Vegan Cream Cheese

This vegan cream cheese is infused with a mild tangy flavor and a thick, creamy texture just like the traditional version you love. It’s a cashew cream cheese recipe that is easy to make with minimal ingredients and will keep you coming back for more!

A bagel is cut in half and has vegan cream cheese in the middle. There are more bagels behind it with a bowl of more vegan cream cheese.

I’ve been making cashew cream for quite a while, years actually. It began in 2012 with these cashew cream Stuffed Strawberries. I was fascinated at the time with a raw diet, and using cashews to create cream is popular in the raw food community.

However, the raw version has a consistency that’s too thin. I wanted a thick version that could be spread over a bagel.

Why This Recipe is a Winner

  • Using cashews adds an irresistibly creamy texture.
  • Adding vegan yogurt means you’re creating a cultured plant-based cream cheese that will have the same tangy flavor as the dairy version.
  • Coconut oil gives this the perfect thick texture that’s spreadable and smooth!

What You Need

You can find the full printable recipe, including ingredient quantities, below. But first, here are some explanations of ingredients and steps to help you make this recipe perfect every time.

Here are the ingredients you’ll need for this recipe:

  • Raw cashews — I buy raw cashews in bulk at health food stores like Sprouts, or they can be found online too.
  • Coconut oil — I recommend using refined coconut oil because it has a more neutral flavor.
  • Vegan yogurt — To get the tangy flavor, we’ll use plain vegan yogurt (not vanilla or flavored yogurt)
  • Apple cider vinegar — Vinegar adds a little more of that tangy flavor too.
  • Nutritional yeast flakes — I like to use nooch (as it’s often called) to add depth of flavor.
  • Salt — For even more depth of flavor, a bit of salt goes a long way.

How to Make Vegan Cream Cheese

This dairy-free cream cheese recipe is soft, mild-tasting, and easy to make. It begins with cashews.

Step One: Preparing Cashews

Here are two ways to prep the cashews for this recipe:

  • Slow Soak — Add water to the raw cashews and soak them 2 hours or up to overnight. Doing it this way keeps this recipe 100% raw.
  • Fast Soak Stovetop — If you’re like me, you don’t have the patience (or time) for a slow soak. In that case, pour the cashews into a saucepan and cover with water. Bring the water to a boil over medium heat. Cover the pan and remove from heat and let them sit for 15 minutes. This should make them nice and tender.
  • Fast Soak Microwave — Pour the cashews into a bowl. Heat water in a pyrex measuring dish (with a handle) and heat for 2 minutes. The water should be hot. Pour the water over the cashews, and place a plate over the top. Let the cashews sit for at least 30 minutes, until tender.
A pyrex measuring cup full of hot water is being poured over raw cashews.

Most raw food advocates suggest that food must be cooked in temperatures lower than 105°F and this hot water will probably be more like 120°F. So that means this is not technically raw cashew cream cheese, but it’s close.

A bowl of raw cashews has been filled mostly with water. A pyrex measuring cup is finishing up pouring water over it.

Once the cashews are good and soaked, pour them into a strainer to drain the water. Place a few paper towels on a plate and pour the cashews on the plate. Use a few more paper towels to pat the cashews dry.

The cashews don’t have to be completely dry, but just devoid of excessive moisture.

Step Two: Making Cream

Place the cashews in a food processor bowl, along with the remaining ingredients.

Cashews and other ingredients are in the bowl of a food processor.

Pulse for several seconds and then use a spatula to scrape down any ingredients from the side of the bowl. Repeat this until you achieve a nice, smooth consistency. This may take up to 3–5 minutes.

Transfer the cashew cream cheese into a sealable container and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes. Then you’re ready to begin spreading this lovely homemade vegan cream cheese on your favorite bagels!

A bagel has been cut in half and has cashew cream cheese in the middle. There are more bagels behind it and a bowl of more vegan cream cheese.

Is Cream Cheese Vegan?

Unfortunately, most cream cheese products at the grocery store are not vegan. That’s because they’re made from cow’s milk-based dairy. However, there are some tasty dairy-free cream cheese options you can buy or even make at home.

What is the best vegan cream cheese?

You can buy non-dairy cream cheese at the store. Two favorite brands are Tofutti and Daiya, and they’re widely available at health food stores and many grocery stores too. There are more dairy-free cream cheese brands all the time!

What is vegan cream cheese made of?

Homemade dairy-free cream cheese is a simple combination of cashews with cultured dairy-free yogurt to create the tangy flavor everyone loves about cream cheese. Store-bought varieties are oftentimes made from soy.

Are cashews healthy?

This cultured cashew cheese recipe is packed with whole food ingredients, including cashews. But are cashews healthy? The good news, like most plant-based ingredients, cashews offer many nutrients, like fiber, copper, and magnesium.

If you love cream cheese, there’s no need to give it up after going dairy-free or vegan. Non-dairy cream cheese is more than possible, it’s delicious!

