Burnt Cinnamon Cider Cashew Cream

You know those super spendy nut-based desserts lining the grab-and-go shelves of supermarkets around town? Who knew you could make something just as delicious with a few healthy ingredients? Believe us, this recipe will be a crowd pleaser—we know, because we've tested it with vegans, paleo-leaning eaters, and the most omnivorous of omnivores. Local whole foods expert Lauren Chandler of Lauren Chandler Cooks shares these simple recipes for turning cashews and a few other ingredients into a sweet or savory cream worthy of dipping fruit, frosting cupcakes, adding to a smoothie, or even thinning out and using as milk for cereal when camping. The savory style can be used like mayo or aioli on burgers or as a dip for sweet potato fries.

"I've been playing around with cashew creams and milks for years," says Chandler. "It provides a neutral flavor and color base and is really easy to work with, so the sky's the limit for flavors. My friend’s kids call it unicorn frosting!" Try the varieties below, then experiment with your own combinations, like flavoring with chamomile, matcha, or hibiscus tea.

No high-speed blender? No worries. Simply soak the cashews overnight instead of for 30 minutes and your standard blender will do the trick. Each recipe will keep for about five days in an airtight container in your fridge. Pro tip from Chandler: "You can always make cashew cream thinner, but once you add liquid and thin it out, you can’t thicken it again easily. Make it on the thicker side at first and that way you can thin some of it later if you want."

Basic Sweet Cashew Cream
Makes about 1½ cups

  • 1 cup raw, unsalted cashews (about 4 1/2 ounces)
  • 2 pitted dates (about 1 1/2 ounces), roughly chopped or 2 tablespoons grade B maple syrup
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Pinch of sea salt 

Place the cashews into a medium sized bowl, cover with hot water. Soak for 30 minutes, or until they are plump and softened, then drain. Transfer the cashews to a blender with the remaining ingredients and 1/2 cup water, and blend on the highest setting until smooth.

Decadent Kaffir Lime Cashew Cream
Makes 1 scant cup. "This one is good with strawberries or shortbread, and the texture is more like curd because of the palm sugar," shares Chandler.

  • 3 ounces or ¼ cup plus 1 tablespoon palm sugar
  • 1 cup raw, unsalted cashews (about 4 1/2 ounces)
  • 6 kaffir lime leaves
  • 2 teaspoons lime juice
  • Pinch of sea salt

Place the palm sugar and 2 cups of water into a small pot and bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring a few times so the sugar does not stick to the bottom of the pot. Reduce the heat so the liquid gently boils and cook until the mixture has reduced to 1/2 cup, around 35-40 minutes.  Pour the liquid into a measuring glass to make sure you have 1/2 cup. Add the cashews to the palm sugar syrup in the measuring glass and soak them for 20-30 minutes, until they soften. Place the kaffir lime leaves in a small skillet over medium-low heat and toast for 2-3 minutes, until they are crisp, curled and are starting to turn golden brown, flipping once to ensure even toasting. Transfer the toasted lime leaves, cashews and palm sugar syrup to a high-speed blender, add the lime juice and salt and blend on the highest setting until smooth.

Burnt Cinnamon Cider Cashew Cream
Makes about 1 cup—try this version on hot apple pie!

  • 2 cups apple cider
  • 4 cardamom pods
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1 1/2 -inch coin of ginger
  • 1 cup raw, unsalted cashews (about 4 1/2 ounces)
  • Squeeze of lemon
  • Pinch of sea salt

Pour the cider into a small saucepan. Place a liquid measuring glass and sieve next to the stove. Firmly hold one end of the cinnamon stick and carefully and evenly char it in an open flame until it just turns color, then dip it into the cider to put the flame out and cool the charred end. (Be careful—when you heat the cinnamon stick, the heat can move through the hollow center and burn your hand.) Then hold the charred end and burn the other end, then add it to the pot with the cider. Add the cardamom pods and ginger to the pot, then bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce the heat so the liquid gently boils and cook until the mixture has reduced to ¾ cup, around 30-35 minutes.  Strain the liquid into the measuring glass to make sure you have ¾ cup. Discard the cinnamon stick and reserve the cardamom and ginger in a separate dish. Add the cashews to the reduced cider and soak them for 20-30 minutes, until they soften. Transfer the cashews, cider, ginger and inner seeds of the cardamom (to taste) to a blender. Add the lemon juice and salt and blend on the highest setting until smooth.

Smoky, Savory Lime Cilantro Cashew Cream
Makes about 1½ cups 

  • 1 cup raw, unsalted cashews
  • ¼ cup chopped cilantro
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 3 tablespoons lime juice
  • 1 teaspoon sweet smoked paprika
  • Sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Place the cashews into a medium sized bowl, cover with hot water. Soak for 30 minutes, or until they are plump and softened, then drain. Transfer the cashews to a blender with the remaining ingredients and ½ cup cold water, and blend on the highest setting until smooth.

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