Did y'all know that cheese dip was invented in Arkansas in the 1930s? Okay, well the jury is kind of out on that one. But some cheese dip history researchers (yes, this is a thing!) believe the dish was invented by Blackie Donnely, the owner of an Arkansas Tex-Mex chain called Mexico Chiquito. Others believe chili con queso came from Mexico or Texas.
But I'm from Arkansas, and we don't have much to be proud of in the Natural State, besides the Clintons (obvs), natural diamond mines, and the gorgeous Ozarks. So if someone thinks we invented cheese dip, we'll take it. Regardless, cheese dip is immensely popular in Arkansas. I grew up on Pancho's Cheese Dip, a locally famous queso that got its start in the Pancho's regional restaurant chain in the 1950s. Nothing, and I mean nothing, could come close to the awesomeness that is Pancho's Cheese Dip.
It's served in the Pancho's restaurants around the Mid-South, and it's also sold in stores. And even though I'm not in Arkansas anymore, downtown Memphis is only about two minutes from the Arkansas state line, so the influence of cheese dip has certainly bled over. Folks in Memphis love their cheese dip — specifically their Pancho's Cheese Dip — too.
Well, awhile back, I was visiting my parents in Jonesboro, Arkansas. And we were having a nacho night or taco night or something like that. And my mama decided to try making a vegan version of Pancho's Cheese Dip. And she nailed it! I got her recipe, and now that I know cheese dip has such a fascinating history, I've decided to use it in my retro vegan cookbook.
I made it again this weekend for a little gathering at a friend's house. It was a huge hit, even with the non-vegans.
Because everyone needs an awesome vegan cheese dip recipe in their lives, I'm not keeping this one secret until the book comes out. I'm gonna give it to you right now. But let's be honest — you know you're craving cheese dip this very second. You're welcome.
Arkansas-Style Vegan Cheese Dip
Makes 3 1/2 cups
1 8-ounce container of vegan cream cheese (I used Tofutti)
2 cups vegan shredded cheddar cheese (I used Daiya)
1 10-ounce can diced tomatoes & green chiles
1/2 cup plant milk, unsweetened
1/2 tsp. cumin
1/4 tsp. garlic powder
1/8 tsp. black pepper
Put all the ingredients in a medium saucepan and heat over medium-high, stirring often, until the cheese shreds and cream cheese are melted and smooth.
Transfer the dip to a blender and process until very creamy.
Serve warm. I transferred my dip to a mini-crock pot for the potluck, but you can microwave it just before serving as well.