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What are the ingredients in Costco vegan queso?

Vegan queso has become an increasingly popular dairy-free alternative for nachos, tacos, and other Tex-Mex favorites. Costco’s version of vegan queso aims to mimic the creamy, cheesy flavor of traditional queso without using any animal products. But what exactly is in this bright yellow dip to give it that queso-like taste and texture? Let’s take a closer look at the ingredients list on a jar of Costco’s vegan queso to find out.

The Main Ingredients

The primary ingredients in Costco’s vegan queso are:

  • Filtered water
  • Potatoes
  • Vegetable oil
  • Modified food starch
  • Natural flavors

Water is the first ingredient listed, acting as the base liquid for this dip. Next up are potatoes. Mashed or pureed potatoes are commonly used in vegan cheese recipes as a replacement for dairy to provide thickness and texture. Vegetable oil, likely canola or soybean, also helps contribute creaminess and fat content.

Modified food starch is another key player, derived from crops like corn, wheat or tapioca. This starchy ingredient mimics the mouthfeel and melting properties of real cheese. Natural flavors round things out, providing that cheesy, queso-like taste. Overall, this mix of plant-based ingredients aims to create the ideal smooth and creamy base for vegan queso.

Thickeners and Stabilizers

In addition to the main ingredients listed above, Costco’s vegan queso contains a few functional additives to achieve the right dip-able consistency:

  • Methylcellulose
  • Guar gum
  • Xanthan gum

These are all thickeners and stabilizers derived from plants. They help emulsify the ingredients, prevent separation, and give the queso a thick, scoopable texture similar to the real dairy-based deal. A small amount goes a long way in providing the ideal smooth and creamy mouthfeel.

Flavor Boosters

To give their vegan queso an extra savory, cheesy punch, Costco adds in a few additional flavor-enhancing ingredients:

  • Yeast extract
  • Onion powder
  • Garlic powder
  • Salt

Yeast extract is an umami-rich ingredient that adds a savory, cheese-like flavor. Onion and garlic powders provide pungent, aromatic notes. And salt balances and enhances all the other flavors. This combo takes the mellow potato and vegetable oil base to the next level, bringing that quintessential queso flair.

Acids for Tang

No queso is complete without a touch of tang. Costco uses two acid ingredients to give their vegan queso a subtle bright flavor:

  • Lemon juice concentrate
  • Apple cider vinegar

These acidic ingredients provide a hint of tartness to balance out the rich, fatty flavors. Just like traditional queso, you get a pleasant sweet, salty, and sour taste sensation in every bite.

Colors and Preservatives

Costco sneaks in a couple other ingredients to preserve freshness and amp up the visual appeal of their vegan queso:

  • Annatto extract (for color)
  • Potassium sorbate (preservative)

Annatto extract lends that signature orange-yellow hue, heightening the illusion of cheesy deliciousness. And potassium sorbate extends the shelf life to keep this refrigerated dip fresher for longer.

The Complete Ingredient List

Taking all of that into account, here is the fully detailed ingredients list printed on each jar of Costco’s creamy vegan queso:

Ingredient Purpose
Filtered water Provides moisture and liquid base
Potatoes Adds thickness and texture
Vegetable oil Contributes fat, creaminess
Modified food starch Mimics cheese melt and mouthfeel
Methylcellulose Thickens and stabilizes
Guar gum Thickens and stabilizes
Xanthan gum Thickens and stabilizes
Natural flavors Provides queso flavor
Yeast extract Adds savory, cheesy flavor
Onion powder Provides aromatic flavor
Garlic powder Provides aromatic flavor
Salt Balances and enhances flavor
Lemon juice concentrate Adds tangy flavor
Apple cider vinegar Adds tangy flavor
Annatto extract Provides yellow-orange color
Potassium sorbate Preserves freshness

Key Characteristics

Looking at these components as a whole, we can summarize a few key characteristics about Costco’s vegan queso:

