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Dairy-free Cashew Cheesecake Recipe

April 08, 2014

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dairy-free cashew cheesecake!

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.L1180173

crust 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 cashews

drain 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 bean

spread the first mixture onto the crust

then 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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vegan cashew cheesecake

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.

serves 10-12 (because it’s rich, you want to cut small slices)



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


3 cups (1 pound) raw cashews, soaked for at least 5 hours or overnight, and drained

2/3 cup fresh lemon juice

2/3 cup unrefined coconut oil, melted (if you have a Vitamix, no need to melt)

2/3 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.

26 Responses to “Dairy-free Cashew Cheesecake Recipe”

  1. 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

  2. Thanks you, I will try it for my family, although I am a DM. It seems so delicious.

  3. Pia says:

    If I made it a pumpkin recipe, how would I change it? looks great to try!

    • 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. […] duty.  I’ll be making lots of coconut macaroons, my traditional lemon ice torte and a raw cashew cheesecake that I’m obsessed with.  But if I were hosting Easter or Passover at my home (not that […]

  5. Andy says:

    My ALL TIME FAVE dessert! Yum!

  6. 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?

  7. Lisa Messner says:

    Thank you, if I decide to try it anyway I will let you know.

  8. 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.:)

  9. 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.

  10. Kelly 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!

    • Pamela says:

      Awesome! Hope you like it!

      • Kelly 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! :)

  11. 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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