Let’s Talk About Foundation Recipes
When I started my own life improvement journey, I struggled to find foods that were simple and unprocessed but still delicious and fit into the way I like to enjoy food. I don’t like the idea of focusing my diet on things like fake vegan cheese that acts the same way as real dairy cheese because it’s loaded with chemicals that make it act that way. I’m okay with not having the melty goodness of a real cheeseburger if I’m satisfied in other ways, such as flavor.
One way I’ve decided to approach this problem is by working hard to develop foundational recipes that can be a base for other things and fill in those spots where a recipe calls for something I would have otherwise purchased from the store. From marinara sauce to beans and bread, I’m determined to stop using canned and jarred store bought foods. All too often they have added sugar, salt, and additional unnecessary ingredients geared toward making them more appetizing on a store shelf, and to compensate for what is lost when a food is mass produced.
the first, most magical, most eye opening and delicious result of this hunt was the vegan cashew sour cream recipe. It’s so simple, with ingredients that are affordable and accessible in my city of Des Moines.
Cooking With Cashews
The raw cashews are by far the most expensive and challenging part of this recipe. I first struggled to find raw cashews at all, and then I was disappointed by how expensive they were at my local grocery store in the bulk section. But keep in mind you only need one cup for this recipe, and it’s best to buy only as much as you need because they can go rancid if not stored properly, or kept for too long.
One sign of this is an overpowering fishy smell. Now, I’ve learned through all of this that cashews *always* have a fishy smell to me. So don’t get overly worried if you open your new bag of cashews and they have it. But if they smell fishy and off, you’re probably better off tossing them and getting a new batch. Use your gut.
I eventually found them at Trader Joes for the best price, and they seem to be excellent quality. They are just the pieces, but since I blend them up it doesn’t matter to me if they are whole or in pieces. It’s all the same in the end!
A Note About Soaking Cashews
I’ve read a lot of different thoughts about this and tried it all. When I soaked in cold water overnight, my cashews turned purple and were too soft. The purple color isn’t harmful or a sign of anything wrong, it just means they’ve soaked for too long. When I didn’t soak at all, my cream was a little too gritty. In the end, what worked best was covered the cup of cashews in plain old tap water and setting it on my counter for about two hours. Then I drained them and rinsed them and they were ready to go.
UPDATE: I’ve made this recipe for more than a year and, frankly, I don’t always remember to soak my cashews before using or I’m feeling lazy and don’t really want to. And you know what? It always comes out the same. So really you can skip the soaking step and just toss those bad boys into a blender with the rest of the ingredients. It’ll be fine.
A Simple Base With Delicious Possibilities
The actual cooking time couldn’t be easier. Once your cashews are soaked and drain, you toss everything into your favorite blend and blend until smooth and creamy. And that’s it! I store mine in a short, wide-mouthed Ball jar and it keeps for up to two weeks.
When I first made this recipe, and it worked out so well, I immediately started dreaming up new ways to expand on it and it worked EVERY SINGLE TIME. It was exhilarating. Two of my favorites are a creamy vegan alfredo sauce and a vegan ranch dressing that I am eating on roasted root veggies as I type this. (Both of those recipes will be coming soon, I promise!) It’s just that versatile, and a true staple recipe in my box.
What variations can you think of? I’d love to hear about them in the comments!
Vegan Cashew Sour Cream
- 1 c raw cashews, soaked and drained
- 2 medium lemons, juiced
- 1/2 tsp salt add more or less to taste
- 1 tsp nutritional yeast
- 1/2 c water
- 2 cloves garlic add more or less to taste, or use garlic powder for a milder flavor
- Place all ingredients in your blender and blend until smooth and creamy.
- Enjoy on anything you would otherwise put sour cream on. I love them with chives on a baked potato! Keeps 1-2 weeks in a sealed glass jar.