When I went vegan, I figured that cream cheese was just gonna be one of those things I lived without. I tried a couple of store brands, including Tofutti (umm, tastes like tofu to me), and Daiya (so chalky I can’t even get it down!), and Trader Joe’s Brand (I can’t remember why I hated that one, so I guess I blocked it from my memory). In short, commercial vegan cream cheese substitutes just do not do it for me. Nor did blending cashews with lemon juice. I mean, that tasted good, but it didn’t have that hip tang. I gave up for a while. Years, actually. I put hummus on my bagels and soyrizo in my jalapeno poppers. Then one day, I discovered that you can make easy cultured cashew cream cheese with nothing but nondairy yogurt and cashews. WTF? Was it seriously that easy this entire time?
Yes. Yes it was. It sure freaking was. I have wasted no time playing catch-up on all of the cream cheese I missed out on eating during those dark days. This stuff is so superior to anything else I’ve tried. It’s sublime. Not only is it delicious vegan cream cheese… it just IS cream cheese. It takes exactly the same as the cow-derived variety, with none of the cruelty or digestive sadness. One of my good friends eats dairy foods. I fed him this stuff and he was even more excited than I am. He asked me for the recipe and now slathers it on his bagels too. I may not have turned him vegan yet, but I’m pretty sure there’s one more happy cow out there thanks to this amazing vegan cultured cashew cream cheese.
I’m a little intimidated by fermented foods. I took a few stabs at making rejuvelac for the Artisan Vegan Cheese recipes, and it didn’t work so well for me. Beyond that, the process made me incredibly nervous. So take it from someone who is far from a whiz with culturing and fermenting things: this cashew cream cheese is extremely easy to make. And unlike rejuvelac, you will already know what the end product is supposed to smell and taste like! You know what yogurt is like, and you probably know what dairy cream cheese is like. You’ll be fine! If you’re nervous, start with a half batch (assuming your blender is small enough that it can blend that volume of ingredients smoothly).
Here is the super simple recipe! (Pictured on homemade bagels). Finally a vegan cream cheese that doesn’t taste weird or have a bunch of funky ingredients. Just cashew cream and a little patience :).
Simple Cultured Cashew Cream Cheese
- 2 cups raw cashews soaked overnight in filtered water (raw macadamia nuts also work - but will take a lot longer to blend)
- 2 tbsp plain, unsweetened non-dairy yogurt (see notes)
- 1/2 tsp sea salt (plus more to taste)
- filtered water as needed to blend
- Prepare a clean and dry glass or other nonreactive container. I use a Pyrex container. It may not be strictly required, but it's best to sterilize all of your equipment with boiling water before getting started.
- Drain the liquid off of the soaked cashews. Add them to a blender or food processor and blend until completely smooth. If you aren't used a high-powered blender, it will take several minutes for the cashews to break down and release oils in order to become a smooth mixture. Stop to scrape down the sides as needed; you can also add filtered water a tablespoon at a time if you're having trouble blending.
- Note: if your blender has warmed the mixture very much, it's best to take a break now and wait for it to cool down (we don't want to kill the yogurt cultures with heat). Then, add the yogurt and salt and pulse to combine.
- Transfer to the clean container and cover. Let sit out at room temperature for 24 hours. Use a clean utensil to taste the mixture, and add more sea salt to taste; let it culture for another 12-24 hours if you want a stronger tang.
- Store in the refrigerator for up to 1 weeks. (Note: length of storage time may depend on the culturing conditions and brand of yogurt used).
- (Optional step) This recipe makes cultured cashew cream cheese with a texture more like "whipped" dairy cream cheese. For a firmer texture like block cream cheese, press out the liquid using cheesecloth.
Recipe source: Miyoko Schinner via Your Vegan Mom
The cultured cashew cream cheese won’t actually culture at all: The ambient temperature in your kitchen may be too cool. Try moving the mixture to a warmer location, or adding a bit more yogurt.
The cashews won’t get smooth: You really do need to soak them overnight first, and use RAW cashews. And have patience: it can seem like all they’re doing for 5 minutes is getting grainy, but keep blending and they will eventually start to release their oils and get smooth. It’s basically the same chemistry as making nut butter.
The mixture doesn’t taste like anything, not even yogurt. More salt! This definitely needs plenty of salt to bring out the flavor.
I want to try this! When is the yogurt added?
What even is this alchemy. You’re right. It just IS cream cheese. My 19yo daughter and I are kind of in awe as we eat it.
And apparently this recipe is even more forgiving than you realize. We picked up plain coconut milk yogurt to use, but it turns out that “plain” doesn’t necessarily mean “unsweetened.” I tasted the yogurt only after I added some to the puréed cashews and found out it had sugar in it. (Seriously, what even is up with that. I hadn’t bothered to check the ingredients because it said PLAIN. In what world does plain yogurt, dairy or not, have sugar added to it? I’m so confused.) By that point I was like, whatever, we’ll just see what happens…and it turned out fine. More than fine. It’s amazing. Thank you!
Next stop: cheesecake.
Would sauerkraut juice work instead of yogurt in this recipe?
Janine Phillpot says
Wondering if anyone has tried freezing the end result?
freezes beautifully!! No problems at all. I freeze half of the batch regularly, so I don’t have to worry about it going ‘off’ in the fridge if I can’t get through it all at once.
Dennis A Hubert says
the first time i made it, it didn’t ferment. I think the culture i used was too old. this time, it came out great, although there was a layer of moldy crust which i scraped off (i think i ate some too… it tasted fine) and it’s amazing! i confess i added a teaspoon of liquid smoke and a little onion powder. sooooooo good!
Megan H says
Wow! It is so good and easy! I’ve been terrified of fermenting anything, since I tried to make a Mexican fermented rice drink, which grew a spectacular mold layer!.But I miss cream cheese, so I gave this a try. I have a yogurt maker, so I steamed the little jars in my Instant Pot. I put the cashew cream cheese & yogurt into the pots and put them into the yogurt maker for 14 hours. It was perfect. There was a slight hard layer on top that I scraped off, but the rest was lovely and ‘whipped’ looking. It came out a perfect texture. Thank you so much for this wonderful recipe!
Surly Mama says
Excellent straightforward recipe with great results. I used PB8 capsules because I didn’t have any yogurt on hand, and it came out fantastic.
I’ve made this twice and it turned out great! I made a half batch and used a magic bullet. It didn’t get the cashews smooth, but broke them down enough to allow fermentation. Then I use a stick blender to do the final blending and it’s beautifully creamy. I do it this way so that I can eat any fermented cream left on the blender stick, and it doesn’t go to waste as it would pre-ferment. The first time I used my instant pot mini on yogurt setting. This time I used my dehydrator on 110F. Both worked equally well and took 16 hours to get tangy. The dehydrator has a bit more space if I want to do a few batches next time.