In my college years, I got the majority of my culinary knowledge by watching cooking shows… religiously! However, this was in the mid 2000s, where almost all the celebrity chef recipes were laden with meat, dairy and eggs. I’m pretty sure the word “vegan” wasn’t even mentioned on TV. But I did watch them to find recipes I could veganize, or at the very least, pick up little cooking tips. If a recipe caught my eye, I would see how I could switch out ingredients. If it called for meat, I’d swap it for tofu, seitan or a faux-meat product. If it needed milk, I’d use soy or almond milk. If it had butter on the list, there was always Earth Balance.
However, if a recipe called for heavy cream, I was usually stuck. There really never has been any commercial substitute at the grocery store other than canned coconut milk, and sometimes I don’t want a dish to taste like coconut (as much as I like it, sometimes it’s too strong). But about six years ago, raw cashews gained notoriety in the vegan world as a great substitute for many things creamy. They can be used to make desserts, frittatas, various types of cheeses, and my favorite use: heavy cream!
This heavy cream recipe is so versatile and is perfectly interchangeable with dairy cream. It’s rich & creamy, and heats beautifully, so it will keep the same consistency as dairy cream in any recipe you swap it out with. Be sure to use raw cashews, as they will keep the cream neutral in flavor and give it that creamy white color. Roasted and salted cashews will impart a very different flavor and color.
Vegan Heavy Cream
Makes about 3 cups
1 ½ cup raw cashews
3 ½ cups of water OR unsweetened almond milk (to make it even creamier)
The most important step in this is to soak your cashews in enough water to cover. Soak for 3-8 hours. Soaking your cashews neutralizes enzyme inhibitors, and promotes the growth of healthy enzymes, which makes nutrients more readily available for your body to absorb and digest. This also makes them easier to blend, especially if you do not have a high-powered blender like a Vitamix.
Don’t have time to soak your cashews? No problem! Place them in a large pot of boiling water, and boil for 10 minutes, just like pasta. Drain, and rinse with cold water. While this works in a pinch, I still recommend soaking cashews in cold water, as it is a more delicate process.
After you’ve soaked your cashews, drain the soaking liquid, and rinse under cold water. You might notice a slight slimy oiliness on the outside of the cashews. Don’t worry, a nice rinse will remove it.
Place your cashews and water or almond milk in your blender or food processor, and blend on the highest setting for 1-2 minutes. If you do not have a Vitamix or high-powered blender, you’ll need to blend for closer to 2 minutes. You might also need to strain your cream though a fine mesh strainer to get any residual cashew bits out.
Place the cream into an airtight container or mason jar, and refrigerate for 3-4 days. You can also freeze it for up to 6 months.
I use this cream recipe for alfredo, caramel sauce, chocolate tarts, ganache, and ice cream... and this list WILL grow. If a recipe catches your eye that calls for heavy cream, use this vegan cream and see if it works for you!
Want more great dairy and egg substitutions for a vegan lifestyle? Join me for The Chopping Block's Vegan Brunch in April at Lincoln Square. We're making lots of great vegan recipes such as Whole Grain Blueberry Muffins, Mushroom and Swiss Chard Quiche, Sweet Potato Hash Browns and French Toast with Maple Pecan Sauce.