Cashew cream cheese? I’ve been eyeing this type of non-traditional cream cheese for several months now, but have finally have gotten around to making it! Cream cheese is pretty tasty to many people and also my family, especially my little sister, as we have fond memories of large blocks of Raskas (another word that’s fun to say out loud! I’m a fan of those) from Costco. Nevertheless, it can be fun to try an alternative and be “outside the box” sometimes. Things can get dull under a restrained modus operandi. Being adventurous with food is the passion behind food flavor fascination–embracing both the traditional foods and non-traditional, orthodox and unorthodox. Keeping your cultural roots and comfort foods close, yet going on taste adventures as well. Instead of ordering your regular dish at a restaurant or cooking the same thing for dinner, live on the edge a bit and try something new. Maybe try this unorthodox cashew cream cheese and a couple of ways to feature it in your next meal!
What? Cashew cream cheese? Maybe you are a bit nervous or confused about it, like my dog Nutter was. Isn’t he a cute Pekingese boy?
Pipi, the cute Papillon-mix girl wanted me to take a picture of her too, while Nutter was still a little in dismay. I promise, cashew cream cheese isn’t so bad, though doggies can’t have any. Love these little cooking companions 😀
In addition to a plethora of other sweet or savory treats, you can make a cashew cream cheese filling for pancakes!
As well as cashew cream cheese biscuits!
First things first, making your own cashew cream cheese is very easy, it just requires a blender or a food processor and also some cheesecloth (available in the supermarket). I pretty much follow Healthful Pursuit’s technique, so click over there for lots of useful information and a step-by-step tutorial. I use cashew pieces as they are cheaper than whole cashews. Use raw, unsalted cashews, not roasted. To make the cashews easier to blend and for some nutritive benefit, they are soaked in water in the fridge for a day or at least 12 hours. Then they are blitzed with some apple cider vinegar, lemon juice, and water.
You want to go as smooth as possible, even smoother than what’s pictured here, but I was okay with this level of puree. Let it sit for a couple of hours and place it in on some cheesecloth. Make sure to use a long piece of cheesecloth, about an arms-length to be safe.
I used this cheese-making set up with a wooden spoon hanging the cheesecloth parcel atop a glass vase to let the excess liquid drip down. Let it sit for ~24 hours on the counter. I’m not sure why this wouldn’t work in the fridge, but it is safe to make at room temp. Cover the top with plastic and just make sure that the cheesecloth isn’t touching the base of the glass container. You want a nice gap in between to let the parcel stay suspended and also let the liquid drip. Making this cheese makes me feel like “the Cheese Nun” and microbiologist, Sister Noella Marcellino, PhD. Love her story, she’s someone I look up to. Now here’s the recipe!
Cashew Cream Cheese
minimally adapted from Healthful Pursuit
Yield ~1 cup
- 1.5 cups raw cashew halves
- 2-4 tablespoons raw apple cider vinegar
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice, freshly squeezed
- 2-3 tablespoons water
- 2-4 tablespoons nutritional yeast (such as Bragg’s or Bob’s Red Mill brand, optional)
- Optional seasonings and mix-ins: herbs, sea-salt, pepper, garlic, sun-dried tomato, fresh chili peppers, dried chili flakes or powder, citrus zest, honey, other liquid or granulated sweeteners, vanilla, melted chocolate, cocoa powder, fruits, the list goes on.
- Place the cashews in a container (glass is preferred), add water enough to fully submerge the cashews, cover and let soak in the refrigerator for 12-24 hours.
- Drain and rinse the cashews.
- Place the cashews in a blender or food processor along with 2 tablespoons of the apple cider vinegar, lemon juice, and 2 tablespoons of the water.
- Blend for 2 minutes until as smooth as possible, adding the last tablespoon of water if needed, to help the cashews blend. Taste the mixture and mix in the remaining apple cider vinegar, just enough to your desired taste. Set this mixture aside for a couple of hours.
- Line medium to large mixing bowl with cheesecloth, letting it drape over the bowl. For a thinner cream cheese, use 2 layers of cheesecloth. One layer of cheesecloth should give you a thicker cheese. Spoon the cashew mixture over the cheesecloth. Gather the sides of the cheesecloth and tie with a piece of string or use a rubber band.
- Hang the cheesecloth parcel on a wooden spoon (or something similar) and suspend on top of a large glass vase or pitcher. To allow excess liquid to drain, do not allow the parcel to touch the bottom of the vase. Keep the parcel hanging in the air. Cover the exposed top of the vase with plastic wrap.
