This fantastic cultured dairy-free cream cheese takes about as much time and effort to make as a smoothie, has no soy, and just 4 ingredients, including water! See why this fan fave is gonna forever replace store-bought vegan cream cheese in your pantry.
What sets this cultured vegan cream cheese apart? Unlike most of the vegan cream cheese recipes you will stumble upon, this one gets its natural cheesiness from fermentation. It’s not just a cream with lemon juice or vinegar added to it to simulate the tanginess of culturing. The mixture undergoes a quick 24-hour alchemy, followed by a short ripening period in the fridge. As someone who has been experimenting with vegan cheese making for decades, this is a foolproof recipe that takes a lot less time and effort than most vegan cheeses.
The coolest thing? Like my vegan labneh, this homemade vegan cream cheese recipe is crazy simple, foolproof, and ridiculously creamy and spreadable.
- 🥰Why you are going to adore the ever-loving heck outta this recipe
- 🥛Notable ingredients and substitutions
- 👐 Jazz up your cream cheese:
- 📖 How to make the best vegan cream cheese
- 💡Serving Ideas
- 👉Top tips
- 🤷♀️ Recipe FAQs
- ✌️My faves to serve with plant-based cream cheese:
- Cultured Vegan Cream Cheese
🥰Why you are going to adore the ever-loving heck outta this recipe
Vegan AF and GF: Like all of my plant-based dairy recipes, this cream cheese is made without any animal products. It also happens to be one of the simplest gluten-free recipes in the galaxy with just four simple ingredients you probably already have on hand!
💪 A Healthier Option: Unlike dairy cream cheese, this recipe is completely cholesterol-free! And unlike some store-bought vegan cream cheese, it contains no wacky hydrogenated oils, or artificial ingredients. It doesn't rely on coconut cream, refined coconut oil, or even coconut milk. I have never found coconut to have the right flavor profile for cream cheese anyway.
🦄 Not Make Believe: This isn't just some silken tofu flavored with garlic powder, nutritional yeast and white vinegar, or some such nonsense. This is properly cultured. It doesn't just taste like the real thing, it IS the real thing!
🕍Kosher: Do you keep kosher? Well obviously, this has no meat or dairy in it, making it naturally pareve. Unlike tofu-based cream cheese, depending on the type of yogurt you use for culturing it (don’t use soy which is kitniyot), it is likely to be Kosher for Passover too! Unlike traditional cream cheese, if you are kosher, you can serve this homemade cream cheese with anything you like!
🌀Creaminess on Another Level: The soaking, blending, fermentation, and ripening of this homemade vegan cream cheese results in a perfectly smooth, lusciously creamy spread. Look at some of the other vegan cream cheese recipes out there, which are downright grainy and will make your bagel cry out “please don’t spread that coarse nonsense upon me!”
🥸Foolproof Reliability: Like all vegan recipes on my blog, this easy vegan cream cheese recipe has undergone constant tweaking until I thought it was perfect. Then I shared it with a team of hundreds of recipe testers I work with in kitchens all around the planet. People adore this recipe and have made it successfully with a wide variety of brands of vegan yogurt.
🥛Notable ingredients and substitutions
Raw cashews form the heart of our vegan cream cheese, bringing a velvety richness. You can either use raw cashew pieces or whole raw cashews, as I use in my vegetable biryani and lotus seed curry. High in healthy fats and protein, they undergo a transformative soak, lending a creamy texture essential for mimicking traditional dairy. While this recipe can be made with blanched almonds, the result is not quite as smooth and creamy, because they are so fibrous.
I used to make this recipe with rejuvelac (and I include some notes in the recipe card in case you want to make it that way), but I find that using unsweetened vegan yogurt makes this way more foolproof for people, and it is also gluten-free (rejuvelac is traditionally made from sprouted wheat berries). Plant-based yogurt has come a long way as 20+ years ago, all the vegan yogurts on the market tragically sucked. Now there are about a zillion great options for unsweetened vegan yogurt (my personal fave is the unsweetened Kite Hill yogurt - their regular one, not the Greek-style), and they are good enough to use in recipes like my Turkish yogurt and mint soup, vegan butter chicken, and Punjabi soya chaap sabji. Packed with probiotics, the yogurt is the culture we will use to ferment the cream cheese.
