14 Ways To Use Cashew Cream In Your Cooking

A wave of plant-based eating is coming to America and with it has come a whole new vision of innovative cooking. Chefs and home cooks are getting creative with nuts, seeds, grains, and produce, and we've seen some interesting meat and dairy alternatives out there. Foods like banana peel pulled "pork," cashew "cheese," and rice paper "bacon," have left the days of rice milk and soy patties in the past. One of the innovations that have changed the way vegans cook and eat is the introduction of cashew cream. It's a versatile dairy-free addition to make dishes creamy, and there are plenty of ways to use cashew cream in your cooking.

Whether your hope is to make a dairy-free vanilla pudding or garlic Alfredo sauce, cashews are the answer. Along with its versatility in sweet and savory dishes, cashew cream can thicken or thin out a recipe. There is no creamy dish that cashew cream can't handle, so grab raw cashews, water, and your high-speed blender to get started.  

Make your own aioli sauce

Taco lovers know that the options are endless when it comes to fillings, even when the focus is vegetarian or vegan cooking. Roasted sweet potatoes, pulled oyster mushrooms, marinated tofu, and roasted cauliflower make incredible taco bases. But, any time there is a focus on acidic hot sauces and flavorings, it's important to create a balanced mouthfeel with the addition of fat. Oftentimes, avocado is used to create this balance, but versatility is the spice of life. When it comes to creating a fatty, flavorful sauce, like an aioli, a protein-packed alternative to mayonnaise or whipped oil is cashews cream.

Cashew cream aioli can be made by soaking cashews in water overnight in the refrigerator, or warm water for about 20 minutes. The goal is to soften the cashews until they break apart easily, and then add them to your high-speed blender with enough water to just cover them. Blend until they are creamy, and then give them another 30 seconds to achieve that perfect texture. 

To make a chipotle aioli add spices like onion powder, pepper, and garlic powder along with the chipotle hot sauce, lime juice, and a sweetener of choice. Include salt as needed. If you'd prefer, flavor with cilantro, lime juice, salt, and a sweeter. It's important to balance your cashew sauce with an acid, something sweet, and salt. The additional flavoring is up to you. 

Blend it into soup

Once you've tasted the wonders of a cashew cream-thickened soup, it's hard to go back to using dairy. This method works particularly well for bisques and chowders and eliminates the need for starches and gluten. Simply create a thicker cashew cream by adjusting the ratio of water to cashews and letting additional liquid cook off if necessary. Corn chowder, tomato bisque, cauliflower bisque, cream of broccoli soup, and Hungarian mushroom soup, amongst others, are particularly tasty with the nutty addition. That being said, cashew cream can be added to any soup with the intention of making it creamier.

Always use raw cashews to make cashew cream because they are particularly flavorless and won't leave a nutty flavor in your mouth. Other nuts like peanuts, almonds, or toasted cashews can easily alter the flavor of your dish. Raw blended cashews share the same consistency and coloring as heavy cream, and if used in place of a dairy product only need a few simple additions to boost the flavor. A splash of lemon juice or apple cider vinegar, a dash of salt, and a small drop of a sweetener of choice can boost the natural flavor of the cream so it won't mellow out your creation. This truly is the shortcut ingredient for a creamy vegan soup.

Make a creamy pasta sauce

There are a few animal products that might be particularly difficult for vegans or lactose-intolerant individuals to give up, and most of them have something to do with cheese. It's salty, melty, creamy, and, of course, incredibly diverse and flavorful. While there are quite a few vegan cheese brands out there producing anything from sprinkle cheese to artisanal gorgonzola, there is a simple homemade way that cashews can help to make the perfect vegan pasta Alfredo sauce or cheese alternative.

While cashew cream replicates the smooth, creaminess of Alfredo sauce, a few ingredients need to be added to achieve that to-die-for-flavor that keeps us coming back for more. Dijon mustard and lemon juice add an element of nippiness that mimic that of cheese. Nutritional yeast has an overall cheesy flavor and is incredibly important for any homemade cheese alternative. Add a small amount of sweetener of your choice to balance the mouthfeel, then load up with salt, pepper, onion, and garlic. 

Use fresh or granulated onion or garlic and top it all off with a high-end extra virgin olive oil. Consider using a vegetable broth for blending and don't forget to garnish your dish with fresh herbs and cracked black pepper.

Add to a casserole

Just because you've given up dairy doesn't mean that you have to give up lasagna. We all know there is no better feeling than getting ready to make dinner and realizing you've whipped up a full pan casserole recipe the night before, and can enjoy it all week long. Lasagna, tetrazzini, moussaka, and green bean casserole can all be dairy-free. In fact, any creamy casserole dish you can think of that includes cream or cheese can be substituted with cashew cream. If you're hoping to make a layer of creamy goodness, consider making a thicker cream using less liquid, but keep in mind that some of the moisture will cook off during the baking process.

