Raw cashews are the seeds of the cashew tree, which is native to Brazil but is now grown in many tropical regions around the world. Unlike other nuts, cashews grow on the outside of a fruit called a cashew apple, which is not commonly eaten outside of the regions where it is grown. Raw cashews are not roasted or fried like other nuts, and are sold in their natural state with their shells removed. They are often used in vegan and plant-based diets as a substitute for dairy products, and are a popular ingredient in Asian cuisine, desserts, and snacks.
The Nutritional Value of Raw Cashews
Raw cashews are a nutritious and healthy addition to any diet. Here are some of the key nutritional benefits of raw cashews:
- Protein: Raw cashews are a good source of plant-based protein, with around 5 grams of protein per 28 gram serving.
- Healthy fats: Raw cashews are high in healthy monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, which can help to lower cholesterol levels and reduce the risk of heart disease.
- Vitamins and minerals: Raw cashews are a good source of important vitamins and minerals, including magnesium, copper, and phosphorus. Magnesium is essential for bone health and can help to reduce anxiety and promote better sleep, while copper is important for the formation of red blood cells and the maintenance of healthy skin and hair.
- Antioxidants: Raw cashews contain antioxidants like vitamin E, which can help to protect against oxidative damage and reduce the risk of chronic diseases like cancer and Alzheimer's.
However, it's worth noting that raw cashews are also relatively high in calories, with around 160 calories per 28 gram serving. As such, it's important to enjoy them in moderation as part of a balanced diet.
The Health Benefits of Raw Cashews
Raw cashews are not only a delicious snack, but they also offer a range of health benefits. Here are some of the ways in which raw cashews can benefit your health:
- Heart health: Raw cashews are high in healthy fats like monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, which can help to lower cholesterol levels and reduce the risk of heart disease. Studies have shown that including nuts like raw cashews in your diet can lower LDL (bad) cholesterol levels and reduce the risk of heart disease.
- Bone health: Raw cashews are a good source of magnesium, which is essential for bone health. Magnesium helps to regulate calcium levels in the body, which is important for the formation and maintenance of strong bones.
- Weight management: Despite being relatively high in calories, raw cashews can actually help with weight management. The healthy fats and protein in cashews can help to keep you feeling full and satisfied, reducing the likelihood of overeating.
- Brain health: Raw cashews contain antioxidants like vitamin E, which can help to protect against oxidative damage and reduce the risk of cognitive decline. Studies have also shown that including nuts like cashews in your diet can improve brain function and reduce the risk of Alzheimer's disease.
- Diabetes management: Raw cashews have a low glycemic index, which means they can help to regulate blood sugar levels and may be beneficial for people with diabetes. Studies have shown that including nuts like cashews in your diet can improve blood sugar control and reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes.
The History of Cashews
The cashew tree (Anacardium occidentale) is native to Brazil and was first brought to Europe by Portuguese traders in the 16th century. The Portuguese introduced the cashew tree to India and Africa, and it quickly became an important crop in these regions. The cashew tree is a member of the same family as poison ivy and poison oak, and its fruit is toxic to humans. The cashew nut itself is actually the seed of the fruit, which is shaped like a kidney and grows on the outside of a cashew apple. The cashew apple is not commonly eaten outside of the regions where it is grown, as it is highly perishable and has a very short shelf life. Cashews were originally harvested by hand, which was a difficult and dangerous process. The outer shell of the cashew contains a toxic oil that can cause skin irritation and respiratory problems, and it was not until the development of modern processing techniques that cashews could be safely and efficiently harvested. Today, the largest producer of cashews is Vietnam, followed by India, Nigeria, and Ivory Coast. Cashews are an important crop for many small farmers in these regions, and their cultivation and sale provide an important source of income for local communities. Cashews are now enjoyed all over the world, and are a popular ingredient in a wide range of dishes, from savoury curries and stir-fries to sweet desserts and snacks. Their rich, buttery flavour and creamy texture make them a versatile and delicious ingredient in any kitchen.
