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Recipe: Herbed Cashew Cheese Spread

Herbed Cashew Cheese Spread
Photo: Emily Han 

Cashew "cheese" is one of those things that might seem like it's only for deprived vegans, but let me assure you, it can be enjoyed by everyone. It is true that if you're expecting authentic dairy flavor, you might be disappointed. So just think of this as a creamy, herbed spread that's ridiculously easy to make and serve it with crackers, bread, sandwiches, or crudités. I've taken to doubling the recipe because it tends to go fast. Cashew cheese can also be thinned out with water or white wine and mixed into pasta.

Many nut-based cheese recipes incorporate nutritional yeast, which provides a savory, umami note. I like this recipe equally with or without the yeast. And feel free to make the recipe your own by starting with the cashew base and adding your own blend of herbs, spices, olives, sun-dried tomatoes, whatever you like.

Herbed Cashew Cheese Spread
Makes about 3 cups

2 cups raw cashews
2 tablespoons dry vermouth or white wine (can substitute water)
2 teaspoons grated lemon zest
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 large garlic clove, minced
1/2 teaspoon sea salt, or to taste
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black or white pepper, or to taste
2 tablespoons nutritional yeast (optional)
2 tablespoons chopped fresh chives
2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme leaves

Place the cashews in a large bowl, cover with water (preferably filtered), and soak overnight. Rinse and drain.

Place the cashews, vermouth or white wine, lemon zest, lemon juice, garlic, salt, pepper, and nutritional yeast (if using) in a high-speed blender or food processor. Process until smooth, periodically scraping down the sides of the bowl and adding little water if needed for a thinner consistency. Add the herbs and pulse to combine. Taste and adjust seasonings if desired.

Transfer to a bowl, cover, and chill at least 1 hour and ideally 1 day before serving. Best eaten within a week.