10 Surprising Ways to Cook With Cashews

From creamy spreads to cheesecake, we're amazed with just how versatile cashew nuts can be.

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Raw cashews close-up in wooden bowl on sackcloth
Shutterstock/Elena M. Tarasova

Thought that cashew nuts only had a place as a snacking nut or in cashew chicken stir-fries? Think again! These soft, sweet buttery nuts can be used to make ultra-flavorful spreads, soups, milk and more. They’re great for those following a dairy-free, plant-based, or paleo diet (and they’re pretty tasty for the rest of us, too).

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vegan cheese with cashew
Shutterstock/margouillat photo

Cashew Cream Cheese

Soak cashews in water overnight to soften them. Then, drain them and blend them up with some lemon juice, salt, and a splash of water until they’re super smooth and spreadable. It doesn’t get easier than that!

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carrot cake
Taste of Home

Cashew Cream Cheese Frosting

Carrot cake isn’t the same without cream cheese frosting. That same cashew cream cheese you made can be whipped into a sweet treat by adding honey or maple syrup. Let it set up in the freezer before frosting your favorite desserts.

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Vegan Cheesecake

Who doesn’t love cheesecake? Anyone on a diet, that’s who! Luckily, vegan cheesecake recipes use cashews instead of all of that heavy cream cheese. Combining whipped cashews with coconut milk is a great way to get a creamy texture without skimping on all that comforting cheesecake flavor. Looking to indulge? Try our top 10 cheesecake recipes.

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Shutterstock/ Elena M. Tarasova

Cashew Mayonnaise

Using mayonnaise becomes a problem if you have an egg allergy or you’re trying to follow a plant-based diet. (Find out more about plant-based diets.) Once again, cashews save the day! Blending soaked cashews with a few ingredients like cauliflower, olive oil, lemon juice, and a little water makes a perfect mayo replacement.

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Fancy organic fetuccine pasta with creamy alfredo mushroom sauce
Shutterstock/Ezume Images

Faux Alfredo Sauce

Some of our favorite pasta sauces involve heavy cream, but it’s a little indulgent to eat creamy Alfredo all the time. Making a creamy “Alfredo” sauce with cashews is the perfect way to ease my guilt. Blending soaked cashews with garlic and olive oil does the trick.

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Shutterstock/Viktor Kochetkov

Cashew Dip

It doesn’t always have to be about turning a recipe into a vegan or dairy-free meal.

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Heap of raw cashews and a glass of cashew milk, on wooden surface

Cashew Milk

If you’re looking for a dairy-free milk alternatives, cashew milk is one of the best. It’s as easy as blending 1 cup of soaked cashews with 4 cups of water (plus sweeteners, if you like). As a bonus, this tasty drink packs 45 percent of your daily dose of calcium!

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Nicecream - ice cream made of frozen banana
Shutterstock/JRP Studio

Vegan Ice Cream

Cashew ice cream is a great alternative for those on a vegan or dairy-free diet. Take equal parts soaked cashews and almond milk and churn away in an ice cream maker.

Psst! Here’s how to make ice cream without an ice cream maker.

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Salsa dip with tortilla chip

Cashew Salsa

Using nuts in salsa is traditional in Mexico to make sauces rich and creamy. They can be pureed until they’re unnoticeable or left chunky for texture. Roasting a few cashews and tossing them in your favorite salsa recipe is a sure-fire way to make it stand out!

Simply add 1/2 cup of coarsely chopped, roasted cashews to this speedy homemade salsa recipe.

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Roasted Cauliflower Soup:Shown served with grilled bread and side salad
Shutterstock/Janet Moore

Creamy Soups

Instead of adding heavy cream to your favorite cauliflower soup, add vegetable broth pureed with cashews instead! They’ll have the same sweet flavor and creamy texture without all of the added saturated fat.

Lindsay D. Mattison
Lindsay is a professional chef, recipe developer, writer and developmental editor. After years of working in restaurant kitchens, she turned to writing to share her skills and experience with home cooks and food enthusiasts. She's passionate about using local, organic ingredients and teaching others how to incorporate seasonal food into their diet. Lindsay still cooks professionally for pop-up events, writes for several publications and is the co-author of two books about Ayurveda.