It’s been another one of those stretches of time when it feels like life is just set to full speed, and there’s not time to do things like cook. And going out to eat gets old. And more importantly, expensive.
Sometimes you want just simple food, something that doesn’t take a lot of time. Something that’s good for you, and satisfying.
Enter cashew cheese.
Cashews are amazingly versatile. Aside from eating them straight up, roasted, toasted, salted, and the like, they blend up into creamy deliciousness. You can blend them into a plant-based milk, cream, sour cream, or cheese. Will you know you’re not eating dairy? Probably. Will you care?
I don’t think so.
A couple of years ago when the book Artisan Vegan Cheese came out, culturing and fermenting cashew cheeses became all the rage. Certainly, you can do this with a cashew cheese, and it will have a more authentic cheese-like flavor.
The beauty is, you don’t have to.
This type of cheese is more like a ricotta. The recipe does call for lemon juice, but it won’t taste overwhelmingly lemon-y. It will have almost a clean, fresh, creamy taste. By adding whatever herbs you like to it (or not), you will have options on how you want to use it.
My favorite ways?
I’m a huge fan of stuffing squash blossoms, when they are in season.
Stuffed Squash Blossoms.
It works for a vegan lasagna (you could combine with a tofu-based ricotta, if you don’t want to overwhelm a more cheese-heavy dish with too much fat, or spend that much money on cashews).
Vegan lasagne rolls.
You can throw it on top of pizza, pasta, salad, or any other food where you might eat ricotta. When I first went vegetarian over 10 years ago, one of the things I ate most frequently was pasta and sauce, tossed with ricotta. If you’re making the transition to vegan, cashew ricotta instead of the dairy based type would be lovely. Just don’t over do it!
While cashews can be expensive, Trader Joe’s is a reasonably priced option. Make sure that you get “raw” cashews, as opposed to the toasted variety; those won’t work for this. Unless you go specifically in search of truly raw cashews, they will be irradiated to prevent growth of mold/spores/bacteria. You can periodically find truly raw cashews in the raw foods section at places like Whole Foods (not in the bulk bins) or online, but those will be much more expensive, and health claims about non-irradiated vs irradiated aren’t really proven. This is one of those times where you have to use your judgment about what’s important to you.
If you go looking in the bulk bins for raw cashews, don’t overlook the “cashew pieces.” They’re typically much cheaper, and since you’re going to be blending them up, who cares if they’re broken first?
In order to make cashews nice and creamy, you’ll want to soak them in filtered water first. This helps to make them nice and creamy, as well as helping to make some of the beneficial enzymes more available. But most importantly, creamy. Yum.
If you want to make cashew cream/sour cream, a high speed blender is helpful, but not absolutely necessary. For cashew ricotta-style cheese, all you need is a food processor.
Ready to make some cashew cheese? Check out the recipe here!