Dairy-free Cashew Cheesecake Recipe

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dairy-free cashew cheesecake! | pamela salzman

I taught this luscious dessert in my classes two years ago, but I had seen cashew “cheesecakes” all over the place for many years. But of course I didn’t get it.  I didn’t understand how blended cashews could be turned into something that resembled cheesecake, a cheesecake that I would actually want to eat.  So I put off trying all these recipes that I saw on Pinterest and Foodily.  I caught glimpses of vegan cheesecakes made with chocolate, key limes, pumpkin, lemon and lavender, blueberries and so on.  I just wasn’t convinced.

making the crustcrust mixture ready to be pressed

My mother-in-law and I have an arrangement for Passover — I make all the desserts for both seders and she does everything else.  I clearly got the easier, more fun job.  However baking for Passover, a holiday which revolves around NOT eating anything with grains or flour made from grains, isn’t as straightforward as baking for any other holiday.  But I still have lots of fun coming up with delicious treats that don’t involve a box of Manischewitz cake mix.  Every year I make the very traditional coconut macaroons, as well as a lemon ice torte that I have been making since I graduated from college.  And no holiday would be complete without something chocolate, so I bake a few mini-flourless chocolate cakes.  So delicious.

soak cashewsdrain the soaked cashews

But I can never leave well enough alone, so one year I decided to give this cashew cheesecake thing a go. OMG.  Get out of here. I was blown away!  And then super bummed I had let so many opportunities to go by when I could have been enjoying this deliciousness.  The texture is so much like cheesecake.  Very rich and creamy, and slightly sweet.  I really couldn’t get over it.  Of course the crust is raw and vegan, consistent with the rest of the cake.  But I think you could go with a graham cracker crust and fool everyone into thinking this is cheesecake.

scrape the seeds out of the vanilla beanspread the first mixture onto the crustthen the strawberry mixture

What amazed me about this cake is how digestible it is and how clean the ingredients are.  We use soaked raw cashews (read my post about why soaking nuts and seeds is beneficial to your health,) coconut oil (such a good, healthful fat), honey or maple syrup (not going to save your life, but less acid-forming than refined sugar), lemon juice and vanilla.  Amazing.  Although, I did a little rough math and this isn’t the kind of dessert you can eat very often because it’s really high in (good) fat and calories.  Just saying, in case you were tempted to eat half a cake.  Not a good idea.  In fact, I put on a few pounds in the months I was testing this recipe.  True story.  But this is a fantastic idea for Passover or Easter and no one will ever in a million years guess what’s in it.  Another fun Passover dessert coming soon!

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Dairy-free Cashew Cheesecake
Serves: 10-12 (because it's rich, you want to cut small slices)
  • Crust:
  • 1 cup raw almonds (or pecans or walnuts)
  • 1 cup soft Medjool dates, pitted (about 10)
  • ¼ cup unsweetened shredded coconut
  • ¼ teaspoon sea salt
  • Filling:
  • 3 cups (1 pound) raw cashews, soaked for at least 5 hours or overnight, and drained
  • ⅔ cup fresh lemon juice
  • ⅔ cup unrefined coconut oil, melted (if you have a Vitamix, no need to melt)
  • ⅔ cup raw honey (not vegan) or Grade A maple syrup (vegan, but not raw)
  • Seeds from 2 whole vanilla beans (or 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract)
  • 2 cups fresh strawberries (my preference) or raspberries (thaw completely if frozen)
  1. Place almonds, dates, coconut and salt in a food processor and process until the mixture holds together (it should be sticky). Transfer the mixture onto the bottom of a 9” spring-form pan and press firmly, making sure that the edges are well packed and that the base is relatively even throughout.
  2. In a Vita-Mix or food processor, place all filling ingredients (except strawberries) and process on high until very smooth. This may take a minute or two.
  3. Pour about 3 cups of the mixture onto the crust and smooth with a spatula. Add the strawberries to the Vita-Mix/food processor and blend until smooth. Pour the strawberry mixture onto the first layer of filling. Place in the freezer until solid. Cover with foil to protect from freezer burn.
  4. To serve, remove from the freezer at least 60 minutes prior to eating. After it has defrosted, store in the refrigerator until ready to eat. Run a thin knife between the cake and the pan and then release the springform ring. Serve on its own, or with fresh fruit. Store leftovers in the refrigerator if you plan to eat within a few days. Otherwise, store leftovers in the freezer.
Unfortunately, there is no substitute for the cashews which become very creamy when blended, nor the coconut oil, which solidifies when refrigerated and gives the cake its firmness, otherwise it would be a gloopy mess.

