A creamy and delicious baked vegan spinach artichoke dip, served warm from the oven and made from scratch with no processed substitutes.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit and lightly grease a cast iron skillet (mine is about 6 inches in diameter) or ramekin.
Combine all of the ingredients for the blender mixture in a blender or food processor, scraping down the sides as needed and blending until completely smooth. Strain using a nut milk bag if needed. Set aside.
In a wide skillet or saute pan, heat the olive oil of medium heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, for 4-5 minutes or until the onion is translucent and starting to turn golden. Add the garlic, chili flakes, pepper, and paprika and stir. Cook for another 1 minute or until fragrant.
Give the reserved blender mixture another stir and then add it to the pan. Stir every few seconds, making sure to scrape around the bottom of the saucepan to keep from sticking. The mixture will start to get chunky in places; when you see this happening, start to stir constantly until the mixture smooths out again and becomes one cohesive, somewhat stretchy mass.
Add the spinach and artichoke hearts to the pan and stir in as best you can. Continue to cook for about 2 minutes more or until the spinach pieces wilt a little bit.
Taste the mixture for salt and add more if desired. Transfer to the prepared dish and smooth out. For improved browning, lightly spray or brush the top with additional olive oil. If you have a broiler, bake for 10 minutes and then broil on high for another 3-4 minutes, until nice and browned and bubbly on top. If you don’t have a broiler, bake for about 15-20 minutes, or until slightly crusty and light brown on top.
Remove from the oven, let cool for a couple of minutes so that nobody burns their mouths, and then serve hot.
CASHEWS: Soak the cashews overnight, but if you forget, simply put them in a bowl with water and microwave for 90-120 seconds at a time or until very softened.
NUTRITIONAL YEAST: I think it is easy to go overboard with nooch and overpower the other flavors. But in this instance, just one tablespoon adds savory notes and balance to the dish; however, you can omit it if needed.
TAPIOCA STARCH: Tapioca starch is the same thing as tapioca flour and it's made by Bob's Red Mill as well as other brands. Look in the baking aisle or natural section of your grocery store, at almost any Whole Foods, or on Amazon.com!
As far as substitutes go, cornstarch or arrowroot starch may work to thicken the dip but tapioca starch is definitely the best at making it gooey and stretchy! Some readers have had success with potato starch - check the comments section for detail!
VARIATIONS: Use blanched kale or other greens instead of the spinach. Add jalapeno to the saute mixture for an extra kick.