One of the most difficult aspects of changing to a plant-based diet is giving up cheese. Many people are unable to make diet changes for this very reason. But once you know that there are many cheese replacements that are creamy and satisfying, you may never want to go back! Today I’m sharing a basic cashew cheese recipe that I’ve been using (and perfecting) for about seven years. I’ve served it during the holidays and at parties with great reviews! Honestly, I can’t believe it’s taken me this long to post this recipe. It’s a family favorite!
This basic cashew cheese is so simple to make if you own a high-speed blender and have a lot of patience. What I do when I know I’m going to need some cheese that evening is to start soaking the cashews in the morning. Just put them in water, cover loosely, and soak on the kitchen counter at least 2 hours. Then, around lunchtime, I transfer the drained cashews and the rest of the ingredients to my blender and blend until smooth, pour into cheesecloth in a small strainer, and allow to sit about 4 hours. Finally, put the cheese ball into an oven-safe dish and bake at a very low temperature until warm. The whole process may seem complicated, but there is very little action involved — just a lot of waiting!
Even though this is a basic cashew cheese recipe, I sprinkled smoked sea salt on the cheese in the photos for extra flavor. If you have a special sea salt or dried herbs you’d like to use, feel free! It’s very hard to ruin this recipe.
I like serving cashew cheese with Nut Thins, fresh bread, and apple slices. If you don’t overdo it on the bread, this cheese platter can be a very nutritious snack for the whole family!
I recommend trying the basic recipe first, just so you get the technique down and you understand the texture and flavor the cheese is supposed to be. Next, get creative! Here are some ideas you can try.
Cashew Cheese Flavor Ideas:
- Rosemary (A holiday favorite!)
- Sun-dried tomato and basil
- Chipotle (This one tastes like sausage — one of my favorites!)
- Pizza (Recipe coming soon!)
- Ethiopian (berbere, turmeric, garlic)
- 1½ cups raw cashews
- ¼ cup filtered water, plus more if needed
- 2 T. tahini, stirred
- 1 T. lemon juice
- ½ tsp. garlic powder
- ¼ tsp. onion powder
- ¾ tsp. sea salt, plus more to taste
- Optional: dried herbs, smoked paprika, sea salt for topping
- Place cashews in a bowl, cover with water, and allow to soak at least 2 hours or overnight.
- Drain cashews and add to a high-speed blender along with the rest of the ingredients (minus optional topping ingredients).
- Blend on high, scraping down the sides as necessary, until completely smooth. If the mixture does not blend well, try adding one Tablespoon of water at a time and continuing, keeping in mind that less water is better in the long run. Taste for seasoning.
- Place a small strainer over a mixing bowl and line the strainer with cheese cloth that is doubled or tripled to prevent the cheese from oozing through the mesh (see photos). Pour the cheese into the cheese cloth and gently fold the excess cloth over it to protect it. Allow the cheese to sit on the kitchen counter 4-5 hours to let any excess water drip into the bowl. (If you allow it to dry out too much, the cheese will dry into the cheese cloth, making a mess when transferring to a dish. It will still taste good, but won't be very pretty.)
- Preheat oven* to 190 degrees (or the lowest setting). Gently unwrap the top of the cheese ball, lift it out of the strainer, and flip it out into an oven-safe dish. Top the cheese ball with desired herbs, salt, etc.
- Bake until warmed and dry on the outside, 30-60 mins. It's OK if it cracks a little.
- Serve warm or cold (I prefer warm) with apple slices, crackers, bread, etc. Enjoy!
The leftovers should keep for about 4 days loosely covered in the fridge. I've found that the cheese is thicker and more slice-able the next day, which is great if you're planning on putting it on a sandwich.
If you're not sure where to buy cheese cloth, I've been able to find it at most grocery stores in the "kitchen essentials" section. I've also seen it in cooking stores, but a grocery store is your best bet.
Have fun trying this basic cashew cheese and playing around with flavors. Let me know if you try something you love!