Many people have heard that becoming a vegan is healthy and ‘cool’. However, the most common complaint to changing over was, “How do I give up dairy? My family loves sour cream, cheese cakes, and creamy things made of dairy. With all the talk of genetically modified foods like soybeans, we don’t want to use soy products. What can I use?” At Kathleen’s Cooking and Nutrition Centre in Toronto we made creams from nuts. It’s totally easy and versatile.
The tree nut of choice for nice creamy products is cashew. Cashews have Iron, zinc, magnesium and amino acids, so they are nutritious. Cashews are also a source of tryptophan, so having something made with cashews at your evening meal may help you sleep better. When raw cashews are used they have very little taste of their own so they can duplicate almost all kinds of creams, cheeses, and even whipped toppings.
The recipes for cashew creams and cheeses are almost the same. Some contain added sea salt, lemon juice, maple syrup, vanilla extract, or coconut oil, but basically it’s a simple procedure. Rinse, then soak them from an hour to overnight in pure water, drain, rinse, and blend with liquid until smooth. The more liquid you add when blending the more liquid the end product will be.
Select whole, unbroken, raw cashews. Then soak them. Generally the basic rule is to soak them with at least 2-3 times the amount of water, but you can use less because they are not going to absorb water like beans and legumes do. Drain them and rinse again. Then add the desired amount of liquid and additions and blend until smooth.
Start with this basic recipe and alter it with ingredients to obtain the ‘cream’ texture of your choice. Once you have mastered the basic recipe you can go on to make cheeses like cream cheese or even whipped topping.
Vegan Nut Cream
2 cups raw cashews
Fresh water to cover
3 Cups fresh water
Pinch of sea salt
Rinse and drain the cashews. Put them in a bowl and add water to cover them with an additional inch of water at the top. Cover and soak for at least a half hour but preferably overnight in the refrigerator. Remove them from the soaking water, rinse and drain. (You might want to use the soaking water to water plants.)
Place the drained, soaked cashews in a blender with the salt and 1 ½ Cups of water and blend. Gradually add remaining water while blending to obtain the desired consistency.
Put in a container with a lid and refrigerate for up to a week or more. Use this cashew cream in recipes calling for sour cream (you might want to add a bit of lemon juice when blending if using it this way.), cream cheese, or just add a dollop to burritos and tacos, or baked potatoes.
You can add chives, garlic, rosemary, basil, or any kind of seasoning to make a dip for fresh veggies that children and adults love. Add a tablespoon of maple syrup when blending to use the cashew cream on fresh fruit or fruit pies and other desserts.
Making and using cashew cream to replace dairy products can be your first step toward a more vegan lifestyle.