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.
And then, one day, I was out of half and half, and I did a desperate Google search for a plant-based coffee creamer recipe that I could make using pantry staples. A lot of recipes called for coconut milk or coconut oil (love coconut, but I’m a coffee purist, so no go) or almond milk (which I know from experience has some separation issues). And then I stumbled onto Cashew Coffee Creamer on Kitchen Treaty, and I thought, “Well, that’s something I’ve never tried before!” and went for it.
Dude. Life changed.
It looks like half and half. It’s thick, fatty, and creamy like half and half. It doesn’t separate or curdle. It doesn’t taste like coconut. It. Was. Perfect. Better than any of those $5 a pint plant-based coffee creamers on the market. With that first blitz in my blender, a love affair with cashews was born.
In the months since, 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. I have a whole other post coming up in a few weeks about cashew cheeses (ricotta, parmesan, feta, oh my!), but for now, we’ll stick to creamy uses.
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. Watch the video below to get a full primer on using cashew cream, or scroll down for the text and photo version.
Before We Start: You’ll Need A Good Blender…
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—more on that in my future cashew cheese post). I use my Ninja and it works beautifully. She’s seen more cashews than a cashew farmer.
…and Some Good 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. As a Nuts.com ambassador, I might be biased, but I think they have some of the best raw, organic cashews on the market (they aren’t sponsoring this post, BTW). I love that you can get bulk discounts from Nuts.com. Since I go through so many cashews in my house, buying in bulk saves me some serious cash!
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, let’s break it down:
- A pound of raw, organic cashews from Nuts.com is $12.99.
- You can get about six pints of cashew cream from a pound of cashews, making it $2.17 per pint.
- A pint of organic half and half in my area is $3.19 (I just looked it up).
- And that’s all the math we’re going to be doing today.
First Step: Soak Your Cashews
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.
Second Step: Blend 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. 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.
Omnivores and herbivores alike will love this cashew cream. Use it anywhere you’d use heavy cream or half and half!
- 1 cup raw, unsalted cashews
- Place cashews in a bowl or jar (I like using a wide-mouth quart mason jar) and cover with water. Let soak overnight (at least 6 hours).
- Once soaking is finished, drain and rinse the cashews, and place in the basin of a high-powered blender. Add one cup of water for heavy cream thickness, two cups of water for half-and-half thickness, and three cups of water for milk thickness and blend on high until very smooth—about three minutes.
- Store in covered container in the fridge for up to 10 days. The cream will get thicker as it cools.
Quick soak method: Cover cashews with boiling water and let sit 1 hour before proceeding.
Super quick method: Place cashews and three cups of water in a saucepan, bring to a boil, and continue boiling for 10 minutes. Drain and rinse before proceeding.
- Category: Vegan
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:
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 cashews! Stay tuned in the next few weeks for a whole separate post on making nut cheeses using cashews—you’ll be amazed at how tasty they are!