I just put up a batch of silky smooth Cultured Cashew Cream Cheese. What a comforting feeling. I’ve made plant-based cream cheese so many times over the years, that our refrigerator feels incomplete without it. This morning, I found myself appreciating the ingredients and technique I have settled on. No more trials. This recipe is my absolute favorite.
My first introduction to cultured cashew cream cheese was nearly 20 years ago. Back then, I made a recipe from a book titled Angel Foods by Cherie Soria. It blew my mind to have a cashew spread that tasted remarkably like dairy cream cheese. That wonderful tasting recipe made me a believer in the difference between cultured and uncultured vegan cream cheese.
Unlike cashew cream cheese recipes made with lemon juice, apple cider vinegar, miso, or nutritional yeast, the first cream cheese I learned to make used rejuvelac. Rejuvelac is a mother culture you grow yourself from sprouted wheat berries. Making it is an art and generally a 4-5 day process. The reward is that cream cheese made from it has a convincing cheesy flavor and healthy 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 cream cheese started popping up, it sparked a new interest for me. I wasn’t willing to give up that cheesy flavor. But maybe there was a less time-consuming way than making rejuvelac from scratch.
I read that probiotic capsules worked as a culture and gave them a try. Boy, that was a no-go. 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.
I knew better than to try my sourdough bread starter! What about sauerkraut, kombucha, or coconut yogurt? I found the live microflora in raw sauerkraut worked, but guess what? If you guessed the cheese tasted like sauerkraut, you guessed right. Kombucha wouldn’t culture, likely because it needs more sugar. So that left yogurt.
By this point, I finally understood that the flavor of the mother culture was critical for the best tasting finished product. I felt on safe ground with my homemade coconut yogurt. The only question now was, would the cream cheese 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.
I always have my coconut yogurt on hand because hubby can’t live without it. Now because of it, I can have delicious, rich-tasting, cashew cream cheese anytime I want. If you would like to see what a difference a mother culture can make, use the best tasting, store-bought coconut yogurt you can find. Or better still, make my Best Coconut Yogurt Recipe. Both will work, and the flavor is up to you. Either way, I think you will find your Cultured Cashew Cream Cheese is heads above ordinary cashew spreads.
FAQ – Cultured Cashew Cream Cheese
There are a few on the market made primarily from cashews with salt and cultures. However, many more are made from coconut or other oils, 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 cream cheese 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 overnight. That way they soften and plump up. Then the natural oils won’t be released the same way when processing.
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 cream cheese. However, it is fine to double the recipe.
Yes! You can cook and bake with homemade cashew cream cheese in any recipe that calls for whipped consistency cream cheese. It’s lovely for enriching sauces or dishes like Creamy Saffron Chickpea Risotto, and great in desserts.
Cultured Cashew Cream Cheese
- 2 cups raw cashews
Next Morning Blend Smooth
- soaked and drained cashews
- 4 TB water
Add and Culture 12-36 Hours
Stir In and Chill To Finish
- 1/2 tsp. sea salt
- 1/2 tsp. lemon juice, optional for preserving color
- Place cashews in a quart jar and cover with water. Soak in refrigerator overnight. Rinse with cold water and drain well.
- Place cashews in Vitamix or equivalent high powered blender. Add water and blend briefly on medium speed until a uniform meal is achieved. Turn Vitamix up to highest speed and process until perfectly smooth. Use tamper to move mixture around. After a while, scrape down sides of blender.
- Keep blending until all the grainy bits are gone and a silky nut butter consistency is achieved. Mixture is likely to be warm by the time it reaches smooth consistency. Resist the temptation to add more water unless mixture gets warm and isn't smooth yet.
- Scrape cashew mixture into a glass bowl. Place in refrigerator for 20 minutes. The temperature needs to be below 105 degrees so as not to kill yogurt culture.
- Add coconut yogurt and whisk until completely blended in. Clean sides of bowl with a spatula or damp paper towel. Smooth top of mixture. Cover with a plate and let sit at room temperature 12-36 hours.
- Taste the cream cheese after 12 hours and periodically until it has the desired tart and cheesy flavor. Don't worry if it takes up to 36 hours. Different climates create very different results. One visual cue that your cream cheese is done is a puffed and fluffy appearance. It is natural for cultured cashew cream cheese to expand as it sours.
- When cream cheese is sour, stir it down. Dissolve salt in lemon juice. Mix lemon juice into cream cheese. Transfer cream cheese to a container with a lid. Cashew cream cheese will firm slightly when fully chilled.