This vegan cultured cashew cream cheese recipe ferments at room temperature in a covered bowl with only two ingredients. Simply the best-tasting, spreadable dairy cream cheese substitute, it's delicious in sweet or savory recipes alike.
Unlike recipes made with apple cider vinegar, miso, or nutritional yeast, this 3-ingredient cultured cashew cream cheese truly tastes like the real thing.
🏆 Top tip
Start your fermentation and set it out before bed. That way, you get your first 12 hours in while sleeping. Then you can check it for sourness throughout the day and up to 36 hours total.
⭐ Why it works
- Real cream cheese flavor
- NO nutritional yeast, vinegar, miso, or coconut oil
- Protein-rich cashews
- Ferments at room temperature
- Whipped or firm style
- Freezer friendly
- Whole organic raw cashews - cashews are ideal because they are smooth, dense, and skinless.
- Homemade coconut yogurt - live natural starter for uncompromising flavor and healthy probiotics.
- Sea salt - for a traditional taste.
- Lemon juice - is optional to preserve a white color.
- Vitamix - or equivalent machine with high power and a tamper to make the best, silky-smooth spread with real cream cheese consistency.
- Slim spatula - a dear friend gifted me this one. It's genius for getting the last bit out of jars and blenders.
- Glass bowl - glass is recommended for fool-proof fermentation.
- Plate - choose a flat plate that provides an even seal over the top of the bowl.
- Thermometer - not required, but helpful to ensure the cashew mixture is not too hot to add yogurt.
- Blend cashews to a smooth, silky consistency.
- Check temperature and stir in coconut yogurt.
- Ferment 12-36 hours.
- Cashew cheese is ready when tangy and expanded with a fluffy texture.
👩🏻🍳 Trial and error
This tried-and-true fermented vegan cream cheese recipe owes its spot-on flavor to the fact that it's cultured with Homemade Coconut Yogurt.
It's been a journey getting there! In case you're curious about some of the other methods I used and some of the failures along the way, here's a synopsis.
Oh, the days of rejuvelac. This yogurt-cultured cashew cheese is so much simpler than the homemade dairy-free alternatives I used to make 20 years ago. That's because the recipe started with a week-long process of sprouting and fermenting wheat berries.
The liquid from fermented wheat makes a fine culture called rejuvelac. Making it is an art, but the reward is that cheese made from it has a convincing cheesy flavor and gut-friendly probiotics.
I hung in making rejuvelac for years and just skipped the cream cheese when I didn't have time to make the culture.
But as vegan foods became more popular and a variety of ways to make plant-based cheese started popping up, it sparked a new interest for me.
I wasn't willing to give up that legitimate flavor. But maybe there was a more hassle-free and less time-consuming way than making rejuvelac from scratch?
💊 Probiotic capsules
Since I read that probiotic capsules worked as a culture, I decided to give them a try. Well, that was a no-go. The capsules were unpredictable, slow to culture, and sometimes failed. But worst of all, the flavor was just off to me. Somehow it seemed artificial anyway.
So I looked around my kitchen for fresh cultures in foods I made regularly and kept on hand. You know, something that was available and didn't take extra time or effort to make. What about sauerkraut, kombucha, or coconut yogurt?
I found the live microflora in raw sauerkraut worked. However, guess what? If you guessed the cheese tasted like sauerkraut, you guessed right. Kombucha, on the other hand, wouldn't culture, likely because it needs more sugar than the cashews provide. So that left yogurt.
🥥 Coconut yogurt starter
By this point, I finally understood that the flavor of the mother culture was critical for the best-tasting finished product, and I felt on safe ground with my homemade coconut yogurt.
The only question now was, would the recipe end up tasting like coconut? Surprisingly, those lovely coconut yogurt probiotics went to town and produced a tart and cheesy flavor without any coconut nuance.
It's truly amazing how the flavor of cashews transforms during fermentation to take on a crave-worthy cream cheese tang.
