Vegan Cashew Cream Recipes From Renowned Chef Tal Ronnen
Cashew cream and its variations are healthier alternatives to common dairy products for anyone who is trying to move away from animal fats and toward a more plant-based diet, is concerned about health and nutrition, has a dairy or soy allergy or follows a raw food or vegan diet. They are also alternatives to commercial vegan dairy products that contain soy or unpronounceable ingredients you might prefer to avoid.
The neutral flavor of soaked, raw, unsalted cashews is a big advantage for making dairy alternatives, as is their creamy mouthfeel when they are blended with water into a perfectly smooth liquid or purée, depending on the texture you want to achieve. You can use regular, liquid cashew cream in coffee, over cereal and in recipes. You can also blend the soaked nuts with less water for a thicker emulsion that can be flavored with sweet or savory seasonings and/or whipped to make vegan whipped cream topping, sour cream and other delicious components.
This remarkable idea was invented by Tal Ronnen, a celebrity chef who has helped elevate vegan cuisine to a dramatically higher level of sophistication, pioneering the application of traditional French cooking techniques to nontraditional, plant-based ingredients.
This article includes his recipes for basic thin, thick and whipped cashew cream as well as several of his dishes in which they are used.
Gourmet Cashew Cream Recipes From a Celebrity Chef
When my husband and I decided to adopt a "flexitarian" eating approach a few years ago, I spent a lot of time researching cookbooks with gourmet vegan recipes that would satisfy our "foodie" tastes and allow us to eat more plant-based meals without feeling deprived. That's when I discovered Chef Tal Ronnen, a renowned vegan chef whose extensive A-list catering clientele has included Ariana Huffington, Ellen DeGeneres, Portia De Rossi and Oprah Winfrey, among many others. When he adopted a vegan lifestyle, he found it difficult to cook the sophisticated, gourmet food he loved without using dairy or meat. So he helped pioneer a new level of sophisticated, elegant and elevated vegan cuisine that fully satisfied his cravings without compromising his commitment to veganism. He was also a consultant during the development of Gardein, by far my favorite line of vegan "meat."
I had never heard of cashew cream until I bought his first cookbook, a New York Times best-seller titled . As I perused it for the first time, I was surprised to see an entire chapter devoted to something that Ronnen called "the magic ingredient that makes it easy to live without dairy." I love milk, cream, sour cream, ricotta and pretty much any variety of cheese, so I was thrilled to learn that cashew cream and its variations could be used as a soy-free, vegan substitute for many of my favorite dairy products. It's also a key ingredient in many vegan recipes. It's also takes just five minutes (excluding soaking time) to make. The Conscious Cook: Delicious Meatless Recipes That Will Change the Way You Eat
Basic Recipe for Regular (Thin) or Thick Cashew Cream
From The Conscious Cook cookbook
- 2 cups whole raw cashews (NOT roasted)
- Cold water, preferably filtered
- Rinse whole raw cashews well under cold running water and put them in a bowl. Add cold water until the cashews are covered by 1 inch of water, then cover the bowl and refrigerate for 8 hours or overnight.
- The next day, drain the cashews, rinse them under cold running water, then drain them again and put them into a blender. For regular cream, add cold water to cover the nuts by 1 inch. For thick cream, add just enough cold water to barely cover the nuts. Blend at high speed until very smooth, scraping down the sides occasionally. This should take several minutes.
- According to Chef Tal, both the regular and thick versions "can be stored 2 to 3 days in the refrigerator and can be frozen for up to 6 months (although after it's defrosted it can be a bit lumpy, so it's good to give it a spin in the blender to smooth it out before using it)."
Where I live, the tap water is excellent, so I don't use filtered water. But if your water is less pure and has a noticeable taste, use filtered water.
The original recipe states that if you don't have a Vitamix or other professional high-powered blender that, which can turn the soaked nuts and water into a silky smooth cream, you can sieve thin cashew cream through a very fine mesh sieve. However, I did not have good results with this method.
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Cashew Whipped Cream
This sweet, creamy whipped topping for fresh berries or other desserts also comes from The Conscious Cook.
- Start by making the thick cashew cream recipe, above. Reserve 1 cup of the mixture and store the rest for another use.
- Warm 2/3 cup of refined coconut oil until liquid. (I've also made this with unrefined coconut oil, which adds a coconut flavor.)
- Place the reserved cup of thick cream into the now-empty blender along with 1/4 cup light agave nectar, 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract and 1/4 cup cold water. Blend thoroughly.
- Run the blender on a low speed and slowly pour the melted coconut oil in a thin stream through the opening in the lid. Continue blending until the mixture is emulsified, then scrape it into a bowl.
- Cover and chill for 2 hours, then give it a good stir just before serving.
Yield: About 2 cups.
The Key to a Silky Smooth Consistency: A High-Powered Blender
I highly recommend using a professional quality, high-powered blender for making this.
