(Raw, Vegan) Chocolate Cheesecakes

Offer someone a slice of raw cheesecake and they will probably look at you funny, envisioning slimy custard and salmonella-infested eggs. But if that person has experienced Cafe Gratitude‘s raw, nut-based cheesecakes, well, then they will love you forever.

Our local Cafe Gratitude (the organic, vegan, raw foodist Mecca) has closed and has been replaced, ironically, with a restaurant that specializes in grilled cheese sandwiches. While I don’t miss the annoying question of the day or having to order off the menu using an affirmation, I do miss Gratitude’s desserts. The things Pastry Chef Tiziana can do with nuts boggles the mind. (And I hope you don’t take that the wrong way.)

Though I own a copy of her cookbook, Sweet Gratitude, I’m usually put off from making her recipes due to the difficult ingredients they call for. Homemade almond milk requires 8 hours of soaking, then a whole lot of blending and squeezing. Irish moss, a gelling agent, also requires soaking and blending, and was only ever available for sale at Cafe Gratitude. Many of the recipes call for lecithin to help them emulsify, an ingredient that would require an extra trip to the store for most folks. Then there’s the fresh coconut meat; even if you can find a young coconut, it’s always kind of scary (not to mention messy) to hack it open with a chef’s knife.

So when I saw this recipe on the beautiful blog Comfy Belly, I couldn’t get it out of my head. It was free of refined sugar, grains, gluten, dairy, and eggs. It contained no tricky ingredients (save for almond milk and raw cacao powder, which could be substituted with water and cocoa powder, respectively), and it was sweetened with maple syrup rather than the controversial agave that a lot of raw desserts use. I couldn’t stop thinking about it.

The recipe consists of three components: a crust made from ground nuts, cacao powder and maple syrup; a creamy center made from blended, soaked cashews, cacao powder and coconut oil; and a dense ganache of cacao powder, coconut oil and maple syrup to decorate the top. The entire recipe can be made in a food processor and one small bowl, and it’s fun, and kind of magical, to see the way the ingredients transform into each layer.

I tweaked the filling just a bit, to make it a touch more delicate. I also toast the nuts for the crust, as I like the warm flavor and crisp texture it gives them. This cheesecake is rich and creamy, just sweet enough, and has a big chocolate flavor with hints of nuts and coconut. Coconut oil is the magic ingredient that solidifies the filling when chilled, but still melts in your mouth. It contrasts beautifully with the crispy, toasted almond crust, and the swirl of truffle-like ganache on top.

I halved the original recipe and form it in four half-pint mason jars (though half of one is actually a more appropriate serving size, so if you can find 3 to 4-ounce jars, those are ideal). I’ve made them three times in the last week, and am addicted to taking after-meal bites throughout the day. Thankfully, the jars make them easy to give away, too…hence the reason I have to keep making them – they disappear too quickly.

I’m thrilled to have this recipe in my pocket for all the dairy- and gluten-free eaters in my life, and I’m excited to get my mitts on a copy of Erica’s new sugar-, grain-, and gluten-free cookbook.

Many, many thanks to Erica of Comfy Belly for this fantastic recipe, and to Cafe Gratitude for teaching me the wonder of raw cheesecake.

Update 1/27/14: I doubled the recipe and made this in a 9″ springform pan. It took a long time to set, so I ended up putting it in the freezer for a couple of hours before cutting and serving it. This is what it looked like:

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Choco-love:

Vegan Chocolate Chile Coconut Milk Truffles
Vegan Chocolate Coconut Milk Tapioca Pudding
Raw, Vegan Chocolate Pudding

One year ago:

Cheddar, Beer and Chive Gougères

Two years ago:

Chocolate Mint Chip Ice Cream
Lemon Mascarpone Tart
Pistachio Chocolate Torte

Three years ago:

(Raw, Vegan) Chocolate Pudding
Rhubarb Chèvre Galettes
Lemon Balm Crème Fraîche Ice Cream

(Mostly) Raw, Vegan Chocolate Cheesecake

Adapted from Comfy Belly

To make a full-sized cheesecake, double the recipe and form it in an 8 or 9″ springform pan; it will take longer to set, so I recommend putting it in the freezer until firm enough to slice (let slices sit at room temperature until softened, 15-30 minutes, before serving). Do allow 4-12 hours for soaking the cashews, and four or more hours for the finished cheesecakes to set up in the fridge or freezer. If you can make them a day in advance, do, as it gives the flavors a chance to meld. If you don’t have raw cacao powder, substitute unsweetened cocoa powder. One reader reported making this with coconut nectar with good results. See the original post for more substitutions, including nut-free options.

All ounce measurements here are by weight.

