Every curious cook will love to learn how-to make cashew cheese. It takes a bit of planning and patience, but the end results are deliciously rewarding. My dry baked cashew cheese has a velvet center and a crisp, fluffy outer layer.
Cashew cheese is 100% dairy free, made from raw soaked nuts. Usually cashews – but also brazil nuts, macadamia nuts and more. One of my favorite things about cashew cheese is that once you learn the basic recipe and process you can get incredibly creative with the flavors and even textures of the cheese.
Trend Alert! Cashew cheese has become very trendy over the past few years. Many food bloggers and chefs are embracing nut cheeses. I first learned about nut cheese when dining at Pure Food and Wine in NYC. They had a nut cheese sampler that was simply out of this world. The real cashew cheese gurus out there are actually able to mature the nut cheese so that it takes on a tangy, cheese-like flavor. Amazing. But for our recipe, we won’t be ‘maturing’ the cheese. But the flavor is still incredibly impressive and sophisticated. Give it a try with my Cashew Cheese How-to, with plenty of photos!..
Served Warm or Cold. You can serve this cheese warm and crisp-crusted straight out of the oven – or you can chill it in the fridge for a few hours. If you chill it you will loose a bit of that fluffy outer crust, but the cheese will harden a bit more than the warm super-velvety version. I loved it both ways, it just depends on your mood and your tastes.
Cashew Cheese How-to
note: this is for the basic, unflavored recipe. You can add whatever additional herbs, spices and add-in ingredients you like once you get familiar with the process..
Tools You’ll need:
mesh cheesecloth – about 15″ x 15″ to wrap/hang cheese (double lined if using the waffle-mesh and single lined if using a tighter weaved cheesecloth like I used.)
a large bowl or pitcher for hanging your cheesecloth
a rod (or long wooden spoon) to hang cheesecloth
a food processor
an oven-safe baking/serving dish (temp will only reach 250 degrees max)
Ingredients (basic recipe):
vegan, makes one large round (about 1 2/3 cups cheese)
2 cups raw cashews, soaked in salted water for at least 8 hours
1/2 cup salted soaking water (reserved for recipe)
1 tsp sea salt (or an herbed salt)
1-2 Tbsp grape seed or olive oil (optional)
optional: a few Tbsps lemon juice (brightens the flavor)
optional: garlic powder, additional herbs/spices for rubbing on top before baking
1. Soak your cashews in salted water overnight or at least 8 hours. I soak mine on the counter top – covered.
2. Drain your cashews – but reserve about 1/2 cup of water, maybe more.
3. Add your cashews, salt, optional oil and 1/2 cup salted soaking water to a food processor. Blend until as smooth and velvety as you can possibly get them. You want the consistency to be that or a thick ricotta cheese. If you need to add more water – do so. But don’t add too much and get a soggy mixture. (more water, more draining time)
**Stop and Taste Your Food: do a taste test here and add more salt if needed – but remember the saltiness will condense as the cheese dries out. So the taste test should taste slightly under-salted – but still flavorful**
4. Set up your cheesecloth and pour the mixture into the center of your cloth.
5. Wrap the cheese mixture in a tight bundle and tie with a rubber band or string.
6. Cut two holes in the top end of the bundle so that you can suspend the bundle over your deep bowl/bucket/pitcher. See photo below:
7. Allow your cheese to “drain” at room temperature for 2-4 hours. Some cheese mixtures will drain a bit of liquid off and some will simply dry out and the water will soak into the cloth. Today my cheesecloth was super dry and no actual water collected in my pitcher – but the cheese cloth soaked up a good amount of moisture.
8. Next, place you cheese (still in the bundle) in the fridge. You can either leave it suspended over the bucket, or your can wrap it in an extra layer of cloth and place in a bowl in the fridge. Either way works. Let chill overnight or at least a few hours. (This chilling step is optional, but I find it allows the cheese to ‘dry out’ naturally just a tad more.)
9. Remove the cheese from the cloth! It should be in a nice firm ball now. Some of the moist cheese shell may stick to the cloth – that’s OK. Just be gentle removing the cheese.
10. Plop it into an oven-safe serving cheese dish. Sprinkle a bit of herbed salt and pepper on the top of it. I added a dash of garlic powder for color, texture and flavor.
11. Place in a 200-250 degree oven to bake for 45 minutes-2 hours. If doing 2 hours be sure to have your oven turned to 200 degrees or even a bit lower. This process will slow-bake the cheese, drying it out without “melting” or burning it. I baked my cheese at about 215 degrees for 90 minutes.
12. Remove cheese and allow to cool a few minutes before serving. Or you can allow to cool in fridge for at least an hour, or overnight for a firm cheese with a less crisp crust.
Check out the goods..
Other Varieties of Cashew Cheese: