Whenever people talk about why they could never give up dairy, normally you hear reasons like “but I’ll miss the cheeeese!” or “but I love ice cream so much!” and while I do love a good sharp cheddar and a nice bowl of pistachio ice cream, my dairy sticking point came from unusual suspects—half and half for my coffee and sour cream for my chili. These two items were what kept me from going dairy-free for years (even though I knew dairy made me feel not-so-great—it was worth it for a good cup of coffee!).
I literally couldn’t picture a world where I didn’t put a big glug of half and half in my coffee each morning or eat a bowl of chili without a dollop of sour cream. I’d tried all the plant-based alternatives in the supermarket, and, quite honestly, hated them all. I had decided that I was just going to have to be mostly dairy-free, except for my daily half and half and occasional sour cream. Life is too short to drink my coffee black.
Thankfully, I eventually discovered the magic of cashew cream! This multipurpose cream has the texture and thickness of dairy. Depending on how much water you use, it can be the thickness of regular milk all the way up to the the thickness of sour cream—and everything in between.
Cashew cream is crazy versatile!
Since I discovered cashew cream, I’ve turned cashews into sour cream (yup, it works!), ice cream (so gloriously buttery!), creamy salad dressings (best. ranch. ever.), queso (so spicy and yum!), alfredo sauce (much easier than making a bechamel sauce), and so many other things I’ve lost count. Now, cashew cream is not a new idea and anyone who frequents any plant-based blogs, websites, or restaurants will probably know all about it. For some reason though, it hasn’t really entered the mainstream healthy eating community. We’re changing that today.
Trust me, this life-changing magic shouldn’t be exclusive to the plant-based and vegan communities. EVERYONE needs to make cashew cream. Omnivore or herbivore, you can use it and love it. And I’m going to show you exactly how.
You’ll need a good blender for cashew cream
First things first: to do all this cashew cream magic, you’re going to need a good-quality, high powered blender. I’ve tried to do the cashew cream thing in my food processor, and it just doesn’t quite give you the same results (although, it does work just fine for cashew ricotta—which is supposed to be a little crumbly instead of smooth). I’ve used both a Ninja blender and a Vitamix blender, and they both work beautifully.
You’ll also want to get your hands on raw, unsalted cashews
You’ll want to get raw, unsalted cashews. The better quality (fresher, fattier, more delicious) your cashews, the better your end result will be. My favorite place to order cashews is from Thrive Market. They have their own brand which is super high quality and cheaper than anywhere else I’ve found.
You might be looking at the price of raw cashews and thinking, “Um, that’s WAY too expensive to use for something like coffee creamer.” Well, okay, you’re right, good quality nuts ain’t cheap. But when you compare it to the price of all the non-dairy alternatives that those cashews can replace (sour cream, coffee creamer, ice cream, etc.) the price starts to feel a lot more reasonable. Plus, if you happen to get them on sale (or use my referral link at Thrive Market, which gets you 25% off your first order), you can stock up and freeze the raw cashews for many months.
How to soak cashews for cashew cream
No matter what your end result is going to be (from alfredo to ice cream), your first step will be to soak your cashews. Some folks have luck not soaking cashews—especially if you have a really high-powered blender and good quality cashews—but I’ve always had better luck with soaked cashews. There are three methods, all depending on how quickly you need ’em.
- Overnight Soak—If you’re on the ball, cover one cup of raw cashews with cold water in a jar and let them soak overnight on the counter. In the morning, drain, rinse, and proceed with the recipe.
- Quick Soak—Need your cashews fast? Pour boiling water over one cup of raw cashews in a jar and let them soak for about an hour before draining and rinsing. This is my favorite method.
- Really Quick Soak—Need your cashews RIGHT NOW? Mix one cup of raw cashews with three cups of water in a saucepan. Bring to a boil and boil for 10 minutes. Drain, rinse, and proceed with your recipe. Sometimes this method doesn’t result in quite as smooth results in my experience, but it works in a pinch. You also might get a weird gray (or sometimes even purple!) gunky film on top with this method, just rinse it off before proceeding.
Next up, blend your cashews with water
And that’s it. Pour the drained cashews into your blender with water (how much water depends on how thick you want the final result to be—see the recipe below for more info on this), and blend the dickens out of it until it’s crazy smooth and creamy. It can take 3-5 minutes depending on your blender to get it dreamy smooth—just keep on blending. And once it is smooth as can be, you’ve now made cashew cream! We make this a quart at a time in our house and use it for everything from casseroles to bisques—anywhere you’d use half and half or heavy cream.
Get your recipe for Basic Cashew Cream
Making just a base recipe of basic cashew cream is a great place to start. Here is a printable recipe for that, then, below the recipe, you’ll find more variations on the cashew cream theme!
More cashew-cream based recipes
Once you have the basic idea of cashew cream down pat, you can turn that glorious, velvety cream into all kinds of wonderful kitchen concoctions. Cashew cream holds up really well to heating and baking—no separating—so you can use it almost anywhere. Here are some of the favorite ways we use it in our house. Click on the title to head on over to the full post for each cashew cream recipe:
Like I said above, these recipes aren’t even close to all the uses for cashew cream, but hopefully these will give you a good primer into the glorious world of cashew cream. Once you start using it in your kitchen, you’ll be amazed at how versatile it is!