How to Make Cashew Milk from Raw Cashews
Cashew milk is a delicious and creamy plant-based milk that can be enjoyed on its own or used as a dairy-free alternative in a variety of recipes. Here's how to make cashew milk from raw cashews:
- 1 cup raw cashews
- 4 cups water
- 2-3 dates or 1-2 tablespoons maple syrup (optional)
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract (optional)
- Pinch of salt (optional)
- Place the raw cashews in a bowl and cover them with water. Let the cashews soak for at least 2 hours, or overnight.
- Drain and rinse the cashews, and place them in a blender along with 4 cups of fresh water.
- If desired, add 2-3 dates or 1-2 tablespoons of maple syrup to sweeten the milk, along with 1/2 teaspoon of vanilla extract and a pinch of salt for flavour.
- Blend the mixture on high speed for 1-2 minutes, or until the cashews are completely broken down and the mixture is smooth and creamy.
- Place a fine-mesh strainer or nut milk bag over a large bowl or pitcher, and pour the cashew milk through the strainer.
- Use a spoon or spatula to press down on the cashew pulp in the strainer, extracting as much liquid as possible.
- Transfer the cashew milk to a clean jar or bottle, and store it in the fridge for up to 5 days.
Cashew milk can be enjoyed on its own as a refreshing drink, or used in a variety of recipes, from smoothies and hot drinks to baked goods and sauces. You can also experiment with different flavourings and sweeteners to create your own custom cashew milk blends.
How to Make Cashew Cheese from Raw Cashews
Cashew cheese is a delicious and versatile dairy-free alternative to traditional cheese. Here's how to make cashew cheese from raw cashews:
- 1 cup raw cashews, soaked for at least 2 hours
- 1/4 cup nutritional yeast
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 cup water
- Drain and rinse the soaked cashews, and place them in a blender or food processor.
- Add the nutritional yeast, lemon juice, minced garlic, salt, and water to the blender.
- Blend the mixture on high speed for 1-2 minutes, or until the cashews are completely broken down and the mixture is smooth and creamy. If the mixture is too thick, you can add more water a tablespoon at a time until it reaches your desired consistency.
- Transfer the cashew cheese to a small container or jar, and cover it with a lid or plastic wrap.
- Let the cashew cheese sit at room temperature for 6-12 hours, or until it develops a tangy, cheesy flavour. You can also let it ferment in the fridge for a few days for a stronger flavour.
- Once the cashew cheese has fermented to your liking, you can serve it as a spread, dip, or topping for salads, sandwiches, or pizza.
Cashew cheese can be stored in the fridge for up to a week. You can also experiment with different flavourings and add-ins to create your own custom cashew cheese blends.
How to Use Raw Cashews in Vegan and Plant-Based Recipes
Raw cashews are a versatile ingredient that can be used in a wide range of vegan and plant-based recipes. Here are some ideas for how to use raw cashews in your cooking and baking:
- Creamy sauces and dips: Cashews can be blended into a creamy sauce or dip that can be used as a dairy-free alternative to cream or cheese. Try blending cashews with water, lemon juice, garlic, and nutritional yeast to make a vegan Alfredo sauce or a cheesy dip.
- Vegan cheese: Cashews can also be used to make vegan cheese that can be sliced, grated, or melted. Try making a basic cashew cheese by blending cashews with nutritional yeast, lemon juice, and garlic, or experiment with different flavours and add-ins like herbs, spices, or sun-dried tomatoes.
- Smoothies and milkshakes: Cashews can add creaminess and protein to smoothies and milkshakes. Try blending cashews with frozen fruit, almond milk, and a sweetener like maple syrup or dates for a delicious and filling breakfast or snack.
- Baked goods: Cashew flour can be used as a gluten-free alternative to wheat flour in baked goods like cakes, cookies, and bread. You can also use cashew butter in place of peanut butter in recipes like cookies or bars.
- Vegan ice cream: Cashews can be used to make a creamy and delicious vegan ice cream. Try blending cashews with coconut milk, sweetener, and flavourings like vanilla or chocolate for a dairy-free treat.
