I know my vegetarian/vegan readers saw this title and got really excited, while everyone said to themselves “cashew cheese…what on Earth?!?”
If you’ve never heard of cashew cheese, let me assure you it’s delicious. Afterall, this is a self appointed cheese connoisseur here. I wouldn’t lie to you! No, it doesn’t taste exactly like cheese, since it’s made with cashews and all, but it lends the same rich, complex quality and creamy texture.
A basic recipe for cashew cheese calls for soaking cashews until soft, then blending them with a few other flavoring ingredients like nutritional yeast, mustard, garlic and spices. It’s a much tastier and less processed option than soy cheese for anyone who doesn’t eat dairy.
I saw a cashew plant for the first time when we went to Costa Rica. The nut grows from the bottom of a cashew apple, the fruit of the cashew tree. In the shell, it looks like a green kidney or some sort of weird appendage. Very odd looking I must say!
Here’s a look at the health benefits of cashews:
With a days worth of copper in one ounce, cashews are one of the richest sources of this essential mineral. Copper is a component of many enzymes, including antioxidant enzyme superoxide dismutase. Inadequate copper intake has been associated with arthritis, colon cancer, osteoporosis, nerve damage and elevated LDL cholesterol.
Cashews are also a rich source of magnesium with 30% your daily needs in a quarter cup serving. Magnesium is often referred to as the relaxation mineral, a term I love. Most medical professionals are aware of this effect as it’s used to relax an irregular heart beat or bowel muscles before a colonoscopy. Regular and adequate magnesium consumption has been linked to a lower risk of many diseases including high blood pressure, diabetes, osteoporosis and even insomnia.
After the low fat diet craze of the nineties, many people are still afraid to eat nuts due to their high fat content. Although sitting down to an entire jar of cashews certainly isn’t helpful, studies indicate a lower risk of obesity for people who eat nuts at least twice a week. And because cashews have a sweeter flavor than other nuts, I find they are especially helpful for anyone battling a sweet tooth. Not sure what a serving is? Lay the nuts out flat on the palm of your hand and it will be roughly equivalent to a serving.
It’s easy to include cashews as a snack, tossed into an Asian slaw or mixed into a veggie stir fry with brown rice to round out the meal. But cashew cheese is now my favorite way to enjoy cashews. The rich, creamy blend can be incorporated into so many dishes! If you tried my dairy free macaroni and cheese you know how to incorporate them into a rich vegan sauce. Here’s some of my other favorite cashew cheese recipes.
Vegan Stacked Enchilada Pie
Mostly Veggie Baked Macaroni
Ultimate Fully Loaded Vegan Nachos
Raw Beet Lasagna with Cashew Cheese and Pesto
Black Bean Tacos with Spicy Cashew Cheese
Vegan Caprese Sandwiches with Cashew Cheese
- 1 tablespoons coconut oil
- 2 teaspoons mined fresh ginger
- 3 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 jalapeno, seeded and minced
- 1¾ teaspoons yellow or black mustard seeds
- ¾ teaspoon crushed red chili flakes
- 1 teaspoon tumeric
- ½ teaspoon Garam Masala
- Scant teaspoon salt
- 3 lbs Yukon gold potatoes, cut into ¾-inch thick wedges or sticks
- Cashew Cheese Sauce:
- 2 tablespoons coconut oil
- 1 small onion, diced
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 jalapeno, seeded and diced
- ½ teaspoon cumin
- ½ teaspoon tumeric
- 1 medium Yukon gold potato, peeled and diced
- 1 cup cashews, soaked 2 hours in water and drained
- ½ cup water plus more to thin sauce
- ½ cup unsweetened almond milk, plus 2-4 tablespoons
- 2 tablespoons nutritional yeast
- ⅓ cup chopped cilantro
- Lime wedges
- First preheat oven to 400 degrees F for the potatoes.
- In a small skillet, heat coconut oil on medium-high heat. Add ginger, garlic and jalapeno. Saute until tender, about 4 minutes. Add mustard seeds and chilies and cook until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Add tumeric, garam masala and salt. Cook, stirring constantly, for another minute.
- Place potatoes on a large baking sheet. Pour spice mixture over the potatoes and toss to coat evenly. Place in the oven and bake until tender and browned, tossing every 10 minutes, for a total of about 40 minutes.
- While the potatoes are cooking, prepare the cheese sauce. Heat coconut oil on medium heat. Add onion, garlic and jalapeno. Cook until tender, but not browned, about 4 minutes. Add cumin and tumeric, stir, and cook 1 minute. Add potato and cashews and stir to combine. Cook until cashews are lightly toasted, about 4 minutes. Add water and almond milk, bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer 10 minutes until potato is tender.
- Let cool for a few minutes, then transfer cashew mixture to a food processor or blender. Blend until pureed. Add 2-4 tablespoons almond milk to thin to desired consistency. Taste and season with salt and black pepper to taste.
- Serve potatoes topped with cashew cheese sauce and garnished with cilantro and lime wedges.