I stumbled upon this creation when experimenting with cashew frosting for a birthday cake I was making. Most vegan cream cheese frostings use blended cashews or a store-bought vegan cream cheese. The problem with just blending cashews is the texture – it’s too runny. Also it lacks in flavor. The problem with store bought cream cheeses is that they are typically made with a lot of oils, gums, and protein isolates. Not good.
Another inspiration for my experiment came from one of favorite vegan products – Treeline Cashew Cheese. This spread has a really nice texture and flavor, but it doesn’t come in plain, which I needed for the frosting I was going to make. I noticed that the ingredient list is simple – cashews and cultures. I’ve made yogurt many times with probiotics in my Instant Pot, so I thought – why not apply the same concept to a thick cashew cream to make a “cheese” spread. Well… it works beautifully!!
The issue I have with most vegan cheeses, spreads and dairy-alternatives is the additives. Yes the products are vegan, but that doesn’t mean by definition they are healthy. Make sure you always read labels before you buy so you know what you are getting.
So – my goal here was to make a cheese spread alternative that is actually a whole food! The ingredients are very simple: cashews, water, salt, cultures and time. This recipe does take some pre-planning to have it made in time for when you need it, but I think the end result is worth the effort.
How to Make Cultured Cashew Cream Cheese
The first step is to soak the cashews for an hour. Any longer is not really necessary, but also won’t alter the recipe if you do so. The soaking softens the cashews so they blend smoothly – it is an essential step.
After soaking, I blend them with a little salt and some more filtered water. It is important to use filtered water to make sure there isn’t any bacteria or chlorine present. That may alter the fermentation process. I always use water from my beloved Berkey water filter.
As you can see in the photo below, the end result of blending on high speed for several minutes is an ultra-smooth cashew cream. Vitamix really knocks it out easily! I still can’t believe how smooth it gets!!
The mixture will be warm from all the blending, which is fine. I add in some probiotics because this is the secret to getting a tangy flavor and a thicker consistency. I place the mixture into glass jars and loosely tighten the lids.
Lastly, I pop them into my Instant Pot, submerge with some lukewarm water, and turn on the yogurt setting. After about 8-10 hours, it is done. The timing depends on your personal preference. The longer you let it ferment, the more sour the flavor will become.
How to Serve Cultured Cashew Cream Cheese
Make frosting: One use is to make cashew cream cheese frosting. If you are looking for cake recipes, you should check out Joscelyn’s recipes on her blog Wife Mama Foodie – I have made many of her vegan cakes and they are really outstanding. To make your cashew frosting, start with chilled cashew cream cheese. Proceed by blending in powdered sugar and vanilla extract with a stand mixer.
Make it savory: Another delicious serving idea is to blend in lots of minced or grated fresh garlic, black pepper, chives, scallions, parsley, sage, thyme, rosemary or basil. Allow to chill in the fridge so the flavors can meld. You could mold it into a ball, roll in chopped herbs, and serve on a cheese board.
Make it sweet: You could make a sweet cinnamon spread by blending in cinnamon, maple syrup, and chopped walnuts! I think kids would really love this option.
Make a cheese ball: This is perfect for a party board with little crackers and veggies to dip. My full recipe is here – Vegan Classic Cheeseball
Any way you serve it, you should be proud of your ability to make your own cultured cream cheese at home without any weird additives, thickeners or preservatives! That is very cool.
Cashew Cream Cheese
Makes about 2 cups
You won’t believe how creamy cashews can be! This plant-based cream cheese is cultured using probiotics so it has a tangy flavor, similar to plain yogurt, but with the texture of dairy cream cheese. It works really well for making vegan cream cheese frosting or blend with herbs and garlic for a tasty spread on toast.
Author: Leah Romay
- 2 cups raw cashew pieces
- ⅓ to ½ cup filtered water, plus extra for soaking
- ¼ tsp of salt
- 2 capsules live probiotics OR vegan yogurt starter (see notes)
- Instant Pot or pressure pot with yogurt setting, gasket removed from lid OR yogurt maker
- High speed blender
- Place cashews in a bowl and cover completely with filtered water. Allow to soak for 1 hour. Drain.
- Place the drained cashews in the blender. Add ⅓ cup filtered water and salt. Blend on low for ~10 seconds. Pause and scrape the sides. Repeat this process until cashews form a paste. If the paste is too thick for the blender to blend it, add a tablespoon more water at a time. The goal is to run the blender on high and have the mixture move without the air gap forming in the center. Once you have achieved this consistency, turn the blender to high and run for 3 minutes. After 3 minutes, the mixture should be extremely smooth without any clumps.
- Add the probiotics and blend for a few seconds, just to combine.
- Transfer the mixture to glass containers or mason jars that will fit inside of your Instant Pot. (I use two widemouth 16oz jars with plastic lids. Loosely tighten the plastic lid on the jar and place jars in the metal insert of the Instant Pot. Fill the insert with lukewarm water so jars are about ⅔ submerged. Remove the gasket from the Instant Pot lid and lock in place. Set valve to venting.
- Turn on the yogurt setting and set for 8-10 hours. The longer the cashews ferment, the tangier the flavor. I recommend fermenting for 8 hours, then testing to see if you like the flavor. Don’t let it go too long or it will be very sour in flavor.
- Once it is to your liking, it is complete. You can mix in garlic, herbs and spices to make a spread or dip. If you want to make cream cheese frosting for cake, refrigerate for several hours so it sets up. If you make the frosting while it is warm, the frosting will be too runny.
- Use live probiotics, which are kept in the fridge. They will come as capsules with powder inside. You can carefully pull the two halves of the capsule apart to dump out the powder. I like Megafood brand. Alternatively, you can use a vegan yogurt starter, such as this one.
- You could make this recipe without the Instant Pot by covering your jars with the lids loosely and leaving them on your counter, out of direct sun, for a day or so. However, I have not done this and the temperature is not controlled, so it may not work as well and will take longer than 8-10 hours.