  • It uses a potato and vegetable oil base for creaminess and texture
  • Thickeners like methylcellulose give it a thick, scoopable consistency
  • Natural flavors and yeast extract provide a cheesy, queso-like taste
  • Onion, garlic, and lemon juice add savory depth and brightness
  • Annatto extract lends it that recognizable orange color
  • It’s shelf-stable when unopened but requires refrigeration after opening

With this strategic mix of wholesome ingredients, Costco manages to create a pretty convincing dairy-free queso that stands up to the real deal. The proof is ultimately in the tasting of course, but the ingredient list gives a good sense of how they built this vegan dip from the ground up.

How Does It Compare to Other Brands?

Costco’s vegan queso has a simpler ingredients list compared to some other brands. For example, popular vegan queso brand Good Planet Foods uses a longer list of ingredients including tapioca starch, sunflower oil, pea protein, and various gums and natural flavorings.

Treeline, another leading brand, relies more heavily on nuts and seeds like cashews, almonds and sunflower seeds to provide richness in their vegan queso. They also use ingredients like nutritional yeast and miso paste for umami flavor.

So while other brands may use more complex formulations, Costco’s vegan queso takes a simpler approach with its straightforward list of plant-based ingredients. This pared-down recipe makes it accessible for those avoiding multiple allergens.

Nutritional Profile

How does Costco’s vegan queso stack up nutrition-wise? Here is an overview of the key nutritional facts per 2 tablespoon serving (30g):

Nutrient Amount
Calories 40
Total Fat 2g
Sodium 330mg
Total Carbohydrate 3g
Dietary Fiber 0g
Sugars 0g
Protein 1g

Some key takeaways:

  • At 40 calories per serving, it’s relatively low in calories compared to full-fat dairy queso
  • It provides 2g of fat per serving, mostly coming from the vegetable oils
  • Sodium content is quite high at 14% of the daily recommended limit
  • Carbohydrates and protein are low since it’s made of whole foods like potatoes instead of processed ingredients
  • There are no sugars or fiber since the plants are processed into isolated ingredients

Overall, while not the most nutrient-dense choice, Costco’s vegan queso makes for a lighter dip option that fits into most eating plans. Those limiting sodium may want to watch their portion sizes.

Ingredients to Watch Out For

Costco’s vegan queso is made from simple, recognizable ingredients, but there are still a few aspects for certain people to be mindful of:

  • Allergens: contains onion, garlic
  • Sodium: contains 330mg per serving, so moderate intake if limiting salt
  • Soy: may contain soybean oil, problematic for soy-free diets
  • Gluten: contains modified food starch that may derive from wheat

As with any packaged food, be sure to scan the ingredients carefully if you have specific food sensitivities or dietary needs. Those with soy allergies or celiac disease/gluten intolerance should check with the company to confirm the safest options.

The Takeaway

When you break down the ingredients, Costco’s vegan queso is formulated with a straightforward list of recognizable plant-based foods and seasonings. It forgoes some of the more complex formulations used by other brands, keeping the ingredient list simple and approachable.

Made primarily from a potato, vegetable oil, and modified starch base, it relies on thickeners and natural flavors to mimic the texture and taste of cheese-based queso. Onion, garlic, yeast extract, and lemon juice amp up the savory, tangy flavor profile. And annatto extract lends that iconic golden hue.

The resulting dairy-free dip is moderate in calories and fat compared to traditional queso, while offering a creamy mouthfeel and melty texture. Those avoiding common allergens or watching sodium intake may need to moderate their portions. But overall, Costco’s vegan queso makes for a convenient, appetizing alternative for topping tacos, nachos, and more.

So for those curious about how Costco managed to concoct a plant-based queso worthy of their food court, the ingredient list tells the story. With a simple but well-executed formula, they’ve bottled up cheesy, creamy flavor that should satisfy both vegans and queso lovers alike.