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Cashew Substitutes and Alternatives by The Allergy Chef

Choosing a Cashew Substitute for Recipes (Cashew Allergy Alternatives)

    Cashew nuts have an interesting place in the culinary world. For those who are dairy free or vegan, and can have tree nuts, cashews are seen as a miracle-like ingredient. They can create a creamy texture in a range of recipes, and often times raw cashews are used to make cashew cream (a delicious dairy-free alternative). It’s a delicious vegan condiment that can be seasoned with additional ingredients such as lemon juice, nutritional yeast, or savory herbs.

    However, for those who are allergic to all tree nuts (one of the most common allergies), or manage a cashew allergy, today I’ll be sharing what will make a great substitute for cashews in cooking, baking, snacking, and more.

    What Do Cashews Taste Like?

    Let’s start with taste. When you purchase raw cashews at the store, they’re not actually raw. Cashews need to be processed before they can be eaten. According to one of my taste testers, cashews are soft in feel (almost like a peanut), they’re not brittle, and they have a mellow nutty flavor.

    I’m told that they don’t have an earthy flavor, which could be a good thing since you use them in a wider range of recipes. Cashews I’m told taste better when salted, or sweetened a bit. I would give you my own opinion, but I personally manage a severe anaphylaxis cashew allergy.

    You can easily alter the flavor profile of your cashew product by adding different ingredients. For a cheesy flavor, many vegan recipes call for nutritional yeast which can remind some people of cheese.

    For a tangy flavor, you could add a little citrus or vinegar to your cashew mix. For a sweet flavor, you can blend your cashews with pitted medjool dates. All of these alternatives apply to which ever cashew substitute you go with.

    No matter which direction you go in, be sure to add at least a pinch of salt to your cashew (or cashew substitute) blend. It can help bring out the natural flavours. For an extra kick, use smoked salt.

    The Texture and Function of Cashews

    Moving on to texture, when blended well, cashews have a smooth texture. With their high fat content, blended cashew can perform like full fat coconut milk. When blending, add water until you’ve reached the desired consistency and strength. Blended cashews can make cashew butter, cashew paste, cashew milk, and more. These are foundational items that are then used to make something else such as ice cream, creamy sauce, raw cheesecake, dairy free cream cheese, cheese sauces, dairy free sour cream, and more.

    You can use your food processor to make a nut butter, including cashew butter. If this is something you’ll do often, invest in a NutraMilk which can process a range of nuts, seeds, legumes, and more. It has a heavy duty motor which won’t burn out quickly when making nut and seed butters. You can also make dairy free milk in a NutraMilk.

    Best Substitutes for Cashews by Application and Ingredient

    I’m sure you started reading this article asking: what’s the perfect substitute for cashews? The answer: there’s no one-sized fits all replacement for cashews. The application of cashews in the recipe you’re following will determine what will be a good option. You’ll also need to address the overall flavor profile of the recipe. For example, in savory recipes, peanut butter wouldn’t be a good substitute (but it might work well in a smoothie).

    On the flip side, if a recipe has a sweet taste, lean into tree nuts and seeds that are naturally sweeter. Blanched almond, sliced tiger nuts (tuber not a tree nut), and macadamia nuts would each be a good option in that scenario.

    Cashew Paste Substitute

    You may have a recipe call for a cashew paste for a range of reasons. Combining brazil nut, dairy free milk, and a little coconut oil together in your food processor can make a good substitute for cashew paste. Almond paste is another good cashew paste substitute, and you may prefer the flavour.

    Vegan Cashew Cheese Substitute

    There are several vegan cheese brands that don’t use cashews. Follow Your Heart and Daiya are two good contenders that are sold nation wide. Many of their cheeses are found to be delicious. Another brand to check out is Vio Life.

    Cashew Butter Substitute

    Other nut/seed/tuber/legume butters, including peanut butter can all be used as a cashew butter substitute where function is concerned. I’ve seen cashew butter called for in smoothies, sweet treats, and baked goods. Whilst other seed and nut butters can be used, be mindful of the taste. If the cashew butter is used in a small amount, then you should be fine to use any alternative. However, if it’s the key flavour profile, opt for a more neutral tasting cashew butter substitute. For example, tree nut butter made from hazelnut or almond will have a pretty distinct taste, and will be discernable in your final product.

