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Vegan Caprese Sandwiches with Garlic Cashew Cheese

Vegan Caprese Sandwiches with Garlic Cashew Cheese Recipe

Vegan Caprese Sandwiches with Garlic Cashew CheesePhotos by Lindsey Johnson.

I’m not 100% vegan, but I find that the more plant-based my diet is, the better I feel. I also get a geeky kick out of veganizing recipes, so I’ve opted to go in that direction with my blogging. Having said all that, today I’d like to share a veganized version of the classic Italian Caprese sandwich.

My first few experiences with vegan cheese took place maybe a dozen or so years ago and were rather disappointing, to say the least. Since then, the quality of store-bought vegan cheese has gone way up. Not only that, but the quality of homemade vegan cheese has also gone up … sort of.

Vegan Caprese Sandwiches with Garlic Cashew Cheese Ingredients
Okay, you got me. My secret vegan cheese ingredient is cashews, and cashews were around way before I ever tried making vegan cheese. Somehow it seems like we’ve all just caught on recently though. Or is it just me? I credit the magic of the internet and, ahem, food bloggers for spreading the joy that is cashew-based cheese.

If you’re new to vegan cheesery (which you probably are, considering I just decided “cheesery” is a thing), you’ll probably be surprised at how simple it is. While a few different varieties of nuts and seeds can be transformed into cheese, cashews are generally the easiest to work with. Raw cashews are the way to go. The flavor is neutral and they blend up silky and creamy after a few hours of soaking in water. A little oil along with some non-dairy milk helps the nuts blend super-smooth and takes them from a thick paste to a rich, spreadable cheese base. As far as flavoring your cheese goes, the sky is the limit, and I’ve found this to be the fun part. I kept things pretty simple for this recipe, opting to go with a little lemon for tang, along with some garlic, simply because it goes deliciously with the classic tomato-basil caprese combo. You can create different flavors to mimic different cheese varieties by using ingredients like nutritional yeast for a zippy-cheddary flavor, miso for sharpness, different types of vinegars for sourness and even powdered spices.

Vegan Caprese Sandwiches with Garlic Cashew Cheese
Once you’ve gotten comfortable with the flavoring step, you always have the option of adding something to harden it up, for a more sliceable cheese. I usually end up using agar for this, which is a vegan gelatin-like ingredient derived from algae. Agar needs to be completely dissolved in hot liquid before adding it to your cheese base, so it adds a little work to the process. I find agar to be great when my goal is to replicate dairy cheese in taste, look and texture -– most often just for fun or to satisfy my yearning for some halloumi. When taste is my main goal, as it was with these Vegan Caprese Sandwiches, I just go for the soft, blended cheese.

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Vegan Caprese Sandwiches with Garlic Cashew Cheese

Vegan Caprese Sandwiches with Garlic Cashew Cheese Recipe

A crusty baguette smeared with creamy garlic cashew cheese and then filled with juicy tomatoes, crunchy sprouts, fresh basil, and a sweet balsamic reduction. We’re nuts for this sandwich!

  • Prep Time: 15 minutes
  • Total Time: 15 minutes
  • Yield: 4 sandwiches

Ingredients

For the garlic cashew cheese

  • 1 cup raw cashews, soaked in water for 4-8 hours, then rinsed and drained
  • 2 medium garlic cloves
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons unflavored soy or almond milk
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper

For the sandwiches

  • 1/3 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 1 baguette, cut into 4 sections, or 4 long sandwich rolls, sliced open
  • 1/2 cup clover or alfalfa sprouts
  • 2 medium tomatoes, thinly sliced
  • 1 cup fresh basil leaves

Instructions

For the garlic cashew cheese:

  1. Place cashews and garlic into blender or food processor. Blend to a paste, stopping to scrape down the sides of the bowl occasionally. This can take up to a few minutes, depending on what type of device you’re using.
  2. Add lemon juice, milk, olive oil, salt and pepper. Blend again until everything is completely mixed and smooth.

To assemble the sandwiches:

  1. Heat the balsamic vinegar in a small saucepan over medium heat. Simmer for about 10 minutes, or until the vinegar is syrupy and reduced to about 2 tablespoons. Remove from heat. (Note that you can also use un-reduced balsamic vinegar — use 2 tablespoons.)
  2. Spread a layer of cheese on each side of each baguette section. Distribute a layer of sprouts over the cheese.
  3. On the bottom half of each of your sandwiches, top the sprouts with tomato slices, and then drizzle your tomato slices with balsamic vinegar. Arrange the basil leaves over tomato slices, then place the top half of your baguette section over your tomato-basil layer and serve.

