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The Ultimate Cashew Cheese Recipe

If there is one ingredient most essential to creating yummy plant-based dishes, it is definitely the mighty cashew.

Cashews are such a stellar ingredient in vegan cooking because they have a very creamy mouthfeel and a neutral taste. Plus, they’re quite soft and easy to blend. Put all of this together and you have an excellent base for creams and cheeses.

Cashew cheese is like the vegan version of a “mother sauce” which can be used to make a million different dishes. This blog is proof of that idea, as a search for “cashew” turns up 32 results, or about 20% of all the recipes on this site…

In just the last 18 months, we’ve made cashew-based cheeses and sauces and dressings and dips and even beverages. But today, I wanted to kind of make it “official” by sharing the foolproof base recipe that I always have on hand.

Cashew_Cheese

Makes about 2 cups

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 cups raw cashews
  • 1/2 cup water (to start)
  • 3 tablespoons nutritional yeast
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

Cashew_Cheese_Cracker

Step One

Soak the cashews! Place about 1 1/2 cups of cashews in a container with warm water and soak for at least 2 hours. This is incredibly important because it will soften the cashews, allowing them to be fully blended – no one likes little chunks of cashews in their sauces.

Step Two

Then, drain the cashews and add all ingredients (cashews, water, nutritional yeast, lemon juice, apple cider vinegar, garlic powder, black pepper, and salt) to a high-powered blender like a Vitamix and blend until smooth. This will likely be very thick and you will need to manage the speed to ensure that it continues blending. If it’s wayyyy too thick, add a little more water.

I’ve found this specific list of ingredients to be the perfect combo. The nutritional yeast adds a distinctly cheesy taste, the garlic and salt intensify the flavors, while the acid from the lemon juice and apple cider vinegar brighten things up. In all, it’s an extremely flavorful base recipe that can be pulled in a million different directions.

Step Three

Chill. Spoon the cheese into a jar or container and refrigerate. I don’t know exactly why, but cashew cheeses become much better after refrigerating for several hours. The texture improves and the flavors meld together perfectly.

The final texture will be solid, but spreadable. You can easily thin it out (such as for pasta sauces) by adding more water. If stored in a sealed jar, the cheese will last for about a week in the refrigerator.

Cashew Cheese Tips & Ideas

Now that you have a whole jar of cashew cheese, how do you use the stuff?! Obviously, you can just spread onto crackers and enjoy, but if you’re feeling a little more daring…

  • Make an extra firm cheese spread by stirring in an extra tablespoon of nutritional yeast until dissolved, and even some Italian herbs like rosemary and sage.
  • Thin with more water and pour into a food-grade squirt bottle to make a pretty cashew cheese garnish, as seen in the Spicy Quinoa Taco Bowl.
  • Make a “cheddar” cashew cheese by blending with a little dried turmeric and some extra water. Then, toss with macaroni for cheddar mac & cheese.
  • Make the perfect Alfredo sauce by cooking fettuccine, draining the pasta, and tossing with this cashew cheese and about 1/3 cup of the reserved pasta water to achieve the right consistency.
  • Blend with more water, garlic, Dijon mustard, and Kalamata olives for a Caesar salad dressing, as seen in my Caesar Salad Recipe
  • Add a few tablespoons into a soup base to make a creamy white soup, as seen in my Creamy Tofu Tortilla Soup
  • Make some baked— oh, that one’s still a secret. Just make sure you save a cup of this cheese for an amazing recipe that’s coming on Thursday 🙂 (update: see the Baked Spaghetti with Cashew Cheese)

See what I mean about this being the vegan mother sauce? There are at least 2.7 million ways this basic sauce can be used… what are your favorites?

Cashew_Cheese_Spread

65 Comments

Leave a Reply
    • I mentioned that in the post: “If stored in a sealed jar, the cheese will last for about a week in the refrigerator.”

