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Here’s my basic, versatile recipe for vegan cashew cream, with sweet, savory, and sour cream variations. A staple of plant-based cuisine.

vegan cashew cream in a small pitcher with a spoon
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Why we love this recipe

When we were living in London in 2012, I took a weekend-long course designed to help chefs learn gourmet techniques in raw foods. Chef Chad Sarno led the class at the now-shuttered vegan restaurant SAF by Tal Ronnen.

As is all-too-typical for me, I’d learned virtually all the methods — including cashew cream — ahead of time from Ronnen’s 2009 book The Conscious Cook. Back then, cashew cream was quite the novel use of nuts. These days, it’s one of a handful of takeaways from that style of food prep that I still enjoy using from time to time — and now in much wider company.

It’s:

  • A fabulous way to enrich and thicken vegan soups, stews, and curries
  • With a few simple additions, a savory or sweet topping for a wide variety of dishes
  • Wildly versatile in terms of texture and flavor
  • Very quick and easy to make

I first published a version of this recipe here way back in 2012. I’ve since updated the post for clarity and added some variations to the recipe itself.

What you’ll need

Here’s a glance at the ingredients you’ll need to make this recipe.

ingredients in bowls
  • Look for nuts labeled as raw cashews in the grocery store. They aren’t actually raw — they’ve been steamed or roasted to remove their shells and any residual urushiol, a resin that can cause a poison ivy-like skin reaction and be toxic when ingested. They are, however, different from nuts sold as roasted cashews, which have been roasted a second time after shelling. “Raw” cashews are pale and soft, and they work best for making cashew cream. You can use whole cashews or pieces — pieces are often more economical.
  • I like to use filtered tap water for an eco-friendly and great-tasting option. You can vary the amount a little bit around the margins to change the consistency of the result. The variations replace a bit of the water with other liquids.

Savory additions

If you’re using cashew cream in a savory dish to add creaminess and thickening power, you can make the basic version as-is. Or, to use as a topping for savory dishes and a more assertive flavoring element, I recommend adding the following. Find the quantities in the recipe card below

  • A little bit of good olive oil adds a lovely smoothness and savory flavor.
  • Freshly squeezed lemon juice adds a hint of brightness and tang.
  • Garlic powder and onion powder add a gentle, super-savory heat and complexity.
  • Fine sea salt brings out the flavors in a big way.

Sweet additions

If you’re using cashew cream in a sweet dish to add creaminess and thickening power, you can make the basic version as-is. Or, to use as a topping for sweet dishes and a more assertive flavoring element, I recommend adding the following. Find the quantities in the recipe card below.

  • Pure maple syrup adds a hint of complex sweetness (or more than a hint, if you like).
  • A dash of pure vanilla extract adds more than its share of warming flavor.
  • Small amounts of ground cinnamon and nutmeg — plus cardamom, if you like — cozy things up to the max.
  • A little bit of fine sea salt lends complexity to the flavor profile without making the cream taste salty.

Sour cream additions

To lean into the tanginess of vegan sour cream, you’ll make a couple of swaps and additions to the savory version.

  • Replacing the lemon juice with white wine vinegar ups the acidity just enough
  • A little bit of white miso paste adds extra umami
  • As does a touch of nutritional yeast

How to make it

Here’s an overview of what you’ll do to make a dreamy batch of cashew cream. You can see the steps in action in the video that accompanies this post, and get all the details in the recipe card below.

step by step
  1. First you’ll soak the cashews in hot water for at least 20 minutes, up to 24 hours. Place into a high-speed blender.
  2. Add the water and any additional ingredients in your variation.
  3. Blend until perfectly smooth.
  4. That’s it! Cashew cream is ready to use.

How to use it

  • Plain cashew cream makes an excellent vegan, gluten-free thickener for soups, stews, curries, porridges, and more. When using it to thicken cooked dishes, note that it will activate much more quickly than dairy cream, so keep an eye on things.
  • Savory cashew cream and sour cream work well as toppings for a wide variety of dishes. Basically anything you’d top with regular sour cream is happy to be topped with this recipe instead.
  • Sweet cashew cream loves to be spooned over fresh fruit, oatmeal, and a wide variety of vegan desserts.

Expert tips and FAQs

Can I make it thicker or thinner?

Sure. As written, this recipe yields a fairly thick but still pourable cashew cream that you can dollop over just about anything. To make it thicker or thinner, simply vary the amount of water a little bit according to your needs.

Why soak the cashews?

Soaking the cashews helps them blend up perfectly smooth. It also increases the bioavailability of their nutrients by removing their naturally occurring phytic acid — a natural element of grains, nuts, and legumes that can act as an anti-nutrient. Folks with highly plant-based diets benefit most from this step, since a larger percentage of their food intake likely contains phytates.

Do I need a fancy blender?