🥄 Whipped cream cheese
This recipe automatically results in a thick, whipped cream cheese consistency without any extra steps.
Thus, it's easy to spread and melts beautifully to make luscious sauces and creamy entrees like Saffron Chickpea Risotto.
🔪 Firm style
Most of the time, we're more than happy dishing our bona fide, cultured cashew cream cheese straight from its container. However, now and then, I like to take the trouble to firm it so that I can serve it on a plate.
When you want firmer-style cream cheese, simply spoon your cultured cashew cream cheese onto a double layer of tight-weave cotton cloth, wrap it and apply a weight. My favorite cloth is eco-friendly men's cotton handkerchiefs.
A tofu press is handy for cheese-making and other plant-based kitchen tasks, but a flat board or plate with a heavy can on top works as well to firm the cheese.
Press it for 4-8 hours in the refrigerator. Then transfer the cashew cheese to the freezer overnight. Leave it wrapped in cloth since it will still be too soft to unwrap.
After 8 hours, take your pressed cheese from the freezer and unwrap it. Now you can store it on a serving dish in the refrigerator until ready to eat.
When ready to serve, let it sit for a few minutes at room temperature, then you can smooth the edges to make it even and pretty.
If it starts to soften too much, just place it back in the freezer briefly. Keep the cultured cashew cream cheese refrigerated or frozen until ready to serve since it softens quickly in a warm room.
👩🏻🍳 Expert tips
- Blend soaked cashews until they're perfectly smooth. There shouldn't be any graininess left. This may take long enough that the mixture becomes warm.
- Resist the temptation to add more water and add sparingly only if necessary.
- Test the temperature and make sure the mixture isn't any warmer than 100 degrees before adding yogurt. if necessary, you can place the bowl in the refrigerator until the mixture feels room temperature or cooler to your touch.
- Cover the bowl with a plate to seal out air and place it out of direct sunlight.
- Mark the time you begin fermentation. It's easy to forget!
- Wait 12-36 hours, depending on the warmth of your room.
- Look for two signs to tell that your cashew cheese is ready. First, there will be a faint, pleasant sour smell. Secondly, cultured cashew cream cheese will expand slightly with a domed top. It will be fluffy inside with air holes.
We love cultured cashew cream cheese on Cinnamon Raisin Bagels and in pastries topped with fruit. Boy, am I glad I don't have to go to all the work I used to just to have it on hand.
Commercial vegan cream cheese is made from a variety of plant-based ingredients, including tofu, nuts, and legumes. Most have one or several of the following ingredients: coconut oil, modified starches, soy or pea protein, sugar, and a long list of additives like xanthan gum, guar gum, maltodextrin, cellulose, lecithin, tri-calcium phosphate, and glucono-delta-lactone. Not only does homemade taste better, but you can rest assured your recipe is free of artificial ingredients when you make it yourself.
Blending cashews that haven't been soaked first will turn them into nut butter. To get that characteristic, smooth texture of cream cheese, soak cashews in the refrigerator for at least 12 hours and up to 24 before making cheese.
No. You need raw cashews to culture cream cheese and create a fresh, dairy-like flavor.
It's not recommended to make this recipe with less than 2 cups of cashews. That's because most machines won't turn the cashews sufficiently in the blades to process into a smooth consistency. However, it is fine to double the recipe.
Yes! You can cook and bake with homemade cultured cashew cream cheese in any recipe that calls for whipped consistency cream cheese. It's lovely for enriching sauces and great for appetizers and desserts.
I tested the recipe for cultured cashew cream cheese with coconut yogurt from the store, and while it didn't produce the same lovely taste, it did ferment. However, I can't vouch for all brands of plant-based yogurt. If you want to try a store-bought yogurt, I recommend choosing the best-tasting, additive-free product you can find.
As long as your machine is an equivalent high-powered blender, you'll be fine. You will know your machine is adequate if it changes cashews in the last few minutes of processing from a fine-grained mixture to one with a silky-smooth consistency. If your blender doesn't do this, you may still enjoy this recipe as a delicious probiotic spread.
