September 19, 2014

Vegan Chili Cheese Dip

Hands down the best dairy-free cheese sauce I’ve ever tasted. Spicy, meaty and cheesy, this is a dip to win over even the biggest chili cheese dip fans. Vegan, gluten-free and soy-free. 

My marriage may only be 5 months old, but I think I’ve figured out the secret.

This dip —> ready by 11AM on football Sundays.

That, along with a consoling backrub when BL’s team loses might put me in the running for wife-of-the-year.

I take my role of “football snacks creator” very seriously. Thursday afternoon is usually when I get the text from BL asking, as sweetly as possible, what food I have lined up for the weekend. Even though it’s usually only him watching the game on our small living room TV, I need to prepare at least one appetizer and one heavier meal. Bonus points for drinks and/or dessert.

Process shots showing the making of the chili cheese dip

Vegan Chili Cheese Dip

While BL is usually content with plain chips and salsa, I have been craving something a bit… cheesier.

This dip was everything I wanted it to be and more. Sure, it’s gluten-free, vegan, and soy free, but it doesn’t taste like it– you know what I mean? It’s perfectly spicy, meaty, and creamy- without the usual suspects.

Instead of making a traditional cheese sauce, we start with a base of blended cashews, peppers, and nutritional yeast. If you haven’t had a cashew-base sauce before, let me first assure you that a.) it will not taste like cashews and b.) the results are mind-blowing.

We then make a quick chili base by simmering canned black beans, fresh salsa, and a little onion. If you crave more heat, add in a few jalapeños. Stir in the cheese sauce and you are done. Just be prepared for the temptation of wanting to pour this sauce on just about everything you can get your hands on… chips, bowls of chili, veggie burgers.   No judgement for wanting to convert this into a cheesy chili soup and indulge with only a spoon.

Nutritionally, this dip is a total game changer compared to regular cheese dips. Zero cholesterol, low in saturated fat, and high in protein, fiber, and zinc. Sorry, Ro*tel.  No hard feelings, but we totally upped the ante.

Dipping nachos into the chili cheese dip

If you try this recipe, let me know! Leave a comment, rate it, and tag your Instagram photos with #delishknowledge . I absolutely love seeing your creations. Happy cooking! 

Watch how to make it here:

OMG. The BEST chili cheese dip that just happens to be gluten-free and vegan! A must make for football games!

Dairy-Free Chili Cheese Dip

  • Author: Alex
  • Prep Time: 10 minutes
  • Cook Time: 15 minutes
  • Total Time: 25 minutes
  • Yield: ~6 cups
  • Category: Appetizer, Dip
  • Method: Blender
  • Cuisine: American


Hands down the best dairy-free cheese sauce I’ve ever tasted. Spicy, meaty and cheesy, this is a dip to win over even the biggest chili cheese dip fans. Vegan, gluten-free and soy-free. 

  • Author: Alex
  • Prep Time: 10 minutes
  • Cook Time: 15 minutes
  • Total Time: 25 minutes
  • Yield: ~6 cups
  • Category: Appetizer, Dip
  • Method: Blender
  • Cuisine: American
  • Author: Alex
  • Prep Time: 10 minutes
  • Cook Time: 15 minutes
  • Total Time: 25 minutes
  • Yield: ~6 cups
  • Category: Appetizer, Dip
  • Method: Blender
  • Cuisine: American


  • 1 1/2 cups cashews, soaked for at least an 1 hour, drained
  • 1 orange bell pepper, roughly chopped
  • 1 cup unsweetened dairy-free milk (I used almond)
  • 2 teaspoons chili powder
  • 1/4 cup nutritional yeast
  • 1/4 cup minced onion
  • 2 tablespoons taco seasoning (I make this recipe and store it in a airtight jar)
  • 2 (15 oz. cans) black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 12 oz. fresh salsa (I used the fresh homestyle salsa container from Trader Joe’s. Jarred salsa won’t work the same way)

Optional garnishes: cilantro, sliced green onions.


