One of the challenges of entertaining these days are the many food allergies, issues, sensitivities, and aversions guests can bring with them to the table. It's impossible to please everyone, but this soup goes a long way towards universal satisfaction and joy. Made with ground cashews instead of cream and kicked up with an array of savory herbs and spices, it is the perfect thing to serve when you have mixed company.
But don't make it just because it's vegan-friendly and easy. Make it because it's absolutely, amazingly delicious.
This cashew tomato soup has hippie roots — it is based on a recipe found in The Tassajara Recipe Book, but its rich and spicy creaminess makes it a favorite for modern palates as well. I serve it to everyone and mention that it's vegan only when there's a vegan around to care. It's a quick and simple dish that can easily be made ahead of time and reheated just before serving.
It's been over four years since I first posted this recipe here and it was a lot of fun to revisit and retest it! I have been making Tomato Cashew Soup for several years, usually by the gallon — it was a popular menu item at the retreat center I used to cook for. It was not something we would serve every day, but it was definitely a treat when it did appear, and there were rarely any leftovers.
I made a few changes this time around that I think add to the flavor. In the original, I called for 4 cups of cashews to be ground in 8 cups of water. I reduced the water to 4 cups, which I think helps the cashews grind into a smoother purée. I made up for the difference later by increasing tomatoes from one 28-ounce can to two. I added the option of the juice of a lemon or lime, as the acidity of canned tomatoes can vary and this soup needs the pop of acid to counter the richness of the cashews. I also made the chipotle optional, although I love its smoky kick here.
The texture of the soup is creamy, but unless you have one of those super powerful Vitamix-style blenders, it will likely have some texture from the cashews. I don't mind this but I do know someone who strains her cashew mix before adding to the pot. I recommend trying the soup as-is first, as the straining might be an extra step that's not necessary for you.
This recipe can easily be divided in half or multiplied to feed the masses. Just be careful with the ground cloves when scaling up the amounts, as you can go overboard there. Err on the side of less and you will be good.
This soup is delicious served with rice (brown or white) and with a vinegar-y side salad that has robust lettuces such as radicchio and arugula. Some shaved fennel would be nice, too. The garnish is optional but it really helps to top the soup with some fresh, leafy herbs to add a little color. I usually use parsley but basil would be good, too.
4 cups raw cashews
4 cups water
2 tablespoons neutral oil, such as canola
4 cups chopped yellow onions
1 cup sliced celery
1/2 tablespoon salt
1 to 2 tablespoons chopped garlic
1 small chipotle, either dried or in adobo, optional
1 tablespoon dried basil
1 tablespoon dried dill
1 teaspoon ground fennel
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon curry powder
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
2 (28-ounce) cans whole or chopped tomatoes
The juice from one lemon or lime
Chopped parsley or basil for garnish, optional
In a blender (or using an immersion blender) blend the cashews and water until smooth. I find it helpful to do this in an 8-cup batter bowl, which gives me enough room to really blend the cashews with my immersion blender. A Vitamix would also be handy, although a regular blender will work as well. Set aside. Don't wash your blender as you will be using it again soon.
In a large saucepan or Dutch oven, heat the oil, and add the onion, celery, and salt. Cook slowly, partially covered. Stir occasionally. When onions are soft and translucent, add the garlic and chipotle and cook until fragrant. Add remaining spices and continue to cook another minute or two.
Add tomatoes and the blended cashews, and stir. Bring to a gentle simmer and cook until soup begins to thicken slightly, about 10 minutes. Blend using an immersion blender, or in batches in a blender (be very careful when blending hot liquids!), until soup is smooth. Return to pot, taste for seasoning, and add the lemon or lime juice if needed. Reheat gently, watching carefully, as it's easy to scorch the bottom.
Ladle into bowls and garnish with the optional herbs.
This recipe was originally published October 2008.