While I’m not afraid of some well-sourced cheese or raw milk (and have plenty of dairy-containing recipes on this site!), our family recently cut dairy products and this dairy free queso dip recipe is the result. We love it and think you will too!
We’re finally settled back in west Texas, and though south Texas has its own sense of flare, I couldn’t be happier to be back in the queso capital of the world (ok, I just made that up). The problematic thing is, I’ve recently been avoiding cheese. Ho hum, I know. Without cheese, what is life?
Dairy free ≠ death
I promise going dairy free is not equal to death.
Thankfully, dairy free cheese choices abound and I’ve had lots of fun experimenting (like with this dairy free queso dip recipe, but we’ll get to that soon). It turns out you can find all kinds of dairy-free lovelies at most health food stores these days: (imagine my best Bubba voice) dairy free cream cheese spread, dairy free yogurt, dairy free milks… you can make just about anything dairy free.
It’s true! Unfortunately, many store-bought options aren’t paleo-friendly, or even very healthy because they contain things like maltodextrin (a corn-based additive our family doesn’t tolerate well), soy, and other junk. I was even shocked to find an almond-based shredded cheese pack that contained… wait for it… casein! What?!
If you’ve been following along, you know that casein is the protein found in milk. And while our family has done ok on high-quality milk and other dairy products for years, we recently decided to take a break (ok, I recently decided the fam was going to take a break) for a number of reasons. While I plan for the dairy hiatus to be temporary, there are a few reasons to avoid dairy if you’re dealing with chronic health issues.
Why you might want to go dairy free
While dairy does have some great health benefits, it can be problematic for some people. You may want to avoid dairy if you:
- are battling any kind of fungal illness, including mold or candida. I recently learned that fungus can feed on casein, the protein in dairy, so until the fungal infection is resolved, one is best to avoid milk-based products. (Hint: eczema is a symptom of fungal infection and often clears up with removal of dairy from the diet.)
- are suffering from chronic sinus problems, as dairy can promote mucus. (Many children can avoid getting tubes put in their ears by simply removing dairy from their diet.)
- have asthma, again, because dairy can cause buildup of mucus in the lungs and exacerbate breathing problems.
- suffer from sleep apnea, for the above reasons.
- battle chronic illness that has not eased with other diet changes. This is what led our family to trial removing dairy for a time, and it seems to be helping with chronic migraines.
- have a child with autism or related disorders. Read more below.
Dairy can make you feel high.
Particularly for children with autism this can be a problem, and I thought it worth mentioning before I get to the queso dip recipe.
You see, many of us have trouble digesting dairy, rather casein, the protein in dairy. For those of us with impaired digestion, like many children with autism, those proteins go undigested into the bloodstream, and are then converted to casomorphins. These casomorphins attach to the same brain receptors that heroin and other narcotics attach to.
Yup- the protein in dairy can essentially become morphine and go directly to the brain and effect mood, behavior, and emotions. It’s for this same reason that many children with autism demand cheese all day long- the cheese is turning into a drug and their bodies can’t get enough of it!
Dairy free queso dip to the rescue
If I’ve convinced you to take a walk on the dairy-free side, you’re going to appreciate this queso dip recipe! I’ve made it several times now and some of my family members don’t even know the difference. It definitely fills that melt-y, sauce-y, down south void when you’re wanting something warm, comforting, and worth sharing!
And while I fear that a cheese-free cheese dip feels wrong here in Texas, the truth is, I don’t wanna be right.
If the reaction I’ve gotten on Instagram is any indication, y’all feel the same! Case in point: while traveling, I stopped in to have lunch at my favorite restaurant in Austin, TX, where they serve up delicious paleo fare. Mr. Incredible and I were blown away by their cashew-based dairy free queso dip, and when I posted a pic, so many of you asked for the recipe!
While I can’t share exactly how that fantastic dip is made (’cause I don’t know), I did determine to create one of my own. Find the recipe below, then be sure to come back and let me know what you think.
Notes on ingredients
If you’ve never used nutritional yeast (the ingredient that imparts that cheesy flavor), there are a few things you should know:
- it’s important to find a non-fortified nutritional yeast. Many manufacturers add folic acid, a fake b vitamin which many of us can’t process. I’ve linked up to a clean one in the recipe below.
- nutritional yeast is a good source of b vitamins even without fortification! That’s why it’s popular among vegans.
- nutritional yeast has a distinct smell that might catch you off guard if you haven’t yet used it. Don’t be turned off, as the taste is delicious in things like this dairy free queso dip recipe. Just be careful not to breathe in the powder as you open the bag and scoop the yeast out.
Additionally, although dairy-free queso dip recipes are popular among vegans, clearly, with the added seasoned beef, this recipe is not vegan. However, this recipe could theoretically be made without the ground beef and still be delicious and also vegan.
Dairy Free Queso Dip Recipe
Yield 6-8 servings
- 1 lb ground beef
- 1.5 cups water
- 1 cup cashew pieces
- 1 cup canned chopped green chilies or pre-made salsa verde
- 1/2 cup tomato sauce
- 1/2 cup chopped onion
- 1/4 cup nutritional yeast
- 2 cloves garlic, peeled
- 1 tbsp beef tallow or other fat of choice
- 1.5 tsp salt
- 1 tsp chili powder
- 1/2 tsp garlic powder
- 1/2 tsp ground cumin
- In a large skillet, sauté chopped onion in tallow over med low heat.
- Add ground beef and cook til browned, stirring and chopping meat as you go.
- Add tomato sauce, salt, chili powder, garlic powder and cumin and stir well, continuing to cook.
- Add green chilies or salsa verde and stir.
- In a high powered blender, combine water, cashew pieces, nutritional yeast, and 2 cloves garlic and blend until creamy and smooth. Add to ground beef mixture and stir well.
- Turn heat to low and simmer a few more minutes until desired thickness is reached.
- Move to a serving dish (or small crock pot set to low), top with chopped cilantro and tomato, and serve with grain-free chips and pork rinds.