Ideally, yes. This recipe works best in a high-speed blender, which makes quick work of the cashews and achieves a perfectly smooth result. I adore my Vitamix and use it almost daily, so I’ve found it to be more than worth the small investment.

If you don’t have that option, soak your cashews for the full 24 hours and expect to blend the cream for a longer period of time. You may also need to incorporate a bit of additional liquid, yielding a slightly thinner result, depending on your blender.

Can I make this recipe in advance? What about leftovers?

Yes. Cashew cream keeps well in an airtight container in the fridge for a week.

More favorite vegan cashew recipes

vegan cashew cream in a small pitcher with a spoon

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vegan cashew cream in a small pitcher with a spoon
5 from 6 votes

Cashew Cream and Variations

By Carolyn Gratzer Cope
Cashew cream is kind of a magic ingredient. It's a foundational vegan recipe that adds silkiness to sweet and savory dishes alike. It holds up well in cooking and baking and can also be used raw. Here's the basic recipe and my favorite variations.
Prep: 5 minutes
Additional Time: 30 minutes
Total: 35 minutes
Servings: 1 cup
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Ingredients 

Basic recipe

  • 1 cup (120 grams) raw cashews
  • ½ cup (120 ml) water

Savory variation

  • 1 cup (120 grams) raw cashews
  • ¼ cup (60 ml) water
  • 2 tablespoons (30 ml) freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons (30 ml) olive oil
  • ½ teaspoon garlic powder
  • ½ teaspoon onion powder
  • ½ teaspoon fine sea salt

Sweet variation

  • 1 cup (120 grams) raw cashews
  • ¼ cup (120 ml) water
  • 2 tablespoons (30 ml) pure maple syrup
  • 1 teaspoon (5 ml) pure vanilla extract
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • teaspoon ground cardamom, optional
  • teaspoon fine sea salt

Sour cream variation

  • 1 cup (120 grams) raw cashews
  • ¼ cup (60 ml) water
  • 2 tablespoons (30 ml) white wine vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons (30 ml) olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon (5 grams) nutritional yeast
  • 1 teaspoon (5 grams) white miso paste
  • ½ teaspoon garlic powder
  • ½ teaspoon onion powder
  • ¼ teaspoon fine sea salt

Instructions 

  • Place the cashews into a medium bowl and cover completely with hot water. Soak nuts for at least 30 minutes, up to overnight. If you'll be soaking for more than a couple of hours, place the bowl into the refrigerator.
  • Drain and discard soaking liquid and rinse cashews thoroughly.
  • Add cashews to a high-speed blender along with the water (plus all of the other ingredients in the variation you're making).
  • Cover and blend for about 45 seconds, until very white and smooth.

Notes

  1. Look for nuts labeled as raw cashews in the grocery store. They aren't actually raw — they've been steamed or roasted to remove their shells and any residual urushiol, a resin that can cause a poison ivy-like skin reaction and be toxic when ingested. They are, however, different from nuts sold as roasted cashews, which have been roasted a second time after shelling. "Raw" cashews are pale and soft, and they work best for making cashew cream. You can use whole cashews or pieces — pieces are often more economical.
  2. I like to use filtered tap water for an eco-friendly and great-tasting option. The variations replace a bit of the water with other liquids.
  3. As written, this recipe yields a fairly thick but still pourable cashew cream that you can dollop over just about anything. To make it thicker or thinner, simply vary the amount of water a little bit according to your needs.
  4. Soaking the cashews helps them blend up perfectly smooth. It also increases the bioavailability of their nutrients by removing their naturally occurring phytic acid — a natural element of grains, nuts, and legumes that can act as an anti-nutrient. Folks with highly plant-based diets benefit most from this step, since a larger percentage of their food intake likely contains phytates. 
  5. This recipe works best in a high-speed blender, which makes quick work of the cashews and achieves a perfectly smooth result. I adore my Vitamix and use it almost daily, so I've found it to be more than worth the small investment. If you don't have that option, soak your cashews for the full 24 hours and expect to blend the cream for a longer period of time. You may also need to incorporate a bit of additional liquid, yielding a slightly thinner result, depending on your blender.
  6. Cashew cream keeps well in an airtight container in the fridge for a week.

Nutrition

Serving: 1tablespoon, Calories: 31kcal, Carbohydrates: 1.7g, Protein: 1g, Fat: 2.5g, Fiber: 0.2g

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

Additional Info

Course: Sauces and Condiments
Cuisine: American
Tried this recipe?Mention @umamigirl or tag #umamigirl!

Hungry for more?

Subscribe to Umami Girl’s email updates, and follow along on Instagram.

Hungry for More?
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About Carolyn Gratzer Cope

Hi there, I'm Carolyn Gratzer Cope, founder and publisher of Umami Girl. Join me in savoring life, one recipe at a time. I'm a professional recipe developer with training from the French Culinary Institute (now ICE) and a lifetime of studying, appreciating, and sharing food.

5 from 6 votes (6 ratings without comment)

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