Classic vegan cheesecake is as rich, creamy, and silky smooth as any traditional version! Made with a cashew base, but with options to modify for your preferences.
This classic vegan cheesecake is a long time coming. It’s the first traditional cheesecake that I’ve shared on the blog, and it’s taken me a while to get it right.
Early in quarantine, I hopped on Instagram stories and took a poll. I asked what sort of recipes readers would like to see more of during quarantine. Some of the answers were predictable: recipes featuring pantry staples, legume recipes, soups and stews, etc. There was enthusiasm for recipes featuring shelf-stable ingredients, which made sense at the time.
One answer surprised me: cheesecake. I knew that everyone (including me) seemed to be craving comforting baked goods. But I didn’t expect vegan cheesecake to rise to the very top of the list. It was the number one dessert that readers requested, by far. And I didn’t have a recipe to offer them—yet.
Cashews or no cashews? This was my first question about making a dairy-free, classic cheescake recipe.
My love of cashews in any kind of creamy-textured recipe is no secret. I use cashew cream in pretty much everything, from soups and stews to whipped cream to pasta dishes. Not to mention my love of cashew cheese, cashew queso sauce, and even homemade cashew yogurt.
But there are nut allergies to think of. Not to mention the fact that cashews require a high speed blender or a food processor for breaking down, and not every home cook has one of those appliances. It’s tough for me to not use cashews in recipes, because they’re my favorite source of creaminess for non-dairy eaters, but I also try to give other options.
I tried so many different bases for this classic vegan cheesecake. All of them involved vegan cream cheese for the characteristic flavor, along with something else. That something else ended up being coconut milk, coconut cream, silken tofu, non-dairy milk + cornstarch, and vegan yogurt.
Not a single one of these recipe trials was unpleasant to eat! But in the end, the one with cashews really did turn out best. By best, I mean a perfect texture: set at the edges, soft but still sliceable in the center. Yogurt and plant milk varieties were always a little too jiggly on the inside. Silken tofu varieties had that slight flavor of, well, silken tofu. Not a bad thing, but not quite the cheesecake I remember from my pre-vegan days, either.
Fortunately, my recipe attempts encouraged me to test a bunch of options for the cheesecake base. In place of the cashews in this recipe, you can use one of the following:
This cheesecake will be more wobbly in the center than mine, but the flavor will be wonderful. Increase the cornstarch to 2 tablespoons if you make this substitution.
You may be able to taste the silken tofu in this version if you’re accustomed to knowing what silken tofu tastes like. But those who don’t use it in cooking regularly probably won’t be able to detect a big difference. It’s a nice option for making this cheesecake a little lower in fat and richer in protein. Increase the cornstarch to 1 1/2 tablespoons if you make this version.
A great option if you’d like to customize this for special dietary needs or food allergies. If you try this version, increase the cornstarch to 1 1/2 tablespoons. Aim for an unsweetened or plain yogurt, so that the ratio of sweetness remains the same with the substitution.
I’ve now made this classic vegan cheesecake recipe enough times to know the steps that make it turn out best.
This is especially important if you’re using a food processor, which is what I used. I recommend at least 4 hours of soaking, but overnight in the fridge is fine. If you’re in a pinch with time, you soak the cashews in boiling water instead. This way, they’ll only need 1-2 hours of soaking. Drain them completely before moving on.
The recipe calls for blending up your cashews a bit before adding the cream cheese to your food processor (or high speed blender). You’re aiming for about the same texture as my cashew cheese, but a little less smooth. This will ensure that the cashews continue to blend easily once you add your cream cheese.
Once you add your sugar and cream cheese, allow your food processor to run a whole 2-3 minutes. You want the cheesecake batter to be silky smooth before it enters the oven.
I learned a lot about the art of baking and cooling cheesecake as I constructed my own classic vegan cheesecake. Namely, I learned that one is aiming for a subtle wiggle, but not a sloshy jiggle, when a traditional cheesecake is done. I also learned that vegan cheesecake works a little differently.