At the time I bought The Conscious Cook cookbook, I was using a 40-year-old, under-powered Waring blender that has been my mother's. I had long been coveting a Vitamix but couldn't justify the investment, since my "vintage" Waring still worked. So, I tried making cashew cream and straining it through a fine sieve. Unfortunately, I wasn't very happy with the thinner consistency or with throwing out the strained-out bits of ground cashew. I also I ended up with a smaller amount of the "cream" after straining it. Reluctantly, I gave up on the recipe.
Finally, when the Waring finally gave out, I purchased a that has been a workhorse in our kitchen ever since. Now that I had the high-powered blender recommended in the recipe, I decided to give it another try. Success! With the Vitamix, I could achieve the proper, silky smooth texture and slightly thicker consistency that had eluded me during my previous attempts. certified, refurbished Vitamix 5200 blender with a generous 7-year warranty
More of Chef Tal Ronnen's CC-Based Recipes
Creamy Mashed Potatoes with Chives is a slight variation of the Mashed Potatoes recipe in The Conscious Cook, scaled up from four to six servings for a Thanksgiving meal. It would be a perfect accompaniment to a Gardein Holiday Roast, a meatless turkey roulade with a delicious cranberry wild rice stuffing.
Tip: While Gardein's roast itself is a wonderful vegan main dish for holidays such as Thanksgiving and Christmas, I don't care for the flavor of the gravy that comes with it. I've found that adding a little fresh sage, white wine and either Earth Balance or a bit of butter (for a flexitarian option) elevates the taste significantly.
"Cream" of Asparagus Soup, which Ronnen co-developed with bestselling author and vegan eating advocate Kathy Freston, is also from The Conscious Cook cookbook. The fresh asparagus flavor and velvety-smooth texture of this soup made it an instant hit in our household. You can also substitute other vegetables, such as broccoli, to make other "cream" soups. I sometimes serve it with slices of toasted whole wheat sourdough or multigrain bread on the side, which makes a nice, crunchy textural contrast to the creamy texture of the soup.
Here's a video of his demonstration of how to make this on Oprah.
The next two recipes are from his second cookbook, . (Crossroads Kitchen is the name of his elegant, upscale, vegan restaurant in Los Angeles, which was voted one of Los Angeles Magazine’s "Top 10 Best New Restaurants of 2013.") Crossroads: Extraordinary Recipes from the Restaurant That Is Reinventing Vegan Cuisine
Warm Kale and Artichoke Dip is his delicious, healthier, dairy-free take on one of my favorite high-fat, high-calorie appetizers, warm spinach and artichoke dip. It's hard to believe such an unctuous texture and cheesy flavor can be achieved without cream cheese, sour cream or cheese!
Dark Chocolate Rice Pudding with Sugared Pine Nuts and Raspberries is Ronnen's rich, decadent dessert featuring one of my all-time favorite flavor pairings, dark chocolate and fresh raspberries. Who knew rice pudding could be so elegant?
Tips: If you prefer a sweeter pudding, increase the packed dark brown sugar to 1/3 cup. Also, the flavor is determined by the quality of the dark chocolate, so use the best quality you can. I've used Valrhona Chocolate Guanaja 70% Feves for the pudding and topped each portion with a generous dollop of Chef Tal's coconut whipped cream (I think it's a perfect foil for the dark chocolate). Fabulous!
Cashew Sour Cream: My Variation
There are a number different recipes for this online. Mine is based on Chef Tal's thick cashew cream recipe (above), with the following changes:
After you put the drained, soaked raw cashews in the blender, add 4 teaspoons of lemon juice, 2 teaspoons of apple cider vinegar and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Then add enough fresh, cold water to just cover the nuts before blending them to a silky smooth consistency.
Makes about 2 3/8 cups.
Tip: Try switching the quantities of vinegar and lemon juice and see which way you prefer.
Caveat: The Basic Cashew Cream Recipes Don't Taste Like Their Dairy Counterparts
The first few times I made cashew cream and its variations, I was expecting them to taste the same as their dairy equivalents. When they didn't, I was quite disappointed. It wasn't until I accepted them for what they were - alternatives to dairy products, rather than imitations of them - and started appreciating them for what they are instead of comparing their tastes and textures to their dairy counterparts that I was able to to appreciate them in their own right. So, give them a chance and give yourself time to develop a taste for them.
Health and Nutrition Benefits
vs. Comparable Dairy Products
While it's true that both nuts and dairy products are high in fat, there's a big difference between the healthy, mostly monounsaturated fats in cashews and the artery-clogging, cholesterol-laden, saturated animal fat found in dairy products like cream, sour cream, whipped cream, cream cheese and ricotta cheese.
Plant-based, heart-healthy fats give cashew cream a rich, creamy mouthfeel without the nutritional drawbacks of saturated fat-laden dairy products. Cashews are lower in fat than most other nuts and most of that fat is heart-healthy oleic acid, the same monounsaturated fat found in olive oil. Cashews also high in protein and dietary fiber and are a great source of flavanols, phytochemicals, antioxidants, copper and magnesium. As a result, cashews can help protect us against cancer and heart disease, lower triglyceride levels, improve skin, hair and bone health, lower blood pressure, diminish the frequency of migraine attacks and prevent heart attacks. Those are some pretty compelling nutrition and health benefits for a single food!
© 2013 Margaret Schindel