This easy queso fresco recipe is the soft, creamy, and crumbly Mexican cheese you've been missing out on since going vegan.
Try using this in place of goat cheese or feta because it's absolutely delicious!
This cheese is traditionally made from cow's milk (or a mix of cow and goat milk). So, we knew we needed to create a dairy-free version to add another classic into our Mexican cooking arsenal.
You'll notice queso fresco is described as a fresh, mild cheese, which we've really captured in this recipe. We also simplified things for you by keeping our ingredient list in the single digits!
We wanted to make this recipe as easy as possible since our goal is to share vegan food that's approachable and worthy of being added to your regular routine.
Before long, you'll have a cheese that holds it shape well (thanks to agar and coconut oil), but still has that classic crumble-ability of queso fresco. As usual, it's 100% plant-based, gluten-free, and straightforward to make.
If you're not a huge fan of spicy Mexican food, that's okay! We've also spread this cheese on slices of sourdough or garnished split pea dal with it. If you discover another dish to serve queso fresco with, make sure to let us know in the comments below!
Take a little time out of your day to make this recipe. We promise you won't regret it.
🍲 Key ingredients
For a complete ingredient list and step-by-step guide, scroll down to our recipe card.
Taste: with a rich, mildly nutty flavor, cashews are extra sweet due to their high carbohydrate content. Once blended, they create a creamy texture that's perfect to emulate the traditional queso fresco consistency.
Health: since they're high in omega 3's, cashews play a huge role in reducing LDL cholesterol (the bad kind). Although cashews are healthy, they're high in fat (1 gram of fat = 9 calories). In other words, the calories can quickly add up if you're not conscious about portion sizes.
Taste: almonds have a slightly sweet, but rather neutral flavor. We use them in this recipe for their crumbly texture. By mixing almonds with cashews, we achieve the best of both worlds — creamy and crumbly queso.
Health: almonds are extremely high in nutrients, boasting over 3 grams of fiber and 6 grams of protein in a single ounce serving. There are actually some nutrients in nuts that our bodies have trouble breaking down, which means we don't absorb all the calories associated with them (thanks body!).
Taste: this flavorless gelatin substitute is made from 100% seaweed. We use it in this recipe to give the cheese a bit more shape and structure.
Health: although low in calories, agar contains a high amount of manganese, calcium, and iron, making it a great addition to this already nutrient-dense cheese.
Refined coconut oil
Taste: refined coconut oil has no discernible flavor profile since it is "deodorized" with heat during processing. We use this saturated fat to help keep the cheese sturdy.
Health: most dietary fats are long-chain triglycerides (LCTs), but coconut oil contains medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs). This is one of the reasons coconut oil is touted by many as a health food (although, there's a lot of controversy).
MCTs head straight to the liver to be used immediately for energy (rather than store as fat). There's lots of fancy jargon surrounding MCTs, but our motto has always been "everything in moderation." Seems logical, right?
Step 1: begin by soaking the almonds and cashews in room temperature water for about 12 hours, or overnight. After they've soaked, drain the nuts and place them in a high-speed blender or food processor with the vinegar, coconut oil, nutritional yeast, onion powder, salt, and water.
Step 2: blend the mixture until it's smooth (make sure to stop and scrape down the sides a few times). Then, add in the agar powder and blend it again to combine.
Step 3: bring the cheese mixture to a low boil in a saucepan over medium heat. Once it's lightly boiling, lower the heat and simmer the cheese to activate the agar for 3-5 minutes, or until the mixture is thickened.
Note: the cheese should start to set soon after you remove it from heat. If it does not, simply add it back to your saucepan and simmer for a few minutes longer.
Step 4: working fairly quickly, transfer the cheese mixture to a lined bowl or mould. Cover and let it chill in your fridge for at least 6 hours, but preferably overnight.
Fridge: store this cheese in an airtight container (to ensure optimal freshness) for up to 5 days in the fridge.
Freezer: we don't recommend freezing this cheese as the texture will change when thawed.
💭 Pro tips
Time to share our tips and tricks we learned while perfecting this recipe for you:
- Ensure the agar is properly activated by keeping the mixture at a low boil.