The trick to getting this cheesecake right is to allow it to cool for about an hour (preferably in a cool part of your home) after it emerges from the oven. Then, you want to cool it overnight in the fridge. Don’t skip this step! The overnight chill is completely essential for getting a set texture. Once in the fridge, the cheesecake can sit for 2-3 whole days before slicing and serving, so it’s a good dessert to make ahead.
This cheesecake is what it claims to be: a classic vegan cheesecake. You don’t have to give it a bunch of interesting toppings or add any sauces or flourishes if you don’t wish to.
I liked adding a simple vegan blueberry lemon sauce to my cheesecake, because a) blueberries are still in season near me, and b) I love the pop of color and the tart flavor. I’m including that sauce, which could be made with berries or plums or peaches or apples, too, in the recipe.
Other fun classic vegan cheesecake toppings could be melted dark chocolate, chocolate shavings, vegan caramel sauce, or fresh berries. But really, this rich enough that it doesn’t need too much adornment. You do you.
This classic vegan cheesecake recipe calls for three whole containers of cream cheese, which is a lot! The good news is that it doesn’t really matter which brand you pick. I tested Kite Hill Foods, Miyoko’s, Violife, and Tofutti. They all worked equally well.
Since three containers of cream cheese is a lot, I’d recommend Tofutti, simply because it’s usually the least expensive vegan cream cheese. But you can pick whichever brand you like, or choose the one that fits your health needs.
Ditto, by the way, with graham crackers! Here’s a list of some store-bought vegan options.
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about moving slowly. It’s a tendency that seems to be creeping up on me more and more, and I’m learning to appreciate it for what it is.
When so many readers asked enthusiastically for a classic vegan cheesecake recipe all the way back in March, I was sure I’d be able to come up with one within a few weeks. Clearly, that didn’t happen. And the cheesecake I did construct isn’t a quick and easy recipe: it takes a lot of time, if you take into account the cooling/chilling.
But some things are worth waiting for. This cheesecake was worth the wait. It was worth tinkering and testing until I’d found a recipe that I loved: creamy, luscious, sweet and subtly tart. And, once prepared, the cheesecake is worth a wait before eating. Trust me.
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So disappointed of the waste of time and products this was. I replaced the cashews with silken tofu as instructed and the cheesecake came out awfully greasy and it just was horrible. Where did all the oil come from anyway??? I’m sad :/
I’m so sorry to hear that you had these results, and I can understand the disappointment. It’s really frustrating to invest time and effort and money into a recipe that doesn’t work out. I think the greasy quality could have something to do with the cream cheese—they do typically use some oil in those products. I’m going to re-test a silken tofu version at some point so that I can can better ensure that the modification works, which I know doesn’t make up for your experience. Thanks for sharing how it went for you, as it’ll help me to improve the recipe.
I made the cheesecake and it turned out fine aesthetically, picture perfect not too toot my own horn! I made your recipe exactly but added a tablespoon of lemon zest and 3/4 of the filling to 6 inch pan. It really looked like a regular cheesecake and not compact like most vegan cheesecakes. I’d like to know the internal temp of the cake when it’s done because I cooked it at 350 for 50 minutes and took it out when it registered 150 with a thermometer like a traditional cheesecake but was told it was still kind of soggy on the inside like custard.
Hi there! So glad it was more of a success this time. Still not sure about the texture question because I haven’t had that result, but next time I make it I’ll get the internal temp. But I do think in the case of this dessert the overnight chill is even more important than oven temp/baking time—though both matter.
The texture was probably fine. Some people like a soft and creamy cheesecake, some like light and fluffy, and some like firm and dense. I think one of the parties was in the latter group. I personally prefer soft and creamy. I find that the texture of the cake also depends on how long you leave it at room temperature. Yes, please let me know the internal temp.
Thank you for this recipe. I will be making it again for myself in the near future and I’ll report back.
Do all the ingredients for this recipe have to be at room temp?
Not that I’m aware of, Chris!
I made this today and it didn’t turn out right.:( I don’t know what happened. I blended it just right. The consistency of the filling held to the back of spoon but it came out of the oven looking like a thin, soupy porridge.
