Years ago on this site I let you know that “you won’t find me noshing contentedly cashew cheese in this lifetime.” Despite our leaning further away from animal products over time and my even having taken a raw foods class where I learned to make cashew cheese, that’s still a true statement. Cashew cheese may be many things to many people, some of whom are no doubt more enlightened, better at inverted eagle pose, and less prone to bouts of moodiness and unexplained blogging hiatuses than I am. But though cashew cheese may be many things to many people, there’s one thing that cashew cheese most certainly is not. And that thing, of course, is cheese.
If a cashew cheese rant seems a little arbitrary on this lovely Friday in June, I should tell you that I’m doing it to establish credibility. It seems only fair to let you know where my personal limits lie before launching into this post on how great it can be to use cashews instead of cream in a wide variety of foods. I wouldn’t trust me either about the cream situation if I’d said I think cashew cheese is cheese. Just sayin’. So. Are we cool?
I first learned about cashew cream from vegan chef Tal Ronnen, whose book The Conscious Cook was named a best cookbook of 2009 by Epicurious. Ronnen uses cashew cream in a wide variety of dishes, from twice-baked fingerling potatoes, to artichoke ricotta tortellini with saffron cream sauce, to black pepper shortcakes with blackberry basil sauce and cinnamon cream. How’s that for a party you’d be lucky to attend? One thing to note in cooking with cashew cream is that it thickens very quickly in comparison to dairy cream. This can actually be a great feature, but you need to be ready for it when you’re standing at the stove.
There are almost as many ways to use cashew cream as there are ways to use cream, and I’ve included the basic recipe for cashew cream below so you can experiment with it to your heart’s desire. But to get you started, here are five easy places where cashews will add a perfect richness, heft, and creaminess to your cooking, and no one will stop to wonder where the dairy went.
- Creamy tomato soup, recipe below
- Blended with poblano peppers into a gorgeous crema for enchiladas
- The Liquid Love Smoothie, which pretty much speaks for itself (or any creamy smoothie where you’d rather not use dairy)
- Cashew Dreamcake, the most tempting raw dessert I’ve ever seen — except maybe a perfectly ripe nectarine, but who’s counting
- Flavor some cashew cream with a little maple syrup, cinnamon, and nutmeg, and drizzle it over your morning oatmeal
I’d love to know how you’ve been using cashew cream in your cooking, or if this is your first time, then how it went! Talk to you soon.
Recipe: Cashew Cream
Adapted from Tal Ronnen. Makes about 2 1/2 cups.
- 2 cups whole raw cashews, rinsed well
- Soak cashews in a bowl of water overnight in the refrigerator. Soaking not only softens the cashews but also removes their enzyme inhibitors, making their nutrition more bioavailable. If you’re in a rush, though, you can skip the soaking and the cream will still turn out fine.
- Drain cashews and rinse well. Place in a blender with cold water to cover by one inch and blend until perfectly smooth. If you’re using a high-speed blender, you’re all done. With a regular blender, you may need to strain the cream through cheesecloth to achieve perfect smoothness.
Preparation time: 5 minute(s)
Number of servings (yield): 12
Recipe: Creamy Vegan Tomato Soup
This is satisfying, crave-inducing creamy tomato soup, period. It even passes muster next to a real live grilled cheese. The fact that it’s vegan and much healthier than its dairy-heavy counterpart is just a bonus.
- 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 large red onion, diced
- 5 cloves garlic, minced
- 3/4 cup raw cashews (soaked overnight in the fridge and then rinsed well, if desired)
- 3 cups vegetable stock
- 6 cups diced canned tomatoes with juices (or try using fresh tomatoes during the summer, though I haven’t tested the recipe this way)
- 1 1/2 teaspoons salt (if using unsalted tomatoes)
- Bouquet garni*
- 1/4 cup nutritional yeast (optional)
- Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
* For the bouquet garni, place a few sprigs of fresh thyme, a few sprigs of fresh parsley, a few whole black peppercorns, and a bay leaf in a square of cheesecloth and tie it together to make a little bundle.
- In a heavy 5-quart pot, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onions and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 5 minutes.
- While the onion cooks, combine the cashews and vegetable stock in a blender. Blend until completely smooth.
- Add the garlic to the pot and cook, stirring, for one minute. Add the tomatoes and their juices, the cashew mixture, the salt, if using, and the bouquet garni. Bring soup to the boil, then reduce heat and simmer, partially covered, for 20 minutes. Remove bouquet garni and stir in nutritional yeast.
- Using an immersion blender or in batches in the regular blender, puree the soup until it’s as smooth as you like it. (This step isn’t necessary if you like a more textured soup.) Taste for salt and add freshly ground pepper to taste. Serve hot. Keeps well in the fridge for up to 3 days.
Preparation time: 15 minute(s)
Cooking time: 30 minute(s)
Number of servings (yield): 8