The Many Faces of Cashew Cream

February  7, 2013

Gena Hamshaw of the blog Choosing Raw eats a mostly raw, vegan diet without losing time, money, or her sanity. Let her show you how to make "rabbit food" taste delicious and satisfying every other Thursday on Food52.

Today: Time, water, and magic can take cashews from a party snack to a cream that enhances almost any dish, sweet or savory. Gena discusses its many iterations, including a hearty Carrot Ginger Bisque.


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I used to think that cashews had one purpose: they were party snacks. They were to be found, salted and roasted, in little glass dishes at bars and happy hours and holiday gatherings. If not, they could be tossed into some trail mix, but that was about it.

Upon taking the vegan plunge, I realized that cashews are, in fact, a magical ingredient. One of the more obvious challenges of vegan cooking is to find ways to replace the saturated fats that give so much texture and appeal to cream and butter based sauces -- and cashew cream will do just that.

Cashew cream is the result of soaking cashews and blending them up with water. Depending on how much water you add, it can be quite thick — like the texture of ricotta — or thin enough to resemble heavy cream. It demands very little effort — all you need is a food processor or a high speed blender — and it’s incredibly versatile. Add a little maple syrup or demerara sugar, and it becomes a sweet dessert cream. Add some miso or salt and a touch of lemon, and the cream (or crème, if you want to be fancy) turns savory. Add some cocoa powder and vanilla, and you can even create a vegan ganache.

The key to making good cashew cream is to soak the cashews thoroughly beforehand; this will make for easy blending. It’s also essential to use raw cashews, as roasted ones won’t boast the same neutral flavor or blend up as well. Your cream will last at least four days in the fridge, and can be frozen as well. Curious about what to do with cashew cream, other than simply eating it with a spoon? Here are a few of my favorite applications:

1. Add it to soup. As you’ll see in the recipe below, cashew cream adds thickness and richness to any soup you’d normally enhance with milk or cream. 

2. Enhance your desserts. Top your favorite tart or pie with a thick, sweet variation, or add cashew cream to a dessert filling. The perfect way to do both? My vegan pumpkin pie

3. Prove that creamy vegan pasta is possible. Mix in a tablespoon of lemon juice, some sea salt, and a little Dijon mustard with your cashew cream. Serve it with cooked noodles for a vegan alternative to alfredo sauce!

4. Dress up your vegetables. Use cashew cream in any vegetable recipe that uses heavy cream: Brussels sprouts braised in cream sauce, creamed corn, creamed spinach, hot artichoke dip. Be sure to salt it well, and don’t make it too thick!

In the following recipe, heavenly cashew cream meets a rich, fragrant carrot ginger bisque. The cashew cream serves as both an essential ingredient and a creamy garnish, stirred in just before serving. The soup is quite nice on its own, but the cashew cream elevates it to new places.

Carrot Ginger Bisque with Cashew Cream

Serves 4 to 6

1 tablespoon olive oil
3/4 cups onion, diced
1/2 cup celery, diced
2 inch piece of ginger, peeled and chopped
4 cups vegetable stock
1 medium small russet potato, quartered
1 1/4 pound carrots, chopped
sea salt to taste
1 1/2 teaspoon mild curry powder
2/3 cups cashew cream, divided

See the full recipe (and save and print it) here.

Classic Cashew Cream

Makes 2 1/2 to 3 cups (recipe can easily be halved)

2 cups raw cashews
1 cup cold water, plus more as needed
1/2 - 3/4 teaspoon sea salt (optional)
1-2 tablespoon lemon juice (optional)
2 tablespoons evaporated cane juice, demerara sugar, or maple syrup (optional)

See the full recipe (and save and print it) here.

Warm up with more hearty vegan dishes:

Chili stew Casserole




Photos by James Ransom

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The Food52 Vegan Cookbook is here! With this book from Gena Hamshaw, anyone can learn how to eat more plants (and along the way, how to cook with and love cashew cheese, tofu, and nutritional yeast).

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Gena is a registered dietitian, recipe developer, and food blogger. She's the author of three cookbooks, including Power Plates (2017) and Food52 Vegan (2015). She enjoys cooking vegetables, making bread, and challenging herself with vegan baking projects.


Lisa M. September 27, 2015
I love cashew milk in my seems most like half and half to me. I will def. make this. Thx!
Turbeville G. March 16, 2014
What's the best way to freeze it?
Ervin F. March 11, 2013
OMG!! i just made the cashew cream with 2 glugs of olive oil, seasoning salt and a clove of garlic. . . MIND BLOWING!!
Thank you so much. . . and I am not even vegan, but food like this might convert me. ;)
Joanne H. February 10, 2013
This recipe looks great, but I also wanted to know where you got the glass cream container in the photo?
Brenda October 6, 2013
Joanne, hi! I've been wondering that too, but I just found it at Amazon. Search for "Half Pint Creamer Glass Mini Milk Carton".
EMR February 8, 2013
How long will cashew cream keep in the refrigerator? Can basic cashew cream be frozen? If so, how long will it keep in the refrigerator?
Gena H. February 8, 2013
You can freeze it for several months and you can store in the fridge for 4 days or so.
Carole F. February 7, 2013
May I go on the record to say that evaporated cane juice is just a fancy groups of words for sugar. Stevia,agave, monk fruit, or fruit products are much better sugar substitutes depending on what you are cooking.
Gena H. February 7, 2013
You're right! That's exactly what it is: sugar. But it's a form of sugar that is vegan-friendly, since many forms of conventional sugar are made with bone char from animals. I didn't intend for it to be a non-sugar substitute, though; this isn't a sugar-free column.
Carole F. February 7, 2013
Any idea of the calories and nutritional breakdown for cashew cream? Fat,protein, carbs etc., per serving? Serving size?
Gena H. February 7, 2013
I don't calculate calories or macronutrients for my recipes, but I'm sure you could use CalorieKing or the like and enter ingredients to gather that information.
Tallgrass K. February 7, 2013
Weird! I just posted a recipe for roasted carrot soup with cashew cream on my blog this morning! I'll have to add the recipe here too.
Chris A. February 7, 2013
These ideas will help my recipes so much!