Cashew cream is a smooth and creamy dairy alternative used in pasta, dips, and soups. It's easy to mix up in under 20 minutes using only a few simple ingredients!
Why this recipe works
- Quick & easy: ready in just over 15 minutes using 5 ingredients
- Easy to customize
- Can be used in pastas, soups, dressings, dips, and more!
If you're new to making cashew cream or dairy-free cooking in general, welcome! Cashew cream is a dairy-free heavy cream replacement. It's an easy way to thicken vegan pasta and soups and it's surprisingly easy to make.
This guide contains all my favorite tips and tricks for making cashew cream, serving ideas, and details on required ingredients and equipment.
- Raw unsalted cashews: Make sure to choose this exact kind because this yields the most neutral flavor. You can use whole cashews or cashew pieces, I've tested with both kinds.
- Hot water: To make this recipe quickly we use hot, almost boiling water.
- Lemon juice adds a bit of tang. Just ½ of one small lemon provides a little over 1 tablespoon lemon juice.
- Olive oil adds extra creaminess. This can be omitted to make the recipe oil-free. Any neutral oil works here.
- Salt: I use kosher salt but any kind will work. Don't skip the salt.
How to make
Step one: The first and most important step is soaking the cashews in hot water. I use my electric tea kettle to heat up the water to 200F. Cover the cashews in at least an inch of water (about 1 and ½ cups total).
Step two: Drain the water from the cashews, but make sure to reserve the water. We'll be using this liquid in the cashew cream.
Step three: Add the cashews, lemon juice, olive oil, salt, and ½ cup reserved water to the blender.
Step four: Blend until smooth and creamy, about 2 minutes. Timing may differ based on blender type. The goal is a smooth consistency similar to that of plant-based yogurts (usually thinner than regular yogurts).
Add the remaining ¼ cup to ½ cup liquid as needed to thin the cream to desired consistency. See below for tips on consistency. The cashew cream will thicken up a little as it sits and cools.
Expert tips and variations
- Nutritional yeast: If a recipe doesn't already call for nutritional yeast I like to add 1-2 tablespoons nutritional yeast to the cashew cream. This is definitely not required but it adds a nice umami, cheesy depth to the cashew cream.
- Garlic cashew cream: Add 2-3 cloves raw, roughly chopped garlic to the blender for garlic cashew cream or use ½ teaspoon garlic powder.
- Herby cashew cream: Add ½ cup basil leaves and ½ cup fresh parsley for herby cashew cream. This is very similar to my tahini pasta and makes a great pasta sauce on its own.
- Half-and-half cashew cream: For a thinner cashew cream reminiscent of half-and-half, blend in an extra ½ cup liquid after breaking down cashews in the blender.
Where to use
Pasta: Use ½ cup to 1 cup of cashew cream in pasta recipes for an alfredo-style sauce.
Try it: Spicy Creamy Vegan Pasta
Sour cream: Add 1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar to thick cashew cream for extra tang similar to sour cream.
Soup: Use ½ cup to 1 cup cashew cream in soups for a richer, thicker result. You can also use a dollop of very thick cashew cream on top of soups as a sour cream replacement.
- Cashew cream thickness: There isn't really a correct thickness for cashew cream because it has so many different uses. I usually add ¾ cup liquid for a thick tahini consistency reminiscent of heavy cream. Use just ½ cup for a thick yogurt consistency. Use 1 cup for half-and-half consistency.
- Soaking cashews: You have to soak cashews to get the smoothest cashew cream. Don't skip this step! See below for different ways to soak the cashews.
- Scrap down the sides of the blender or food processor as you go. This allows all of the bits of cashew to get blended.
- Blender: I use this blender, which is cheaper than a Vitamix but still very high quality. I used to use an inexpensive Oster brand like this one and it does work but the cashews don't get broken down as well. You can use a cheaper blender but I can't promise the cashews will be as smooth.
- Blending timing: Weaker blenders (like the Oster one above) will likely take longer to break down the cashews than stronger blenders. When in doubt, just keep blending.
Yes, you can soak cashews overnight instead of using hot water. Soak for at least 8 hours if using room temp or cold water. Drain off the excess water and use fresh water for blending.
Yes, you can use a strong food processor (this is the one that I have used for years) with a standard blade attachment. It's also helpful if the scraper attachment is used to make scraping down the sides of the food processor easier.
Roasted cashews do work but will add a roasted flavor to the cream. This makes a less neutral palette which may affect the outcome of whichever recipe you plan to use the cream in. Salted cashews can technically be used but allow less control over the final saltiness. If using salted cashews, I recommend omitting the ¼ teaspoon salt and salting to taste.
Cashew cream keeps in the fridge for up to a week. I store it in pint-sized ball jars but any closed container works.
It depends on the recipe and how the cashew cream is being used. Coconut cream has the most similar consistency but has a lightly sweet flavor. Vegan cream cheese and vegan sour cream are also good options.
Looking for more vegan dairy alternatives?
Cashews are magic! All of the below recipes use cashews to make a creamy dairy-free sauce or vegan cheese alternative. If you enjoy dairy-free cooking then you might also like this guide to tofu ricotta.
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How to Make Cashew Cream
- 1 cup raw unsalted cashews see note #1
- ½ to ¾ cups water plus water for soaking cashews
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice from ½ small lemon
- 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil can be omitted to make oil-free
- ¼ teaspoon salt adjust to taste
- Add cashews to a medium heat safe bowl. Cover with an inch of hot, almost-boiling water (I heat water to 200F in my electric kettle). Soak for 15 minutes.
- After 15 minutes, drain cashews but make sure to reserve the water.
- Add the cashews, ½ cup reserved water, lemon juice, olive oil, and salt to a strong blender (this is the one that I use).
- Blend until smooth and creamy, about 2 minutes. Scrape down sides as needed. Blend in an additional ¼ cup to ½ cup liquid to thin cashew cream to desired consistency.
- Store refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 1 week.
- Raw unsalted cashews are the best option for cashew cream. I don't recommend using roasted cashews because they add a roasted flavor to the cream.
- Consistency: ½ cup liquid + 1 cup cashews yields a relatively thick, yogurt-like consistency. ¾ cup liquid creates a heavy cream consistency and 1 cup liquid creates a half and half consistency.
- Soaking cashews: Don't skip this step. Cashews can also be soaked overnight in cool water, but I recommend using fresh water for blending if you do this.
- Food processor: You can use a strong food processor instead of a blender. I recommend using the standard blade attachment and scraper attachment.
- Yields a little over 1 cup of cashew cream.