Fermented nuts may sound like hippie woo-woo food but many cultures ferment nuts as part of a traditional diet. (Not that there is anything wrong with hippie woo-woo food but I hope to convince the hippie woo-woo wary to try this.)
This cheesy spread contains nuts, salt, seasonings, a bit of water and a starter. For this post, I kickstarted the ferment of one batch with kimchi brine. A combination of preserved lemon brine and very vinegary plain kombucha brought the second batch to life. If you already have these ferments on hand, you can prepare cashew cheese with very little hands-on work and save a small fortune. (A very small plastic tub of store-bought costs $10 near me.)
Both of the flavors I made for this post taste so tangy and cheesy, you’d assume they contain dairy. But like my sourdough crackers, fermented cashew cheese tastes cheesy without the cheese. I added garlic to the preserved lemon variation and the result tastes similar to a sour cream and onion dip.
The non-recipe recipe
To make this cashew cheese, soak a couple of cups of raw cashews for 4 to 6 hours, drain and rinse, then purée the nuts along with a starter culture, a bit of water to render a creamy consistency and flavorings if desired. Pack the purée into a clean jar and let it sit at room temperature for a day or more until it bubbles up and you like the flavor. At that point, store it in the refrigerator, where it will thicken up a bit, or eat it immediately.
Like kimchi, kombucha and other cultured foods, the nuts will continue to ferment, changing the flavor over time. After about a week, the cashew cheese will taste more sour. After a couple of weeks, you may find it too sour. For that reason, I recommend you make small batches that you’ll eat quickly—a cup or two, depending on how many people will help you devour it.
Kimchi-Kickstarted Cashew Cheese
This one bubbled up in less than 24 hours. Place your jar on a plate to catch anything that might bubble out!
Preserved lemon and kombucha-kickstarted cashew cheese
I didn’t think this one would ever ferment. And honestly, it tasted amazing even before it bubbled to life so had it not fermented, I still would have eaten it all but maybe not in one sitting, which I wanted to do after it had fermented.
While the colder weather no doubt slowed down my fermentation, the starters in the second batch were less active than the brine I drained from my fairly young batch of kimchi. This sluggishness also likely slowed down the process.
Cultured Cashew Cheese
- 2 cups raw cashews
- ⅜ cup water plus more for soaking cashews
- ¼ cup preserved lemon brine
- 1 tablespoon kombucha vinegar or apple cider vinegar with live cultures
- 2 cloves garlic
- ½ teaspoon salt or to taste
- Place raw cashews in a large jar or bowl. Pour in water to cover by two inches. Cover. Let cashews soak for from 4 to 6 hours. Drain and rinse.
- Place cashews, ⅜ cup water, preserved lemon juice, kombucha vinegar, garlic and salt in a blender or food processor. Blend until smooth and creamy.
- Transfer puréed nuts to a clean glass jar with a capacity of at least 2 cups. Set aside at room temperature. Taste daily. When the cashew cheese has filled at least somewhat with bubbles and you like the flavor, move the jar to the refrigerator, where it will thicken a bit. The cashew cheese tastes best when eaten within a week.
- Add ½ cup kimchi brine
- Reduce water to ¼ cup
- Reduce salt to ¼ teaspoon or to taste
- Add 2 tablespoons nutritional yeast or to taste
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30 Replies to “How to Make Cultured Cashew Cheese”
Could I use some sourdough starter?
Love your blog
Nicky in Cornwall!
Thank you for the kind words 🙂 I was also wondering about sourdough starter when I made this. I think you could add the grey liquid that sometimes pools on top of the discard. I always pour that off when it develops but I am going to start saving it so I can try making this with it. So I don’t know (yet) but it’s worth experimenting with a small amount.
What a great idea to use kimchi brine, especially when you have a particularly “wet” batch like I did this last time around. Love the idea of using up kombucha this way as well — like everyone else, I’m struggling to keep up with it. And I’m not sure I have a 1/4 cup of preserved lemon brine, but I bet I have at least two tablespoons, so I could try this with a half-batch (or combine it with kimchi brine and see what happens…)
I’ve never tried this, but you have inspired me!
Would store bought apple cider vinegar work?
Have you (Anne-Marie) or any other readers read about the horrible burns that cashew processors suffer from the nuts? I learned about it a year or two ago and I haven’t been able to buy cashews since. There are lot of articles about it, though mostly not mainstream, so I’m not sure if it’s a weird conspiracy theory or what. Would love to hear from others.
