02 / 9 / 2013

The Mother Sauce: Turning Cashew Cream into a Foundation Sauce

by Rhona Kamar


Cashew cream is God’s gift to vegans. It is the closest we can get to heavy whipping cream, a prized ingredient amongst professional chefs and gourmet cooks. Heavy cream is luscious and versatile, a creamy blank canvas for endless rich culinary expressions. So is cashew cream. Heavy whipping cream is perfect for thickening up a soup or sauce while adding depth to the other seasonings. So is cashew cream. Cashew cream, like heavy whipping cream, is sturdy and can stand up to heat. But cashew cream also performs well in raw creations. And, unlike its milky counterpart, it has no cholesterol and contains high levels of magnesium and other important minerals.

There are so many milk alternatives on the market these days, and many of them replace dairy milk quite nicely. Store-bought coconut milk, rice or soy milk are quick favorites and one or more of these should be in your cupboard at all times.

But these milks lack the fat content of cashews and other nuts that mimic the richness of heavy cream. Almonds and macadamia nuts are both excellent alternatives to cashews. You can work with them in the same way as cashews to create a homemade milk you can use in countless ways. Cashews, however, are less expensive and offer a cleaner taste profile than the others.

Unroasted, unsalted cashews are what you want. Organic is always the best.



1 pound of cashews, soaked
4 cups of water

1. Soaking the cashews overnight will result in a smoother cream with little to no straining necessary. In fact, you can leave the cashews covered and soaking in water in the refrigerator for up to two days before blending them. But if you want cashew cream right now and you’ve left none soaking, don’t worry. You can still blend them. Just expect more grain, and perhaps even be willing to take that extra step of straining through a cheesecloth or extra fine strainer.


2. After soaking comes blending. Drain off the soaking liquid and discard. Give the cashews a little rinse and then into the blender. With a regular blender, it’s best to blend in two batches. If you are using a Vita Mix or other high power blender, go ahead with all of them.

Cashews will soak up a lot of water. They will soak up water while soaking in water. And they will soak up water throughout every stage of your work with them. Like pancake batter, cashew cream does continue to thicken. There is not an exact amount of water that a recipe could honestly give you. This is a dish where eyes and instinct will aid in your success. You will add water as needed to continually achieve the consistency you desire. If you are going to make a raw dish, use less water for a thicker sauce. If you are going to cook the cashew cream, go ahead and add a little more water. It will thicken as it cooks.

So for the initial transformation of the plump little nuts into smooth milk, start with at least two cups of water and go from there.


3. Cover the blender (a kitchen towel is advised if the lid of your blender is not trustworthy) and begin blending. They will break down quickly but leave them blending for up to three minutes.

Stop the blender and smear a dab of the milk between your fingers. There will be some miniscule grains, but if it’s more than that? Continue blending.


If you’ve soaked the nuts for at least 24 hours and blended well, you probably won’t need to strain the milk through a cheesecloth or fine sieve. This is not true, however, of macadamia nuts or almonds. With those two varieties, in fact, straining will give you a bonus: a chunky by-product that can be used in other ways. (Look for more on that in the future.)

So now you’ve got cashew milk. At this point you can use the milk to make Alfredo Sauce, Poblano Cream Sauce or Mushroom Cream Sauce, or you can use some to thicken a soup. Or you can freeze the batch to be used in the future.






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