Friday, January 05, 2007

January 3, 2007: Creamy Vanilla Cashew Ice

Summer has me in the mood for stone fruit and ice cream! It was these twin cravings that had me impulse-buying a slim book of vegan ice cream recipes just a couple of days before Christmas. Most recipes within rely on a combination of raw cashews and water blended together to get that creamy base, then maple syrup for sweetening. I thought I'd kick off with a batch of the original Vanilla Delight so that I could get a sense of how the cashews and maple taste and feel.

I struggled to get the cashews down to a perfectly smooth texture, and for this reason I'd hesitate to serve this up with the name 'ice cream' for fear of disappointing the afficionados. Even so, the nuts were blended very finely and softened by the water in the mix, ensuring a dessert with a velvety texture - not icy or gritty as I feared. The flavour combination of maple syrup, cashews and vanilla is gently sweet and more complex than any vanilla ice cream I've tried. Thus it's an excellent and elegant creamy accompaniment to those summer fruits!

Given the quantities of cashews and maple syrup involved, this is neither a cheap nor a particularly nutritious venture. Nevertheless, this is a dessert that really holds its own and I can see why someone choosing a dairy-free diet for health or ethical reasons would be hooked on it.

Creamy Vanilla Cashew Ice
(based on Vanilla Delight from Vice Cream by Jeff Rogers)

In a blender or food processor, combine:
  • 2 cups raw cashews
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 cup maple syrup (none of this "maple-flavoured syrup", you need the real Canadian thing!)
  • 2 vanilla beans or 2 teaspoons vanilla essence (and no "imitation vanilla", either!)
I had problems with liquid leaking out of my modestly-sized processor. Next time I'll try blending the cashews with a little of the water until they're as smooth as possible, then slowly introduce the remaining liquid.

Before pouring the mixture into an ice cream maker, make sure it's as cold as possible: 40-60 minutes in the freezer or several hours (up to overnight) in the fridge. This'll be a thick-looking mixture, and I found that it took half the time to churn (20 minutes) than dairy ice cream would, normally.

This is best served immediately for a thick soft-serve texture. If you have any leftovers, keep them in the freezer, but give them 10 minutes or so at room temperature to soften before serving again.


  1. Holy cow this sounds great! it's winter here in nyc but this is really making me crave ice cream!

  2. Just curious if you'd ever tried soaked cashews in lieu of dry cashews plus adding water? :)

  3. I haven't but it's a good idea - might achieve an even creamier consistency. Thanks for the suggestion! :-)

  4. I'm really curious about how this would turn out, thanks for the recipe!

  5. You're welcome, Brilynn! I really think it's worth trying the cashew approach at least once, it's quite special. :-)

  6. Hey, Just trying out your recipe. Haven't gotten round to putting it in my ice cream maker but blended the nuts with almost boiling water in a Kitchenaid blender. It's amazingly creamy and not in the slightest grainy. I love the taste. Nice one. Try the hot water if soaking the nuts doesn't work.

  7. Thanks for the tip, Kara! I will give that a go when summer rolls around to this part of the world again. :-)