Vitamix Cashew Cream: Does presoaking make a difference?

Vitamix cashew cream with iced coffeeCashew 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.

Presoaked version
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).

Unsoaked version
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).

Comparison

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.

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.


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Comments

Vitamix Cashew Cream: Does presoaking make a difference? — 11 Comments

  1. Soaking nuts breaks down phytic acid. When eating nuts that haven’t been soaked, the Phytic acid binds the minerals in the gastrointestinal tract and the minerals are not absorbed by the intestines. Having too many bound minerals can lead to mineral deficiencies. So, if you use a lot of home made nut milk, it’s best to soak the nuts first for this reason.

    • I came across these claims when I first started blogging, since they were mentioned on many Vitamix blogs. I investigated and found very little evidence to support them.

      As far as I can tell, phytates are in all plants, and are especially concentrated in seeds/grains/nuts. The open questions that I have not seen compelling evidence to answer are:

      1. Should phytic acid really be a nutritional concern in a varied diet? (The only studies that I’ve seen have to do with severely impoverished/malnourished people in the developing world and livestock that eat exclusively grain. There are also studies that describe potential health benefits of phytic acid.)
      2. How much phytic acid is too much?
      3. How much phytic acid is in these nuts?
      4. How much phytic acid does soaking actually get rid of?

      I found that these concerns mostly trace back to the Weston Price Foundation and Sally Fallon’s Nourishing Traditions. I read Nourishing Traditions, and it does not have rigorous references to answer these questions. It relies on vague references to indigenous cultures’ food preparation techniques. I don’t think that the indigenous methods are always necessarily best. I don’t mean to imply that learning from indigenous practices has no value, but I don’t think it makes sense to apply them as a blanket technique to all nuts. So, my problem is that a) there aren’t quantitative measures of the phytates in the nuts in question, and b) the references to indigenous practices are too vague to be broadly compelling.

      It is possible that soaking nuts significantly reduces phytic acid, but it is also possible that it doesn’t, and further possible that when eating a varied diet phytic acid is not something you need to worry about. However, I don’t think you’ll do harm by soaking nuts (as long as you don’t leave them out so long that they start to get moldy), so if it makes you feel better, go for it!

  2. Adam, I was wondering…sounds like you didn’t “strain” this through a nut bag or anything, is that correct? Just used after blending??

    Thanks!

  3. I was wondering if you have tried making coffee “ice cream”using coffee, cashews, maple syrup – similar to your very delicious pecan maple “ice cream”?

    • I have not tried making coffee ice cream. However, I’m confident that you could make a good one. As I wrote about on my chocolate orange vegan ice cream recipe, cashews make a great neutral base. As a starting point, I would follow that recipe, but sub in double strength coffee for the water, and leave out the chocolate and orange. (A little chocolate couldn’t hurt though. 🙂 )

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