If there is one major thing I've missed since going vegan, it is CREAM CHEESE. One of my favorite things I indulged in the past was cream cheese on a toasted bagel. That irresistible, incredible, bold tang of cream cheese that is insanely delicious. The tang that is in cream cheese compared to regular cheese is what I love so much. Well, my friends, here is the result of my cream cheese dreams come true, in healthy vegan fruition. Read on to see how I came up with this dreamy stuff.
Most commercial vegan cheeses I've tried were, how do I put this, nasty. Weird, greasy and full of horrible ingredients. That is, until I tried Field Roast Chao cheese. It is incredibly delicious, melts well and tastes just like traditional cheese. They offer 3 flavors and by far, my favorite was their "black pepper" flavor. I love, love black pepper and in a cheese, it's just divine. Only issue is it is of course highly processed and full of oil, 2 things I try to avoid.
Their "black pepper" flavor was what inspired me to create a cream cheese with that flavor. I took it one step further by adding a smoky element...another thing I loved before, was the smoky cheeses. So this recipe is the result of all things in the past I loved so much.
And my friends, this one passed with flying colors with my hubby, daughter and other family members who are NOT vegans. I'm as giddy as can be, knowing I can now have cream cheese again that I can feel good about eating.
Cashew cream cheese is nothing new. Cashews are a vegan's best friend. But every recipe I've come across has involved strange ingredients I've never heard of or really involved steps or draining from cheese cloths....basically things I didn't want to fool with. This is just soaking cashews overnight and then draining and blending in a food processor! I just wanted simple. I like simple. I also wanted a strong tang, more than just lemon juice, and an easy way to achieve that.
So, how did I achieve that amazing tang?? Well, it requires just 8 ingredients (plus water), but specifically 3 very basic ingredients to get that TANG. Nothing fancy you have to go to a special store for. These 3 ingredients achieved that awesome, bold tang I was after.
Lemon juice, apple cider vinegar and pickle juice! Yes, pickle juice. For some weird reason (no, I'm not pregnant) I started craving pickles really strongly the past month. Maybe it was a sign from the food Gods, I don't know, but I bought some pickles. I had been working on this recipe a few times and wanted a more depth of tang than just what lemon juice and apple cider vinegar provide. It hit me, the pickle brine! I thought it sounded like the final piece to the cream cheese puzzle. I was right. It provided that extra tang and depth of flavor I was after. Plus, have you all seen the dairy cream cheese dips where people add pickles to the dip? Well, forget that, let's make cream cheese using pickle juice, haha!
Let me know what you think of this Vegan Smoky Black Pepper Cream Cheese by dropping me feedback below after you make it! I’ll be dying to hear. You can also tag me on Instagram@thevegan8 and don’t forget my hashtag in your caption #thevegan8 so it’s saved to my page and I don’t miss it. Enjoy!
This cream cheese is soy-free, oil-free and coconut-free!
1 cup raw cashews (140 g, unsalted, no other nut will work for this, weigh for accurate results)
2 tablespoons water
1 1/2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
1/4 teaspoon liquid smoke (I used Wright's, it's caramel color-free)
2 teaspoons dill pickle juice (I used Trader Joe's pickles, do not omit this! I'm assuming any basic dill pickle juice will work, just don't use sweet!)
1/2 tablespoon nutritional yeast
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper (increase to 1/2 teaspoon for a strong peppery taste or omit)
1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
Note: I trialed this recipe many times before arriving to the above recipe that I and others absolutely loved, so please don't sub any of the ingredients or change the process below, especially the acidic liquids, as they are the key to this cream cheese flavor. You can leave out the black pepper if you want a more basic cream cheese, but I wouldn't suggest leaving out the liquid smoke, as it does add an extra zing/tang as well, helping to camouflage the cashew flavor. If you really don't want a smoky flavor, then I would increase the apple cider and lemon juice a bit to desired taste. You can customize this with other flavors by adding chopped chives, olives, or sun-dried tomatoes. Have fun with it!
Important: I would suggest prepping this 2 days before you want to eat it, for the best results. You must soak the cashews fully overnight before making this, the longer the better. I soaked mine for a good 12 hours or so. You should literally be able to crumble them after soaking, that's how soft you want them. They become extremely soft this way and is how the whipped texture and super creaminess comes about. Even the flavor was better this way. Trust me, I tried a quick boil method with the cashews and it was not as silky smooth or best in flavor. This recipe uses very little water, so trying to skip the long soaking method will affect the results. You want the nuts soft and cool. A food processor is how to get the specific texture, again because very little liquid is used. So, add your cashews to a bowl and cover with warm water and leave to sit on your counter overnight. Drain them the next day and rinse very well. Shake off excess water. UPDATE: I did not have success in a Vitamix, but others have, so just make sure to process as long as possible until it's completely smooth and a whipped texture. Add the liquids before adding the cashews if you use it. I prefer the food processor personally for this.
Add the soaked/drained cashews, water, lemon juice and apple cider vinegar to a food processor and process until a paste forms. Scrape the sides a couple of times and process again. You want it relatively smooth, but it doesn't have to be perfect since we are processing again.
Add all of the remaining ingredients, liquid smoke, pickle juice, nutritional yeast, pepper and salt. Process for several minutes. I'm talking, walk away for a couple of minutes and come back. Scrape the sides down and process once more. You want that stuff silky smooth and a whipped like texture. Refer to photos above for a visual.
Once it's completely smooth, transfer to a glass container and store in the fridge overnight. It will thicken and firm up some and get really chilled, making it perfect for your bagel in the morning. You will experience the full flavor and texture after it has chilled overnight. Be patient my friends. Enjoy! Come back please and let me know how you liked it! You can also add some plant milk to this to thin it out and use over pasta, just up the spices/acidity to balance it out!
Vegan, soy-free, oil-free, coconut-free Nutrition: I didn't really know how many servings to state this as, since it will be all dependent on how much you load the cheese on your bagel or the purpose you use it for, but it will give substantially enough for at least 6 bagels, so that's how I calculated it. 141.25 calories, 11.1 g fat, 8.93 carbs, 4.6 g protein, 1.5 g sugars, 147.6 mg sodium
Hi! I'm Brandi, a wife and mom behind this blog who healed her husband's gout and my digestion issues through a plant-based diet. I'm not complicated, I keep things simple. All my recipes are 8 ingredients or less, not including salt, pepper and water. They are allergy-friendly, as they are all vegan, oil-free and nearly all are gluten-free. You'll find lots of baked goods here, as I've been a baker all my life, it's my passion!