Yes, I have and for this reason use way less cashews than before. It’s very hard to find a supplier that can ensure proper working conditions. If they come from India they are mostly shelled by poor women, on appalling wages, even before looking at the burns. We go back to the exploitative system: there is no easy answer as cashes are one of India’s main exports, and millions of livelihoods depend on them, but the profit is not going to them.
Thanks, Cecilia! Glad I’m not the only one. I see cashews touted as a non-dairy alternative, but they aren’t the guilt-free item many people think they are.
That is so smart to use kimchi brine to start fermenting your cashews!!!
Is there a substitute for lemon brine? I dont have any on hand. I am so looking forward to make this recipe!!
You could try apple cider vinegar with the live mother. That should work. You might want to adjust the seasonings if you do that.
Would the brine form any other fermented veggies work?
Yes that would work! I happen to have lots of kimchi brine so I’ve been using that. But I started a batch of fermented jalapeños earlier this week just for this.
I didn’t have any preserved lemons or kimchi, so I used about 2 tablespoons of kombucha I have brewing and a little juice from my sourdough discard- maybe half a teaspoon… My sourdough discard isn’t very old so I don’t have much of the liquid to pour off. I also added the juice of a lemon because I thought it would add the tang that the kimchi or preserved lemons probably give it. I let it sit about 36 hrs- my kitchen was pretty warm from cooking on Thanksgiving day and happy to report it has a ton of bubbles and is very good! I put it on a bagel this am and going to make some crackers and hopefully won’t eat it all in one day haha! Thanks for the recipe!
Thank you very much for reporting back on your cashew cheese tweaks and results! It sounds delicious. Enjoy!
What is apple cider vinegar with a live mother? Would store bought acv work?
The live mother is a blob or cloud of stuff you see in brands of ACV like Bragg’s. That would work. If you can’t find Bragg’s, look for “live mother” on the bottle. It will have live cultures that will ferment the cashews.
Thinking about trying this with homemade saurkraut brine. Do you think that would be too sour?
You only need a little bit. I think it would taste good. You might want to cut the recipe in half and see how you like it though.
Two bites and I’m hooked! I only had pumpkin seeds so I soaked those for 3-4 hours, blended with some strong kombucha and the brine of last summer’s nasturtium capers. I burped it last night before bed (24h in), and by this morning it exploded out the jar when I opened it! Cant wait to experiment with more nuts and flavors!
That’s good to know! Yesterday I also used sunflower seeds to make my cheese.. I didn’t have much of any liquid, so i ended up using a bit of kimchi brine, a bit of preserved lemon brine and a bit of kombucha vinegar, let’s hope it works… So much fun!
Yummy!! I made this yesterday evening with a combo of sunflower and pumpkin seeds and kombucha (first ferment), pickle juice, and ACV. By this morning, the ferment was going like gangbusters! What a fantastic, if green, replacement for cheese.
Has anyone tried this with a little whole rye sourdough starter?
Thanks for the recipe, Ann-Marie.
Oh that sounds delicious. Thank you for sharing the info on the combo. The color is perfect for St Patrick’s Day 😀 I haven’t tried with a starter but I’ve begun to save the hooch that I pour off of my sourdough starter discard to make this cheese. I don’t know if that will work but I’m going to try with a small amount.
Love this recipe!! Will be trying it soon 🙂 Do you know if cashews that have been soaked for too long (I accidentally left them out 48 hours on the counter and then blended them into a cream) which now started to taste a bit sour can still be used? I’m thinking they’ve undergone a natural fermentation and can still be used to make something similar to this? Trying to avoid throwing it all out 🙈Thanks!
I think that will be fine. You have probably already done something with them. How do they taste? Is it a good sour? This cashew cheese has a pleasant sour flavor.
Hey Anne-Marie, I did and honestly came out a bit funky 😬 I tired adding a bunch of fresh garlic and lemon juice to help mask the flavor but it still has an interesting aftertaste… I haven’t gotten an upset stomach though so should be fine lol!
Oh you know what, this same thing happened to me when I soaked some sunflower seeds for way too long. The purée fermented but had an aftertaste. If you soak nuts again and don’t think you can get to them, I’d drain, rinse and refill the jar with fresh water and move them to the refrigerator. I need to investigate this further…
Hmm sounds like there’s a limit on how long they should ferment and at some critical point it starts to over ferment and affect the taste… maybe even go bad?… Luckily none of us got sick from eating it! Will definitely follow your suggestions for next time! 🙂
Could you try it with walnuts? I have heaps of them – off our own trees, so only my own labour involved. 🙂
Wow! I bow at your feet! This will work with other nuts or with seeds. I would try a small amount though, to make sure you like the flavor. Enjoy!