  1. I have tried a couple of vegan cashew cheese recipes and this one is by far my favourite. I am always excited to try a new one ingredient chef recipe. I am never disappointed. Have to also say your worlds second best pad Thai recipe is requested by my family at least weekly 🙂

    • Oh, I’m so glad to hear that Melissa! I work hard to make sure my recipes are always high quality and I’m thrilled you enjoy them 🙂

  2. I just made this and it’s DELISH!! Even right out of the food processor. And it was so easy. My batch is chillin’ in the fridge right now, and I’m so excited to see how the flavors meld even more after a few hours. Thank you for this recipe. The pictures with this recipe are awesome, too! (Oh, and I’m eager to know what baked secret recipe you’ll have for us tomorrow. )

  3. Follow up, I made it and it is AMAZING. Aside from soaking it took almost no time. I’ve spooned it onto everything I can find in the fridge.

  4. I was excited to see this recipe and then to find all ingredients on hand. Was extremely easy to make and is now in the fridge chilling – can’t wait to try it. I had a cashew queso on nachos one time that was warm and it was very good.

  5. Well it has chilled and we have tried it – it is delicious. I experimented by adding some smoked paprika and it is awesome! Thanks so much for this recipe!

  6. Made this w/ couple tweaks, including using cannellini beans instead of cashews for a low fat/ lower calorie version. I used much less water as beans already wet. My totally SAD eating sister loves it (and she hates nutritional yeast–Heh-heh-heh) as do I. Tonight it is going on top of oven roasted/broiled sliced potatoes (Yukon Gold), beet root, onion, mushrooms, colored bell peppers…

    • 1 1/2 cups any white bean
    • ¼ cup water (to start)(use cook water from the beans or the liquid in the can)
    • 3 tablespoons nutritional yeast
    • 1 tablespoon lemon juice + zest
    • 1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
    • ¾ teaspoon garlic powder
    • ¾ teaspoon onion pwdr
    • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper

    Blend until smooth

    So indeed a magic template you came up with. Thank you!

  7. Absolutely love this!!! I’ve been a diabetic for 48 years and have just survived breast cancer. I’ve always eaten healthy, but am now bound and determined to make many more healthy eating choices. Thank you x’s a million for doing what you do so well – and sharing!!! Eating foods that are based with the cashew cheese are helping to heal my stomach! 🙂

    • Chris, that’s an amazing story, thank you for sharing. I’m so happy that my recipes can help you on your journey. Keep up the great work! 🙂

  8. Hi Andrew, this looks AMAZING! Is there anything that you could think of that I could use in place of the nutritional yeast? I am allergic 🙁

    • Hi Heidi! Hmm, that could be really tough. There isn’t anything quite like nutritional yeast that comes to mind (it’s very unique!). You could probably get by without it altogether (though, it absorbs moisture so you may want to reduce the amount of water) and maybe just bump up the spices a bit? That may work.

  9. This is really nice. Love this post. It’s nice to see what other people are mixing together.
    I modified it a little bit – I used a really creamy soy milk instead of water and I added some onion powder and more garlic powder. Also more savory yeast.

    • Oooh, I like those additions, Marcus! Adding more spice & nutritional yeast can definitely kick up this base recipe.

  10. I recently discovered I have a severe dairy sensitivity and have been searching for a simple, delicious cashew cheese recipe. I cannot wait to try this, and especially love your suggested serving variations at the bottom of the post. Thank you!

  11. So… what does a person do if nutritional yeast is Right Out? Soy anything is also right out. (Allergy! I have this weird fondness for BREATHING, you see!)

    • That person would probably not use nutritional yeast or soy products, I would imagine. They might make a less cheesy cashew cheese by omitting the nutritional yeast.

  12. My kids can’t get enough of this cashew cheese! As soon as we run out they are onto me to make more; they especially love it spread on chia wraps with chickpeas and salad. Thanks Andrew!

    • I can’t think of any way to substitute the nutritional yeast here, it’s quite important to give it the right cheesy flavor. However, are you sure you can’t have nutritional yeast (which is very different from active/live yeast)? If you haven’t already, you may want to look into that.

  13. I have a yeast allergy. Is there something else I can substitute in for the cheesy flavour instead? Or do I just leave it out?

  14. If I made a thicker version, rolled it in ash, covered it in cheese cloth, would it age at all?
    That is, without refrigeration?

