Creamy, tangy cashew cream cheese gets a flavor boost from mellow roasted garlic in this easy plant-based spread. I am going to break down how to make dairy-free cream cheese at home in a few easy-to-follow steps. Plus I share loads of ideas for different flavor variations from sweet to savory!
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I originally shared this recipe because so many of my readers are dairy-free. But also, many of you have been asking for more plant-based recipes. My only goal was to get the same texture as regular cream cheese.
But since then... I think it is safe to say I have been experimenting with all the variations and I am in love.
📖Why This Recipe Works
One nice thing about this is that it relies on pantry staples. You only need a few simple ingredients to make this recipe. Obviously, this recipe is dairy-free but it is also soy free and has no tofu in sight.
The versatility of this recipe means it can be used as a savory bagel smear, a veggie dip, or as a creamy spread on your favorite veggie sandwich.
This recipe isn't just good for being vegan, it is just plain good.
Plus you can use any leftover cashews to make homemade cashew butter!
🧾Vegan Cream Cheese Ingredients
Cashews- The base of this vegan cream cheese recipe is raw unsalted cashews. Unfortunately, you can't substitute any other type of cashew.
You could, however, substitute raw unsalted almonds. Organic is always best but we know that can get a little pricey and availability might be limited.
Nutritional Yeast- A vegan cheese's best friend. Nutritional yeast is a vegan food product that is used for its natural cheesy flavor. The active yeast cells are eliminated during manufacturing and are not alive in the final product.
There really is no good substitute. Fortunately, it is easy to find online and in most grocery stores.
Fresh Lemon Juice-You can also use bottled lemon juice. Or try a splash of apple cider vinegar in a pinch.
Kosher Salt- With so few ingredients the salt really matters. Use good sea salt or kosher salt and not table salt.
Cold Filtered Water- Because the raw cashews soak for so long it is important to properly filter your water. The water can, and will, affect the taste. A basic pitcher-style water filter will work fine.
Roasted Garlic- You need one head of garlic from our roasted garlic recipe. You can also use raw garlic for a less sweet, more pungent garlic flavor. Garlic powder will give the mildest flavor. Or just leave it out entirely.
Fresh Herbs- Personally I almost always add herbs to this recipe to make it an herb and garlic cream cheese. My go-to herbs are a mix of chives and parsley but the possibilities are endless. Basil, oregano, and chervil come to mind.
Obviously, I like to make my own homemade vegan cream cheese with savory flavors. A few other savory options include adding chili oil and chopped sundried tomatoes, or even leftover oven-roasted tomatoes.
To make a plain cream cheese variation you leave out the nutritional yeast, garlic, and herbs and cut the salt in half.
But the nutty flavor and creamy texture are ideal for sweet flavors. Here are a few ideas:
- Add pumpkin spice or homemade pumpkin syrup
- Add berries or a fruit spread, fruit syrup, or homemade jam
- Add maple syrup and chopped pecans
So many delicious options!
⏲️How to Make Cashew Cream Cheese
Like any cheese, vegan, or not, the hands-on time for this recipe is minimal but it does require a little preplanning before serving to ensure you have enough time to soak the cashews, roast the garlic and allow time for the cream cheese to chill.
Step 1- Soak the Cashews
I use a big mixing bowl, add the cashews, and cover with filtered water. Cover the bowl with a clean dishtowel.
Soak the cashews in water for 12 hours, basically overnight will give you the best results.
This makes them soft and makes the blending easier so you get a texture closer to traditional cream cheese.
While the cashews are soaking you will need to roast the garlic if you haven’t already done so.
Step 2: Blend the Cashews
After draining the cashews, place the remaining ingredients, minus any herbs, in your food processor. You can also use a high-speed blender.
Pulse a few times to break up the cashews and garlic. Blend on high until the mixture Scrapping down the sides, as needed. It will take 5 to 7 minutes to get the.
Add additional water 1 tablespoon at a time, if needed, to gain a smooth lump-free texture.
Step 3: Season and Chill
If you are using fresh herbs to jazz up your cream cheese stir them in by hand at the end.
Putting fresh herbs in the food processor will cause them to break down faster and the cheese to turn green. Season to taste with additional nutritional yeast.
Chill for 4 hours prior to use unless you are using it in a warm dish. Speaking of which...
How to Use Cashew Cream Cheese
I ended up making this recipe several times to get it just right. We were getting creative with vegan dishes to use up all the extra cream cheese.
Some worked and some did not. Not at all. Here are a few of our favorites:
- Spread on morning toast or a bagel and sprinkle with chili flakes
- Swap out the traditional Philadelphia cream cheese in make this stuffed mini pepper appetizer
- On a traditional cheese plate or antipasto platter so our vegan party guests could partake
- Swap our the goat cheese in this delicious beet party appetizer
- Mixed ¼ cup into warm marinara sauce and served over gluten-free pasta
- Spread on a roasted vegetable sandwich
- Eat it with a spoon out of your fridge while wearing your PJs at 2 o’clock in the afternoon (don’t judge)
- As a cheesy filling for a roasted portabello mushroom quesadilla
- Stir a tablespoon into your vegetable bisque or tomato soup (this was a favorite!)
- Use the plain variation on a GF fruit pizza
👩🏻🍳 Expert Tip
Use warm or hot water when blending. Ice water will cause ht mixture to stiffen up.
Store cashew cream cheese in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 1 week. The texture may firm up when chilled - let sit at room temperature for 15 minutes before using.
More Amazing Vegan Recipes
💭 Frequently Asked Questions
If you prefer a thicker consistency, reduce the amount of liquid added during blending. For a thinner texture, add a little more water or plant-based milk until desired consistency is achieved.
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Cashew Cream Cheese with Roasted Garlic and Herbs
- Place cashews in a bowl and cover with cool water. Soak for 12 hours. Drain and rinse.2 cups raw, unsalted cashews
- Add cashews to a food processor with the roasted garlic, water, lemon juice, 1 tablespoon of nutritional yeast, and salt. Pulse to break up the cashews and garlic.1 head roasted garlic, ¼ cup water, 3 Tablespoons lemon juice, 1-2 Tablespoons nutritional yeast, ½ teaspoon kosher salt
- Blend until smooth. Scrapping down the sides, as needed. Add additional water 1 tablespoon at a time, if needed, to gain a smooth lump free texture. Season to taste with additional nutritional yeast. If you are adding fresh herbs, stir them in by hand.¼ cup fresh herbs, chopped (optional)
- Cover and store in the refrigerator. Chill for 4 hours prior to using.