Fermented Cashew Cheese is a quick and easy way to enhance veggie dips, vegan mac & cheese, veggie sushi rolls, cheese boards, and so much more. Using just cashews and some probiotic powder you can create a tangy, creamy, versatile ‘cheez’ that rivals anything store bought.
I learned this recipe from a friend of mine about a decade ago, and since then it’s been a relatively common staple in my kitchen. It’s easy, it’s made using some basic ingredients that you probably have on hand already, and yet this simple recipe is full of delicious surprises for you!
Why Make your own Cashew Cheese?
There are SO many great versions of vegan cheese on the market now – when I became a vegetarian 25 years ago in the midwest suburbs there was hardly anything in the way of meat or cheese analogs (ie: faux meat and cheese). There are so many options currently, and I definitley buy my fair share of Miyoko’s, Chao, Kite Hill, and Daiya. Yet still, sometimes, it’s just nice to have homemade. This homemade cheese is also less expensive than packaged brands, especially if you can find raw cashews in bulk.
Cashews are high in protein and a great source of minerals like manganese, magnesium, copper, phosphorus, and more. There are about 7 grams of protein per quarter cup (40 grams). Yes, they are high in fat (as are all nuts and seeds), and yet we know now that good fats (from nuts, seeds, fruits, healthy oils, and more) are actually good for us. Also, fatty foods like nuts make our meals really satisfying: fat makes our foods creamy, rich, and decadent, and that’s exactly what this homemade vegan cheese is.
How to Use Cashew Cheese
This finished cashew cheese can be used in a lot of different ways. It’s great plain, but using some of the variations here make it recipe-specific. Note that these ingredients will be added AFTER the cheese has fermented.
1. Italian-style Cheese. Mix in 1 teaspoon Italian herbs blend (or 1 teaspoon dried basil) to make a cashew ricotta for lasagna, manicotti, or stuffed shells. Alternative: stir in 2-3 Tablespoons prepared pesto for a creamy pesto cheese.
2. Creamy Sushi Cheese. Instead of using mayo to make your sushi creamy, use this! Once cheese has fermented, stir in 1 Tablespoon toasted sesame oil and 1 teaspoon soy sauce and use for veggie sushi rolls: layer nori seaweed sheets with sushi rice, a generous spread of cashew cheese, and any veggies you like.
3. As Herby Veggie Dip. Toss in 2-3 sun-dried tomatoes to final blending along with 1-2 teaspoons herb seasoning (like an Italian Blend, Herbamere or Mrs. Dash) for a rich, creamy dip for cucumbers, carrots, or on a cheese board.
4. Swirled into Macaroni & Cheese: My homemade mac and cheese uses blended cashews as a base (along with ‘kraut, sweet potatoes, and more). That recipe becomes next level with the tangy goodness of fermented cheeze.
5. Extra Cheezy Cheese Dip: Stir in 2 Tablespoons of nutritional yeast and 1/2 teaspoon each prepared mustard and dried turmeric powder for a super orange-cheesy dip for crackers or veggies.
How to Make Fermented Cashew Cheese
The most important thing to note here is that this recipes requires two ‘wait’ times: one for soaking (1 hour up to overnight, recommended for the creamiest), and then another round of waiting for the fermentation (8 hours). These are hands-off requirements, yet you do need to plan accordingly for the process. The hands-on prep time is only about 10-20 minutes.
Fermented Cashew Cheese Recipes
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 Tablespoon lemon juice
- First step: Add cashews to a bowl or jar. Cover fully with water (amount will depend on what type of bowl/jar you choose). Let cashews soak for minimum 1 hour, up to overnight. If soaking overnight, keep in the refrigerator.
- After soaking time, drain and rinse the cashews (pro tip: always discard the soak water from any soaked nut, bean, or grain).
- Add soaked cashews to your food processor with 2 Tablespoons fresh water. Blend until totally smooth, adding water 1 Tablespoon at a time to ensure it’s very smooth without being too watery – the goal is the texture of a thick peanut butter.
- Once fully blended, scrape into a large bowl. Open the probiotic capsule and pour out probiotic powder into cashews (throw away the casing). Stir to combine. Important Note: the fermenting mixture is only cashews, water, and the probiotics – do not add any other ingredients at this time.
- Spread the mixture around the sides of the bowl (see picture below) to ensure maximum surface area to allow the cultures to get funky. Wrap bowl in a clean kitchen towel and let rest on the counter (room temperature) overnight, or up to 8 hours.
- After 8 hours, the cashew mixture should smell nutty, fresh, and yeasty (like fresh bread) and should taste a bit tangy. If it’s tangy enough, it’s done! If you think it could be a bit more tangy, let rest for another few hours.
- Second Step: Once the mixture is fermented to your liking, add finishing ingredients (salt and lemon juice). It’s ready to enjoy this way, yet if you want to take it to the next level, stir or blend in any of the following ingredients (or see notes above for recipe ideas). Note that blending again will create a smoother mixture, but you can also chop the ingredients and just keep it chunky, avoiding the need to wash the food processor again.
Delicious mix-ins for your Cashew Cheese:
- 2-3 sun-dried tomatoes. I like to soak my sun-dried tomatoes before using. If using oil-packed tomatoes, no need to soak.
- 1-2 teaspoons of herbs or spices (dried basil, oregano, turmeric powder, and/or dried garlic)
- 1/2 teaspoon black pepper or chili pepper for a spicy cheese
- 1 clove fresh minced garlic or 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1/2 cup chopped fresh herbs: cilantro, dill, parsley, and/or fresh basil.
- 1/4 cup chopped raisins, dates, or cranberries for a sweet cheese for a cheese board or bread.
A note about probiotics:
Udo’s Choice Super 8 is my probiotic supplement of choice: it’s what I use as a dietary supplement, and it’s what I use my make my homemade yogurt extra tangy. It has a really high Lactobacillus acidophilus content (about 45%), which makes it good for fermentation. It’s also a really good support for ladies – a high acidophilus content can improve digestive and vaginal health (specifically the proper yeast balance). All other probiotics are good for you too, but for over a decade this one has been my favorite. Use whatever type of probiotics you have, just ensure you can take apart the capsules, as you can see below.