👐 Jazz up your cream cheese:
Roasted over an open flame, roasted jalapeño introduces a smoky kick, balancing the creaminess. You can also have great results with Fresno chilies (which I use for sambal dabu dabu and in my Turkish Ezme recipe), or even roast cayenne peppers (which I use in my Indonesian pickled mango recipe).
Mincedor thinly sliced scallions contribute a mild oniony essence, enhancing the cream cheese's depth. If you have some left over after making this variation, you can put scallions to use in everything from rice dumplings to Filipino tofu sisig.
Fresh dill is not just the star of recipes like vegetarian stuffed cabbage and vegan tzatziki sauce! Maybe it’s because I grew up eating a lot of Jewish Eastern European food, but dill has a classic flavor that reminds me of my grandmother’s blintzes and borscht. If dill aint your thing, there’s nothing wrong with using other fresh herbs like tarragon, Thai basil, or parsley instead.
Regular chives or garlic chives like I use in my Adobong Sitaw and Mi Xao Xi Dau are even better options than scallions in cream cheese. I think if you love scallion cream cheese, and give chives a chance, you might never go back!
*See the recipe card at the bottom of the page for exact quantities, nutritional info, and detailed cooking directions.
Kick regular dairy cream cheese to the curb with these somewhat thrilling variations of the vegan version:
European Elegance: After the initial 24-hour room temperature fermentation, mix tarragon and chopped capers or sun-dried tomatoes into your cream cheese! A small amount of dried porcini mushrooms ground to a fine powder is nice in this variation too. You might just fall in love with this style and dis regular cream cheese forevermore...
Rejuvelac Revelation: If you can’t get your hands on unsweetened plant-based yogurt, rejuvelac works amazing in this recipe too! Make rejuvelac by sprouting wheat berries or quinoa just until they sprout a tiny little white tail. Then, soak the sprouted grains in water for 24-48 hours. Once fermented, strain and discard the grains. The resulting probiotic liquid is your homemade rejuvelac. When blending the cashews, leave out the water and yogurt, and use just enough rejuvelac to make a thick smooth puree of the nuts. This might just be the most delicious vegan cream cheese you can make, and it doesn't rely on any store-bought products!
📖 How to make the best vegan cream cheese
Nail this recipe by following these step-by-step instructions with helpful tips. Or you can follow along with the easy-to-print recipe card towards the bottom of this page.
Bath Time for Cashews:
Soak the cashews in water for at least 2 hours, or overnight in a sealed container in the refrigerator.
Shower off that Soaking Funk:
Drain and rinse soaked cashews thoroughly under cold running water. Allow them to drip dry.
Assemble the Base:
In a blender (ideally a quality high-speed blender), combine the drained cashew with unsweetened plant-based yogurt and water.
Friends, Romans, Countrymen, Blend me your Cashews:
Blend on medium-high speed for 2 minutes. Pause every 30 seconds or so to scrape the blender's sides with a rubber spatula, ensuring a silky cashew puree.
Transfer and Culture:
Dump the blended cashew cream into a clean, airtight container, preferably glass, for easy sterilization and the ability to effortlessly check the progress of fermentation. Allow culturing at room temperature for about 24 hours.
✅ If the ambient temperature iin your kitchen s below 70°F/21°C, this initial fermentation could take up to 48 hours. Do not culture the cashew cheese at room temperature for longer than 12 hours if the temperature in your home is over 85°F/29°C.
After a day, expect a slightly bubbly appearance if you look at the cheese from the sides. The more pronounced you allow the bubbles to get here, the tangier the cream cheese will get.
Salt and Ripen:
Add the sea salt (and any optional herbs or seasonings you might want) and use a clean, dry rubber spatula to mix the cheese thoroughly. Enjoy immediately, or let it ripen for an additional 4 days in the refrigerator.
✅ Further ripening in the fridge will give you a firmer, more typical cream cheese consistency and a more pleasantly developed tanginess.
Savor the Creaminess:
Once your creamy vegan cream cheese achieves the perfect tang, spread it on bagels, crackers, or integrate it into different recipes. Relish the creamy goodness!
A little cultured cream cheese is amazing to add to mashed potatoes to make them richer. Consider adding it to the potato filling in Amritsari Kulcha. Cream cheese is also great for adding creamy richness to curries like kathal ki sabji, lauki ki sabji and olan.
