Cashew cheese is a vegan alternative to dairy-based cheese. It is made from blended cashews and a variety of spices and flavorings. Like dairy cheese, cashew cheese is spreadable and can be sliced and eaten in the same way as regular cheese. The cheese can either be infused with yeast and allowed to rise, or it can be baked to produce a firmer cheese.
People who follow a vegan diet do not eat or use any products made from or by animals. Whereas most vegetarians consume dairy or honey, vegans do not. Milk, honey, eggs, and anything made from gelatin, such as marshmallows, are all off-limits for a vegan. Many vegans turn to non-animal products that mimic the taste and flavor of the original food.
A basic recipe for cashew cheese includes cashews, water, and sea salt. The cashews are soaked in lightly salted water overnight, for about eight hours. They are then drained and blended with a little of the soaking water in a food processor. The mixture is placed in cheesecloth and hung, allowing it to drain excess water, for a few hours.
After draining, the cashew cheese is refrigerated for several hours or overnight. After chilling, the cheese should be firm. It is then baked for up to two hours to achieve the desired consistency. Many top the cashew cheese with salt, pepper, garlic salt or a variety of herbs to enhance the cheese’s flavor. After baking, the cheese can be sliced or served as any other cheese.
Cashew cheese will have a dough-like look and feel after baking. Some vegan chefs add yeast to the cheese in lieu of baking, allowing the cashew mixture to rise like bread before serving. This produces a different texture from baked cashew cheese, and choosing either method depends on personal taste and texture preferences.
Some use cashew cheese as a sort of party spread rather than as a true cheese. It can be used top bread or crackers, like regular cheese, or it can be served as a spread for vegetables. If more flavor is desired for the cheese, it can be topped with lemon juice or olive oil, or a little white wine can be added to the cashew mixture. Various zests, such as orange or lemon zest, can be added to the mixture prior to baking as well.