Vegan Cashew Cheese: My Latest Subscription Meal Kit Ingredient Obsession
Every week, I check in with the biggest meal delivery services and publish a roundup that showcases what’s on the menu. It’s a lot of fun to see what recipes the different meal kits and meal delivery services come up with, and I love that I get to keep tabs on recipe trends and clock new ingredients as soon as they hit the menu.
One of the ingredients I’ve seen gain popularity over the past few months is cashew cheese, a plant-based alternative to dairy cheese that’s made from cashews (instead of cow, goat, or sheep’s milk) and nutritional yeast or active cultures to give it a rich cheesy taste. If you haven’t tried it before, you may be scrunching up your face in a combination of uncertainty and confusion; indeed, it sounds… odd. Does it taste like cashew nuts? Is it actually cheesy? Is it any good? At first, I was skeptical too. But it popped up again and again, more and more frequently. Before long, I my skepticism turned to intrigue. I just HAD to try it.
Spoiler alert: it’s awesome.
But before I dive in and tell you all about how this vegan cheese substitute has changed the way I cook with plants, let me talk a little bit about my personal food ethos and what let me here. If you read my reviews, you probably know that I do, in fact, eat animal products. I’ve reviewed meat boxes, non-vegan meal kits, prepared meal subscriptions, the whole nine yards. I enjoy the occasional burger, and I absolutely adore cheese. Despite this, I’ve always been conscious of the impact of my food choices. The ethical treatment of animals, for example, is something I want to support with my eating habits. I also want to be mindful of sustainable production practices and buy from local farmers and ranchers when I can. My husband feels even more strongly about these things than I do, and several years ago he made the decision to become a “most of the time vegan” for ethical reasons. At home, if I’m buying meat or animal products, I try to make choices that we can both feel good about; most of the time, however, I try to build vegan menus for us to enjoy. Deep down, I feel great about this, but my cravings don’t always agree with my inner voice. Without question, cheese is the number one thing I miss when I’m skipping meat and dairy.
Okay, so what exactly is cashew cheese? How is it made? Well, there are different methods available, but they all start with raw cashews. Once ground in a food processor, the nuts are mixed with salt, garlic, lemon juice, and nutritional yeast to produce a gluten-free product with a rich and cheesy taste. The cheese can be enjoyed as-is or cultured with active probiotics to produce additional tangy flavor. The texture can be tweaked to resemble firm cheese like Parmesan or smooth cheese like ricotta.
The first time I got my hands on the stuff was thanks to Sprinly, which I reviewed for the first time a few months ago. Sprinly regularly features “Cashew Parm” on their menu, a cashew cheese variant that’s made to resemble Parmesan cheese. Parmesan is known for its firm texture and nutty flavor, so using cashew nuts as a replacement makes a lot of sense. It absolutely provides that rich burst of umami I crave when I’m about to dig into a big bowl of pasta. At first bite, I was into it.
With one positive experience under my belt, I was hungry for more, so I decided to try Purple Carrot, another subscription that regularly incorporates cashew cheese into their menu. (Recently, I’ve spotted it in meals like Beet & Coconut Bacon Flatbreads with Herbed Cashew Cheese and Crispy Sumac Brown Rice Bowls with Pistachios & Cashew Cheese.) Instead of the firm and crunchy cashew Parm I received from Sprinly, Purple Carrot tends to use a creamier, French-style version that more resembles chèvre or Boursin. Rich and smooth, it has a salty, nutty flavor that’s very satisfying.
Thanks to these meal kits, I’ve gotten a real taste for this plant-based cheese substitute, and it’s become a regular part of my vegan cooking routine. Has it completely satiated my desire for delicious, real dairy cheese? No, I’m not a full-time vegan, and I’m not sure I’ll ever be. I still crave pizza and Greek salads and hot ham and cheese sandwiches. However, cashew cheese has given me a solid vegan alternative that I can lean on when I’m trying to avoid dairy. When I’m making spaghetti with marinara sauce, I’ll often swap cashew Parm for the real thing, and spreading creamy cashew cheese on crackers is a super satisfying snack. I’m grateful to have a substitute that helps keep me from reaching for actual cheese every single time I crave it.
If you’re a “part-time vegan” like me and looking for a way to make your vegan cooking just a little bit more satisfying, I highly recommend giving vegan cashew cheese a try. In addition to Sprinly and Purple Carrot, you’ll occasionally find it on the menu at Home Chef and Sakara Life. If you’re feeling adventurous, you can also try making it yourself at home.
What do you think? Have you tried cashew cheese? Did it tickle your fancy like it did mine? Or are there other ingredients you’ve discovered thanks to subscription meal kits that have changed the way you cook at home?