  1. Drain and rinse the soaked cashews.
  2. Place the cashews, orange bell pepper, milk, chili powder, and nutritional yeast in a high powered blender (I use my Blend-Tec). Puree until thick and creamy, about 3-4 minutes.
  3. In a large saucepan, add the minced onion, taco seasoning, black beans and fresh salsa over medium heat. Stir constantly until heated through, about 7-8 minutes.
  4. Add in the cheese sauce and stir to combine.
  5. Season to taste with salt/pepper if needed.
  6. Garnish as desired and serve.


This recipe makes a lot! (See reviews below) To me, it’s the perfect amount to take for a party or get-together but if you are serving this for 1-3, you may want to consider halving the recipe!

did you make this?

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Meet Alex Caspero

Alex Caspero is a Registered Dietitian, Plant-Based Chef and Yoga Instructor. She aims to cut through the nutrition noise by providing real-life, nourishing tips for body and mind. Learn more about Alex.


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  1. quick question: which chili powder do you reccomend for this recipe to make it mild/kid friendly?
    Thank you! Love all your recipes>

    • Hi Maria– I usually use Penzey’s or Simply Organic’s mild chili powder. You can also use less chili powder here to make it more kid-friendly. I’d also recommend going with a mild taco seasoning.

  2. Made this recipe for a New Years Eve party. Everyone LOVED this!! It was seriously so good and nobody would have guessed it didn’t have cheese. A few asked for the recipe and we couldn’t wait to eat the leftovers. I served it with baked tortilla chips as well as homemade fries.

  3. This is my first time attempting any dairy free dip. My kids, husband and I approve. The kids ate it up and loved it. Thanks for sharing the recipe, I also added hamburger to mine.

  4. Quick question…I have a ninja blender would that work? I really want to try this for a birthday party soon but I’m worried it won’t work…has anyone tried this with a Ninja blender?

    • I don’t have a ninja blender so can’t say- but the trick is soaking the cashews ahead of time so they are very, very soft. Let them soak for at least 12 hours and it shouldn’t be a problem!

  5. I have made this recipe a million times, for vegans and non-vegans alike. At the last Christmas party I went to, this was next to the normal queso and was eaten ten times more quickly. People RAVE about it and I’ve given the recipe to at least five people. No one can believe it’s vegan! Thank you so much for this recipe!
    My only tip is to make sure to add salt!

  6. I’ve made this so many times and everyone loves it. Passed the recipe on to my sister and some friends. Nicely done!

  7. Hello! Has anyone successfully swapped out the nuts? I’m allergic so finding a recipe such as this that is soy free and nut free has been challenging. But this recipe looks sooooo good I am hoping someone has already found a substitute. Thanks!

  8. Amazing… Anyone who doesn’t try it is missing out… The Chili Cheese dip tastes Fantasticly, delicious… My Non-vegan, Non-plant Based Hubby is always reluctant to even taste any of my Vegan or Plant Based foods… But with my persuasion he did tonight…. when he finally tried this He couldn’t believe how Cheezy Delicious it is… He’s been dipping into it every time he goes in the Kitchen this evening. It’s a Winner in our house… Thanks for sharing….

  9. Made this for a super bowl party last night and LOVED It!! There were several guests who are dairy-free, and they raved about it. I’m not vegan, but I like this less heavy version. Just wanted to add that I only used half the chili powder and it was PLENTY spicy for me. I know chili powder can vary in spice level–but just a heads up for others who don’t like things super spicy :). Thanks so much for this fabulous recipe!

  10. Hey there! Excited to try this recipe. I’m curious though, why aren’t you a fan of putting rotel in it? Wondering if I should risk it or go out and get some salsa.

  11. Great recipe! I’m not vegan, but I try to limit meat and dairy. I added Frank’s Hot Sauce when serving it and it was perfect. I thought about adding a little chipotle powder, but since this was my first time cooking it I wanted to follow the recipe exactly. Maybe next time. With all that said, my husband didn’t particularly like it, but he doesn’t have good taste when it comes to food. I still give it 5 stars. And I rarely love the recipes I find online.