Notes

If you’re using a larger blending device, like a Vitamix, you may want to consider doubling the batch size for the cheese, as you might not be able to keep enough of your mixture around the blades to get a thorough blending. Two cups is a rather big batch size, but the good news is that you can freeze it! If you don’t freeze it, you can get away with storing it in the fridge for up to a week. On a similar note, feel free to freeze a portion of the cheese from a recipe-size batch if you want fewer than four sandwiches. I wouldn’t suggest going with a smaller batch size than this recipe specifies, because you might run into the problem of it splattering away from the blades too much for good blending, regardless of what type of blending device you’re using.

Nutrition

  • Serving Size: 1 sandwich

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52 Comments

  • Reply
    Abby @ The Frosted Vegan
    June 12, 2014 at 8:42 am

    I LOVE cashew based cheeses and this on a sandwich looks amazing!

    • Reply
      Alissa
      June 12, 2014 at 10:33 am

      Thanks Abby! I love cashew cheeses too – there’s so much you can do with them!

  • Reply
    Linda @ Veganosity
    June 12, 2014 at 9:13 am

    I love cashew cheese, not so fond of store bought vegan cheese. It’s too processed.

    Italian seasoning is a great addition to cashew cheese, especially if you’re making it for something like a caprese sandwich- YUM!!!

    Yesterday I made an amazing cheese sauce for mac n cheese with cashews and cauliflower. It was so good that the non-vegans in my house had seconds. My question to them, why would you ever eat dairy cheese again? They didn’t have an answer! 🙂

    • Reply
      Alissa
      June 12, 2014 at 10:35 am

      I’ll take cashew cheese over store-bough any day. I’ve also tried it in mac & cheese and some other baked dishes and I’d never know it was’t dairy if I hadn’t made it myself 🙂

  • Reply
    Leah | So, How's It Taste?
    June 12, 2014 at 9:57 am

    I just very recently heard about cashew cheese. While I’m not vegan (or vegetarian), it sounds scrumptious to me! I can’t wait to give it a try and then make this sandwich. Looks amazing!

    • Reply
      Alissa
      June 12, 2014 at 10:37 am

      You should definitely try it out! I actually fed a batch of this cheese to my family – all nonvegetarians – and they loved it! Enjoy!!

  • Reply
    Julia Mueller
    June 12, 2014 at 10:01 am

    I’ve been wanting to make vegan cheese for the longest time! I heard if you add rejuvalac to the cashew mixture and allow it to ferment for a couple of weeks, you end up with a probiotic-rich cheese – pretty cool!! I love these sandos! Nothing like fresh ingredients on your sando to beat the heat 😀

    • Reply
      Alissa
      June 12, 2014 at 10:42 am

      Making cashew cheese is so much fun! I tried this recipe for a vegan cheddar with rejuvelac last summer and it was delicious. The rejuvelac actually adds a sharp flavor in addition to probiotics. I never would have known it was vegan 🙂

    • Reply
      betsy shipley
      June 12, 2014 at 10:02 pm

      Hi there. I have been making vegan artisan cheese using Miyoko Schinner’s recipes from her book: Artisan vegan cheese after I read an article in VegNews back in late 2012. I considered it a challenge to learn the process since I too had never heard of rejuvelac let alone make it. I did and am now on my 8th batch of cheddar cheese. From start to finish it takes several days: 2-3 days to sprout the grains, I use rye), then let the liquid ferment for several more days, etc. Several of my friends say this is so much better than the store bought stuff. My next challenge is making the mozzarella. Miyoko makes her own non dairy yogurt which I am still researching trying to find the right culture. I think someone mentioned Cultures for health sells a vegan culture for making non dairy yogurts. Anyway, that’s where I am today. Since the cheddar makes more than enough for 2 of us, I just freeze half and it is just fine.

      • Reply
        Alissa
        June 13, 2014 at 12:02 pm

        Hi Betsy! I had never heard of rejuvelac when I first used it in vegan cheddar either, but once I tried it I was completely sold. Well worth the few days of waiting in my opinion :). I’ll have to check out Miyoko’s book, because my few attempts at coming up with my own vegan yogurt recipe turned out terrible. I was able to find some vegan cultures on Amazon, but I had a really tough time getting the texture right.

        • Reply
          betsy shipley
          June 24, 2014 at 11:20 am

          Let me know the results when you start making your cheese. Since we can’t cook together, we can compare notes.
          betsy

          • Alissa
            June 24, 2014 at 8:54 pm

            I will definitely share any new vegan cheese recipes I come up with 🙂

  • Reply
    Millie l Add A Lttle
    June 12, 2014 at 10:57 am

    This looks amazing! I totally miss caprese since I can’t eat cheese but this looks amazing!!!
    Hopefully I can try it out soon 🙂

    • Reply
      Alissa
      June 12, 2014 at 2:23 pm

      Thank you! If you’re missing cheese you should definitely give this a try. I hope you enjoy it!