- Water Quality Matters: Remember, your cashews are going to absorb whatever water they soak in. Tap water with a heavy mineral taste can subtly affect the cream cheese's overall flavor. Opt for distilled or filtered water for a pristine base, or get creative by soaking the cashews in lapsang souchong tea for a wonderful smoked cashew cheese flavor!
- Embrace the Patience: Culturing takes time, but the rewards are worth it. Allow the cream cheese to ferment for the full 24 hours at room temperature. Check how the fermentation is developing by culturing it in a clean glass container, so you can see the development of air pockets from the side. Remember not to let it go TOO long, especially if the temperature in your home is over 85°F/29°C.
- The Importance of a good blender: You can sorta get away with making this in a crappy blender or even a food processor, but chances are, you will need to use a little more water, which will require more ripening time in the fridge for the cheese to stiffen enough. Additionally, weak blenders tend to end up with a slightly grainy consistency, which is NOT what we are going for here! If I had to recommend two pieces of gear worth throwing a little money at in your home kitchen, a knife you love and a quality high-speed blender are two things worth splurging for that can make a big difference in the quality of your cooking.
- The Glass Advantage: Glass provides a stable environment for culturing and allows you to easily monitor the cheese's progress without exposing it to external contaminants.
- Temperature Awareness: Ensure your ingredients are at room temperature before blending. Cold cashews can hinder the blending process and impact the final texture. Allow them to reach room temperature for a smoother, more consistent result. Keep in mind that when you blend something, the friction can cause it to heat up. This is important to keep in mind because you don’t want to kill the probiotic culture in the yogurt inadvertently. If your blender seems to be heating up the cashew mixture, take breaks when blending so that the temperature of the cream doesn’t exceed 85°F/29°C.
🤷♀️ Recipe FAQs
Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator; it keeps well for up to three weeks in a sterilized container if you only ever scoop some out using a clean, dry utensil.
You can get away with freezing the cream cheese, but you will likely need to re-blend it upon thawing to get it smooth again. The cream cheese is best, and its probiotics are most active when enjoyed fresh.
Opt for unsweetened almond milk yogurt, cashew yogurt, or coconut yogurt for the most fool-proof cream cheese culturing. Otherwise, use rejuvelac in place of the yogurt and water.
Make your own rejuvelac by sprouting wheat berries or quinoa until they develop a small white tail. Soak the sprouted grains in water for 24-48 hours. After fermentation, strain and discard the grains, keeping the probiotic-rich liquid as homemade rejuvelac. When blending cashews, omit water and yogurt; use just enough rejuvelac for a thick, smooth nut puree. This imparts a delightful cheesy flavor without relying on store-bought alternatives.
While glass is recommended for sterility, a BPA-free plastic container can be used with caution. It is best to avoid well-worn containers that might have scratches on their internal surface, which could harbor bacteria. Also, avoid using opaque containers that will make it hard to check the progress of fermentation.
✌️My faves to serve with plant-based cream cheese:
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Cultured Vegan Cream Cheese
Optional additions for variations:
- 1 Jalapeño roasted over an open flame and then minced
- 1 scallion minced
- 2 tablespoons minced dill
- 2 tablespoons minced chives
- Begin by draining and rinsing your soaked cashews thoroughly. Place them in a blender along with unsweetened plant-based yogurt and water.
- Blend for 2 minutes on medium-high speed, stopping every 30 seconds or so, to scrape down the inside of the blender pitcher with a rubber spatula to ensure the cashews are smoothly pureed.
- Transfer the blended mixture to a clean, airtight container. Glass is best because you can sterilize it and also see the cheese to check its progress. Allow the cream cheese to culture by leaving it at room temperature for about 24 hours. Make sure to use a container with about an inch (2.5cm) of extra space to allow for expansion during fermentation, but not have a lot of extra space for air and bacteria to potentially hang out in.
- After a day, the mixture should be a little bubbly looking. Add the salt, and use a clean, dry rubber spatula to mix the contents of the container. Either use it immediately or let the cheese continue to ripen for 4 days under refrigeration before using it. This will give you a firmer, more typical cream cheese consistency and nicely developed tanginess.
- If you want a fun flavored cream cheese, stir in roasted and minced jalapeño with minced scallions, or introduce a herby dimension with minced dill or chives. Get creative!
- Once your cultured vegan cream cheese reaches the perfect tang and flavor, spread it on your favorite bagels, crackers, or use it as a versatile ingredient in various recipes. Enjoy the creamy goodness!