Makes 4 hefty or 8 dainty servings (four 1-cup mason jars or eight half-cup jars)

Crust:
3/4 cup (3 ounces) sliced or whole almonds (optionally toasted and cooled)
3 tablespoons (3/4 ounce) raw cacao powder
1/8 teaspoon fine sea salt
1 1/2 tablespoons (1 ounce) maple syrup

Filling:
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons (5 1/2 ounces) raw cashews, soaked in cool water for 4-12 hours
1/4 cup (2 1/2 ounces) maple syrup
seeds scraped from 1/2 a vanilla bean (or 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract)
1/8 teaspoon fine sea salt
3 tablespoons (3/4 ounce) raw cacao powder
2 teaspoons (1/4 ounce) strained lemon juice
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons (3 ounces) water
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons (3 ounces) melted extra-virgin coconut oil

Ganache topping:
2 tablespoons (1 ounce) extra-virgin coconut oil
2 tablespoons (1 1/4 ounces) maple syrup
2 tablespoons (1/2 ounce) raw cacao powder
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Make the crust:
Have four 1-cup wide-mouth mason jars (or eight half-cup jars) at the ready.

Finely grind the almonds, cacao powder and salt in a food processor. Drizzle the maple syrup over the mixture, then process until the mixture begins to clump together. (No need to wash the food processor, just scrape it out.) Divide the crust crumbs evenly among the jars, and use your fingers or a flat-bottomed drinking glass to press it flat. Set aside.

Make the filling:
Drain the cashews, rinse them well, and drain again. Place the cashews, maple syrup, vanilla bean seeds, salt, cacao powder, and lemon juice in the now-empty food processor, and process to a paste, scraping down the sides and bottom of the bowl occasionally. With the motor running, drizzle in the water. Blend well until very smooth, a couple of minutes, stopping to scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl occasionally. With the motor running, drizzle in the melted coconut oil, and blend until combined. It should be the consistency of softened ice cream.

Divide the filling evenly among the jars and set aside.

Make the ganache:
In a small, heat-proof, metal bowl, combine the coconut oil, maple syrup, cacao powder and vanilla extract. Place the bowl over a small saucepan of gently simmering water, and whisk until the oil is melted and the ganache is smooth and glossy.

Drop spoonfuls of ganache over the cheesecakes, and use a toothpick to swirl the two together. Cover the cheesecakes and chill until firm, 3-4 hours. (If you’re in a hurry, you can try chilling them in the freezer, as per the original recipe. If making one large cheesecake, it may take longer than 4 hours in the refrigerator to solidify.)

Store the cheesecakes in the refrigerator. The flavor improves after a day, and the cheesecakes will probably keep for up to a week.

80 thoughts on “(Raw, Vegan) Chocolate Cheesecakes”

  1. They turned out beautiful! And agree with you that as much as I'd love to recreate raw recipes at home, it is usually so much more of a hassle to buy Irish moss than wheat flour. This one on the other hand, I have all the ingredients ready – thanks for sharing!

  2. Thank you so much for this posting, they look amazing! So refreshing to find a luxurious, chocolately dessert that is not dairy-laden.

    Kate

  3. Many, many years ago, when I decided it was time I put some active effort into eating healthier, I thought to myself, "I really like raw carrots and celery and salads and stuff. I bet I'd like that raw diet." I marched off to Barnes & Noble, thumbed through a few raw (un)cookbooks, and thought, "omg…no. What are half of these things? This is not for me." :) (I bought a copy of The Encyclopedia of Healing Foods instead, and it's still one of my favorite food books.)

    I am, however, super intrigued by raw cheesecake, mostly because I really don't like normal cheesecake! It's dense and sweet and sour, and one bite is usually more than enough. But a nut-based version has the potential to be way more my style, especially with almond milk, coconut oil, and the nutty toasty crust. Yum!!

    1. Heehee, totally! I really can't get behind the raw food diet…but I can get behind their desserts. ;) That sounds like a great book – I'll check it out! I own Healing with Whole Foods, another good one. I think you would like these guys! Thanks for the sweet note, Carey.

    1. Thanks, Katie! It's not exactly the same, but I think it's a fairly good approximation given that it uses more readily-available ingredients. You'll have to let me know how it stacks up. :)

  4. Alanna, you are amazing! I made these darling little cheesecakes yesterday, and they are just delicious (but so has every other recipe of yours I have made). Thank you so much for your great recipes, beautiful photos and sense of humor.

    1. Thank you for the nicest note ever – this completely warms my heart! I'm so glad you like the cheesecakes and other recipes (which ones?!). Thank you so much for reading, and for taking the time to write. :)

    2. Alanna, other than the cheesecakes I have made your most wonderful Masala Chai, Meyer Lemon Semolina Bars, Nibby Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Cookies, Buckwheat Chocolate Chip Cookies, Quinoa Kale and Sweet Potato Salad. Some of these recipes I have made a couple of times, or plan on making again! My list is long with the recipes I HAVE to try.