    Raw Cheesecake Cashew Substitute

    Many raw cheesecake recipes call for cashews. Cashews are a good source of healthy fats, and it’s the fat that creates the rich and creamy texture. The good news is that you can create the same mouthfeel with other ingredients. Coconut oil will be an important ingredient to include in your raw cheesecake, as this will become the setting agent. Whilst you could use agar, coconut oil will help keep the creamy mouthfeel, rather than creating something on the gummy/gelatin side. Blanched almonds can be used in place of cashews in many raw cheesecake recipes, in conjunction with coconut oil. I’ve made this with strawberries and I’m told that the final outcome is a raw cheesecake with delicious flavor and texture.

    Cashew-Based Spreadable Cheese Substitute

    Usually, whole cashews are blended in a high-speed blender along with other ingredients to make a spreadable cheese. Some brands such as Miyoko’s also sell spreadable cashew cheese. Commercially, there are a few options available that are cashew free, however, you may prefer to make this item at home. The best part about making it at home is that you can create a much stronger flavor by adjusting the ratios.

    A good base for a cashew free spreadable cheese can start with brazil nut. You can soak them in hot water for 30 minutes before using to help soften them. Blend alongside ingredients such as sea salt, garlic powder (a little goes a long way), nutritional yeast, and other savory herbs. Make sure your blend is ultra smooth. You can eat this hot from the blender or chill in the fridge before serving. For those who need a nut-free version, silken tofu can also be used to make a spreadable cheese. Search online for tofu cheese recipes, and I’m sure you’ll find something that will work.

    Substituting Cashews in Pasta Sauces

    For those who are vegan or dairy free, you may come across a pasta sauce recipe that calls for cashew cream. In fact, many vegan recipes call for cashew cream. In the pasta application, you have a few choices. First, you can use a combination of dairy free milk and dairy free butter. The butter will provide the fat content and extra buttery flavor. Another option is to make a simple gravy-like recipe using white rice flour and dairy free milk. How much flour you use will determine how thick/strong your mix is. Mix your alternative into the rest of your pasta sauce ingredients.

    Cashew Milk Substitute

    Dairy free milks are a 1:1 substitute for one another. Soy milk is a special exception in baking due to the protein content, but most people can’t tell the difference. If a recipe calls for cashew milk, use any milk of choice (including cow’s milk) in its place. This works for pasta dishes, savory recipes, and even in a simple recipe such as pancakes.

    Cashew Substitute for Snacking

    If you’re looking for a simple snack option, any other tree nut or peanut would make for an easy substitute for replacing cashews. For those who need a nut free option, I’d suggest checking out the brand Crunchsters (mung bean based). Their crunchy mung bean snack comes in a few flavours, and makes for an excellent cashew substitute (when eating them straight).

    Roasted chickpeas are another excellent substitute for cashews if you want something to snack on, as well as seasoned pumpkin seeds (check out the brand Superseedz).

    If you’re looking to replace cashews in a trail mix, peanuts (legume, not a tree nut) make for a great substitution. Another option is seasoned sunflower seeds or roasted hazelnuts.

    Heavy Cream Substitute

    If you need a heavy cream substitute, check out this article that shares how you can use liquid and fat ratios to create a faux cream to be used in cooking and baking. It won’t however work as a standalone cream, and cannot be whipped. Since it’s dairy free, you’ll need a few more ingredients to pull that off.

    What About Sunflower Seeds and Pumpkin Seeds?

    You may have noticed that I didn’t mention sunflower seeds or pumpkin seeds as a viable substitute. That’s because they both have very strong flavors. My goal is to suggest alternatives that will produce both a similar texture and a similar flavor as cashew-based products.

    However, if these are your only options, you can use them in place of cashews alongside other ingredients. Be sure to manage your expectations though, as your final result will be considerably different.

    Final Thoughts

    If you’re newly diagnosed with a cashew allergy, and some of your favorite recipes contain cashews, know that you’ll still be able to enjoy them. They may not taste exactly the same, but as long as you manage your expectations, I think you’ll be happy with what you’re able to have.

    Hopefully you’ve found the cashew substitute you were looking for. There are other creative ways to replace the texture and function of cashews, but what I’ve suggested will be the quickest/easiest ways.

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