- Set aside in a warm place (if available) or at room temperature for about 24 hours.
- Remove cashew cream cheese from cheesecloth and place in another container. Combine with the nutritional yeast and other seasonings/mix-ins, if desired.
Here’s the base for the cashew cream cheese pancake filling. No recipe needed, just whisk some whipped coconut cream, to taste (here’s a good tutorial on making whipped coconut cream) with some of the cashew cream cheese, to taste. Whisk in some sweetener such as honey, stevia, or evaporated cane sugar, to taste. Then you can also add a touch of vanilla or other flavorings. I like to add a pinch of Saigon cinnamon.
Fruit is a welcome addition to this pancake filling, which is intended for the thin, rollable variety–i.e. Swedish pancakes. This time I used a handful of frozen wild Maine blueberries, defrosted and drained.
Put some of the filling on a pancake and roll it up. Serve with your favorite toppings such as red wine fudge sauce (from my Aebleskiver post), more fruit, and some chopped nuts. Voila! A nice, homemade sweet treat.
Now for something savory: some biscuits made with this cheese. It starts the same way as any other biscuit recipe, by blending together the dry ingredients with the fat, as well as the cheese. You want it to have pea-sized crumbles with pockets of fat. These small pieces of fat is what makes the biscuits flaky and tender. I used butter, but you can use coconut oil. This time, I made the biscuits with a gluten-free all purpose flour, from Trader Joe’s. I also used psyllium husk and flax seed (instead of xanthan gum or guar gum) to help bind the gluten-free dough. After you make the fat/flour crumbles, you gently mix in the buttermilk or acidulated non-dairy milk. Gently knead a few times. Let the dough rest for about 30 minutes to let the gluten-free flour absorb the liquid (helps with the texture).
Then you pat the dough out and fold it over a few times. Folding helps to make it flaky as well.
Pat or roll it out into a disc, about 1.75 inch thick (or thinner if you like dense and crisp biscuits). Cut into desired shape and place on a baking sheet lined with parchment.
Bake at 375 degrees F for about 15 minutes until golden brown on the bottom and edges.
Optional: before baking, you can brush the tops with some milk or egg wash to help the biscuits brown.
Nice flaky interior. Imagine these biscuits with a spot of jam or smothered in gravy. I admit, those pop-can biscuits from the store taste good, but it is so much more fun to make them yourself and it’s nice to get away from chemically-laden processing in your food.
Cashew Cream Cheese Biscuits
Yield: ~1 dozen biscuits
- 350 grams gluten-free all purpose flour
- 1/2 teaspoon psyllium husk
- 1/2 teaspoon ground flax seed (or ground chia seed)
- 1 tablespoon baking powder
- 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon evaporated cane sugar
- 4 ounces unsalted butter (or coconut oil), cold and cut into small pieces
- 4 ounces cashew cream cheese
- 3/4 cup + 2 tablespoons buttermilk (or acidulated non-dairy milk–almond, coconut, soy, hemp, etc.: a heaping 3/4 tablespoons vinegar or lemon juice mixed with 3/4 cup + 1 and 1/4 tablespoons non-dairy milk)
- Heat oven to 375 degrees F.
- In a large mixing bowl, combine the flour, psyllium husk, ground flax seed, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and cane sugar.
- Cut in the butter and cashew cream cheese using a pastry hand blender or your fingers. Continue to incorporate the butter and cashew cheese into the dry ingredients until the dough is crumbly with pea-sized pockets of fat.
- Make a well in the center of the dough and add the buttermilk. Gently mix until the dough comes together and no pockets of flour remain. Cover and let rest for about 30 minutes.
- Place the dough on a clean surface and gently press into a disc shape about 2 inches thick. Fold the dough over and pat it back into a disc shape 2 inches thick. Repeat with another fold and then roll or pat the dough to a disc of about 1.5-1.75 inches thick, depending on desired thickness of biscuits.
- Cut the biscuits using a round cookie/biscuit cutter (recommended diameter: 1.75 inches). Place rounds on parchment or a greased baking sheet.
- Bake for ~15-17 minutes or until lightly browned. Let cool slightly on a wire rack. Enjoy these biscuits warm or at room temperature!
Now, this cashew cream cheese isn’t exactly like dairy cream cheese such as Raskas or Philadelphia, so don’t be disappointed if you ever make it and find that it just ain’t the same. Nevertheless, it’s tasty on its own right and can make some good eats not only shmeared on a bagel, but even in biscuits and as a filling for pancakes! If cashew cream cheese could talk, I think it would say “Don’t judge me because i’m different…” hehe 🙂