I'm addicted to this cashew cream that has become my new all-purpose condiment. It's a perfect dipping sauce but can be dressed up to suit any occasion. I like adding lime juice or lemon juice to make it a zesty taco-topper or swapping the lime juice for chipotles in adobo to create a smoky schmear for a sandwich or roasted greens.
Do you want a dairy-free ranch dressing? Laced it with some grated garlic and lemon juice and bam! You have a ranch dressing.
Imagine that thick, heavenly cream, touching your lips as you bite into that cake or have a mouthful of that soup. That hearty dessert or meal is all because of that heavy cream.
But what if you or a family member is allergic to dairy or is vegan? What if your guests are just up for something a little different than what you always serve? This is when my vegan substitute for heavy cream comes into view.
For now, I use this cashew cream as a substitute for heavy cream, which (in my opinion) is not only for dairy-free lovers and vegans. Of course, vegans are always ready to enjoy this creamy and rich dip before anyone else does. Even so, wouldn’t you agree that this superb cream should be in everyone’s recipe book?
I love cream. I mean… who doesn’t?
Essentially, cashew cream is a pale and thick dip. It is almost like yogurt. Because it’s made of cashews, it’s a bit grainy. And the taste only gives a small hint of cashews, although it has a lot of cashews in it.
The overnight soaking made the sauce creamy and tasted even on its own. If you flavor it with some nutritional yeast, dates, and a little lemon, the sauce becomes unforgettably delicious.
If you want a healthy twist on your non-dairy desserts, you can use lightly sweetened cashew cream, which is just perfect. The savory version of this cashew cream can give the body to any vegetable soup. You can also make dips, dressings, or grain bowls. Just upgrade it with your flavors.
What is Cashew Cream?
It's basically an amazing dairy-free substitute for regular heavy cream. Think about it. It’s made from cashews, but it doesn’t taste completely like cashew at all.
Cashew cream is silky, creamy, and versatile. You can use it as a non-dairy substitute for ricotta, sour cream, and even Alfredo sauce.
How do you make cashew cream?
When making your base cashew cream, think of it as a starting point, as you can customize the flavor according to your liking. Literally, anything goes a long way by experimenting or blending in your favorite flavors to add character to your cream. I love serving this cream as a dip, schmear a sandwich, or perhaps tossing it with pasta.
Step 1: Get these ingredients
I love the simplicity of this recipe as it only needs four ingredients that probably are available in your pantry.
1 Raw Cashew
Obviously, the star ingredient is the raw cashews themselves. Using roasted cashews, don't take a cut because they won't work on this recipe. Only the raw ones absorb the water after being soaked overnight, making them effortless to blend, yielding a silky smooth texture and consistency.
2 Filtered water:
I prefer to use this kind of water as it winds up in the finished product as cashews absorbed the water typically. Our tap water tastes weird unfortunately so I often use filtered water in my recipes that call for it. But you can still use tap water or perhaps bottled water.
3 Lemon Juice:
Don't use the commercial-bought bottled lemon juice here, only add the freshly squeezed lemon to make it work. The real thing is the best to get that bright flavor that comes through the final taste.
You can use Himalayan, Kosher, or sea salt, and the result is great. But take precautions if using a finer grain of salt and adjust the amount according to your preference.
Step 2: Prep the raw cashews
When you soak the cashews, you get a silky vegan substitute for heavy cream that can dissolve immediately. Achieving this state is crucial because you don't want to taste those cashew bits.
1 Cold soak method:
Start by soaking the raw cashews in cold filtered water for at least 5 to 6 hours (but preferably overnight) and store them in the fridge. When time is up, drain and rinse them thoroughly.
2 Quick soak method:
Grab the desired amount of raw cashews and place them in a container, pour the boiling water, and let it sit for about half an hour. After that, you can drain and rinse them thoroughly.
However, doing a quick soak cashews method won't have similar nutritional properties to cashews that have been soaked in cold filtered water.
On the brighter side, soaking cashews will absorb a considerable amount of water; you will notice how their sizes doubled. See the below image for reference.
Besides, you'll get a silky vegan substitute for heavy cream that can dissolve immediately. Achieving this state is crucial because you don’t want to taste those cashew bits.
Step 3: The Blending
After the soaking process, drain the cashews and rinse them very well. It's time to choose whether you want to use a high-powered blender or a food processor. Either both yield different results in terms of texture and consistency.
1 Using a high-powered blender:
If you're like me, who prefer my cream to have a silky smooth texture and creamy consistency, use the blender. I like it this way if I'm planning to use it as a sour cream alternative. A high-powered blender is perfect for making smooth sauces or velvety soups and would typically crush the raw cashews in one short blending session.
2 Food processor or regular blender:
Using either one of these yields a cashew cream with a bit of grit to it but is still okay to use. You can use the cream as toppings for nachos or tacos.
Remember to pause and scrape the sides a couple of times when using the food processer. Doing this ensures everything is broken down and incorporated.
3 Start to blend
You can now start the blending process by placing the soaked cashews nuts in the blender or food processor. Add the filtered water, freshly squeezed lemon juice, and salt. Blend on high until silky smooth, scraping down the sides with a spatula (adding more water if needed) until it turns into a pourable cream sauce or until you reach that yogurt consistency.
Cashew cream: the basics
It may sound intimidating, but cashew cream is a no-brainer. You should soak your cashews, preferably overnight. You can add herbs and seasoning to the soak for savory dishes.
Add sweet Medjool dates to the overnight cashew soak if you want sweet cashew cream. The cashew cream that you get should be smooth and silky. You can store your cashew cream in the fridge for a week.
How does cashew cream taste?