- The consistency will get better the longer the cheese chills. We recommend 12-24 hours.
- Soak the almonds and cashews for at least 12 hours to achieve the best consistency.
- Line your mould with parchment paper or a cheesecloth to make sure the queso doesn't get stuck.
- If you forget to line the mould, run a knife around the edges to pop the cheese out (or just serve it out of the same dish...less cleanup).
- To make this cheese tangier, add in extra vinegar before simmering.
- For a prominent cheese flavor, use more nutritional yeast.
🍴 Tasting notes
If you love cheese, you're going to be obsessed with this recipe. It's:
If you try this queso fresco, please rate it and leave us a comment below! Want to stay up-to-date with new recipes? Subscribe to our newsletter or connect with Broke Bank Vegan on social media. Happy eating!
Easy Queso Fresco Recipe
- Blender or food processor
- Small saucepan
- Cheesecloth or parchment paper
- Cheese mold or heat-safe bowl
- ½ cup blanched almonds, soaked ($1.25)
- ½ cup raw cashews, soaked ($0.86)
- 2 tbsp white vinegar ($0.02)
- 3 tbsp refined coconut oil ($0.42)
- ½ tbsp nutritional yeast ($0.12)
- ¼ tsp onion powder ($0.01)
- 1 tsp salt ($0.01)
- 2 tsp agar powder ($0.10)
- ⅓ + ¼ cup water ($0.01)
- To begin, soak the almonds and cashews in room temperature water for about 12 hours, or overnight. After they've soaked, drain the nuts and place them in a high-speed blender or food processor with the vinegar, coconut oil, nutritional yeast, onion powder, salt, and water.
- Blend for approximately 2-10* minutes, or until the mixture is smooth (stop to scrape down the sides a few times). Lastly, add in the agar powder and blend until combined.
- Set the blender aside while you heat a small saucepan over medium heat for a 1-2 minutes. Then, transfer the cheese mixture into the saucepan and bring it to a low boil while stirring constantly.
- Once the mixture is lightly boiling, turn the heat down to simmer and continue stirring constantly for about 3-5 minutes, or until it thickens.
- Note: the cheese should start to set soon after you remove it from heat. If it does not, simply add it back to your saucepan and simmer for a few minutes longer.
- Working fairly quickly, transfer the cheese mixture to a parchment paper or cheesecloth-lined bowl or mould**. Cover and let the cheese chill in your fridge for at least 6 hours, but preferably overnight.
- * The blend time will vary depending on the quality of blender or food processor you're using.
- ** We use a bowl with a flat bottom for our cheese mould, but any ramekin or heat-safe bowl you have will work.
- The agar powder needs to get to 85-90 degrees C/185-194 degrees F in order to activate and set properly, which is why the cheese mixture has to be simmered.
- Optional ingredients are not reflected in the price or calories of our recipes.
- We calculate nutritional information for our recipes with Cronometer.
- Recipe cost calculations are based on ingredients local to us and may vary from recipe-to-recipe.
- All prices are in USD.
♻️ Similar recipes
For more cheesy recipe ideas, check out our:
- Cream cheese for a whipped, smooth, and dairy-free version of your favorite bagel spread.
- Parmesan cheese if you want a vegan food topper that takes all of 5 minutes to make!
- Spreadable vegan cheese for a 6-ingredient cheese that comes together in no time.
- Jalapeño nacho cheese sauce to use on nachos or in a creamy mac and cheese.
If you can't find agar, try using kappa carrageenan or tapioca. The texture won't be the same if you use tapioca, but it should be close.
Yes, you can use agar flakes in place of the powdered form. Remember, 1 teaspoon of powder is equal to 1 tablespoon of flakes.
Yes, this recipe is intended to include both. Almonds lend a crumbly texture and cashews provide creaminess.
If your cheese isn't firming up, there's a good chance the agar did not activate or you have a weak agar. Try cooking it for longer or adding more agar.
This recipe is designed to be made with nuts. We're developing similar cheeses that don't contain nuts, so stay tuned!