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How to Go Vegan: Why Cashews Are King
Cashews are a staple in my vegan kitchen. They’re a featured ingredient in my Black Bean and Sweet Potato Vegan Enchiladas and my Pappardelle Pasta with a Kale and White Bean Ragu where they take the form of a rich, creamy sauce. And, believe it or not, cashews also make a great substitute for sour cream in vegan ranch dressing, the ultimate dipping sauce for a recipe like my Baked Cauliflower Buffalo Wings.
Whether you’re a well-established vegan cook or looking to learn more about how to go vegan, I hope that this post will teach you new ways to use this wonderful vegan-friendly ingredient.
What Are Cashews?
Cashews, commonly referred to as cashews nuts, are actually seeds. A single cashew seed is harvested from each fruit on a cashew tree, a tropical evergreen that is native to Brazil. For the vegan eater, cashews offer up a good source of protein, unsaturated fat and copper, a “mineral essential for energy production, healthy brain development and a strong immune system.”1
Cashews, like many nuts, tend to be expensive. Cashews are harvested by hand and separated from their shells (which are toxic) before being sold for consumption, a process that adds to the cost. Despite their cost, I use them pretty extensively in vegan cooking. To make purchasing them more palatable, I buy cashew splits in bulk at my local natural grocery store.
How to Store Cashews
To get the most bang for my buck, I make sure to store my cashews appropriately. Their high fat content will lead to spoilage, so they get prime storage real estate – in my refrigerator. They will stay fresh for up to six months when stored in there in an air-tight container. When past their prime, cashews will appear dark and shriveled and have a bitter taste.
How to Go Vegan: Using Cashews in Your Vegan Cooking
Now that we’ve got all of the what, how and when out of the way, let’s talk why! As in, why you should use cashews in your vegan cooking.
Making Cashew Cream Sauce
More often than not, I’m reaching in the refrigerator for my cashews when I am looking for a vegan cream substitute. Cashews are a softer nut, making them great candidates in vegan cooking for creating dairy-free alternatives. When soaked and blended, cashews can be reduced to a thick, creamy sauce perfect for dishes like Vegan Fettuccini Alfredo, Vegan Nacho Cheese Sauce and Basil Pesto Stuffed Shells.
Unlike other nuts, cashews require significantly less soaking time before being blended. This is especially true with a high-powered blender like a Vitamix. I used to suggest a minimum of 3 hours soak time for cashews in my vegan recipes, but over the years I’ve learned that you can get this down to 30 minutes by soaking the cashews in hot water.
When combined with pasta water, a little olive oil, garlic, lemon juice and nutritional yeast, cashews make an excellent cream sauce that can be adapted for different recipes by adding other ingredients and spices. One tip though – cashew cream sauce does not reheat easily in the microwave or on the stove. It’s best served immediately, but if you need to reheat it, I suggest adding it back to your blender and blending it until its hot.
Cashews Make Great Garnishments
Cashews are also great garnishments, often topping Indian, Thai and Chinese dishes. They’re especially good when lightly toasted, which brings out their sweet, nutty flavor. To toast cashews, bring your oven to 350º and lay the cashews out on a baking sheet in a single layer. Check and stir them after 5 minutes. They should be done right around 10 minutes. Look for a lightly toasted appearance before removing them from the oven. Then, allow them to cool and keep them in an airtight container, preferably in the refrigerator (although roasting cashews should extend their shelf life).
How to Go Vegan: My Favorite Vegan Recipes Using Cashews
As I said before, cashews are a mainstay in my vegan kitchen. If you haven’t tried cooking with cashews, I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised with how effectively they can be used to substitute cream in vegan cooking, or how they add just the right flavor at the end of a dish.
Lasagna makes pretty much everyone happy and, with this Easy Vegan Lasagna Recipe, now even vegans and plant-based eaters can enjoy this ultimate comfort food.
Lasagna has always been a favorite dish of mine. What’s not to love – it’s warm and savory and oh.so.flavorful. The problem, for me anyway, has always been that lasagna has been good going down, but the aftermath of feeling stuffed could be unpleasant. Before eliminating meat and cheese from my diet at home, lasagna could be quite the gut bomb.
These easy, healthy vegan enchiladas feature a black bean and sweet potato filling wrapped in soft corn tortillas and smothered in a creamy cashew cream sauce for the ultimate vegan-friendly casserole dish. Topped with chopped fresh tomatoes, avocado slices and pickled red onions, this vegan enchilada recipe will add a spicy new addition to your vegan recipe collection!
Looking for a vegan appetizer suitable for a crowd? How about these homemade soft pretzels with an easy vegan cheese sauce? I know I am biased, but this vegan cheese sauce is the best! It’s made with creamy cashews, nutritional yeast and red pepper to give it its nacho cheese color. Want to make this vegan appetizer even more simple? Make the soft pretzels into soft pretzel bites and get snacking even sooner!
Looking for some vegan comfort food? How about warming up on a chilly fall evening with this vegan pasta recipe? My basil pesto stuffed shells are every bit as creamy and delicious as their dairy counterpart.
About Herbivore’s Kitchen
Herbivore’s Kitchen is a blog run by me, a plant-based home chef and aspiring food photographer. I switched my and my family’s diet to a plant-based diet after learning about the health benefits of going vegan. Making this change has prompted a variety of food and holistic-lifestyle related questions that I explore through this blog. I talk about how to pick and prepare the most nutritious foods, to how to reduce waste at home, to how to live a more sustainable lifestyle while on the road.