Sprinkled with a bit of salt, this base cream tastes pleasantly 10% nutty, 30% buttery, and 60% creamy with a vanilla-ish flavor while retaining its neutral flavor. The cream has all these flavors, but it still has a neutral quality, making it a great addition to any dish.
I love that you can customize the taste according to your preference. You can add drops of lemon juice if you like tangy sauce or add some vanilla extract (or maple syrup) to make it tastes like a dessert sauce.
The best way to buy and store raw cashews
Always buy high-quality raw cashews because the quality of the cashew cream depends on the cashews you get. You can find raw cashews in the bulk bins at your local health grocery stores. I bought mine from Sprouts, or you can order them online.
Buying in bulk lets you get a better price. Think of all the batches of cashew cream you can make.
Indeed, they can be a bit pricey, but just a cup or about 6 ounces can make cashew cream that will last a week. This is a cheaper alternative to those store-bought vegan cream and cheese products out there.
Note: Raw cashews can last longer than toasted ones because their oils are still untouched. When you buy cashew nuts in bulk, place them in a vacuum-sealed food container and store them in the freezer. You can save a lot of money this way.
How long and why should you soak your cashews
When it comes to making cashew cream, different recipes give varied tips on soaking the raw cashews. Soaking cashews in cold water, make a milder cream base instead of boiling water. It’s ideal for making cheese dip or faux whipped cream.
Soak cashews for at least 5 to 6 hours (preferably overnight). If you soak them longer, your cashew cream will be creamier. You’ll know that you soaked the cashews properly when each one breaks apart when you press it between your two fingers.
You should discard your soaking liquid. The soaking method draws out the enzyme inhibitors and phytic acid from the cashew nuts.
When these substances are pulled out of the cashews, the cream you get is easier to digest and much tastier. You don’t want any of that soaking liquid anywhere near your cashew cream.
Why a blender is better for making cashew cream
When you use a high-powered blender, your cream base has more volume. It’s also silkier and a bit sweeter. A food processor doesn’t yield a very smooth cashew cream but is a bit gritty in texture.
Quick Tip: Make sure to scrape down the sides of the blender occasionally to get the highest yield and the best texture for your vegan substitute for heavy cream.
Can I make a substitute without cashews?
Absolutely! You can use shelled and soaked sunflower seeds in place of cashews.
How long does cashew cream last in my fridge?
In the fridge, it will last for about 4-5 days. I put my fresh cashew cream in a half-pint mason jar. It’s just the right size to hold a cup of cashew cream.
Can I freeze it?
Yes. This can be frozen for up to 6 months. Cashew cream freezes well, but expect to have a bit of separation when it thaws. You can always freeze raw cashews as well.
If you choose to freeze the cream, give it a quick run into the blender after defrosting to eliminate any lumps.
How to turn basic cashew cream into the next level
Aside from taking a spoon and eating your freshly-made cashew cream from the blender, you can use your cashew cream as a base for your sauce or even a replacement for butter or cream.
Let me share a few ideas:
- You can add a pinch of cayenne pepper, nutritional yeast, and lemon juice to your cashew cream if you want a faux queso dip.
- If you want to make a vegan Alfredo sauce, add in some minced garlic and blend again until you get a smooth consistency. Toss it into cooked linguine and enjoy it!
- Add nutritional yeast, minced garlic, black pepper, and lemon juice for a Caesar salad dressing.
- You can chill your sweetened cashew cream and then whip it with your blender. This is a great substitute for whipped cream.
Why use dates for sweetening?
I prefer the texture of my sweetened cashew cream when I incorporate a date into the soak. You can also use liquid sweeteners or maple syrup. You can add a date or two if you want an all-purpose, sweetened cashew cream.
Uses for cashew cream
- Instead of using butter, you can spread your unsweetened cashew cream base onto your toast.
- Spread it on a wrap or a sandwich as an alternative to mayonnaise.
- Stir your cashew cream into warm oatmeal, and drizzle the cream over some scrambled eggs.
- Add some of it to your morning smoothie, mash it with boiled potatoes, or even freeze it into cubes before adding them into your milkshake with some cashew milk.
Is cashew cream the same as cashew milk?
No, but you can make both from the same base. If you want to make your own cashew milk, just add more water to your blended cashews.
Why is my cashew cream grainy?
Rinse your cashews thoroughly after draining them. Add a little more water and keep blending until you achieve a silky-smooth consistency.
Can you substitute cashew milk for heavy cream?
Although cashew cream cannot whip up the same way as ordinary heavy cream, cashew cream is a great ingredient for sauces, soups, desserts, and sauces that need heavy cream.
It’s also easy to make. Cashew milk is thinner. It is better to drink cashew milk or incorporate it into other beverages. This recipe for a vegan substitute for heavy cream is truly dynamic, isn’t it?
Cashew Cream Recipe (Gluten-Free and Vegan)
- food processor
- 1½ cup raw cashews (soaked overnight)
- 1 cup filtered water (add more for a thinner consistency)
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt (or sea salt)
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice (add more for extra tangy flavor)
- garlic or garlic powder
- Chipotle in adobo sauce
- maple syrup
- vanilla extract
- Start by soaking the raw cashews in cold filtered water for at least 5 to 6 hours (but preferably overnight) and store in the fridge. When time is up, drain and rinse them thoroughly.
- After the soaking process, drain the cashews and rinse them very well. It’s time to choose whether you want to use a high-powered blender or a food processor. Either both yield different results in terms of texture and consistency.
- You can now start the blending process by placing the soaked cashews nuts in the blender or food processor. Add the filtered water, freshly squeezed lemon juice, and salt. Blend until silky smooth and turn into a pourable cream sauce.
Please note that all nutrition information are just estimates. Values will vary among brands, so we encourage you to calculate these on your own for most accurate results.