It would be fair to say I’ve become rather obsessed with making my own cashew cheese. In my kitchen it seems I have a never ending conveyor belt of cashews simultaneously soaking, blending and being packaged up into little bundles to drain. Somehow there never seems to be much cashew cheese in my fridge though – I wonder where it all goes?!
Having been a cheese aficionado in my former, non-vegan days, I am always on the look out for something creamy to fill the cheese shaped hole in my heart. Making your own cashew cheese is really easy, and requires only a few ingredients. It’s all whole foods too, so it’s totally good for you. Not in a low fat way or anything – just in that it isn’t full of weird additives or setting agents etc (which I’m not totally against, in the right time and place) so it can be eaten as an everyday food without a second thought. Thank goodness really at the rate I get through the stuff!
I wanted to make a cheese recipe that anyone could try their hand at so all the ingredients are easy to find in your local shop. The only ingredients are cashews, garlic, chives, lemon juice and salt and pepper. It does requite a little bit of forward planning as the cashews need to be soaked for around 8 hours so they’re really soft. I usually bung them in a mug, cover them with water and stick it in the fridge overnight. Once soaked you can drain them and keep them in the fridge if you don’t want to make the cheese straight away.
There are two options for how you make this cheese, depending on what kind of texture you want and also the amount of time (and patience!) you have. The first option, which is super simple, is to make a cream cheese style spread, this simply involves blending all the ingredients together and then leaving the cheese to chill in the fridge. The will result in a creamy, thick spreadable cheese. Perfect for loading onto a toasted bagel for breakfast, or for dipping celery sticks into for a snack (I mean, who am I kidding with this – I would eat the bagel as a snack! Just wanted to give an alternative in case you’re inclined to be healthy.)
The second option is to place your blended cheese into a cheese cloth to drain before placing in the fridge. This removes some of the liquid and results in a firmer cheese that will keep its shape, and looks pretty good on a cheeseboard too. It will slice if you’re gentle with it and it goes great on crackers or in a sandwich. Or you can just cut sections off and eat them straight from the knife like I do.
Garlic and Chive Cashew Cheese
Makes: One round cheese
Prep time: 30 minutes plus chilling time
- 100g raw cashews, soaked overnight
- 2 tbsp fresh lemon juice
- 2 cloves of garlic
- 1/2 tsp fine salt
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 2 tbsp water
- Small bunch of chives (or other herb)
- In a food processor place all ingredients except for the chives. Process until the mixture becomes smooth and creamy in texture. You’ll need to keep stopping to scrape down the sides to ensure it all gets blended. Keep blending until it stops being lumpy and grainy and looks like a smooth soft cheese. This may take 5 – 10 minutes so keep going! You can add a little more water to get it moving in the blender if absolutely needed – but if you want to make a firm cheese try to avoid adding too much extra liquid.
- Finely chop the chives and stir into your smooth cheese mixture. If you add them to the blender to combine you will end up with a green cheese – so best to stir them in! Have a taste and add more salt if needed.
- If you want to make a soft cheese spread, like a cream cheese, then all you need to do is transfer the cheese to a small bowl, cover and refrigerate for a few hours. You can eat it immediately – but it will set slightly if you leave it to chill, making a slightly thicker spread.
- If you want to make a firmer cheese, like the one pictured above, then you’ll need to remove some of the moisture from the cheese. For this you’ll need a square of double layer cheese cloth, or a thin, clean tea towel. Lay out the cloth and scrape all of the cheese mixture into the centre of the square and roughly shape it into a round shape. Gather the corners of the cloth, bring together the top and fasten with a rubber band to create a little parcel (see pics) I tie it above my sink to drain for a 1-2 hours (you could also put it in a sieve above a bowl) until there are no more droplets of water coming out. Then place it in a dish lined with kitchen towel in the fridge for a further 3-4 hours or overnight. (You can also put it straight into the fridge in a sieve or wrapped in kitchen towel but I’ve found the 2 step process removes the most water, resulting in the best texture.)
- Once it’s been in the fridge you can gently remove the cheese cloth and there will be your little cashew cheese!
- The cheese will keep for about 4-5 days in the fridge. It’s best to store the soft cheese in an airtight container, but you can keep the firm one covered in it’s cheese cloth – it will continue to firm up over a few days – if you still have any left by that time!
Tips & Troubleshooting:
- You can alternatively use a blender to make the cheese but if you want to make a firmer cheese I find I get the best results from using a food processor. If I make the cheese in my Vitamix it doesn’t seem to drain as well, if at all, but it’s great if you just want the soft version.
- If the cheese is not firm enough after being left in the fridge overnight you can change the kitchen towel for fresh sheets to help remove more moisture, or if it’s still way too soft you can alternatively change the cheesecloth – scrape the mixture into a new cloth and repeat the hanging steps (this shouldn’t be necessary unless you added a lot of extra water to begin with).
- If you want to firm it up in a hurry you can also place it in the freezer for 30 mins before serving.
- I have also managed to shape the cheese without straining it – so long as you haven’t added too much water you can shape it by lining a small container with cling film and then filling with the blended mixture. Place in the freezer for 30 mins and then turn out onto a plate or board. It will still be more like a cream cheese but if you want to get something on the cheese board in a hurry then it’s an option.
- If using the above method to shape the cheese you can also make a herb topping, instead of mixing the herbs through. Simply fill the bottom of the cling film lined pot with chopped chives before filling with the cheese – as I did for the cheese I made in the picture here.
- Sometimes when I make this cheese it’s a completely different texture than other times for no apparent reason! It always tastes great though so try not to be too worried if it doesn’t look exactly the same each time – it depends on various things like what kind of cashews, how soft they were to begin with, fridge temp etc!