  12. Just found your website after viewing today’s (1/10/18) Dr. Oz show where he featured this recipe. Can’t wait to try this SOON and peruse some of your other recipes since I am newly dabbling in more vegetables. One question: The recipe mentions that you make your taco seasoning and am wondering if you would post it (couldn’t do anything with “url:1″that printed on the recipe). Thank you.

  13. I saw it yesterday and made it today. It was sooo good and we all loved it!!
    That will become a regular in our house.
    Thank you

  14. This is insanely close to the real thing! It’s even husband approved!! Thanks so much for the recipe!

  15. Made this tonight–so delicious! Seriously does not taste vegan or weird-vegan at all. I added a little sriracha, too, as I like spicy. A+ recipe. I made a half recipe as suggested as it could be dangerous with that large of a serving 😉

    • Hi Jonelle- I don’t know if it will work without the cashews- they are the main ingredient in the sauce. Are you allergic to sunflower seeds? I know some individuals do OK with those even if they are allergic to other nuts. I haven’t tried it, but I’ve seen other recipes using sunflower seeds as a base and it might work. If so, make sure they are the seeded variety and preferably raw. If it works- let us know!

  16. I made this for the 4th of July and lots of people loved it! They couldn’t believe it was vegan. Thank you for this recipe!

  17. Found this recipe on Pinterest. Always looking for a good vegan nacho dip recipe for my non vegan friends. This is by far the best vegan dip I ever had! The only issue I had was that it came out a bit runny, but no problem that’s an easy fix. I won’t put as much milk in next time. The flavor is outta this world! Thanks for coming up and sharing this recipe. I will be making this again! Oh, and I love the taco seasoning recipe that you directed us to. I now have a container of it in my cupboard as well! 😀

  18. […] Anyways… if you’re not excited about the teams playing the game, or just not interesting in football in general… you still have plenty to look forward to: commercials, halftime, and delicious food! I always try to bring a healthier dish to friends gatherings that way I have some good options for nutrition. Everything in moderation though friends, enjoy some pulled pork or dessert if that’s your thing! I don’t know what I’m going to make yet… I’m eyeing this recipe:  Vegan Chili Cheese Dip […]

  19. I made this for a quick meal for my family this week and we ran out of chips so my husband went out to the store to get more (my husband who hates all things vegan). Then the family was already requesting the dip again the next day! I gave in and made it for everyone when my youngest son had a few friends over a few days later. It’s not just good for a vegan dip but a great dip, period!!

  20. I made this with coconut milk. It tasted way too sweet. The cheese also seemed out of proportion (too thick and way too much cheese to beans ratio). But otherwise this is pretty good. I’ll try it with almond milk next time.

    • Thanks for letting me know! I wonder if the coconut milk makes it too sweet- I don’t think the almond milk does that, I’ve never thought of the sauce as “sweet”. It’s saucy but I love it that way! 🙂

  21. I made this a while back for a superbowl party, and it was a hit! Even my husband who THINKS he doesn’t like nutritional yeast was having no trouble eating a ton of this dip. I think it’s something about the bell pepper that really makes this work. It’s delicious. Excellent recipe.

    • Thanks Monica! I totally agree- the bell pepper blends together the “cheese” taste of the nutritional yeast. Thanks so much for the comment!

  22. Mine didnt turn out good 🙁 i dont know why… all i taste is cashews… its lumpy too do you know how i can fix this?
    Thanks, Tiffany

    • Hi Tiffany, sorry- I must have missed this comment earlier. Were you using a high powered blender? It does make a difference. I’m not sure why it turned out lumpy but I’m sorry you didn’t care for it!

    • From my own experience, I know that this used to happen to me before I bought a heavy duty high speed blender. Nothing ever got super smooth until I started using a Vitamix.

    • Oh no Tiffany! I hate hearing this! My first thought would be- did you soak your cashews long enough? Depending on the blender you used, it won’t puree the cashews silky enough. I use a high-powered blender like a VitaMix or BlendTec. Are you using one of those? I understand that not everyone has one but it does make a difference in how creamy the cashews can get. How lumpy is it?

