Cashews are a most amazing nut!
You can use them to make cream cheese-like spreads/dips, milks, yogurts, ice creams, and homemade nut butter. You can of course eat them whole, candied, roasted, salted, or dipped in chocolate. They work well in trail mixes (just beware of sugary content in those blends, but if you make your own, they are a lovely addition). They are a luxurious nut to say the least – their flavor is different than other nuts and it can be used in so many recipes due to their mild flavoring and flexible nature.
You can buy cashew milks, cheeses, spreads and ice creams at the stores, but you can also make your own. I have made my own cashew nut butter, cashew cheese (cream cheese style), and cream (as a dairy substitute either sweet or savory). I have never made my own cashew milk, ice cream, or yogurt though. If I buy cashew cream cheese, I love the Treeline brand which offers a variety of flavors. I like the garlic and herb or the scallion versions. When buying milks, I will use So Delicious‘s unsweetened – plain cashew milk; it has a creamy texture and no added sugars. I also like their cashew based ice creams. For yogurts, I recently started eating Forager’s unsweetened – plain yogurt and have also come to really like their vanilla bean flavor as well. I have never tried the other flavors. I prefer to make my own cashew butter, but if I need to buy it in a pinch, I go for Maisie Jane’s cashew butter.
It is wonderful to have so many options for products and brands, but some of these products can be costly if you buy them regularly. Forager and So Delicious are very reasonably priced and they go on sale often at my local grocery stores. Treeline and Maisie Jane’s cost more money, so I buy them less frequently.
So, what do you do if you want to make your own cashew dairy products? Well, if you choose to make your own, you’ll have to buy a large bag of cashews. Then you’ll need to soak your cashews for anywhere from 2 to 12 hours, depending on what you’re making.
You will need a high speed blender or good food processor for these types of nut based recipes. I personally like to use the food processor when making cashew cheeses because they have a hummus like texture that really only requires a certain amount of liquid. When making sauces and puddings, I am fine using either the blender or processor since you add more liquid to those recipes. If you don’t have a high speed blender or food processor, I highly recommend getting one. You will be forever grateful that you invested in one appliance so you could make tons of recipes! Think of all the money you’ll save making your own versus buying it at the store.
A few people have asked me where I buy my nuts and I always tell them: Trader Joe’s because they have the best prices around. If I am making a recipe that is strictly blending up the nuts, I get raw organic cashew pieces. If I am making something where the nuts will hold their shape (such as a trail mix or topping for a dessert), I will buy them as whole raw organic cashews. You are certainly welcome to buy your cashews anywhere that you can find them for a decent price. I always have to look for nuts that are made in a gluten free facility, so that makes my selection less plentiful. The same goes for those bulk aisles at the grocery store; too much risk for cross contamination. I also prefer to buy raw nuts over salted, seasoned, and roasted when creating recipes with them.
Cashews are rich in minerals such as: manganese, potassium, copper, iron, magnesium, zinc, and selenium. I have read that a handful of cashews a day would provide enough of these minerals, but if you have any nutritional deficiencies, I would double check that information with your doctor. They also have protein and fiber in them! So, if you are not allergic to these amazing nuts, give them a try. I will be posting a cashew cream cheese spread recipe in a few days, so keep your eyes peeled!