I did halve the recipe for a 6 inch pan. Maybe not adding all of the cornstarch affected it? I also forgot to add vanilla bean paste and added it at the last minute, but I don’t think that changed the consistency of the filling. *I used Daiya’s vegan cream cheese.
Hi Chris, I’m sorry to hear that it didn’t work out! I think it’s possible that one of two things affected it—first, changing the quantity of cornstarch to scale the recipe. Second, I haven’t tried Daiya’s cream cheese in the recipe specifically (have tried Violife, Tofutti, Kite Hill), so there is a also a small chance that the Daiya works differently. If I have a chance to try that one myself, I’ll report back 🙂
Luckily, Daiya sent me two free coupons to try again. I’m going to try one with Miyoko’s brand and one with Daiya’s brand in the future with the added 3 tbsp of cornstarch and see how it turns out. Thank you.
Oh, good! OK, I will look forward to hearing how it turns out. Also, remember that the overnight set is absolutely key—it will not be set enough right after baking. Hope it turns out this time.
I cannot over state how pleased I was with this recipe. I made it for my vegan-curious boyfriend’s birthday. Cheesecake has always been his favorite dessert and he was really excited to try a vegan version. We were not disappointed!
I used Tofutti cream cheese and prepared the recipe with my food processor. I was worried the cashews wouldn’t get as smooth, but there was no issue. I got them chopped up as small as I could, and then when I added the cream cheese and other ingredients, they melted right in. My guess is that soaking the cashews (which I did by boiling water, then pouring it on the cashews and soaking for 2 hours) was essential to make that happen.
I was also worried this would taste a lot like Tofutti, which I find can be a little plastic-y. That, again, was not an issue. The flavor is delicate, rich, and with just the hint of tartness, like non-vegan cheesecake. And the texture was wonderful. I think the combo of cashews and vegan cream cheese is genius here. It’s got the substance and richness of cashews with the silkiness of cream cheese.
I’m looking forward to making this recipe for more special occasions! Thank you Gena. I was worried about how my first vegan cheesecake would turn out, but I knew you would not let me down!
I’ve made this recipe with Tofutti many times, and I agree, it doesn’t taste very much like Tofutti (or plastic-like) at all! I love this recipe and love cheesecake, so I am very glad to hear that you also had success with it and that you and your boyfriend enjoyed 🙂
A great recipe! My daughter and I made it and it came out great!
Since we don’t have blueberries at this time of the year where i live (Israel), so I used strawberries and added a bit more sugar, and it worked well.
So glad to hear that it turned out, Rafi!
Look no further for a vegan cheesecake recipe, this one is perfect! I used coconut sugar in the crust because I was running low on granulated and wanted to save that for the filling. It worked really well. I also decided to do a key lime variation. I subbed 1/4 cup lime juice for the lemon juice and water and added the zest of 3 limes to the filling while it was in the blender. I used Tofutti cream cheese because it’s by far the least expensive one, and I would definitely use it again. I refrigerated the cheesecake for 8 hours before eating and it held together just fine when I cut into it, but I bet it would be even better if you refrigerated for a bit longer like the recipe calls for. Plan ahead when you make this! Can’t wait to make it again with different flavors and toppings.
I am super excited about this!! Thank you so much!
Looks beautiful and yummy! Here’s to slow living and slow food. xo
I’m super excited to make this! Cheesecake is my favorite food and , while I’m No longer vegan, I often eat as a vegan due to a myriad of health issues.
-Is there a sugar sub you would recommend? I’m a type-1 diabetic.
-I have IBS and can only tolerate a minimal amount of cashews at one time. Will the soaking help minimize the gas buildup?
I think soaking the cashews, plus the amount, will be OK. It ends up being 1/3 oz per slice for 12 slices, even less for 14 slices—that’s not too much.
As for sweetener, I’m honestly not sure! The sugar adds sweetness but also affects moisture and texture, and I would hate to give you bad guidance. I’m sure there are some good guidelines for using sugar free sweeteners for T1DM—if you have a method that usually works for you, or which you’ve had success with in baking, I would love to hear how it turns out!