This piece was originally published on Spoon With Me.
Lactose intolerants and sympathizers, gather ’round! This is the holy grail of creaminess for all who can’t eat dairy yet still crave dip. Sour cream, oh, how I’ve missed you these past few years! I came across this recipe for the “best damn vegan sour cream” on Gluten-Free Vegan Pantry, and I thought to myself, “we’ll see about that.” I felt like I was anticipating a blind date (which is how the mister and I met, by the way). I thought: Don’t get your hopes up too high. This could be really good, but it could also end up like all those other train wrecks.
I’ve been holding out hope for a sour cream substitute that a) doesn’t taste like cashews, b) doesn’t taste like plastic, c) has the texture of sour cream, and most importantly, d) is made with real, whole ingredients—not chemicals. Is that asking too much? To say the least, I was very pleasantly surprised (both by the sour cream and the man)! The mister and I are celebrating our nine-year wedding anniversary on Thursday, and I’ve got my ninth batch of vegan sour cream in the fridge. I’d say things are going quite well!
When cashews are soaked, something magical and ethereal happens. See their halo? Soaking the cashews softens their flavor, and most importantly, makes them blendable and transformable. If you read my last post, you know the name of the game for me right now is to eat, eat, eat. My strategy is to devour as many nutritious, calorie-dense whole foods as possible. Whether you’re trying to gain weight, lose weight, or maintain, I am convinced that there is no fad diet or quick fix better than just eating real food. Enter: delicious, herby dip.
What is the history of dip? Is it an American thing? Or did we just create a blanket term for any kind of thick sauce scooped up by a vehicle such as a veggie or a cracker? David Leite of Leite’s Culinaria exhaustively researched the subject, and I can sum it up with the following: the 1950s, the invention of potato chips, the emerging American couch potato class, and the need to deliver food to one’s mouth while watching the glowing box… Another proud example of American ingenuity. Americans loved dipping so much that we changed the word from a verb to a noun. The emergence of the first recipe for crudité also emerged in France around the same time. Crudité sounds so much more sophisticated than dip, but it’s a means to the same end: Use something delicious and crispy to deliver something saucy and flavorful into your mouth. Repeat as needed.
Luckily, dip doesn’t have to be that packet of processed powder that we have probably all stirred into sour cream and devoured at one point or another. Although admittedly addictive and tasty, the first three ingredients on most of these are maltodextrin, salt, and monosodium glutamate. That doesn’t sound like food to me!
I like to whip up a batch of this real-food dip to snack on throughout the week (or, let’s be honest–over the course of a few days). It’s cool and herby with hints of garlic and onion while being creamy and smooth. The hardest part is remembering to get those cashews soaking. The rest comes together quite quickly! I’m looking forward to the tenth year of sharing life’s crazy adventures with the mister, and I’m sure my tenth batch of vegan sour cream will be close to follow!
Lemon-Herb Cashew Sour Cream Dip (Vegan)
This cashew sour cream has become a staple in my house. One of my cookbooks has a rule: Always be soaking. I agree, it’s best to be ready to whip up this dip when the craving strikes! I use my high-powered blender to achieve an extra-smooth texture. Any blender will do, but just make sure to scrape down the edges as you go and add a little extra water if needed. This dip can be made a day or two ahead of time, and the flavor improves when chilled overnight. If you would like to make plain sour cream, which has an infinite number of uses, just omit the dip ingredients!
For the Sour Cream
1 cup raw unsalted cashews, soaked 8 hours or overnight
¼ cup plus 2 tbsp fresh lemon juice (finely grate and reserve ½ tsp zest)
¼ cup water (add more if needed)
1 ½ tsp nutritional yeast
¼ tsp salt
For the Dip
½ tsp lemon zest
2 tbsp finely-sliced fresh chives
1 tsp minced dill leaves
1 tsp minced fresh thyme leaves
½ tsp freshly-ground black pepper
½ tsp granulated garlic
½ tsp granulated onion
Salt to taste
Additional minced herbs to garnish
Drain the soaked cashews and put them in a blender with the lemon juice, water, nutritional yeast, and salt.
Blend for about 3–5 minutes until very smooth, stopping to scrape down the edges if needed. If it is too thick and won’t blend, add additional water, a tablespoon at a time.
Chill for 2 hours or more (or, in a pinch, put in the freezer for 20 minutes until cold and slightly thickened).
In a medium bowl, mix the cashew sour cream with all of the dip ingredients. Season with salt to taste and garnish with the herbs.
Enjoy your maiden vegan sour cream voyage!
Jenny Morgenthaler is a writer, photographer, and recipe developer who enjoys cooking, growing, creating, and adventuring in the kitchen and beyond. She is a cancer survivor and is passionate about using good, healthy food to support wellness in the midst of big life challenges. Jenny believes that everyone should be able to enjoy a flavorful, colorful, healthy meal around the same table, so her recipes are flexible and adaptable to a variety of dietary needs. Life is improvised and beautifully messy, and cooking should be too! You can visit Jenny, her quirky musings, and healthy recipes at Spoon With Me.