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 the live mother
- 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