Whether you're a seasoned chef or a beginner in the kitchen, you can elevate your cooking game by mastering cashew nuts. These nutty delights have been around for ages and have been used in a variety of dishes, especially in Indian cuisine. From sweet to savoury dishes, cashew nuts can add depth and flavour to your recipes. In this article, we'll uncover the history, health benefits, and ways to cook with cashews like a pro.
A Brief History and Introduction
Cashews are not nuts but seeds that come from the fruit of the cashew tree. These delicious seeds were first discovered in Brazil and have since spread across the globe, with cashew trees now commonly grown in Africa, India, Vietnam, and Indonesia. Apart from its culinary uses, cashews were also used in traditional medicine to treat various ailments.
At Essina Wholefoods, we offer raw whole cashews in 1kg or smaller packages, which you can buy in our Cashew Collection.
The Health Benefits of Cashews
Cashews are a nutrient powerhouse, containing various vitamins and minerals like magnesium, copper, and zinc that promote healthy bones and immune function. Additionally, they are rich in healthy fats that can help lower the risk of heart disease.
One of the most impressive health benefits of cashews is their high antioxidant content, which helps reduce inflammation in the body and combat oxidative stress caused by free radicals. Furthermore, cashews are an excellent source of protein, making them a great option for vegetarians or those looking to add more plant-based protein to their diets.
To learn more about the health benefits of cashews, check out our blog post about the surprising health benefits of eating cashew nuts.
Types of Cashew Nuts
When it comes to cashews, how they are processed affects their flavour and texture. You can choose between raw and roasted cashews, salted, and unsalted, and whole or chopped cashews depending on your preferred taste and texture.
- Raw vs. Roasted Cashews: Raw cashews have a mild, buttery flavour and a slightly chewy texture, perfect for raw recipes. Meanwhile, roasted cashews have a more intense nutty flavour and a crunchy texture, making them great for snacking or adding to savoury dishes.
- Salted vs. Unsalted Cashews: Salted cashews are perfect if you're looking for a little extra flavour in your snacks. The salt enhances the nutty flavour of cashews and adds an extra layer of crunchiness. However, if you're trying to watch your sodium intake or prefer a more natural taste, unsalted cashews may be your best bet.
- Whole vs. Chopped Cashews: Whole cashews are versatile and can be used in various ways, such as snacking or as a garnish for dishes like curries or salads. Chopped cashews, on the other hand, offer more versatility in cooking and can easily be added to sauces or stir-fries without overwhelming the dish with too much crunchiness. They also add a nice texture to baked goods like cookies or cakes.
Cooking Techniques with Cashew Nuts
Now that you know about the different types of cashews available let's dive into different cooking techniques that can help you create delicious dishes with cashew nuts:
- Roasting: Roasting cashews can take their flavour to the next level. Preheat your oven to 320°F (160°C). Spread the cashews out on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper, making sure they are in a single layer. Roast for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until they are golden brown and fragrant. Be careful not to burn them! Roasted cashews can be used as a snack or as toppings for various dishes like salads, curry, and stir-fries.
- Grinding: Cashew nut paste is an excellent ingredient for creating creamy sauces and dips that are dairy-free. To make the paste, start with raw unsalted cashews and soak them in water for at least 2 hours (or overnight) to soften them up. Strain the cashews from the water and place them in a food processor or blender with some fresh water. Blend until the mixture becomes smooth and creamy like butter, adding more water if necessary. You can use this paste as an alternative to cream in dishes like pasta sauces or as a base for vegan cheese.
- Topping: Chopped or whole cashews add crunchiness and flavour to many dishes such as salads, stir-fries, or curries. They can be tossed on top of leafy greens along with other toppings like dried cranberries, feta cheese crumbles, grilled chicken, etc. to add a crunch to each bite. Roasted cashew halves can also be sprinkled on top of stir-fry dishes to create a texture that complements the softness of ingredients like vegetables and brings out their sweetness.
Recipes Using Cashew Nuts
Looking for a nutritious and delicious ingredient to add to your recipes? Look no further than cashew nuts! With their nutty flavour and creamy texture, they're perfect for a wide range of dishes, from appetizers to main courses and desserts. Here are some recipes featuring cashew nuts that are sure to satisfy your cravings:
Homemade Vegan Cashew Cheese: Homemade vegan cashew cheese is a delicious alternative that gives you full control of the cheese you are consuming. This is made with cashews, nutritional yeast, lemon juice, and spices, making it perfect for serving with veggies or crackers. Check out our recipe for vegan cashew cheese and enjoy a dairy-free cheese that's delicious, economical and healthy.
Vegan Cashew Parmesan Cheese: If you love parmesan cheese but cannot consume traditionally made one from cow's milk, look no further! Try our vegan parmesan cheese recipe and you will never look back. It’s so simple; all you need is cashews, garlic powder, nutritional yeast and salt.
Dates and Cashews Smoothie: This smoothie is packed with protein and fibre from bananas, cashews, dates, oats and bananas. Check out our smoothie recipe and enjoy it as a perfect breakfast or post-workout snack.
Delight with Maple Rosemary Cashews: Looking for a crunchy snack with a kick? Try our recipe for delicious delights made with maple syrup, rosemary and cashews. Maple syrup mixed with olive oil and spices like fresh rosemary and cayenne pepper, these cashews are a perfect snack to enjoy while watching your favourite movie.
Pesto with Cashew Nuts Served Over Pasta Recipe: This pasta dish is served with alternative pesto made with cashews rather than pine nuts. Simply made with cashews, basil, parsley, sun-dried tomatoes, garlic, and olive oil, it creates a luscious pesto sauce that's perfect tossed with casarecce or penne pasta. Check out our pesto with cashew nuts served over pasta recipe and enjoy a creamy pasta dish that's both delicious and nutritious.
Delicious Fonio and Cashew Polenta: This savoury dish is a delicious twist on the traditional polenta dish by using fonio instead of cornmeal, a gluten-free ancient grain that has been used for thousands of years in West Africa. A fusion between African and European cuisines by using ingredients from both regions! Our recipe packs a superfood punch with gluten-free and nutritiously rich fonio, cashew nuts, kale and brussels sprouts.
Vegan Cashew and Chocolate Mousse Dessert: Satisfy your sweet tooth with this easy cashew and chocolate mousse recipe developed by Chef Aldo Venturi. You simply combine the blended tofu, vegetable double cream, whole cane sugar, chopped chocolate, and chopped cashew nuts in a saucepan. Perfect for dessert lovers who want an easy vegan option!
Brown Sugar Blondies with Cashew: Indulge in the perfect blend of sweet and nutty brown sugar blondies with cashew. Follow our easy recipe for a delicious dessert to share with your dearest ones!
Nutritional Value of Cashews
Besides their delicious taste and versatility in cooking, cashews have numerous health benefits. They are an excellent source of healthy fats, fibre, protein, vitamins B6 and E, zinc, magnesium, and antioxidants that help reduce inflammation and lower the risk of heart disease. Additionally, they may help improve blood sugar control, making them a great snack for those with diabetes or insulin resistance.
To learn more about the health benefits of cashew nuts, read our blog about the surprising health benefits of eating cashew nuts.
A Word of Encouragement
Cooking with cashew nuts is not only delicious, but it is also a healthy choice. With a bit of creativity in the kitchen and guidance from our recipes, you can enjoy meals at home that are both delicious and nutritious. Don’t hesitate to experiment and try different recipes that feature this wonder ingredient. You may discover new favourite dishes and surprise yourself!