Spinach Dip

Guilt-free, Dairy-free Spinach Dip

Whether it’s the Fourth of July or Thanksgiving Day, don’t ever doubt an American’s love for dip and chips at a party. Spinach dip, in particular, has become quite a staple and can be found at pretty much any grocery store you go to. Trouble is, the dish itself is actually really unhealthy. It’s easy to get caught up in barbeques and holiday gatherings, not thinking of nor really caring about the mounds of calories and other crap that store bought dip contains. But I guarantee this recipe will make you think twice before buying another store-bought spinach dip again.

As someone who eats a diet entirely free from dairy, I’ve learned to think outside the box when it comes to food. For example, this recipe’s cheese base includes cashews! Now, I know what you’re thinking… Cashew? As in nuts? How the heck is that even close to cheese?

Oh, just you wait.

First, and this is by far the most important step, SOAK YOUR CASHEWS OVERNIGHT. At a minimum, these cashews should soak for about 6 hours, but the longer the better. In fact, this recipe used cashews that had been soaking for 18 hours (I won’t lie I forgot about them). I personally buy organic unroasted unsalted cashews, but feel free to experiment! The one thing I will say is to be careful with salted cashews as it can affect the overall flavor afterward. Once you’ve got your cashews, just plop them in a bowl and fill it with water until the water covers the cashews, then cover and refrigerate!

Fast forward to taking your properly soaked cashews out of the fridge and put them in a blender. Any blender will do, just keep in mind a small batch of cashews should probably be blended in a small blender as well to make sure nothing gets missed. Pour some of the leftover cashew water in as well and blend her on up. I ended up using about half of my leftover cashew water because I wanted to keep a thick consistency, but no worries if you dump the whole thing in! Now, this is where it gets cool, check out that consistency!

After you’re done drooling over the blended cashews, move them to a bowl and put the tofu with the remaining cashew water into the blender (if you’ve already used the cashew water then just add regular water). I personally bought extra firm tofu, but firm and regular will work fine as well. In the meantime, mix in the salt, pepper, garlic powder, onion powder, and nutritional yeast to the blended cashews, and cut the tomato. If you’ve never worked with nutritional yeast, you should start! It’s crazy amazing for you, contains some great B vitamins, and best of all has a sort of cheesy taste to it. I’ve known people to drown their salads and other meals with this and claim the flavor is great on its own, but I’ve also had some people not really care for the taste to come through as the main event. That being said, taste-test the nutritional yeast ahead of time and adjust the recipe accordingly.

Originally from the Mediterranean region, these dark colored tomatoes are small in size but they pack a big punch. Not only is the color of these Kumatos beautiful, but the flavor is a fantastic balance between sour and sweet (also much more flavorful than regular tomatoes!). I’ve sliced my Kumatos into halves and then halved them again, essentially getting four pieces out of one Kumato. Also, because I’m lazy (as we’ve already covered), I bought a bag of frozen spinach to make my life easier. That being said, if you grow spinach or your grocery store has some that look fresh, feel free to do that instead!

To review, you’ve now got your seasoned cashew blend, your tofu blend, your sliced Kumatos, and your chopped spinach (frozen in my case). Time to get cooking!

Add your sliced Kumatos to a dry, non-stick pan or pot (that’s right, no oil at all) put the stove to a medium-low to low heat. You’ll notice it will start to break down, get smaller, and best of all release it’s juice. This part is key to getting the best flavor out of the Kumato because you’re releasing and heating the sugars and acid in it, which basically carmelizes it in a way. At first, your Kumatos will glide the pan with easy, but you’ll notice as the juices are released it will start to stick a bit. Before it burns to the pan, squeeze a good chunk of lemon juice into the pan. I usually add about half of a lemon half (so about 1/4th of the lemon’s juice). Then add the spinach, stirring consistently to break up the frozen spinach and ensure nothing sticks to the bottom of the pan. If you’re using fresh spinach, you might want to add a splash of water to the pan. Transfer everything to a plate and rinse the pan with water.

Next, heat the pan over medium heat. When the pan is hot, add the tofu blend (without oil). You want to hear a sort of sizzle but the tofu should not stick to the pan. Since tofu is fine to eat raw, you’re not really “cooking” it as much as you’re heating it up. The tofu will shrink in size, sometimes by half, due to its water content. Once the tofu is “cooked” you’ll notice it start to stick a bit to the pan (but not be hard to separate from the bottom of the pan). Now it’s time to add the cashew mixture! The cool thing about the cashew mixture is what it does with heat! What starts out being a liquid cashew mixture quickly becomes a fluffy, sticky cheese lookalike.

I’ve done this recipe by adding the Kumato/spinach mixture to the cashew/tofu mixture and also the other way around. Both work perfectly so feel free to experiment! Reduce the combo over a medium-low to low heat with another good squeeze of lemon and remove from the heat once the mixture has become sticky.

All that’s left to do is taste test, move to a bowl, and serve! I like to add some roughly chopped cashews to the top of it for some crunch. You can even put it under broil for a minute or so for some crispy, roasted cashew flavor. Here’s how my tiny tester serving turned out:

And that’s it! This recipe is not only extremely easy but also healthy!! Fun Fact, although this recipe was made to be vegan, it was tested and approved by nonvegans (they had no idea it was vegan and didn’t believe me after I told them!)


Guilt-free, Dairy-free Spinach Dip

Prep: 5 mins. Cooking time: 20 mins.

Ingredients

  • Cashews (raw, unroasted, unsalted)
  • Tofu (extra firm, firm, or regular)
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • Onion powder
  • Garlic powder
  • Nutritional yeast
  • Lemon (1/2 of juice)
  • Spinach (frozen)
  • Mini Kumatos

Directions

Prep:
  1. Cover the cashews with water and refrigerate overnight (the longer the better!).
  2. Blend the soaked cashews, adding the cashew water as necessary. When the cashews have turned into a creamy consistency, remove from the blender and add the salt, pepper, garlic powder, onion powder, and nutritional yeast to taste (if you’re unsure about the nutritional yeast, start with about 2tbsp). Set aside.
  3. Rinse the blender and add the tofu. The ratio should be about 3:1 cashews to tofu. Blend with the remaining cashew water – if there is none left then add water.
  4. Slice the Kumatos into 4 pieces (halved then halved again). Put aside your frozen spinach.
    *Note: the ratio should be about 2:1 spinach to Kumato.
  5. Slice the lemon in half.
Cook:
  1. Heat a nonstick pan or pot over medium heat. Once hot, add the tofu mixture and stir often until the tofu reduces and barely starts to stick to the pan without burning.
  2. Add the cashew mixture to the pan and reduce heat to medium-low. Stir often and remove from heat once fluffy and sticky.
  3. Rinse the pot/pan and return to the stove, cranking the heat back up to medium. Once it’s hot, add the sliced Kumatos and stir constantly to avoid anything sticking.
  4. Once the Kumatos start to barely stick to the pot/pan, add a good squeeze of lemon juice from one half (about half of the lemon half’s juice or 1/4 total lemon juice). Also, add the frozen spinach and stir continuously.
  5. When you notice the spinach has defrosted most of the way, add the cashew/tofu mixture and stir until creamy.
    *Hint: if you’d like it more watery, try adding water or milk (I recommend unflavored soy or almond milk).
  6. Bada Bing Bada Boom, it’s done!
    *Note: Add some roughly chopped cashews to the top of the dip for some extra texture, and don’t be afraid to put it under broil to achieve a more roasted flavor.

 

Happy Eating!

Madison Leonard

 

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