Fermented Cashew Cheese

Any good cream cheese requires some fermentation. However, fermentation can be a tricky process. The good news is, there are many ways to achieve fermented vegan cheese.

Some non-dairy cream cheese recipes require adding probiotics to the cashew mixture, then allowing it to sit at room temperature to let the magic happen. That’s fine and all, but I was looking for an easier process.

That’s where adding a bit of vegan unflavored yogurt comes in. This recipe takes advantage of the already cultured bacteria from the yogurt, and it works!

There are many plain vegan yogurts these days. Here are my favorites for this recipe (I was able to find these brands at either Natural Grocers, Sprouts, or even the health food section of my local grocer store):

  • Oat Yogurt — Nancy’s Oat Yogurt worked perfectly.
  • Cashew Yogurt — Forager Cashew Yogurt is a favorite, and full of healthy probiotics.
  • Coconut Yogurt — SoDelicious Plain Coconut Yogurt works well here too.

Why do we want fermented cheese? Because it’s that fermentation that gives cream cheese its kind of tangy, wonky flavor that keeps us coming back for more! It’s distinctive and delicious.

Marly’s Tips

  • You can use 1 tablespoon of coconut oil instead of two, but the cultured vegan cheese won’t be as firm
  • Because this is a vegan substitute for cream cheese, you can also add other favorite add-ins, such as garlic, or even berries to spread on bagels or toast
  • Add a little bit of this tasty chia seed jam to create a berry cream cheese topping for bagels.

Vegan Sauces

Looking for more creamy sauces to use with your favorite dishes? Give these a try:

Looking down on a plate with a bagel cut in half. One half has vegan cream cheese over the top of it. There's another bagel behind the plate and a bowl with more cream cheese.
One of a bagel has vegan cream cheese smeared over the top.

Vegan Cream Cheese

Make this simple cashew cream cheese to use as a spread on bagels or crackers. This versatile vegan spread can be used as an ingredient for other recipes, like cream cheese frosting.
5 from 2 votes
Course: Sauce
Cuisine: American
Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cook Time: 10 minutes
Resting Time: 30 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour 10 minutes
Servings: 12
Calories: 114kcal

Ingredients

  • 1 ½ cup raw cashews
  • 2 tablespoons coconut oil (use refined)
  • ¼ cup vegan yogurt (plain, not vanilla)
  • 2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon nutritional yeast flakes
  • ½ teaspoon salt

Optional Add-Ins

  • 2 tablespoons fresh chopped chives
  • 2 tablespoons fresh chopped green onions

Instructions

  • Heat 2 cups of water in a microwave until simmering, approximately 3 minutes. Pour hot water over raw cashews in a small mixing bowl. Soak raw cashews in hot water for at least 1 hour.
  • Once soaked, drain cashews and pat dry with a kitchen towel.
  • Add cashews, coconut oil, yogurt, vinegar, nutritional yeast flakes, and salt to a blender. Pulse for several seconds. Then use a spatula to push down ingredients from the side of the bowl and pulse again. Repeat until smooth.
  • Pour into a sealable container and stir in any add-ins you prefer. Cover and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
  • Serve over bagels or crackers. Or use it as an ingredient in other recipes that call for cream cheese. Store in the fridge for up to 5 days or freeze up to 1 month.

Recommended Equipment

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Calories: 114kcal | Carbohydrates: 5g | Protein: 3g | Fat: 9g | Saturated Fat: 3g | Sodium: 100mg | Potassium: 110mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 1g | Vitamin A: 32IU | Vitamin C: 1mg | Calcium: 12mg | Iron: 1mg

The nutrition information shown is an estimate provided by an online nutrition calculator and should not be considered a substitute for a professional nutritionist’s advice.

Enjoy!

4 Responses to Vegan Cream Cheese

  1. Avatar thumbnail image for MarlyRita Mae Dion Reply

    Due to a severe coconut allergy in my family is there a substitute for the coconut oil that I can use?

    • Avatar thumbnail image for MarlyMarly

      Hi Rita! You can leave the coconut oil out. You’ll see I did that in the filling for these Stuffed Strawberries. It’s not as firm of a spread, but if you’re ok with that, it works. If you wanted a firmer spread, here are a couple of ideas: 1) you could try adding a tablespoon of vegan butter (I haven’t tried this myself so I’m not certain what impact it will have on the flavor) or 2) you could add 1 tablespoon cornstarch (or tapioca starch) to the blender. Once it’s all blended and smooth, transfer it to a skillet and cook over medium heat until the mixture firms up. I hope this is info is helpful!

  2. Avatar thumbnail image for MarlyAmanda Reply

    5 stars
    This is so much better than the store-bought vegan cream cheese! And I like having cream cheese with whole ingredients, not super processed. So yummy on everything bagels for breakfast or a snack!

    • Avatar thumbnail image for MarlyMarly

      Hi Amanda! I’m so glad you like this vegan cream cheese recipe! I’m with you — way better and healthier too. Besides, I like the fact it’s not contributing yet another plastic container to the environment! Win. Win. Win! Now, have you tried it on a banana yet???

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