This hot pepper pot vegan cultured cashew cream cheese is incredibly simple to make and packed with all the beloved tanginess of the “real” thing. Made with just three ingredients (plus water and sea salt), this homemade vegan cream cheese is sure to please dairy lovers and vegans alike!
There’s a quaint coffee shop not too far from our condo that Dan and I like to walk to on Saturdays. Its name—Beans & Bagels—is perfectly descriptive given that the cozy café specializes in homemade bagels and flavor-forward coffee brews.
Creatures of habit, our weekly order never veers far off course.
I typically stick to a chai latté with soy milk + a sesame bagel with a generous smear of hummus.
Dan, on the other hand, is a cold brew + salt and poppy bagel kind of guy. He’s not one to pick favorites with cream cheese though, so his choice usually varies from week to week.
That being said, lately he’s been on a Hot Pepper Pot cream cheese kick. Hot Pepper Pot—is that not the cutest name for jalapeño cream cheese? He’s been raving about the stuff for the last several weeks and has been begging me to create a vegan version so that we can enjoy it at home.
Admittedly, I’ve had it on my to-test list since June but haven’t had the courage to actually get to work on it. The thing is, vegan cream cheese involves culturing. Basic cashew cheese is one thing, but cultured cream cheese? That’s way outside my comfort zone. Or so it was way outside my comfort zone.
For weeks, I’d planned to try my hand at the whole culturing thing, but I was majorly intimidated. I’m telling you, no matter how many blog recipes I’ve written (over 500 at this point) and despite the fact that I wrote a cookbook, certain recipe concepts still elicit the kitchen jitters.
I recently came to the conclusion that these kitchen fears probably fall under the umbrella of “resistance” that Steven Pressfield references throughout his brilliant book The War of Art. As he so gracefully articulates, “The more important an activity is to your soul’s evolution, the more resistance you will feel.”
Welp, apparently cultured cream cheese was so very important to my soul’s evolution, because the resistance was fierce.
But guess what?
I squashed it. And I’m pretty sure my soul did evolve. Albeit in a small way.
Last week, I boldly went where I’d never gone before, and I took my raw cashews and probiotic capsules with me. Hot damn.
The best part?
It turns out that vegan cultured cashew cream cheese is one of the easiest things to make… ever.
No, really. I swear. Cross my resistant heart.
This particular cashew cream cheese requires just three ingredients—raw cashews, probiotic capsules, and jalapeños—plus water and sea salt.
Even better? You’ll only need to spend about 20 active minutes in the kitchen. The rest of the “prep” is culturing downtime in which the probiotics work their magic to transform ordinary cashew cheese into a tangy, delightful cream cheese spread.
So, how do you make cultured cashew cream cheese? In three easy steps…
1) Add soaked raw cashews, the contents of a few probiotic capsules, and a bit of filtered water to a high-powered food processor. Give it all a lengthy, several-minute whirl until smooth, then transfer the cashew mixture to a non-reactive (i.e., non-metallic) bowl or jar.
2) Let the jar sit at room temperature for 18 to 24 hours to culture.
3) Roast and dice a few jalapeños, and stir them into the cultured cream cheese along with a generous pinch of sea salt.
That’s it. Almost painfully easy, right?
Having tackled this cultured vegan cream cheese adventure, I feel a bit silly having harbored all that fear. And yet it was still refreshing to bust down the stubborn walls of the ol’ kitchen comfort zone.
Once your hot pepper cream cheese is ready, slather that stuff on everything.
I’m talking bagels, sandwiches, your favorite spoon… whatever suits your fancy.
If you like what you see in the photos, here’s a rundown of the goodness:
Toasted everything bagels.
Sliced cucumbers + red onions.
Carrot “lox” (i.e., sprinkle thinly sliced carrots with a bit of hickory smoke salt, wrap them in foil, and roast at 425F for 20 minutes).
And, of course, plenty of that tangy cream cheese.
Hot Pepper Pot Vegan Cultured Cashew Cream Cheese
This hot pepper pot vegan cultured cashew cream cheese is incredibly simple to make and packed with all the beloved tanginess of the "real" thing. Made with just three ingredients (plus water and sea salt), this homemade vegan cream cheese is sure to please dairy lovers and vegans alike!
- 1 cup raw cashews, soaked overnight
- 3 probiotic capsules*
- 1/4 cup filtered water or distilled water, plus more as needed**
- 3 jalapeños***
- 1/2 teaspoon sea salt or to taste
Drain the cashews and add them to a high-powered food processor. One at a time, open the probiotic capsules and empty the powdered contents into the food processor (discard the capsule shells). Add just enough water to get everything processing—I recommend starting with 1/4 cup. Process for several minutes, or until smooth and creamy, stopping to scrape down the sides as needed and adding as little water as possible (I usually add a total of 6 tablespoons or 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons). Keep in mind that the longer you process (and the stronger your food processor), the smoother your cream cheese will be.
Transfer the mixture to a nonreactive (i.e., non-metallic) bowl or jar, and cover with a clean towel. Allow the bowl to sit at room temperature for 18 to 24 hours to culture.****
Once the cashew mixture is nearly ready, it's time to roast the jalapeños. Turn a gas burner or grill on medium heat. Roast the peppers one at a time. Place each over the open flame for 1 to 2 minutes, or until the skin becomes blackened and blistered. Rotate and repeat on the other side. Once the pepper is blackened and blistered all over, transfer it to a cutting board and invert a bowl on top of it to trap the heat. Allow it to steam for 10 to 15 minutes (this loosens the skin for easy peeling). Repeat with the remaining peppers. (See this post for a visual if needed.)
Once the peppers have thoroughly steamed, carefully stem and peel them (you may want to wear gloves for this). Then, slice the peppers open, scrape away and discard the seeds and membranes, and roughly chop. (Note: I prefer my cream cheese with big, fleshy pieces of jalapeño, but feel free to finely chop if you prefer a more jalapeño-flecked cream cheese.)
Add the jalapeños to the cultured cashew cheese along with the sea salt. Stir well to incorporate.
Taste and adjust the seasoning, adding more sea salt if desired.
Refrigerate the cream cheese in an airtight container for up to 5 days.
*Probiotic capsules can be found in the refrigerated section of most health food stores (e.g., Whole Foods). Ensure that the probiotic capsules you purchase are both vegetarian/vegan (i.e., do not contain milk products) and that they contain at least 1 billion active cultures per capsule.
**It's important to use pure, unchlorinated water, because chlorine can disrupt and even inhibit enzyme/culturing activity.
***To make plain cream cheese, simply omit the jalapeños.
****The finished product has a light and airy texture reminiscent of whipped cream cheese (which I quite like). If you prefer a denser, firmer cream cheese, scoop the cultured cheese into cheesecloth, press out excess water, and then add the jalapeños and salt.