Cashew cream makes an incredible alternative because it's a fiber-packed, high-protein, cholesterol-free alternative that is loaded with healthy fats. And although digging your fork into a golden brown, wickedly creamy tetrazzini may feel like utter decadence and indulgence, it won't weigh you down in the same way that dairy has the potential to.

Use instead of dairy in risotto

There's nothing like piling up a fork full of creamy, rich risotto. And that delicacy would be a shame to give up for those who can't or choose not to indulge in dairy. Even for individuals trying to lower their cholesterol or reduce their dairy intake (it doesn't have to be all or nothing) using cashew cream in conjunction with a little cheese can go a long way without compromising on flavor.

For a creamy risotto recipe, add cashew cream before the risotto has had a chance to absorb all of the moisture from the pan. It can be added at any stage, but like cheese, has a tendency to stick to the bottom of a dry pan unless stirred, so it's better introduced toward the end of the cooking process. For a more flavorful sauce, include lemon, salt, nutritional yeast, a sweetener of choice, and white pepper. Add any other aromatics and ingredients you typically do, like onions, garlic, or parsley. This works well for both a white or pink risotto and pairs beautifully with truffle oil and mushrooms, or lobster for those who eat seafood.

Mix into chickpea, chicken, or tuna salad

While it's quite simple to glop a big spoonful of mayonnaise right into your chickpea, chicken, or tuna salad recipe, consider using cashew cream instead. It's more health-friendly than the highly-processed whipped oil alternative and can have a refreshing and cleaner flavor. Making your own cashew cream gives you the ability to alter the flavor however you'd like, so if you enjoy a tangier tuna salad simply use more acidity in the blend than water. There are a few tricks to making the perfect mayo-alternative protein salad base to ensure no flavor is lost along the way.

Create a thick cashew cream by reducing the amount of liquid used and be sure to load it up with flavor. Use an acid of choice, like lemon, apple cider vinegar, or even pickle juice. Lemon tends to be a universal choice, but dill pickle juice makes a great addition to tuna salad. Include a small amount of sweetener like maple syrup or honey, and then add mustard or mustard powder. 

Black salt has an eggy, sulfur-like flavor, so if you're missing that classic mayo taste include a small pinch. The spices you select should be altered depending on the protein, but paprika, onion powder, salt, pepper, and garlic powder are universal favorites. Fresh dill is often added to tuna salad, while an herb like parsley can be found in more chicken salad recipes.

Get spicy with queso

There's nothing more exciting than walking into a party and seeing a hot bowl of cheese dip sitting on the counter accompanied by salty tortilla chips. If you're tempted to dive in head-first, but for whatever reason dairy isn't your friend, there is an alternative option. Cashew cream comes to the rescue yet again and can be used to make an incredibly rich and creamy vegan queso dip recipe, spiced just how you like it.

Start by soaking and blending raw cashews until creamy. Then add to a saucepan and heat over a low temperature, all the while keeping the cream moving. Add nutritional yeast, an acid of choice, a sweetener of choice, and salt. A dash of turmeric can help to make the cheese dip bright yellow, but if you prefer a whiter queso then don't include the colorful spice. Ingredients like diced tomato, diced chilies, hot sauce, onion powder, garlic powder, chili powder, smoked paprika, tomato paste, and lime juice can all be considered as additions to make it just how you like it.

Thicken curries

When it comes to making curries, coconut milk is often used as the number one way to add creaminess to the recipe. This is traditionally the case and creates a creamy, fatty texture that we can all get behind. There are however many Indian dishes that include cashew cream either in conjunction with coconut milk or on its own. Sometimes it's even used alongside dairy products like milk or paneer.

Recipes like vegetable korma are meant to be thick and creamy, and coconut milk just can't get the job done on its own. The addition of a thick cashew cream can make all the difference when thickening a soup or curry and can be cooked down quite easily if the moisture ratio is off. The addition of cashew cream can have an almost cheese-like texture and can help increase the heartiness of a dish. Many recipes already call for it but feel free to include the addition in any creamy curry you make at home.

Create a decadent hot chocolate

Cultures from all over have come up with inventive ways to thicken hot chocolate in hopes to achieve the creamiest, most decadent cup around. Corn starch, olive oil, egg yolks, flour, heavy cream, and even cheese are used to promote richness, stemming from different drinking chocolate traditions from around the world. As it turns out, blended nuts (although technically cashews are a type of fruit called a drupe) can go a long way when adding decency to the drinkable dessert.

A basic recipe would include a thick cashew cream, cocoa powder, vanilla, a little sea salt, and a sweeter of choice like sugar, dates, or maple syrup. Toss all of those ingredients back into the blender and let it go wild. Use melted chocolate in place of cocoa powder for a sinfully rich cup, and add spices like cinnamon or chili pepper for additional pizzaz. Grown-ups cooling off after a chilly evening outside can consider spiking their sweet drink with bourbon.