    • Ah I couldn’t say for sure… There’s an epic book called Artisan Vegan Cheeses. I haven’t read it myself but I’ve heard great things. You may want to check it out.

  15. Never tried before, just made it is super yummy!! I can’t wait to eat with potatoes, and maybe same taquitos , thank you!

    • Hi Grace, well this might actually be great on a pizza.. but only as a white sauce, not as actual cheese. Also, it would burn long before the pizza cooks so it would need to be added towards the end of baking, after the dough has already set.

  16. Hi there! I was wondering how cashew cheese would hold up on a backcountry camping trip, unchilled for a day or so? I’d chill it before I leave and likely use it on the first or second night. Thanks!

    • Ah, that’s hard to say. It’s probably not as bad as dairy cheese, but I would be a little concerned about not refrigerating this for 1+ days.

  17. I just made the Cashew Cheese recipe and it was very easy. I did it in my plain old regular blender and it is quite creamy. I happened to have everything on hand. Bonus. At first taste I find it a bit tasteless, not what I’d expected. I may have to add a bit more yeast for more of a cheesy flavour. Will wait until it sits overnight to see if there is much of a difference. I can totally see using all the variations and definitely want to try it cooked. 🙂

  18. I had a customer at work mention cashew cheese at work a while back. So, I went and bought some thinking “huh, anything to satiate my love of cheese being vegan”. Problems.
    Then, I tried it and it blew me away. I ate the whole container. Plain. It was spicy flavored jalapeños, maybe? Then I had a thought, it can’t be that difficult to make. Correct. It’s extremely simple. I let my cashews soak for about a day and a half, until I had time to make it. Then, tripled the recipe. Yes, tripled. I had to contain myself from licking the spatula during stirring. It’s chilling now, and I cannot wait to dig in. I won’t feel the guilt. (:
    Thank you for sharing the recipe and I’m sure it will be used a lot in my household.

  19. at the bottom of your post you mention another ‘secret’ recipe using the cashew cheese coming up on thursday. but i cant find any way to navigate your website by date. and not knowing what recipe you intended to post, i cant search by recipe either.

    care to share what the other use for cashew cheese is? or update this post with a link?

  20. does a food processor work just as well? I dont have a vitamix blender and I know the regular blender will leave chunks on the bottom.

    • Hmm, I would be hesitant to use a food processor because they sometimes have a hard time grinding cashews into a smooth puree, I’ve only ever done it in my Vitamix though so I couldn’t say for sure. You can certainly try!

  21. I am so proud of myself. I made cashew cheese today and it is delish if I can say so myself. I used a regular blender and I had no chunks at the bottom. Everything was smooth when I spooned it into the glass container to be refrigerated.

  22. I’ve made cashew cheese to use in different ways. One, as a dip; just don’t make it quite as thick and add finely diced sweet red, orange, or yellow bell pepper, plus finely diced ripe olives, along with minced onions. Adjust each according to taste.

    Also, my son loves macaroni & cheese everytime he came to visit. First time, he didn’t care for the substitution, so next time I did half dairy cheese & half cashew. Next time I did complete cashew, but added some liquid smoke & green bell pepper. He loved it! Now this is what he wants all the time. lol
    (After a year, I told him about what I did. He said he never thought eating healthy could taste so good. lol)
    Btw, he loves the dip, but just couldn’t see how it was cashews. Been 4 years and he still can’t grasp that fact. lol

  23. Lovely recipe. Added a teaspoon of Dijon and a little more salt and, for me, it was perfect. I can see me using this on everything! If it lasts that long! Thanks for sharing.

  24. I chopped spinach, mixed with this cashew cheese recipe and stuffed manicotti. Baked ina tray with sauce. My children didn’t know the difference. It was hands down the perfect texture and flavor.

  25. Nice base recipe! Many people mentioned not being able to eat nutritional yeast. An alternative could be to mix in a tablespoon of white miso and then let this ferment at room temperature (covered) for 36 to 48 hours. The longer is ferments the more it tastes like sharp cheddar.

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