  23. made this today for my husband to take to his football watching party. The men all loved it and couldnt believe it when he finally told them it was vegan. This will be my staple football party dish! Thank you so much!

  24. I’m sorry if someone else asked this, I didn’t have time to read all the replies. Can you substitute the cashews with Almonds? I’ve made a “Vita Mix” vegan cheese dip and it calls for either almonds or cashews. I have a lot of left over almonds and would love to use them up, while trying this recipe!

    • No apologies necessary! I don’t know how almonds will work but… Try it! My only concern would be the skin so I don’t know if you want to blanch them first. Otherwise I say go for it and let us know if it works! 🙂 make sure to soak first so they blend easier.

  25. This dip is great. I follow Dr McDougall’s Whole Plant lifestyle. He does not advocate nuts but this dip is wonderdul and the suggestions on how else to use it were very good. I will definately try it on potatoes and veggie burgers. This recipe makes a large amount of dip. Can you freeze the dip or not? And how long does it last in the refrigerator? Thanks for sharing this recipe.

    • I have put this fabulous dip in the freezer before. I just let it thaw in the fridge overnight then put it in a pot to reheat. Works great!

    • Hi Jean, I haven’t placed it in the freezer before but if you do- let us know how it turns out! I’ve frozen other nut based sauces before and as long as they are air-tight, they work! In the fridge, it should be good for up to 5 days. Thanks for trying it!

  26. I used this recipe to just make the cheese sauce portion after seeing a video on “How to make vegan junk food..” and it turned out really great.. it makes quite a bit of the cheese sauce too so I put some in a squeeze bottle and keep it in the fridge. I used the rest to experiment with, if you add Sriracha to the cheese dip it’s really amazing too! It goes great on vegan nachos and also good for black bean burgers and breakfast tacos. The key is the nutritional yeast and taco seasoning. Really great post. thank you so much!

    Austin, TX

  27. I just made this and WOW! Unreal! So good! I’ve made many vegan dips and they all have a bit of fakeness in the after taste….This is fresh and delicious! Perhaps the orange pepper is indeed the dip messiah here 🙂

    • Hi Holly- yes! I think the orange pepper really makes it. It doesn’t taste as artificially cheesy as other vegan cheese sauces.

  28. velveeta – never again.

    Made this today with my Blendtec (just the cheese part) and variations with:
    Pickled jalapeños
    Garlic cloves
    Red pepper flakes
    HEB Taco Seasoning

    This is a home run for us newley-vegetarians. Put it in a squirt bottle for instant nachos, veggie burgers, etc .. A+++

    • Jeff this comment warms my heart!!!! So happy to hear that you love it so much! THANK YOU! Great idea for the squirt bottle! I make baked potatoes the other night and loaded them with steamed broccoli and this sauce. It was delicious!

  29. I made this tonight – just the “cheese” dip portion. I liked it but it turned out a bit sweet for my taste. Perhaps the orange pepper was sweet? I added some juice from a bottle of jalepenos and that made it better. And this recipe makes a lot!!!

    • Thanks for your comments Anita- I wonder if you used a very sweet pepper? I don’t think mine has ever turned out “sweet” but I’m glad you were able to balance it with the jalapenos. When you add the salsa and black bean portion, it’s very savory and a bit spicy! Glad you liked it!

  30. Was completely intrigued by this recipe. I hate the idea of eating Velvetetta and try not to eat any dairy anyway, so….. I made this the same day I found the post on Pinterest. First of all, mine was not anywhere near the color of yours. The chili powder and taco seasoning took care of that. And while it is delicious, I was never under the impression I was eating Queso. That said, I do love it but to me it tastes more like a bean dip. It just took me a while to adjust my brain and stop expecting Queso. After that was accomplished I became a huge fan. This recipe is definitely going into the rotation and I may amp things up a bit with some of those hatch chilis in my freezer. Thanks.

