Are you a vegan or dairy-challenged individual who longs for the sweet-tangy-lusciousness that is cream cheese?
I'm not going to tell you that this tastes just like Phily cream cheese. It doesn't. And I can't compare it the vegan products on store shelves because I haven't tried them (soy is a no-go for me). But, I will tell you that I swapped this for the real deal on my 13-year old son's bagel and topped it with strawberry preserves and he couldn't tell the difference. So, it must be pretty damned convincing.
The texture is heavenly. It's absolutely brilliant and decadent and silky smooth. I prefer it to the firmer, semi-rubbery dairy cream cheeses. I add a touch of maple syrup. I'd say you can omit it if you're avoiding sugar, but I find that it adds some authenticity if you're going for a true cream cheese flavor. Combined with the lemon juice and nutritional yeast it definitely gives you a sweet tanginess.
Cashews require a short soaking time but for this recipe I like to soak overnight or at least 8 hours. The softer the nuts are when you blend them the less liquid you'll need to add to achieve the silky smooth texture.
Kuzu root starch may be unfamiliar to you. You'll find it in the asian foods aisle or online. You can omit it, I didn't use it the first few times I made this recipe, but it does help the mixture thicken up a bit. Make sure you blend at the highest speed after you add the kuzu as the it requires heat to activate its thickening action.
As noted above, this is super delish on bagels with preserves, but it also makes a wonderful base for a wide variety of "cream" based dips and spreads.
Vegan Cream Cheese
3 cups soaked cashews
1/4 cup water
2 tablespoons nutritional yeast
2 lemons, juice only
1 tablespoon kuzu root starch
1 teaspoon maple syrup
salt, to taste
Combine the cashews, water, nutritional yeast and lemon juice in the pitcher of a high-speed blender. Process on high until perfectly smooth (allowing the mixture to heat up produces the smoothest texture).
Combine the kuzu root starch with 2 tablespoons cold water, whisk smooth. Add this mixture to the blender and process 60 seconds on high. Add the maple syrup and salt to taste.
Chill until thickened. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for 2 weeks.