- Snacks: Raw cashews make a great snack on their own, or can be used as a base for homemade snack bars or trail mix.
Raw Cashews in Asian Cuisine: Recipes and Ideas
Raw cashews are a staple ingredient in many Asian cuisines, particularly in Indian and Thai dishes. Here are some ideas for how to use raw cashews in your Asian-inspired cooking:
- Thai curry: Cashews can be added to Thai curries to add a crunchy texture and a nutty flavour. Try adding cashews to a red or green curry along with vegetables like bell peppers, snow peas, and carrots.
- Indian curries: Cashews are also commonly used in Indian curries to add richness and creaminess to the sauce. Try blending cashews with coconut milk and spices to make a vegan butter chicken or tikka masala.
- Stir-fries: Cashews can be added to stir-fries for a crunchy texture and a nutty flavour. Try stir-frying cashews with vegetables like broccoli, mushrooms, and bell peppers, and flavouring the dish with soy sauce, ginger, and garlic.
- Pad Thai: Cashews are a key ingredient in traditional Pad Thai, adding a crunchy texture and a nutty flavour to the dish. Try making a vegan version of Pad Thai by using cashews instead of shrimp or chicken.
- Spring rolls: Cashews can be added to fresh spring rolls for a crunchy texture and a nutty flavour. Try wrapping cashews along with vegetables like cucumber, carrots, and lettuce in rice paper and serving them with a dipping sauce made from peanut butter, soy sauce, and lime juice.
- Indian sweets: Cashews are a popular ingredient in Indian sweets like kaju katli, a type of fudge made from cashews and sugar. Try making your own vegan version of kaju katli using coconut sugar or maple syrup instead of traditional sugar.
Raw Cashews in Snacks: Recipes and Ideas
Raw cashews make a delicious and healthy addition to a variety of snacks. Here are some ideas for how to use raw cashews in your snack recipes:
- Trail mix: Cashews are a popular ingredient in trail mix, adding a rich and nutty flavour along with protein and healthy fats. Try mixing cashews with dried fruit, chocolate chips, and seeds like pumpkin or sunflower for a delicious and nutritious snack on the go.
- Energy balls: Cashews can be blended with dates, cocoa powder, and other ingredients to make delicious and healthy energy balls. Try blending cashews with dates, cocoa powder, and almond butter to make chocolate-flavoured energy balls that are perfect for a mid-afternoon snack.
- Granola bars: Cashews can also be used to make homemade granola bars that are perfect for a quick and satisfying snack. Try combining cashews with oats, honey, and dried fruit to make a nutritious and delicious snack that can be enjoyed any time of day.
- Roasted nuts: Cashews can be roasted with spices and herbs for a delicious and savoury snack. Try roasting cashews with a mix of cumin, coriander, and chili powder for a spicy and flavourful snack that is perfect for movie night.
- Popcorn mix: Cashews can be added to popcorn for a delicious and satisfying snack. Try mixing cashews with popcorn, melted coconut oil, and nutritional yeast for a savoury and satisfying snack that is perfect for movie night.
- Nut butter: Cashews can also be blended into a creamy and delicious nut butter that can be spread on toast, crackers, or fruit. Try blending cashews with coconut oil and a sweetener like honey or maple syrup to make a delicious and healthy nut butter that is perfect for snacking.
Tips and Tricks for Cooking with Raw Cashews
Cooking with raw cashews can be a rewarding experience, but it can also be a bit tricky if you're not familiar with the process. Here are some tips and tricks to help you get the most out of your raw cashews:
- Soak the cashews: Before using raw cashews in a recipe, it's a good idea to soak them in water for at least 2 hours, or overnight. Soaking the cashews will help to soften them, making them easier to blend and reducing the likelihood of lumps or grittiness in your finished dish.
- Use a high-speed blender: To achieve a smooth and creamy texture when using cashews in recipes like sauces or dips, it's important to use a high-speed blender that can break down the cashews completely. A regular blender or food processor may not be powerful enough to achieve the desired texture.
