Cashew cream is a versatile substitute for dairy cream, and it’s easy to make. You can use it for coffee creamer, with desserts, or for savory sauces. Almost every recipe I’ve found says to presoak the cashews for 2–4 hours before blending. I suspected that is a carryover from weaker blenders and food processors, and a Vitamix should be able to make a perfectly smooth cream from unsoaked cashews. So, I decided to make a comparison with a blind taste test.
This recipe is for a relatively thick cream. You can always thin it out if you like.
1 cup raw cashews (129g* before soaking)
1/2 cup water (118g), plus soaking water
Soak 4 hrs room temp, then drain and rinse (drained cashews after soak are 166g).
1 cup raw cashews (129g)
2/3 cup water (155g; accounts for water absorbed during soaking in the presoaked version)
I blended the presoaked for 60 seconds, and the unsoaked for 60 seconds and 90 seconds. The difference between 60 seconds and 90 seconds blend time was almost imperceptible, but to be on the safe side, I recommend 90 seconds for unsoaked. It’s possible that the only difference is that it thickens with longer blending (due to it heating up).
There is no detectable difference in smoothness between the presoaked and unsoaked cashews. Both are perfectly creamy with no grittiness.
However, there is a subtle difference in flavor. The soaked version has a slightly milder flavor. Cashews already have a mild flavor, but there was a noticeable difference. The unsoaked version has more cashew flavor and just a touch of astringency on the tongue.
My recommendation is to soak if you will use the cream in something where you want the most neutral flavor possible—desserts, for example. If you’re making a savory sauce with other strong flavors, I doubt that soaking would make a difference. Also, I used the onsoaked one in iced coffee, and it was perfectly good.
The soaked version came out slightly thicker. However, after a day in the fridge, they were the same thickness.
The consistency of the ratio above is about the thickness of yogurt. For a pourable cream similar to dairy cream, increase the water to 3/4 cup for 1 cup soaked cashews, or 7/8 cup for 1 cup unsoaked cashews. (That’s what I did for the photo at the top.) You can also dilute further to make cashew milk (add about 3 cups water).
One other minor difference between the two batches was their blending behavior. The soaked cashews were almost immediately a relatively thick blend, whereas the unsoaked batch started out thin before thickening. This meant that the unsoaked batch splashed up the walls of the container more. It’s very minor, but a slight advantage of presoaking.
Where to get cashews?
I usually get cashews at Trader Joe’s because they have decent quality and good prices. I like to pay the extra dollar for whole cashews because I think they stay fresher than the pieces, but pieces are fine too.
Uses for Cashew Cream
- add to coffee or tea
- dilute to make cashew milk
- sweeten and pour over berries or dessert
- add to frozen fruit and blend to shift a sorbet to more of an ice cream
- combine with lemon juice and/or apple cider vinegar to make vegan sour cream
- blend with lemon juice, red pepper, nutritional yeast, and onion powder to make a pseudo cheese sauce
- add to soups or smoothies
Freeze what you won’t use within ~4 days. (I freeze it in an ice cube tray, then transfer to another freezer container.)
*I measured to the nearest gram because I wanted the ratios to be consistent for my comparison, but when normally making this, 10-gram precision is plenty. ↑