lending a savory, mild, and creamy flavor to Tex-Mex and Mexican-inspired culinary creations. It turns plant-based queso into ultra-creamy, dip-worthy perfection. This OG plant-based cheese brand, around since 2008, is famous for mastering the art of the melt. Their Cutting Board Collection is made with chickpea protein to give all their vegan shreds, including the new Mexican 4 Cheeze Style Blend, an ooey-gooey melt and stretch that’ll leave both die-hard dairy fans and plant-based explorers wanting more. 

“Innovation lies at the heart of the Daiya brand’s DNA, and our team always strives to offer options with better taste, texture, and recipe use in order to deliver plant-based breakthroughs,” says Dan Hua, VP of marketing at Daiya Foods. Their research and development team worked closely with chefs and registered dietitians, while incorporating ongoing feedback from its customers to perfect this first to market four-cheese blend.

“Cheese is one of the ultimate comfort foods, which can be enjoyed on its own or used to elevate just about any fall or holiday recipes calling for ooey-gooey ‘melty’ moments,” adds Hua. That’s why Daiya Mexican 4 Cheeze Style Blend Shreds work so wonderfully in queso. Now, a little history lesson … 

Photo shows vegan queso topped with jalapenos with a side of colorful tortilla chips
Spicy, creamy, stretchy, and delicious: reasons why Daiya’s Mexican 4 Cheeze Style Blend makes such a good queso. | Aimee Gauthier

Cheese: The ultimate comfort food

An authentic queso is a symphony of creamy and salty flavors with lingering heat. According to Lisa Fain, creator of The Homesick Texan and author of the cookbook Queso!, the Tex-Mex staple likely originated from Mexico. The earliest references to it in print can be found in the 1816 Mexican novel El Periquillo Sarniento (The Mangy Parrot) by José Joaquín Fernández de Lizardi. Fast forward to 1910, and you could find queso on the menu of the Gunter Hotel in San Antonio, Texas.

It wasn’t until the early 1920s, though, that a queso recipe specifically called for American cheese—now the main ingredient of many queso recipes. In the late 1930s, Velveeta was first mentioned as the base for a good queso in a church cookbook. These days, you’ll find blogs offering queso recipes featuring a wide range of cheeses: American, Velveeta, Monterey Jack, asadero, cheddar, even cream cheese. 

Queso comes in many forms, but what’s truly important is that it’s spicy, creamy, stretchy, cheesy, and delicious. 

It is the time of year for holiday gatherings and cheer. (And what spreads cheer better than cheese? We’ll be waiting right here for the answer.) If you’re looking for that perfect queso recipe, then we’ve got great news for you: the recipe below will have people do a double-take (but hopefully not a double-dip) over the fact that something so deliciously cheesy is actually dairy-free.

For this recipe, we present a choose-your-own-adventure queso bar. Select from three options to suit your guests’ palates: spicy, savory, and sweet—all tried-and-tested by LIVEKINDLY’s food editor. We recommend serving these quesos with a big ol’ bowl of tortilla chips, plus a buffet-bar selection of sweet, savory, and spicy toppings. Now, on to the best plant-based queso recipe you’ll ever make…

Photo shows Daiya vegan cheese shreds with three ramekins filled with pepitas, pomegranate arils, and dried cranberries, respetively.
A topping buffet bar adds a festive twist to this dairy-free queso recipe. | Aimee Gauthier