Create your own coffee creamer

There are plenty of incredible substitutes out there for half-and-half, especially when it comes to adding a bit of creamer to your morning cup of joe. If dairy isn't your thing, don't worry because it actually reduces the number of antioxidants you're getting from coffee when the two are enjoyed in combination, per Nutrition Facts. But don't worry, non-dairy milk and creamers did not have such an effect, so the anti-inflammatory effects of coffee can reach their full potential.

When making cashew cream for coffee, it's important to get those drupes blended up nicely. That means you may consider blending them for even longer than you typically would. There's nothing worse than the appearance of curdled or separated cream in your coffee. Cashew cream works especially well in shaken iced coffee and blended iced coffee.

If you're used to a flavored or sweetened creamer be sure to include those additions to your recipe. Consider adding sugar or maple syrup, vanilla extract, or even hazelnut extract to the blend. The key is to be consistent with whatever you typically enjoy.

Boost your smoothies

The narrative behind smoothies has often been the more ingredients the better. And in some cases, like with mixed berries, that can be true. However, when done right, just a few ingredients can create a smoothie or shake that will remind you of the utter sweetness that fruit has to offer. Consider blending together water and cashews to make a cream, and then add frozen bananas and pure vanilla extract. This will create the smoothest, creamiest, vanilla shake alternative you've ever had. And who can contest that it isn't a healthy replacement for the frozen dairy dessert alternative? 

In fact, cashew cream can be added to any smoothie recipe, even those with citrusy fruits because, unlike milk, it won't curdle when in contact with acids like lime juice or pineapple. It's a great way to add healthy fat, fiber, and protein without compromising on texture or flavor. In fact, cashew cream can be made extra thick to the point where it can actually add additional creaminess to an otherwise thin smoothie. Who needs protein powder when you have cashews?

Top your salads with homemade ranch

Although nuts may not be the first thing to come to mind when considering a recipe for homemade salad dressing, they can be used to make a creamy base that can enhance any bowl of greens. Ranch, green goddess dressing, blue cheese dressing, and thousand island dressing are all incredibly creamy and can be replicated using our favorite drupe, masquerading as a nut. The key to making a successful cashew-based dressing is to keep it thick — and don't skimp on the herbs and spices.

Blend your cashews with vinegar or citrus juice, and then add a sweetener of your choice. For a simple ranch dressing recipe, use lemon juice or apple cider vinegar, and maple syrup. Then load it to the brim with onion powder, garlic powder, salt, chives, parsley, and dill. Add water as needed to keep it creamy, and enjoy over greens or as a dip. Of course, it's your kitchen, so add any other herbs and spices you'd like to boost the flavor.

Ice a cake

Cashews are so versatile that you can go from dressing a salad to icing a cake with just a few ingredient swaps. As it turns out, the best-ever dairy-free cream cheese icing can be made with a cashew cream base. It's important to make a thick mixture, and to keep in mind as the cream is chilled it will continue to thicken. The goal is to reach the consistency of creamy peanut butter, so instead of using water, substitute some of the liquid for lemon juice and a liquid sweetener. Add nutritional yeast, a little bit of sea salt, and vanilla.

If cream cheese isn't your thing, eliminate the nutritional yeast and just use a small amount of lemon juice. Add flavorings like cocoa powder, vanilla, or peanut butter to achieve the flavor you desire. Only ice-cooled cakes, cookies, or cupcakes, and keep your creation chilled before serving. Cashew icing us just one of many tricks for a vegan baker to amp up the flavor. 

Make your own ice cream

Vegan ice cream is all the rage, and many companies even make it with cashew cream, although coconut milk and almond milk are popular alternatives as well. Why make a run to the supermarket when you can make a homemade plant-based dessert at home like salted caramel vegan ice cream?

For the simplest recipe of all, make a fresh batch of thick cashew cream and blend one cup with four frozen bananas, which will add some natural sugar. Add your desired flavorings like date syrup, crumbled Oreos, or vanilla extract before using a whisk to whip a little air into it. Before the bananas melt, toss them in the freezer so you can enjoy them solid and cold.

Of course, there are plenty of standard homemade ice cream recipes that call for dairy cream that can be made vegan simply by making a single swap for our new favorite dairy-free alternative. Cashews truly go with anything from fruit to chocolate, so don't worry about it compromising the flavor of your frozen dessert. Keep in mind when swapping cashew cream for a dairy-based cream that it's important to inform any friends or family of the surprise ingredient because cashew allergies are not entirely uncommon. They may not even make the connection after taking a bite so stay vigilant, and for those who can eat cashews, enjoy every last drop.