alright, we need to talk about something. i love cheesecake. a lot. it’s undoubtedly one of my favorite foods (and i like a lot of foods). but i eat it very rarely. you probably think that i’m cautious about my cheesecake intake because it’s so unhealthy, but to be honest, i think that some things are just so good that i’m happy to shovel them into my mouth regardless of any health concerns. the real reason i don’t eat cheesecake often is that when you keep kosher, you can’t eat dairy products right after eating meat, so if you eat a meal that involves meat, cheesecake is off limits for dessert. and usually, when i’m eating a meal that is a big enough deal to warrant a fancy dessert, it involves meat.
now, a lot of people try to solve the no-cheesecake-after-meat problem by making a non-dairy cheesecake using some non-dairy variety of cream cheese, such as tofutti. but let’s be honest people… fake cream cheese doesn’t taste like cream cheese! so those cakes are usually pretty disappointing. thus, i was intrigued when i learn that a lot of nutrition-minded people make a vegan cheesecake using cashews as the base. apparently, when you soak cashews and then blend them, they get a super creamy texture, reminiscent of cheesecake. so i figured i would give it a whirl.
this pie was really, really good. the filling was rich and creamy, and the lemon juice added just the right amount of tang to give it that cheesecake-y flavor. i’m not going to sit here and tell you that it would fool a cheesecake purist – nothing can really stand in for the real thing. but this is probably the best dairy-free version i have ever come across, and i love that it uses all natural ingredients, so you don’t have to worry about any of the icky chemicals that tend to be in fake dairy products. on top of a light, crumbly graham cracker crust and with a topping made of apples that were cooked in red wine with just a hint of cinnamon and orange zest, this “cheesecake” pie was a real winner, and i can’t wait to use the same method in other cheesecake-inspired desserts!
a creamy, tangy, cheesecake filling topped with warm, red wine-soaked apples. you'd never know it's vegan.
- 2 cups graham cracker crumbs (from about 14 crackers)
- 3 tablespoons sugar
- 6 tablespoons earth balance, melted
- 2½ cups raw cashews
- ⅓ cup coconut oil, melted
- ½ cup lemon juice
- ½ cup maple syrup
- 6 tablespoons water
- 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
- 1½ cups red wine
- 6 tablespoons sugar
- ¼ teaspoon cinnamon
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- zest of 1 orange
- 4 granny smith apples, peeled, cored, and thinly sliced
- preheat the oven to 300°f and lightly grease a large pie dish.
- combine the graham crackers, sugar, and earth balance. press the mixture into the pie dish, pushing it into the bottom and up the sides. you can try to make it as smooth as possible, but it doesn't really matter.
- bake the crust for 15-20 minutes, until it is slightly golden. take it out of the oven and let it cool completely before adding the filling.
- put the cashews in a bowl, cover them with water, and let them soak for at least 4 hours (preferably overnight).
- after soaking the cashews, take them out of the water and put them in a blender. add the coconut oil, lemon juice, maple syrup, water, and vanilla, and blend everything to combine. you want it to be really smooth - for me, it helped to blend the mixture in batches.
- pour the mixture into the cooled graham cracker crust, cover it with plastic wrap, and put it in the fridge until it is fully chilled (probably a few hours).
- combine the wine, sugar, cinnamon, salt, and orange zest in a medium saucepan. cook the mixture over medium heat until it comes to a boil, then lower the heat to low to maintain a simmer. add the apples and cook, stirring occasionally, until the wine has reduced and thickened, about 25-30 minutes.
- let the apples cool completely before using a slotted spoon to lift them out of the wine and put them on top of the pie. keep the pie in the fridge until you are ready to serve it.