Cashew cream is exactly what it sounds like – rich cream made from cashews. It is one of those things that I make constantly because it’s not only delicious and versatile, but also nourishing. Completely dairy-free, cashew cream is a cinch to make. This savory version gets a flavor punch from roasted garlic, and other than that, it’s just cashews, water and sea salt. Now, if you’re not into the roasted garlic thing, you can always just sauté minced fresh garlic in a bit of oil until fragrant, and use that instead of the roasted garlic. But I highly recommend the deep, rich flavor of roasted garlic.
I most frequently use cashew cream tossed with pasta instead of alfredo, on pizza instead of cheese and stirred into soups instead of cream, but the options are endless. Don’t get me wrong here, I’m not knocking dairy-lovers. But replacing dairy as often as you can with a clean, plant-based substitute is a great way to eat healthier and feel better. So this recipe is my way of combining my love for creamy richness with my love for balanced and plant-centric eating.
There is a downside (or three) to this cashew cream. First, it’s not nut-allergy friendly. Second, cashews are expensive. And third, I try not to depend on one ingredient in my cooking, and this sauce is WAY too good not to make every week. Solution! Use raw sunflower seeds instead of cashews(details included in notes). Sunflower seeds don’t have the same sweetness as cashews, but they they have their own earthy flavor that works really well with with garlic.
One more note on this recipe. Really REALLY good cashew cream (or sunflower seed cream) requires a high speed/high power blender. That’s the only way to get a true creamy texture. However, I have made cashew cream plenty of times in a food processor, and it turns out really well. A solid five minutes on a high speed, give or take, and you’re good to go. There will be a slight grainy-ness compared to the high speed blender version, but still totally amazing.
Savory Garlic Cashew Cream
Yield: 1-1/3 cup (approx.)
dairy-free | vegan | gluten-free
1 cup raw cashews (for soaking options & nut-free alternative see notes)
5 cloves roasted garlic (half head) or 3-4 large garlic cloves simmered in olive oil (see notes)
3/4 cup filtered water
sea salt, fine grain
* I recommend doubling the recipe if using a large blender cup
Soak cashews if needed (see notes).
In a high power blender or food processor, add soaked/drained cashews, 1/2 teaspoon salt, 3/4 cup fresh water plus the roasted or sautéed garlic cloves. Blend until smooth.
Add more filtered water to achieve desired consistency. Add additional salt to taste.
Soaking Cashews – place in a bowl covered by a few inches water. Cover the bowl and allow to sit at room temperature. If using a high speed blender, the cashews only need to soak for an hour (or not at all, if you’re like me). If using a food processor or standard blender, soak for 3 hours. Drain & discard soaking water. In a hurry but need to soak? Use the 15 minute shortcut… boil water, remove from heat, allow to cool for 2-3 minutes, pour over raw cashews, soak for about 20 minutes. Drain.
ROASTED GARLIC – For a no oil version, roast the garlic for this recipe. Even though this recipe only calls for 5-6 cloves roasted garlic (half of a head), I recommend roasting a full head. You can either double the cashew cream recipe to use the whole head (cashew cream is freezer friendly!), or use the other cloves in another recipe (vinaigrette maybe?).
To roast garlic, slice off the bottom of the bulb, about 1/4″ from the root end of the bulb. Then place the two ends back together and wrap completely in aluminum foil. Roast in a 400 degree oven for about 40 minutes. There are also lots of ways to roast garlic so do what works for you!
When garlic is finished roasting (the cloves should be turning golden and super soft/pliable), allow to cool. Then squeeze cloves gently at the top to push the roasted garlic out of the skin. Discard skins.
SIMMERED OLIVE OIL & GARLIC – crush 3-4 garlic cloves and gently simmer over medium-low heat with olive oil, until golden. I simmer the crushed cloves in about 2 tablespoons cup olive oil, but it depends on how much oil you want to add, as long as the bottom of the pan is coated. Once garlic is golden brown, remove from heat. Keep an eye on the stove so the garlic doesn’t burn.
Nut Free Alternative
Use raw sunflower seeds in place of the cashews. Pour nearly boiling water over 3/4 cup raw sunflower seeds and allow to sit for 1-3 hours. Drain well. Blend the soaked seeds with 5-6 large cloves garlic simmered in 1/4 cup olive oil (cooled), plus 1.25 cups water, scant 2 tablespoons. Only add remaining 2 tablespoons water if needed. Season with 1/2 to 3/4 teaspoon salt, to taste. Makes 2+ cups.
Food Processor vs. High Power Blender
Note that a food processor will take longer (about 5 minutes) and the cream won’t get as smooth as with a high power blender. One minute in a high power blender is more than enough.