I have such a love/hate relationship with dairy. My tastebuds love it, but my body does not. Insert sad trombone.
Because of my body’s rebellion against all things cheese, I’ve made it my life’s goal to try to make really freaking good dairy-free options of some of my favorite foods. We’ve tackled Parmesan cheese, ice cream, sour cream, coffee creamer, and even eggnog! And today, I’m showing you how I made the king of the appetizer circuit—Hot Spinach Artichoke Dip—totally dairy-free, vegan, and plant-based.
How do you make spinach artichoke dip vegan?
Regular hot spinach artichoke dip is typically made with tons of cheese (both shredded and cream cheese) and heavy cream or milk, and sometimes even sour cream. But in my version, I use a garlicky, plant-based cashew cream sauce that thickens up to a gooey, creamy, can’t-believe-it’s-not-cheese dip that you’re going to love!
There are two secret ingredients that give this vegan version its cheesy flavor and texture:
- Nutritional Yeast: If you’ve been around the dairy-free or vegan world for awhile, you probably have nutritional yeast (or “nooch,” as some folks call it) in your pantry. This all-natural, plant-based yeast has a slightly cheesy, nutty flavor that can help add some depth of flavor to vegan cheese sauces. You can buy it online, or most major supermarkets carry it with the spices.
- Tapioca Starch: To get the thick, fatty texture of a cheese sauce without any dairy, this dip uses tapioca starch. This gluten-free, grain-free thickener is available online and at most major supermarkets with their gluten-free flours. It’s also sometimes called “Tapioca Flour.” It’s great to have on hand for grain-free recipes like pizza crusts and chocolate chip cookies.
Do you bake this spinach artichoke dip?
Nope. Unlike traditional spinach artichoke dips, this vegan version is made entirely on the stovetop. It’s ready, start-to-finish, in about 15 minutes!
Is this spinach artichoke dip served hot or cold?
This recipe is for a hot spinach artichoke dip—it comes right off the stovetop for a cozy, warm, dippable appetizer. While I prefer it warm, you can also eat it cold, if you’d like. It does tend to thicken up quite a bit when chilled, so you might want to thin it out with a bit of non-dairy milk or cashew sour cream before serving.
Can you make this dip with frozen spinach?
My recipe calls for fresh spinach because I find it slightly easier to work with than frozen, but frozen will also do the trick. Just make sure to completely thaw the frozen spinach, and then place it in a clean kitchen towel and squeeze it dry before adding it to the dip.
Can you make this dip ahead of time?
You can definitely make this spinach artichoke dip ahead of time. It’ll last in the fridge for up to a week, and to reheat, just heat in the microwave until warmed through, or cover with foil and heat in a 400°F oven until bubbly and warm.
Can I make this dip in the slow cooker for entertaining?
If your slow cooker has a brown/sauté functionality as mine does, you definitely can! You sauté the vegetables just as you do in the stovetop version, and then pour in the cashew cream sauce. When it’s thickened, you can switch the slow cooker to low or warm to keep the dip nice and toasty for your party!
What do you serve with this vegan spinach artichoke dip?
You can dip almost anything into this dip with great results! Here are some of my faves: pita chips, nut and seed crackers, celery, cucumber slices, baby carrots, naan bread, and Parmesan crisps.
Can you use something other than coconut milk in this recipe?
Coconut milk is great for these cream sauces because it adds a fattiness that is similar to whole dairy, and it’s very stable—meaning it doesn’t tend to separate or curdle like nut milks do. I find that there is enough garlic and other flavorings in this dip that I don’t taste any coconut flavor at all. However, if you’re super coconut-averse (or allergic), I recommend making a straight cashew cream sauce by doubling the amount of cashews to 1 cup total and increasing the boiling water to 2 cups total. The resulting cream sauce won’t be quite as decadent and rich, but it will still be amazing!
Can you use a nut other than cashews?
Sorry, Charlie. Raw cashews are the way to go for this recipe. The only other nut that would work texture-wise is macadamia nuts, and I’ve found that they are too strongly flavored in this dish.
What can you use instead of the tapioca starch in the cashew cream sauce?
Tapioca starch makes for the stretchy, cheesy texture we all want in spinach artichoke dip, but if you need to substitute, arrowroot flour would give the same thickening properties.