How to Make Creamy Vegan Cashew “Cheese” Sauce

SauceVeganCashew

Use this creamy vegan cashew cream sauce in place of dairy-based salad dressings and pasta sauces! Just because you're not eating dairy doesn't mean you can't have something creamy in your meal. Make a big batch and use it all week long.

Photography Credit: Erin Alderson

I have a few base recipes that I keep on hand that can form the basis for all kinds of meals. For vegan recipes, that key component is this creamy cashew “cheese” sauce.

What is Cashew Cream Sauce?

Cashew cream sauce is a workhorse. You make it by soaking cashews, then blending them with just a bit of water — this turns into the most luscious sauce. A big challenge with vegan recipes is finding ways to replace the creaminess of dairy, and this sauce really does the trick.

The trick for this sauce is to use raw, unsalted cashews. I’ve found the raw cashews are the easiest to break down and form into the creamiest sauce. And here’s a tip: a high-speed blender is key to an extra creamy sauce.

Vegan pasta with herb sauce and tomatoes

How to Use Cashew Cream Sauce

This condiment works well as a sauce or a dressing, and can even be made into a dip. As a base, it’s a great jumping off point for many vegan recipes.

Think about making a creamy vegan version of your favorite ranch or green goddess salad dressing, or replacing the heavy pasta cream sauce with an equally as decadent-tasting vegan sauce. Top roasted vegetables with it, or blend it and serve with steamed vegetables for an easy and healthy dip.

Cashew Cream Any Way You Like It

Best of all, this cashew sauce is a blank slate; by itself, it has a mild flavor, which means you can experiment to make the right flavor cashew sauce for any meal.

Herbs are a great place to start, but don’t stop there. Try garlic, ginger, peppers, or even blend it with another sauce such as harissa or romesco! Add your favorite ingredients or spices, and go wild with how you use it.

Vegan Buffalo Cauliflower Tacos make the ranch sauce

Try These Variations!

  • Ranch: The classic ranch combination relies on parsley, chives, and dill. Use a couple of tablespoons of each, minced finely, along with a dash of garlic powder. This variation is easily used in salad dressings or as a dip for vegetables.
  • Herb: Forage through your herb garden for the perfect mix of fresh herbs. Fresh chopped basil is always a wonderful addition. Other options include chives, thyme, tarragon, parsley, or even cilantro. This herb variation is my favorite to use over roasted vegetables and grain bowls.
  • Chipotle: Finely mince 1/2 to 1 chipotle in adobo sauce and add to the cashew cream along with a squeeze of lime juice in place of the lemon juice. Finishing off tacos with this creation, or use it as a dip for tortilla chips.
  • Garlicky: Make a garlic paste or use roasted garlic. This combination is also great with the herb variations. A garlic cashew sauce is a good all-around sauce for roasted vegetables, grain bowls, and vegetable dips.
  • Ginger-Soy: This variation for noodle bowls requires just a couple of teaspoons of minced ginger, along with a couple tablespoons of soy sauce. You can easily taste and adjust the levels of both to your liking. Toss it with greens or any type of Asian noodles, or serve it as a dip with spring rolls.

Vegan Cashew Alfredo Sauce

Can You Use Any Other Nut?

Yes! Cashews blend easily and have a neutral flavor, which is why I recommend them here, but you can swap in any other seed or nut. I highly recommend sunflower seeds since they’re usually cheaper and soften up well, but you can also use almonds, walnuts, pecans, or any nut you prefer. (Note that almonds will need to soak a bit longer to soften.)

Vegan Cashew Cream Sauce

How Long will Cashew Cream Sauce Keep?

Cashew cream will store up to 5 days in your refrigerator or up to 3 months in the freezer. If you freeze it, defrost it completely before using, and then whizz it in the blender to keep the cashew cream smooth.

Cashew cream can be used cold or hot, depending on the dish. For example, if I’m using it for salad dressings or dips, I like to keep the cream chilled. However, for pasta and noodle bowls, I always heat it up.

More Vegan Recipes to Try!

How to Make Creamy Vegan Cashew “Cheese” Sauce Recipe

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  • Prep time: 5 minutes
  • Soaking time: 4 to 8 hours
  • Yield: About 1 cup

If you have a Vitamix, you only need to soak the cashews for about 30 minutes before blending.

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup raw, unsalted cashews
  • 3/4 cup to 1 cup water
  • 2 teaspoons lemon juice
  • 1/4 teaspoon sea salt

Special equipment:

Method

1 Soak the cashews: Place the cashews in a bowl and cover with about 2 inches of warm water. Soak for at least 4 hours, up to 8 hours.

Cashew Cream Pasta Sauce soak the cashews

2 Make the cashew cream: When ready to make the cashew cream, drain and rinse the cashews. Place them in a blender along with 3/4 cup fresh water, lemon juice, and the salt.

Vegan Cashew Alfredo Sauce

Puree, adding more water as needed, until you achieve a smooth, pourable sauce.

Use it immediately, or transfer to an airtight container and store in the refrigerator for up to five days. You can also freeze it for up to three months.

Cashew Cream Pasta Sauce puree the cashews

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Erin Alderson

Erin Alderson is a photographer/videographer living in Sacramento, CA. She currently runs Grove Haus Studio, focusing on capturing the stories behind food/farms through visual media and recipes. Erin can also be found sharing fresh, vegetarian recipes on her site, Naturally Ella.

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4 Comments / Reviews

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Did you make it? Rate it!

  1. vivian

    I had to add almost twice as many cashews to get anything other than a thin liquid. Maybe I was looking for thing, but I wanted to use this for the buffalo cauliflower tacos and I just couldn’t see pouring what was essentially juice on a taco. Fortunately, I have a high speed blender, so I just kept adding cashews until I had something the consistency of salsa and this worked out very well for me.

    xxxxxyyyyy

    • Emma Christensen

      Hi, Vivian! Is it possible that you forgot to drain the cashews after soaking? If so, I think that would have added the extra liquid, causing your sauce to be so thin. Good luck!

  2. MN

    Where I live, it’s hard to find raw unsalted cashews. But the health food store has a grinder with cashews to make fresh cashew butter. Is it possible to start with that somehow, just adding more water in the blender? This sounds so yummy!

    • Emma Christensen

      Hi, MN! I checked in with Erin, the recipe writer, and she says that she’s never tried nut butter, but she thinks it could be done! You probably won’t need quite as much water to smooth out the sauce. Enjoy!

Vegan Cashew Cream SauceHow to Make Creamy Vegan Cashew “Cheese” Sauce