I always stock a bag of raw unsalted cashew nuts for a spur-of-the-moment snack, toasting the nuts with spicy chaat masala or with a generous pinch of rock salt and fresh pepper. Cashew nuts provide the crunch in Asian cuisines’ sautéed dishes. The cashew nuts are processed into a paste that can be used to thicken a curry. This mildly-sweet nut’s versatility has been overlooked until recently in the West.
I have now noticed that restaurants are incorporating cashew nut paste as a ribbon-like swirl around braised meat. The combination of starch and unsaturated fats (the healthy kind) in the cashew nut purée gives the paste a creamy consistency akin to mashed potatoes. A dash of the cashew nut paste on a plate of roasted chicken or grilled ribs serves as both a side dish and as a decorative flourish.
There are several ways to incorporate cashew nut paste into any cooking style, especially because cashew nut is lactose- and gluten-free. The cashew nut paste has a richly-satisfying buttery flavor and a spreadable texture, and can be substituted for peanut butter for those with peanut allergies.The paste can also be diluted with water to create a cream-like consistency and substituted for cream and yogurt to thicken sauces or even diluted further and drunk as cashew milk.
Sold pre-shelled, economy-sized packets of raw cashew nuts are available in South American and Asian supermarkets.
Cashew Nut Paste
Cashew nuts (raw) – 1 cup
- Cover the cashew nuts with water and soak them overnight.
- Drain in a colander.
- Process the softened nuts in a food processor or blender to get a fine paste. Keep the paste as granular (spreadable cashew butter) or smooth to mix with fresh water (cashew cream or milk).
- The paste can be frozen for up to 2 months in an airtight container.