- Make cashew cream: Cashew cream is a versatile ingredient that can be used in a variety of recipes as a dairy-free alternative to cream or cheese. To make cashew cream, blend soaked cashews with water until smooth, then use the cream as desired in your recipe.
- Experiment with different spices and flavourings: Cashews have a mild and nutty flavour that can be enhanced with different spices and flavourings. Experiment with different herbs, spices, and seasonings to create unique and delicious flavour combinations in your cooking.
- Store cashews properly: To ensure that your raw cashews stay fresh and flavourful, it's important to store them properly. Store raw cashews in an airtight container in the fridge or freezer to prevent them from going rancid or losing their flavour.
- Use raw cashews in a variety of recipes: Raw cashews are a versatile ingredient that can be used in a wide range of recipes, from savoury sauces and dips to sweet desserts and snacks. Experiment with different recipes and techniques to discover new and exciting ways to use this nutritious and delicious nut in your cooking.
Frequently Asked Questions about Raw Cashews
Are raw cashews safe to eat?
Yes, raw cashews are safe to eat, but the outer shell of the cashew contains a toxic oil that can cause skin irritation and respiratory problems. Raw cashews sold in stores have been steamed to remove this outer shell, making them safe to eat.
Can raw cashews be roasted?
Yes, raw cashews can be roasted to enhance their flavour and texture. Spread them out in a single layer on a baking sheet, and roast them in a preheated oven at 175°C for 8-10 minutes, stirring occasionally to prevent burning.
How should raw cashews be stored?
Raw cashews should be stored in an airtight container in a cool, dry place. They can also be stored in the fridge or freezer to extend their shelf life.
Are raw cashews good for you?
Yes, raw cashews are a nutritious and healthy food. They are a good source of protein, healthy fats, vitamins, and minerals, and have been linked to a variety of health benefits.
Can raw cashews be used in place of dairy in recipes?
Yes, raw cashews can be used to make dairy-free alternatives to cream, cheese, and milk in a variety of recipes. Cashew milk, cashew cheese, and cashew cream are all popular vegan and dairy-free alternatives that can be made using raw cashews.
Are raw cashews gluten-free?
Yes, raw cashews are gluten-free and can be enjoyed by people with celiac disease or gluten intolerance.
Can raw cashews be used in baking?
Yes, raw cashews can be used in baking as a gluten-free alternative to wheat flour. Cashew flour can be used to make a variety of baked goods, from cakes and cookies to bread and muffins.
Are raw cashews high in calories?
Yes, raw cashews are relatively high in calories. However, they are also high in protein, healthy fats, and other nutrients, making them a nutritious and satisfying snack.
Are raw cashews a good source of healthy fats?
Yes, raw cashews are a good source of healthy fats, including monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats. These fats have been linked to a variety of health benefits, including improved heart health and reduced inflammation.
Can raw cashews be used in smoothies?
Yes, raw cashews can be used in smoothies to add a creamy texture and a nutty flavour. They can be blended with fruits, vegetables, and other ingredients to create delicious and nutritious smoothies.
How long do raw cashews last?
Raw cashews can last for several months if stored properly in an airtight container in a cool, dry place or in the fridge or freezer. However, they may start to go rancid after a few months, so it's a good idea to check them for freshness before using them in recipes.
Are raw cashews a good source of vitamins and minerals?
Yes, raw cashews are a good source of several vitamins and minerals, including magnesium, phosphorus, copper, and zinc. These nutrients are important for maintaining healthy bones, muscles, and organs, as well as supporting the immune system and other bodily functions.
Are raw cashews safe for people with nut allergies?
No, raw cashews are not safe for people with nut allergies, as they are a tree nut. People with nut allergies should avoid cashews and other tree nuts to prevent allergic reactions.
Can raw cashews be used to make nut milk?
Yes, raw cashews can be used to make a delicious and creamy nut milk that can be used as a dairy-free alternative in recipes or enjoyed on its own. Cashew milk can be made by blending soaked cashews with water and sweeteners or flavourings, then straining the mixture through a fine-mesh strainer or nut milk bag.