    • Thanks for the comment Monique! I’m not sure why your color didn’t turn out the same? I’ve made this at least 5 times and i always get the same orangish hue. Did you use a orange bell pepper and the nutritional yeast? Yes, it’s definitely not velveeta but to me that’s a good thing! Add the chilis! Let me know how it turns out!

      • Curious also, mine is also a brown color. Do you rinse the beans? It didn’t say in the recipe, and I think that might why it turned brown. It taste delicious, but the color makes me want to add more cheese sauce!

        • Hi Krystal, I will update the recipe now to reflect rinsing the beans. Yes, I rinsed them before adding them. I’m sorry yours turned brown but I am glad that you liked the taste!

      • Yup, orange pepper. Not sure what I did but I know I’ll be making it again so I’ll let you know. My daughter made it too and she used sunflower seeds instead of cashews. She liked it. Hers was the right color. Go figure? And I rinsed the beans really well.

  31. Hi, is this something that can be made a day ahead? Can it be reheated in a microwave? I love sneakily having my co-workers try something healthy!

    • Yes! This can be made ahead! i’ve been making a batch to keep in the fridge for BL to snack on and he says it continues to taste great after a few days! I don’t know about heating it up in a microwave but I reheat it on the stove and it’s fine. You might need to add a bit more liquid (like soy milk) if it becomes too thick! Let me know what your coworkers think!

  32. Okay, so cheese dips aren’t a thing over here but just reading your recipe description makes me weak in the knees. Cashew-based anything is creamier than creamy, beans, taco spices, … I’m sold – and pretty sure I couldn’t be trusted around a bowl of this,

    • Sounds amazing… going to take this dip to a Super Bowl party this weekend. Is this best served warm or cold?

      • You’ll want to serve this one warm! I haven’t done it before, but a few readers have commented that it stays warm in a crock pot.

        • Awesome, thanks! I just saw your soyrizo “cheese” dip recipe too… I think I’m going to make a hybrid of these 2 recipes! Yum!

  33. OMG!!!!!!! This is so Freakin GOOD!!! If I ever get invited to a party ever again – I’m taking this Baby!!! YOU ROCK!!!! 🙂

  34. Alex, I was wondering where you find your nutritional yeast? I have looked for it in my local market/health foods store and haven’t been able to find it. What aisle do you typically find it in?

  35. I want to do this! Just found you, and love your site. I was wondering what the yeast does? I don’t have any right now….Thanks!

    • Thanks Pam! The yeast adds the cheesy flavor. If your are not dairy free, you could add cheddar cheese although I’m not sure how it would work in the blender! If you try it- let me know!

    • I’m not either but I love cooking this way- I love the challenge in having to rely on different ingredients! Anyways- yay for Sacramento! I wanna do a blogger meet up in our area soon!

    • I love nacho dip too and honestly, I think this is better than the dairy stuff. Mostly because I don’t feel as bad when I eat the entire batch in a day 🙂

  36. So I tried to make cashew based nacho cheese dip a few weeks ago… it was a big fail, but my craving has not gone away and I can’t stomach the usual Velveeta blend (ick). Enter this recipe! Can’t wait to try it!

    • Oh no! Have you ever had a cashew sauce before? I think adding the orange bell pepper is the trick! Hope you make it, let me know what you think!

  37. This sounds amazing!! I have a lazy Sunday planned for this week and this dip sounds perfect for it. Maybe I’ll even turn on a football game. Haha! I’ve never had a cashew sauce, but you’ve made me so curious about it now.

  38. Okay … it’s simple … you’re a genius!

    I have long loved the unhealthy version of this dip, but the thought of Velveeta just gives me the creeps so I haven’t had it in forever … that is all about to change with this recipe!

    Thanks so much for sharing!

  39. YES! I’ve been dying to see this recipe since you posted a sneak peak on Insta. Loving everything about this – the ingredients, the pictures, yum, yum, yum! Excited to make this for a football sunday with the boy!

    • Honestly, you won’t even know it’s “vegan”. I’ve made a lot of vegan sauces before and this is my favorite cheesy version, I think the orange bell pepper is the secret! Hope you try it Liz! If you do, let me know what you think!