  • Reply
    Deborah @ Confessions of a Mother Runner
    June 12, 2014 at 12:36 pm

    I’m a vegetarian but not a vegan. I eat a lot of cheese. I find vegan cheese to be horrible and over processed. I’ve never heard of turning cashews into cheese. How creative and yummy!

    • Reply
      Alissa
      June 12, 2014 at 2:24 pm

      I’ve never been a big fan of most vegan cheeses either. Discovering cashew cheese was a total game changer!

  • Reply
    Raquel @ My California Roots
    June 12, 2014 at 12:53 pm

    I’ve been obsessed with making things with cashews lately, but I’ve yet to cross cheese off the list! These sandwiches look amazing. Thanks for sharing!

    • Reply
      Alissa
      June 12, 2014 at 2:26 pm

      Thanks Raquel! Cashews are one of my favorite ingredients to play around with – and cheese is definitely my favorite thing to make with them. You should give it a shot 🙂

  • Reply
    Caitlin
    June 12, 2014 at 1:45 pm

    O.M.G I am dying right now! For real- a vegan caprese?! Day has been made!

    • Reply
      Alissa
      June 12, 2014 at 2:28 pm

      Thanks Caitlin! Yes, for real!!! So glad your day is made. Enjoy!

  • Reply
    Laura (Tutti Dolci)
    June 12, 2014 at 4:24 pm

    I could eat this all summer long and the cashew cheese sounds so good!

    • Reply
      Alissa
      June 12, 2014 at 9:03 pm

      The Caprese is definitely a favorite summer sandwich for me too! The cashew cheese takes it to another level 🙂

  • Reply
    Andrea
    June 12, 2014 at 5:00 pm

    I’m all about the cashew cheese in these puppies! yum!

    • Reply
      Alissa
      June 12, 2014 at 9:05 pm

      Thanks Andrea! I’m so all about cashew cheese and I especially loved it in these sandwiches!

  • Reply
    [email protected]
    June 12, 2014 at 6:40 pm

    Hi Alissa. I think you are a great new contributor to OMV. This cheese looks scrumptious although I’m not even a vegetarian. I eat clean and a mix of everything.:) I will add this recipe to my list, very creative! I have never tried cashew cheese but sounds amazing. I have tried store made vegan cheeses and spreads and honestly not a fan! Plus the ingredients list is scary. But this one I will pin. Thank you!

    • Reply
      Alissa
      June 12, 2014 at 9:07 pm

      Hi Olena! Thank you so much! You definitely don’t need to be vegan or even vegetarian to enjoy this stuff. Glad to hear you want to try this out – I think you’ll love it. Enjoy!!

  • Reply
    [email protected]
    June 12, 2014 at 10:46 pm

    These are my kind of sandwiches! Bookmarking!

    • Reply
      Alissa
      June 13, 2014 at 12:04 pm

      Glad to hear it! Thank you and enjoy 🙂

  • Reply
    Katie (The Muffin Myth)
    June 13, 2014 at 2:52 am

    Yum! I haven’t tried making cashew cheese before, but I totally should! I love a good sandwich spread and this looks like a great way to mix things up. Time to get a-soaking!

    • Reply
      Alissa
      June 13, 2014 at 12:06 pm

      Thanks Katie! I agree, you totally should try it! The first time I tried cashew cheese I was amazed. I think you will love it.

  • Reply
    [email protected]
    June 13, 2014 at 5:42 pm

    I LOVE cashew cheese! I learned how to make cheese with cashews just last year and all I kept thinking is where have you been all my life!!

    • Reply
      Alissa
      June 14, 2014 at 10:45 am

      That was also my reaction when I first tried cashew cheese! It’s pretty amazing stuff.

  • Reply
    Olivia - Primavera Kitchen
    June 13, 2014 at 11:12 pm

    I LOVE cashew based cheeses, but I’ve never try to make it. You’ve inspired me! Thanks a lot 😉

    • Reply
      Alissa
      June 14, 2014 at 10:47 am

      That’s so good to hear. I think you will love it!!

  • Reply
    Courtney @ The Fig Tree
    June 16, 2014 at 12:32 pm

    I am so excited to try this recipe! I just recently found out I have a dairy allergy and am trying to find new ways to enjoy my old fav meals. I’ve made cashew cheese before, but never thought to use it for a caprese sandwich! I’m going to head to the bakery today to get some delicious crusty bread and make these for lunch! So excited to see you on OMV! Looking forward to all of your contributions! 🙂

    • Reply
      Alissa
      June 16, 2014 at 6:01 pm

      Thanks Courtney! I’m so excited to be here!!

