Hey kids and happy summer! School’s been out for a couple of weeks and my decreased work hours find me giddy with ideas for what I hope to accomplish in two short months. For one, I plan to organize the posts here into easy to find categories and two, I will share more whole food plant based recipes that leave out the oil. One of these is this amazingly easy vegan cashew butter.
So What’s So Bad About Oil?
When I first mention a vegan recipe is made without oil, I usually hear something like, “But what about olive oil? I thought that was good for you!” Believe me, I thought it was good for me, too. While completing my certificate course in whole food plant based nutrition, I came to understand that, especially in terms of heart health and weight, oil ain’t so great.
In a nutshell, oils are VERY processed foods, and have the HIGHEST calorie density of all foods (4000 calories/pound!!). Knowing that, I thought, well I’ll only use a smidge, but even a small bit can be damaging to blood vessels. (And eliminating oil can repair damaged vessels!) For a fabulous explanation, check out Dr. Caldwell Esseltyn’s Tedx talk here. I won’t belabor the point, but suffice it to say one can eat well and vegan and deliciously without adding oil. Yes, many of the recipes on this blog feature oils and I can only say well, if I can refine the recipe sans the oil and keep it fabulous then I will do so. For now, the healthiest wfpb recipes will be found in the oil-free category. I’ll keep ya’ll posted with updates.
Why Vegan Cashew Butter?
Well, why not? At first, I wanted to try a cashew butter (which is made from cashews and though not exactly fat-free) to replace vegan butter and oils. Again, I am looking to decrease the fat and calorie content, decrease the processed food thang and increase the nutrition value. Cashews do just that! And bonus, they have zinc, magnesium and other awesome benefits as I described in this post Vegan Cheese Sauce.
After making it (and tasting it, obv), I’m like this tastes sooo delicious I could literally eat the whole jar! A little however, goes a long way… Shmear a bit on bread or a cracker, throw on a few berries and you’re in for a delight. In fact, this was my breakfast today:
It’s also a fabulous alternative if one is allergic to peanuts. This vegan cashew butter is mild and super-creamy and, so far has been an AMAZING alternative to vegan butters and oil in baking. I tried it in my blueberry muffin recipe (coming soon!) and hot-damn they were amazing.
The Key to the Best Vegan Cashew Butter is a little Patience!
A lot of cashew butter recipes add, you guessed it, oil! Maybe that’s why they separate and need stirring. But fear not, people, this version has only three ingredients: raw cashews, vanilla bean seeds and a pinch of sea salt. You see, the cashews already have their own oils and adding oil is unnecessary. Cashews have primarily unsaturated fatty acids, the majority of which are those good-for-the-heart monounsaturated fats. The key is patient blending (up to 10 minutes or more in a sturdy food processor) which causes the cashews to release their oils and recombine to form that creamy, dreamy butter.
Start with a pound of raw cashews and roast for 7 minutes in a 350 oven. You can skip this step, but I think it just gives the cashew butter a little somethin somethin.
Pour the cooled cashews, the insides of a vanilla bean and about 1/2 teaspoon of sea salt in a sturdy food processor. The cashews will look like cashew crumbles (like a graham cracker crust) at first, then will start to glob together in one large mass. At this point you may want to give your processor a break and wait a minute or two before firing it up again.
I posted this video on instagram last week, so you can get a rough idea about the process (clearly I need to up my video production skills, but you get the idea 😉 :
All told, this takes about 10-15 minutes and then you too can be an official vegan cashew butter churner! Try to limit yourself to just one taste…I dare you!