Meal prepping means different things to different people. For some, it’s all about batch cooking, preparing a variety of meals in one go which are then pragmatically portioned into containers for the fridge or freezer. Others are make-ahead cooks, opting for super-sized meals that can be kept in the fridge and enjoyed for days on end—think lasagna, curries, braises, ragus and soups.
And then there are people like me, for whom meal prepping doesn’t come naturally. I’m the kind of eater who never wants to eat the same meal twice. But I’ve found that, with a family of five likeminded eaters to feed, there is always some degree of prepping and planning needed to get us through the week. The most effective form of meal prep for me is more piecemeal, cobbling together fun elements that will make future meals easier, quicker and most importantly, more delicious.
This is why I am so enamored with this cashew cream recipe—it is a sub-recipe of sorts that can be used over and over again, in many different ways, to create vastly different meals. It’s so much more than a mere dairy-replacement for vegans; I would argue that it contributes more to a dish than, say, sour cream or yogurt, bringing a silky texture, nutty overtones, and depth of flavor that is unrivaled. Think of it as your mother sauce, which can be manipulated according to your needs and applied as a salad dressing, a creamy boost in soups or as a silky sauce for noodles or pasta. The idea for this cashew cream-powered meal prep is simple: Whip up a large batch of cashew cream at the start of the week, and you’ve got meal options for days.
One great option is this creamy broccoli soup, a midweek favorite in our house. It starts off with a simple base of broccoli, leeks, and fennel seeds—an appealing-enough combo on its own, but not yet spectacular. That’s where the cashew cream comes in. It totally transforms the dish, adding body, a hint of sweetness, and, most importantly, richness. The resulting soup is supple and velvety, and offers a complexity that belies the fact it took just about 20 minutes to pull together. Cashew cream can easily be used to amp up other pureed vegetable soups, too—try it with cauliflower, mushrooms, sweet potatoes, or butternut squash.
Carrots and chickpeas rise to stardom with the help of a bright, herb-spiked cashew cream and added crunch from toasty almonds.
On the fresher side of the spectrum, cashew cream can be utilized as the base for a salad dressing-slash-sauce. Adding a few handfuls of herbs to the blender along with the cashews delivers a sunny, botanical edge, not to mention a vibrant hue. I’ve used dill and parsley in my green cashew cream, but you could use other herbs too—cilantro, mint, chives, and basil could all be used either independently or together. Any version of this herbal cashew cream will go great with this roasted carrot salad, but you can also use it to top grain bowls, as a sandwich spread, or as a dip for crudités. I’m a big fan of dip-for-dinner: Set out some cashew cream, raw or roasted veggies, boiled eggs, some pickles, a few nuts, and some fresh sourdough and you’re good to go.
But my favorite application for cashew cream has got to be these creamy udon noodles. Here, the cashew cream becomes a uniquely satiny sauce for chubby noodles—unequivocally rich, but also somehow weightless, almost cloud-like. Golden mushrooms add savoriness and lots of textural moments, reminiscent of an udon dish I first experienced in Tokyo. The soy and black vinegar topping adds swagger, a confident assertiveness which delivers punch with every mouthful.
And while the savory applications for this cashew cream are endless, it can also be used for sweet moments as well. (Just remember to omit the garlic and salt when preparing!) It’s great at breakfast time with fresh fruit glazed with honey or maple syrup, combined with cocoa and dark chocolate for a rich, chocolatey pudding, or dolloped onto pancakes or waffles.
I know that a big batch of cashew cream may not be everyone’s answer to meal prepping, but for palates like mine that are always demanding something new, it offers an outstanding weeknight shortcut that will make future meals more effortless and delicious.