🌟 More cultured and fermented recipes
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Cultured Cashew Cream Cheese
- 2 cups raw cashews soaked overnight
- 4 TB water
- 2 TB coconut yogurt preferably homemade
- ½ tsp. fine-grained sea salt
- ½ tsp. lemon juice, optional for preserving color
Soak cashews 12-24 hours
- Place cashews in a quart jar and cover with water. Soak in the refrigerator overnight for up to 24 hours. Rinse with cold water and drain well.
- Place cashews in a Vitamix or equivalent high-powered blender. Add 4 tablespoons of water and blend briefly at medium speed until a uniform meal is achieved. Turn Vitamix up to the highest speed and process until perfectly smooth. Use a tamper to move the mixture around. After a while, scrape down the sides of the blender.
- Keep blending until all the grainy bits are gone and a silky frosting-like consistency is achieved. The mixture is likely to be warm by the time it reaches a smooth consistency. Resist the temptation to add more water unless the mixture gets warm and isn't smooth yet. Then add water sparingly, a tablespoon at a time.
- Scrape the cashew mixture into a glass bowl. Test the temperature and make sure it's below 100 degrees. If unsure, place in refrigerator for 20 minutes. The temperature needs to be below 105 degrees so as not to kill the living microbes in the yogurt culture.
- Add coconut yogurt and stir well until completely blended in. Clean the sides of the bowl with a spatula or damp paper towel. Smooth the top of the mixture. Cover the bowl with a plate.
- Place the covered bowl out of direct sunlight and let sit at room temperature for 12-36 hours. Taste the cream cheese after 12 hours and periodically until it has the desired tart and cheesy flavor.
- Culturing takes 12 hours in our tropical climate. However, don't worry if it takes up to 36 hours. Different climates create very different results. Also, the degree of sourness is your own personal taste.
- As cheese develops, you can smell a faint pleasant sour aroma. A domed top and fluffy interior are two visual cues your cultured cashew cream cheese is ready. It's natural for cultured cashew cream cheese to expand as it sours.
Stir in lemon juice and salt
- When cream cheese is sour to your preference, stir it down. Dissolve salt in lemon juice. Stir lemon juice and salt mixture into cream cheese. Whip well with a spoon.
- Transfer cream cheese to a container with a lid. Cashew cream cheese will firm slightly when fully chilled
Make firmer-style cream cheese
- To make firmer cream cheese, scoop fermented cheese onto a large square of tightly woven cotton fabric. Men's handkerchiefs are just the right size and weight. You can also use similar cotton fabric cut into 18-inch squares.
- Roughly shape the cheese into a one-inch high block. Wrap cheese firmly in cloth. Place a second square of cloth on your work surface and wrap the bundle again, so you have the cheese wrapped twice.
- Place bundled cream cheese inside a tofu press and tighten the screws. Alternatively, you can use two flat plates or small cutting boards with a heavy weight on top.
- Place weighted cheese in the refrigerator for 4-8 hours. Then, remove the weight and transfer the cream cheese to the freezer overnight. Leave it wrapped in cloth since it will still be too soft to unwrap.
- After 8 hours in the freezer, you can take your pressed cream cheese out and unwrap it. Peel the fabric away from the block of cream cheese. Now you can store it on a serving dish in the refrigerator until ready to eat.
- When ready to serve, let the cashew cream cheese soften for a few minutes at room temperature, then you can smooth the edges to make it even for a pretty dish.
- NOTE: Cultured cashew cheese will soften quickly in a warm room if left out. So, keep it refrigerated or frozen until just before serving.
- Cultured cashew cream cheese lasts easily 2 weeks in the refrigerator and freezes well for 3 months.
do you think this would work okay if I use a spoonful of my dairy mesophilic yogurt rather than coconut ?
I think it would if the starter yogurt is mesophilic. I can't predict the taste or be positive about the outcome, but I say give it a go and let me know how it turns out!