Cultured Cashew Cheese

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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.

a large jar containing cashews soaking in water to make cashew cheese
Raw cashews soaking in water

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!

cultured cashew cheese in a jar
Cashew cheese cultured with kimchi brine after several hours of fermentation
Less than 24 hours of fermentation
flat lay of cultured cashew cheese in a bale-top jar
I took many pictures, like a proud new parent (it is alive after all)
jar of cashew cheese with sourdough crackers
Make lots of sourdough crackers to go with this

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.

cultured cashew cheese in a bale top jar
This showed no sign of life for several days
a thermostat displays 61 degrees Fahrenheit indoors
A cold kitchen will slow down your ferments

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.

Day 4 of fermentation
cashew cheese and sourdough crackers
This tastes delicious on sourdough foods other than crackers, such as sourdough pizza
flat lay of cultured cashew cheese in a bale-top jar
Print Recipe
5 from 2 votes

Cultured Cashew Cheese

Servings: 2 cups

Ingredients

  • 2 cups raw cashews
  • cup water plus more for soaking cashews
  • ¼ cup preserved lemon brine
  • 1 tablespoon kombucha vinegar or apple cider vinegar with the live mother
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • ½ teaspoon salt or to taste

Instructions

  • 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.

Notes

If you do not have any of the starters listed in the recipe, use another starter such as whey or, if you want to keep this vegan, sauerkraut brine. Adjust the seasonings to taste.
If using kimchi brine for a starter instead of the preserved lemon brine and kombucha vinegar, make the following adjustments to the recipe:
  • 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

13 Replies to “Cultured Cashew Cheese”

  1. Could I use some sourdough starter?
    Love your blog
    Nicky in Cornwall!
    x

    1. Hi Nicky,
      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.
      ~ Anne-Marie

  2. 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…)

    Thanks!

  3. I’ve never tried this, but you have inspired me!

  4. Would store bought apple cider vinegar work?

  5. 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.

    1. 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.

      1. 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.

  6. That is so smart to use kimchi brine to start fermenting your cashews!!!

  7. Is there a substitute for lemon brine? I dont have any on hand. I am so looking forward to make this recipe!!

    1. Hi Mana,
      You could try apple cider vinegar with the live mother. That should work. You might want to adjust the seasonings if you do that.
      ~ Anne-Marie

      1. Would the brine form any other fermented veggies work?

      2. Hi Emerson,
        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.
        Enjoy!
        Anne-Marie

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