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  1. TKG says

    This is in the freezer and I can’t wait to try it! Quick question: I tasted the filling, which was delicious, but a little bit grainy. Are the cashews meant to get completely creamy creamy creamy? Or is a little graininess to be expected? It’s my first vegan cheesecake, so I’m not sure what to expect.

    • Pamela says

      It should be creamy, although it’s hard to know what you mean by ” a little graininess.” It’s not quite as smooth as cream cheese, but you also shouldn’t really detect any graininess. Whether you use a Vitamix or a food processor, keep blending until it’s as smooth as possible. It will still taste great this time even if you didn’t get it to be maximum creaminess. Thanks for your question!

      • TKG says

        Thank you so much for your reply! I think I may have taken it out of the food processor too soon. I might also try soaking my cashews longer next time, I’ve seen from another source that up to 24 hours can be ideal, especially if you’re not using a Vitamix or the like.

        Absolutely LOVE your blog. I come here a lot for sensible healthy recipes, and am finding a lot to work my way through now that I’ve acknowledged my inescapable sweet tooth that I’d like to satisfy in a healthier way. Thanks for everything that you do!

        • Pamela says

          Thank you so much for your kind words. Appreciate that so much. Yes, next time, try letting the food processor run a bit more.

  2. Holly says

    Hi Pamela! I only have roasted (not raw) cashews on hand — I realize raw would be best, but do you think this would still turn out okay if I used roasted? Thank you so much for this lovely recipe!

    • Pamela says

      Hi Holly, I would love for you to make this recipe because it is so delicious, but unfortunately roasted cashews won’t work. Only raw will get smooth and creamy and have that neutral flavor you need. Sorry!

  3. Perla says

    Hi Pamela! I made this and is super yummi! Also, I used the recipe for the “crust” and made some lollipops that I bath in darck chocolate, these are super yummi too, super easy and faster for a small treat! Thanks

    • Pamela says

      I’ve thought about doing that and I think you would add some (not exactly sure how much) pureed pumpkin and all the great pumpkin pie spices. You could use my pumpkin pie recipe as a guideline for how much of the spices to add. I wouldn’t use quite that much pumpkin, though. Let me know if you try it!

  4. Cari says

    Ive made this wonderful dessert many times but it’s been a while. Is maple an even exchange for honey? Also, if I leave out the dried coconut, should I make any adjustment to add more of something else? I’m even more excited for Passover now :)

    • Pamela says

      Yes, maple syrup is an even exchange for honey, but do use Grade A. No need to make any adjustments if you leave out the coconut. I just made two of these this morning for the seders!

    • SweetSavoryMe says

      One more quick question. You say: “Place in the freezer until solid. Cover with foil to protect from freezer burn.” Is that to say you cover it with foil after it freezes, not before?

  5. says

    This looks amazing, Pamela! I imagine it tastes wonderful and is super healthy dessert, but you are right, it is still high in fat.:) Even healthy desserts should be not face-planted.:)

  6. Rosey says

    This. Is. Brilliant. I made a vegan pumpkin pie using soaked cashews a few Thanksgivings back… I don’t know why I never considered this.

  7. says

    Pamela, this looks lovely! I once made vegan sour cream with soaked cashews but didn’t like the taste. However, I would think that the addition of maple syrup or raw honey would make it more to my taste so I purchased the ingredients and will soak the cashews tonight and make it in the morning. Thanks for posting!

      • says

        Well, the verdict is in….easy to follow recipe and very delicious! I made a quick strawberry sauce to garnish and decorate the plate. My daughter is studying to be a naturopathic doctor and she posted our photo on instagram at healthfoodsistas. All her friends and followers are inspired by raw, vegan healthy food so this was a great recipe to let everyone know that there are delicious deserts for a healthy lifestyle. Thanks again.

        • Pamela says

          Hooray!! So glad to hear that. Thanks so much for letting me know. Just checked out your daughter’s insta — love it! :)

  8. Lisa Messner says

    Pamela, Do you think you could make this using all almonds? I have a son allergic to cashews. Thanks, Lisa

    • Pamela says

      Unfortunately, Lisa, I don’t think you can substitute any nut for the cashews since nothing else will blend to a smooth creaminess like cashews. Of course I haven’t tried it any other way, but that is what I understand to be the case. :(


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