How To Make the Ultimate Vegan Cashew Cream

How To Make the Ultimate Vegan Cashew Cream

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Meghan Splawn
Apr 20, 2017
(Image credit: Lauren Volo)

Cashew cream isn't just for vegans and dairy-free cooks. Sure, vegans probably started enjoying this rich, creamy, dairy-free dip long before the rest of us omnivores, but there's no reason that everyone shouldn't have this sauce knowledge in their arsenal. Skeptical? Good — that means more cashew cream for me.

Jokes aside, let me walk you through the first bite of cashew cream. Cashew cream is a thick, pale dip — about the consistency of yogurt. It may have a little visible graininess, but it surprisingly tastes only a small bit like cashews. An overnight soak of raw cashews makes for a creamy sauce that is delicious on its own, but it's borderline magical when sweetened with a date or flavored with a bit of lemon juice and nutritional yeast.

Lightly sweetened cashew cream can take the place of whipped cream on non-dairy desserts. The savory version can add body to vegetable-based soups, serve as a luscious dressing for roasted vegetables or grain bowls, and can even do double duty as a dip (with a few minor upgrades) for raw vegetables or chips.

(Image credit: Lauren Volo)

Cashew Cream: The Basics

Cashew cream is incredibly easy to make. Raw cashews are soaked in water for as little as an hour, but preferably overnight. If you know that you want sweetened cashew cream, throw a Medjool date into the overnight soak too. The soaking water is discarded and the soaked cashews are blended with fresh water and a little salt.

The resulting cream should be silky-smooth, with a creamy consistency akin to yogurt, and can be stored in the fridge for up to a week.

The Best Way to Buy and Store Raw Cashews

Your cashew cream will taste best with good-quality raw cashews. Look for raw cashews in the bulk bins at your local health food store or order them online for the best price. Yes, raw cashews can be expensive, but a cup (about six ounces) will give you a week's worth of cashew cream and is much less expensive than many of the store-bought vegan cheese and cream products.

Raw nuts actually last longer than their toasted counterparts, as their oils are still intact. When buying cashews in bulk (and saving grocery money, woot!) store the raw cashews in an airtight container in the freezer.

Read more: Store Nuts in the Freezer

(Image credit: Lauren Volo)

How Long — and Why — You Should Soak Your Cashews

Cashew cream recipes vary widely on their advice about soaking. Soaking in cool water (rather than boiling water, as some suggest) makes for a milder-tasting cream, ideal for turning into faux whipped cream or even cheese dip. Soaking softens the cashews, making them blend more readily into a velvety sauce.

The longer you soak the cashews, the creamier your cashew cream will be! An hour is the minimum, but an overnight soak is the best for super-creamy cashew cream. A properly soaked cashew should break apart when pressed between two fingers.

Tip: Discard the soaking liquid. Soaking pulls out the cashew's phytic acid and enzyme inhibitors, making the cream tastier and easier to digest, but leaving a less-than-tasty liquid after the long soak.

(Image credit: Lauren Volo)

Why a Blender Is Better for Making Cashew Cream

After an overnight soak, the cashews must be drained from their soaking liquid and blended with a little more fresh water. A blender, not a food processor, is your best tool for making cashew cream. Blender cashew cream is silkier in texture and more voluminous, with a slightly sweeter flavor. We're not knocking the food processor entirely — it still works, but just expect a slightly less smooth cashew cream.

Tip: For the best texture and highest yield, be sure to stop the blender and scrape down the sides at least once while blending the cashew cream.

(Image credit: Lauren Volo)

How to Turn Basic Cashew Cream into Vegan Cheese Dip, Vegan Alfredo Sauce, and Vegan Whipped Cream

So now you find yourself with a blender full of cashew cream and are wondering what else you can do with this wondrous sauce besides eating it with a spoon. You can use this sauce almost anywhere you'd use cream as a garnish or sauce, but it can also be a replacement for other dairy products like cheese and butter.

Here are a few ideas.

  • Add nutritional yeast, lemon juice, and a pinch of cayenne pepper for a faux-queso dip.
  • Add minced garlic to the basic cashew sauce, blend again until smooth, and then toss with warm linguine noodles for a vegan Alfredo sauce.
  • Turn cashew cream into vegan Caesar dressing with minced garlic and nutritional yeast, lemon juice, and black pepper.
  • Sweetened cashew cream can be chilled and then lightly whipped with a hand or immersion blender for a vegan alternative to whipped cream.

Why dates for sweetening?

You could sweeten cashew cream with a variety of liquid sweeteners after blending, depending on your diet. Granulated sugar is often skipped by vegans for its processing practices, and vegans avoid honey for conservation reasons. Maple syrup is a great option, but makes for a distinctly maple-y cashew cream. For an all-purpose sweetened whipped cream, a dried date or two is the best choice. I prefer the flavor and texture of the sweetened cashew cream when the date is soaked along with the cashews.

(Image credit: Lauren Volo)

What to Do with Basic Cashew Cream

The basic, unsweetened, not cheesified cashew cream is a wonder to have on hand. Slather it onto toast instead of butter, or use it on a sandwich or wrap as you would mayonnaise. Or stir basic cashew cream into warm oatmeal — probably my favorite way to use it. Mash boiled potatoes with cashew cream for luxe mashed potatoes. Drizzle the cream over scrambled eggs or add it to your morning smoothie. You can even freeze it and turn the cubes into a creamy, dreamy vegan milkshake with the help of some cashew milk.

How To Make the Ultimate Vegan Cashew Cream

Makes about 1 cup

What You Need

Ingredients

For basic, all-purpose cashew cream:
1 cup raw, unsalted cashews
2 1/2 cups water, divided
1/8 teaspoon kosher salt

For sweetened cashew cream:
1 cup raw, unsalted cashews
1 dried Medjool date, pitted
2 1/2 cups water, divided
1/8 teaspoon kosher salt

For "cheesy" cashew cream:
1 cup raw, unsalted cashews
2 1/2 cups water, divided
1 tablespoon nutritional yeast
1 teaspoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/8 teaspoon kosher salt

Equipment
Measuring cups and spoons
Medium bowl
Colander
Blender
Rubber spatula

Instructions

  1. Soak the cashews: Place the cashews (and date, if using) in a medium bowl and add 2 cups of the water. Set aside uncovered at room temperature for 10 to 12 hours. The cashews are ready when they break apart when pressed between two fingers.
  2. Drain and add fresh water: Drain the soaking water from the cashews. Add the drained cashews (and date, nutritional yeast, or lemon, if using), remaining 1/2 cup water, and salt to a blender.
  3. Blend into cream: Blend on high speed until completely smooth, about 3 minutes. Stop scrape down the sides of the blender and process again for 1 minute.
  4. Store or use: Use immediately or transfer to an airtight container and refrigerate for up to 1 week.

Recipe Notes

  • Storage: Store cashew cream in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.
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