This four-ingredient vegan cashew parmesan cheese is my go-to recipe for topping pasta, salads, grain bowls, toast, and more!
There’s no shortage of crumbly, cheese vegan toppings in my life. I’ve made plant-based “parmesan” using hemp seeds and walnuts. There’s a cashew parmesan recipe in Power Plates, too.
Lately, though, I’ve been streamlining the Power Plates parm. I’m using fewer ingredients, which is indicative of how much I’m trying to streamline my cooking in general. My patience for cooking has actually decreased with quarantine, not increased!
This vegan cashew parmesan cheese is now my go-to parm. There is a mason jar full of it in my fridge right now. There was a jar of it in the fridge last week. And there will be a jar in the fridge next week at this time.
This perennial condiment goes on anything and everything in my home. I use it on pasta, salads, and bowls. I nearly always put it on dinner toast. It ends up on my savory oatmeal all the time. And I’ve put together twenty additional uses for the parmesan in this post.
Fortunately, this DIY staple is as easy to make as it is versatile and rewarding.
The four ingredients of cashew parmesan cheese
I don’t have too many four-ingredient recipes up my sleeve. But I get excited when I do have one to share. Here’s what you’ll need for your cashew parmesan cheese.
I prefer using raw cashews for this recipe. I think the flavor works out best. The cashews are a sweet, neutral, buttery base for the parmesan. It’s the same role that they play in my cashew cream and cashew cheese.
If you don’t have raw cashews, roasted and unsalted is the next best option. The parmesan will have a toasty, nutty flavor. Not a bad thing, just something different.
Finally, you can use roasted and salted cashews in a pinch. If you do this, be sure to adjust the salt in the recipe to compensate for the salt added to the nuts. I’d suggest 1/4 teaspoon less salt than is called for.
Nutritional yeast is what gives the cashew parmesan its “cheesy” flavor.
For those of you who are new to plant-based eating, nutritional yeast is an inactive form of yeast that adds a savory, umami-rich, cheesy taste to vegan dishes. It’s a good source of B-vitamins, including B-12 (though even the most yeast-loving vegans should supplement B-12!).
You can find nutritional yeast—aka “nooch”—it in a flake form or a powder form. I usually purchase nutritional yeast flakes, though the powder can be useful if you want to whisk nutritional yeast into a dressing.
Both flakes and powder work in this cashew parmesan cheese recipe, since the nutritional yeast ends up in a food processor, anyway.
I use Diamond Crystal Kosher salt for pretty much all of my cooking, and that’s what I use in this recipe. Fine sea salt will also work well, though you can probably use a little less (1/4-3/8 teaspoon), since it’s saltier than kosher salt.
Garlic powder adds a little bit of garlicky flavor to the cashew parmesan cheese. It’s definitely not necessary, especially if you don’t like the flavor of garlic! I don’t use very much of it, but I think it gives the parmesan a nice, well rounded taste.
If you’d like to go beyond the basics, you can certainly add additional seasonings to your cashew parmesan cheese. These could include:
- Onion powder
- Dried thyme
- Dried rosemary
- Smoked paprika
- Pinch of cayenne pepper (for a spicy version)
- Dried oregano
The perfect ingredient ratio
A lot of nut-based parmesan recipes call for a 4:1 ratio of nuts to nutritional yeast.
Personally? I like my cashew parmesan cheese to be very heavy on the nooch, lighter on the nuts. This recipe calls for a 2:1 ratio of cashews to nutritional yeast.
I think this makes for a more flavorful vegan parm! It also allows for a little extra protein. Nutritional yeast is one of my favorite, plant-based protein sources.
What if I’m allergic to cashews?
Sometimes I feel bad about being the cashew fanatic that I am, since I know that tree nuts are one of the most common allergens.
To the many of you who message me on Instagram regularly with requests for cashew alternatives in my cooking, I see you! I’ll probably always use cashews as a base ingredient for lots of recipes, but I’ll always try to offer alternatives.
If you’re allergic to cashews and cashews only, you can make this recipe with:
- Pine nuts
- Macadamia nuts
If you have a tree nut allergy but you can tolerate seeds, try:
- Hemp seeds
- Pumpkin seeds
- Sunflower seeds
If all nuts and seeds are off limits, you could use a mixture of all nutritional yeast and salt. It’ll be different, but it’ll still be nice. You could even toss in some bread crumbs for the texture that nuts usually create. Herbs and spices could help to jazz it up, too.
Twenty uses for cashew parmesan cheese
There are so many ways to use your cashew parmesan cheese once you’ve made it. Here are just a few of the recipes that I most like to sprinkle it on:
- Creamy vegan skillet lasagna
- Butternut zucchini pesto pasta
- Braised lentils on toast
- Roasted red pepper mac n’ cheese
- Burst cherry tomato pasta
- Pasta alla vecchia bettola
- Oh-so-simple French lentil soup
- Kale white bean Caesar salad
- Stewed lentil tomato eggplant
- Pasta e fagiole soup
- Roasted cauliflower lemon pasta
- Pizza pasta bake
- Braised beans and kale
- Sausage mushroom pasta
- Eggplant baked rigatoni
- Spaghetti and white bean balls
- Lentil beet salad
- Crispy broccoli Caesar salad
- Creamy white bean kale soup
- Simple, savory mushroom farro
But really, this is just a smattering of the homemade meals that I’ve topped with the cashew parmesan cheese. You can use it in any dish where you’d normally want a little shaved parm.
The texture isn’t the same, of course. But the saltiness and savoriness is definitely there.
Storing cashew parmesan cheese
The cashew parmesan cheese is easy to store. I keep mine in a mason with a lid and store it in the fridge for up to two weeks at a time.
I imagine it could last even one week longer than that, but I’ve never been able to keep a batch long enough to find out!
- 2/3 cup raw cashews
- 1/3 cup nutritional yeast
- 1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt
- 1/8-1/4 teaspoon garlic powder (adjust the amount to taste)
- Process all ingredients in a food processor fitted with the S blade till they're ground up. The cashews should be very broken down, but not quite powdery. Store in an airtight container in the fridge for up to two weeks.
I’m all about shortcuts and getting a helping hand in the kitchen as we enter this new year.
That said, it does feel nice to make certain condiments from scratch. And I fell out of the habit of doing that this year. I’m getting back into the swing of homemade dressings and toppings, and I feel good about it.
In a couple days, I’ll share the pasta dish that I’ve been folding this cashew parmesan into lately!