I believe I can speak for many who lean towards a vegan lifestyle when I say that the hardest food to let got of is cheese.
Creamy, crumbly, tangy, sweet, stringy, peppery, barny, buttery, nutty cheese – whatever shape or form, come to papa!
Matters are further complicated by the fact that I grew up in Germany with France and Holland as direct neighbors. It’s hard not to fall in love with artisan cheese when every farmers market, grocery store and deli offers hundreds of different (often handmade) varieties!
So, with culture, history, nostalgia and pure cheese greed working against me, I am always on the look out for the perfect (i.e. healthier, humane and ethical) vegan cheese that tastes just like the real deal.
Have I found vegan cheese that truly rivals dairy cheese?
Hard cheese – not yet. Cream Cheese – I may have hit the jackpot with this recipe for Vegan Cultured Cashew Cream Cheese, as you will see in a minute!
I have made cashew cream cheese before like most people make it: Soak and process cashews, then add lemon juice. It’s a great way to make cashew cream cheese, especially if you’re pressed for time but nothing beats the tangy flavor you achieve with culturing your cashew cream mix.
First of all, the good news: The process of making cultured cream cheese is ridiculously easy.
For months, I have had plans to culture my own cream cheese but I was too worried I would mess it up and ruin a batch of cashews and valuable cultures but as it turns out, I worried for no reason.
There is very little that can go wrong – the only mishap I had was adding too little culture which was an easy fix!
The other issue I came across was finding quality cheese cultures. Not necessary!
You can use probiotic powder (from capsules if nothing else) that you find in the refrigerator section of your local health food store. It really is that easy!
Also, you can see the result of making vegan cream cheese with a rinky dinky food processor: Ideally, the cream cheese is completely smooth but worst case scenario is what you see in these images which isn’t really all that bad. The cheese is still creamy and smooth, just not as smooth as it could be. It won’t change the flavor, just the appearance.
In other words, you have no more excuses not to try this lovely recipe which I first picked up over at Rouxbe where some of the finest vegan chefs are at work!
- 2¼ cups raw cashews
- 1½ teaspoon powdered probiotic (see notes)
- ¼ to ½ cup water
- 2 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
- 2 tablespoon nutritional yeast
- ½ shallot, minced
- fresh chives, chopped
- salt, pepper, to taste
- optional: 1 clove garlic, minced
- Place the cashews into a bowl and cover with water. Let soak for a few hours, or overnight.
- Drain cashews and place in a food processor (preferably a high-powered model) together with the probiotic powder and just enough water to blend until the cashew mix is smooth and creamy. Add water gradually and only when you notice that the food processor “runs dry” as you don’t want a watery consistency. Less is more!
- Transfer your cashew mix to a bowl and cover with a towel. Place the bowl on your kitchen counter and let sit at room temperature for 12 to 18 hours to allow to culture.
- If you’re using your cashew cream cheese for something sweet, simply add the lemon juice (depending on how tangy you’d like it to be). To make savory cashew cream cheese, add the remaining ingredients and stir to combine.
A tip from our Rouxbe chefs:
Use probiotic capsules, preferably capsules from a jar that contains 1 billion per capsule and add about three capsules per 1 cup of cashew cheese. Your cashew "cheese" will be more tangy the higher the billion per capsule and the quicker your cashew "cheese" will culture.