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
- 1 cup raw cashews, soaked overnight
- 3 probiotic capsules*
- ¼ cup filtered water or distilled water, plus more as needed**
- 3 jalapeños***
- ½ 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 ¼ 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 ¼ 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.
This sounds and looks amazing! I can't wait to try. What brand of probiotics do you prefer?
I love PB 8 brand probiotics (vegetarian formula) because of the cost and quality. Plus, although it's best to store them in the refrigerator, this is one of the few types that you can store at room temperature, which makes them great for travel! Enjoy!
Just made this. I used jarred jalapenos and the cream cheese turned out so tasty. I used 3 capsules of Ultimate Flora probiotics 50 cfu. The texture is a tad grainy, but that's okay. I used it on my cauliflower tortilla with sandwich pepperoni and mustard. Thanks for an awesome dairy-free, simple alternative.
I am so excited to try this!! I haven't yet tried to make any vegan cheeses but these looks so easy. Is vegan cream cheese the only kind that needs to be cultured? Sorry this is still new to me!
Cream cheese has always been a favorite of mine ever since I was a young girl. Being a non-vegan yet open to the possibilities I was not sure this one was for me....but I was wrong. After making the vegan version I was amazed at how easy it was and especially how delicious it is. I think it might be my inspiration for an upcoming party I'm hosting.
Hi Ashley! What type of food processor do you use?
I use the Cuisinart 14-cup food processor. :)
I've been meaning to make this for awhile, but it takes a bit of foresight to remember to soak the cashews and then leave this to ferment...but it was so worth the wait! Cream cheese is one of the things I miss most after becoming a vegan and have tried dozens of vegan recipes, which all rely on vinegar or other fermented ingredients to give it that tang. This is far and away the best vegan cream cheese I've tried and such a simple recipe (if you've got the self control to let the fermentation process finish :)
Thanks for another winner Ashley - this is definitely going to be a new staple in my house!
Thrilled to hear you're enjoying the recipe so much, Kate. And glad that you were able to endure the wait to soak and then ferment—I have a difficult time with that part, too! Thanks for taking time out of your day to come back and share your thoughts—means so much!
JoAnn M Lakes says
Kate, you do know that you can do a quick soak with cashew by just using boiling water and letting soak for a couple of hours. Then it's off to the blender. Whip it up, blend in the probiotics and put it into a bowl, ( I like to use a clear glass bowl so I can see the fermentation development), cover and wait until ready. The timing isn't that important. It can be anywhere from 12 -48+ hours. The longer it ferments the sharper the taste. Taste it along the way and when it appeals to you, it's done. Add salt and/or any add-ins and toss into the fridge. Remember it will continue to age in the refrigerator just at a much slower rate.
Alexis @ Hummusapien says
Hi! Do you have any idea how much probiotics to use if you have the bulk powder versus capsules? Like a teaspoon, for example?
Great question, Alexis! I'd guess it's probably about a 1/2 teaspoon or so? If that ends up being more than the amount in the capsules, it will simply make it a bit tangier (not a bad thing in my opinion)!
Hattie Dee says
Hiya! After transferring the mixture to a jar, do you tend to seal it tightly with a lid, or cover with a cloth? Can’t wait to try this!
Hi, Hattie Dee! I cover it with a towel while it ferments and then with a lid once I move it to the refrigerator. Hope this helps and enjoy!
Great tips JoAnn. Thank you so much!