      The dairy allergy is a total bummer, but cashews definitely should definitely make life easier. I love the way cashew cheese worked out in these sandwiches and good crusty bread would definitely make them 🙂 I hope you enjoy (or enjoyed, at this point) lunch!

  • Reply
    Joanne
    June 17, 2014 at 7:10 am

    Fact: dairy free cheese scares me. Double fact: you’ve made me want to try making it.

    • Reply
      Alissa
      June 17, 2014 at 12:04 pm

      Mission accomplished! Actually, lots of dairy-free cheese scares me too…but never cashew cheese. I hope you do get to try it 🙂

  • Reply
    Kim @ Fit for the Journey
    June 18, 2014 at 5:42 am

    This looks AWESOME! I love plant-based cheeses that don’t rely on nutritional yeast. This is a must try!

    • Reply
      Alissa
      June 18, 2014 at 10:13 am

      Thanks Kim! You definitely don’t need nutritional yeast for this one – the garlic gives it quite a kick. Enjoy!

  • Reply
    betsy shipley
    June 24, 2014 at 10:59 pm

    I just made this today and it is amazing! I used my vitamin for the cashew cheese and it was so very smooth and tasty! This is definitely on my list to make when anyone shows up that wants to taste something different. I usually buy the raw cashews at trader joes who has the best prices around.
    I am also experimenting with using tempeh in lots of different recipes since we have been making tempeh for over 30 years and I want to experiment with new ideas. Yesterday I made a tempeh sausage which was excellent. I have a small cornbread mold that I used and it worked! Making good healthy fun food is a delight. Let me know if you would like the recipe since I love sharing.
    betsy shipley tempeh pioneer

    • Reply
      Alissa
      June 25, 2014 at 11:13 am

      Yay! I’m so glad you enjoyed this and thank you so much for letting me know!!

      I’d love to hear about any recipes you have to share! Feel free to email, message me on Facebook or just point me to where they can be found online (if they are online). Thanks!

  • Reply
    Cameron
    July 21, 2014 at 4:17 pm

    I have so much basil right now and I LOVE cashew cheeses! This looks amazing- will be making so soon!

    Question, though- any chance something like this would freeze well? It would be so amazing to be able to make one large batch of cheese and pop individual portions in the freezer for later use…I suppose I could try it out, but wanted to know if you had experience before I potentially ruin good cashews!

    • Reply
      Alissa
      July 22, 2014 at 5:20 pm

      You can totally freeze it! I make big batches of cashew cheese all the time and freeze what I don’t use for later. Just stick it in an airtight container and you’ll be good to go! Good luck and enjoy 🙂

  • Reply
    [email protected]
    November 16, 2014 at 1:25 am

    A good conbination. It seems both healthy and delicious.

    • Reply
      Alissa
      November 16, 2014 at 8:57 pm

      Thanks Wendy! Healthy and delicious is exactly what I was going for! 🙂

  • Reply
    Lydia
    August 8, 2015 at 4:46 pm

    delicious sandwich idea! my favourite way to fancify cashew cheese is with roasted garlic, i bet that would be great here.

    • Reply
      Alissa
      August 9, 2015 at 8:44 pm

      Thanks Lydia! I think this would be really nice with roasted garlic. 🙂

  • Reply
    Joan Dahlen
    May 13, 2016 at 12:52 pm

    I love your website and I am not even vegetarian or vegan. I suffer from IBS, altho I don’t say that on my food blog which is all about my families Italian recipes which are often loaded with cheese. lol I cannot wait to try this cashew cheese. So far, no vegan cheese has won me over, but this sounds very credible. By the way, in case you didn’t know, Italian cooking is filled with vegetable dishes because Italians adore vegetables. That’s why I love vegetarian blog sites, and yours especially.

    • Reply
      Alissa
      May 15, 2016 at 10:18 pm

      Hi Joan! Thanks so much! Glad you’re enjoying the website! Cashews are my favorite when it comes to vegan cheese – I hope you love it as much as I do. 🙂 I grew up in an Italian family, so I know exactly what you’re talking about. These days I’m all about veganizing old family favorite recipes.

  • Reply
    Mr. Cents | It Makes Cents
    May 27, 2016 at 12:28 pm

    This is a gem of a recipe. We can’t even get Daiya cheese in Australia (Perth) at the moment. Would really love to try it as I can already see a lot of possibilities with cashew cheese.

    • Reply
      Alissa
      May 30, 2016 at 8:55 pm

      I feel like vegan cheese showed up very suddenly in my area. One day it was nowhere to be found, and then it was everywhere! Maybe the same will happen where you live. 🙂 Cashew cheese really is a game changer though, so I hope you give this a try, and enjoy!

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