      It’s been so much fun to experiment with the different flours. I live in Portland Oregon, maybe 2 miles from Bob’s Red Mill, so I can buy any flour I want in bulk, as little or as much as I like. I feel like a kid in a candy store walking through their bulk section. Now that I have all the flours and the bananas I’m going to make the Chocolate Buckwheat Banana Nut Muffins today or tomorrow. Thanks again, LuAnn

    3. Hi LuAnn, I'm thrilled to know that you are making these recipes! So glad you like them – I really enjoy sharing them!

      Lucky you to live so near to Bob's Red Mill. Their bulk section sounds epic! Let me know how the muffins come out, or if you have any questions about the recipe.

      Thanks again for writing! It really means a lot. :)

      All the best,
      A

    1. OH, I'm so glad you like it! Thank you SO MUCH for the kick-ass recipe. I'm already scheming about more flavor variations throughout. There are still some Gratitudes around California, but I'm sad that they closed the one that was a 15 minute walk from my house!

  5. This looks AMAZING and I can't wait to try it! I was wondering if you thought replacing the almond milk with rice milk would work for the recipe. I've never tried raw baking, so not sure about substitutions. I saw you could substitute water for the almond milk, but typically I also have rice milk in the house. Thoughts? Thanks so much I really can't wait to try this!

    1. Hi Marisa, I actually tweaked the filling recipe so that it works perfectly with water; no need for milk of any kind. I doubt that using rice milk would hurt, though, as it's very light. The filling might be a touch sweeter, but probably not enough to bother adjusting the maple syrup. Hope this helps – let me know how it goes!

  6. I just made these and put them in the freezer. They are supposed to be dessert for a meal I'm planning tomorrow but I just had to sneak one in as a taste test. Deeeelish. I can't wait for everyone to try it tomorrow. I did the filling in my Vitamix as my food processor wouldn't have made it to smooth and creamy.
    Thanks for the great recipe and taking the time to create a blog so you can share with others!

    1. Thank you for the kind words! I'm all warm and fuzzy. I'm so glad you like the cheesecakes! Yes, bonus to making individuals is that no one will ever know you snuck a preview. Have a lovely meal tomorrow. :)

  7. Hi Alanna,

    My first experience making a raw cheesecake didn't go so well – sooo many cups of cashews and walnuts! That cheesecake was super dense and made me feel a little sick when I ate it. I made yours today and it is delicious. I was happy that it had simple ingredients – I even had raw cocoa powder and whole vanilla bean on hand! I made mine in a small pie shell instead of individual pots. So good!

    Also, I made you strawberry caprese salad two days ago and we loved it. Keep the awesome recipes coming! :)

  8. Hi Alanna
    I came to your site via Pinterest. I happened upon this amazing sounding recipe. As I read through your explanation, I saw that you mentioned an "Irish Moss" gelling ingredient that you can no longer get from Gratitude Cafe. MaryJane's Farm sells a gelling powder called ChillOver that is vegan and made from a sea plant that is odorless and tasteless. The website is http://shop.maryjanesfarm.org/store/p/65-ChillOver-174-Powder.aspx. It may be of help to you in creating your awesome recipes. Thank you for sharing the goodness with us!

  9. I made this! Full size 9'' , and it has been very popular! I used almonds for the crust – lightly toasted them in the oven = fantastic! great idea. I was curious about one of the differences from the original recipe. I notice ComfyBelly uses 1/2 cup of a nut butter in the filling……and in yours Lemon juice. I wonder what this tweak does to the recipe?…. I didn't have any nut butter so I followed your recipe and went for the citrus juice) . Just curious , thanks!

    1. Hi, Ashlee – So sorry for missing this comment! I'm so glad you all like the cheesecake. To (finally) answer your very good question, I ended up omitting the nut butter because, with it, the cheesecake felt more dense and "chewy" than I remembered Gratitude's cheesecakes being. I wanted the filling a little more loose and soft, which leaving it out accomplished. And I added the lemon juice to give it a touch of the tang that real cheesecake gets from the cream cheese. Thanks for asking, and for the sweet comment!

  10. Thank you so much this is instant mental health! And I love your healthy grounded "grain of salt"- take on all of that "gratitude schmatitude"… Sometimes that kind of super positive thinking business can turn on itself and become opressive! when all you want is a quick delicious choco fix without having to steal from a nice old cow! You are wonderful

    1. Hi Erin, Avocado is the only thing that I can think of to try. The coconut oil is what makes the mixture set, so the texture will be looser. Let me know how it goes.

    2. Ive recently had a virus that has given me a fatty licer snd had to omit oil but strangely enough i can have the cold pressed coconut oil and cold pressed macadamia oil. Not sure if that helps with your problem?

    1. I am so glad to hear this! I am worried about the affect that coconut oil has on my ldl cholesterol which is already high. I am going to try my raw cheesecakes with olive oil and a little coconut extract instead just so that I don't have to worry about that pesky ldl the doctor wants to give me meds for!

    2. Fabulous! There's probably no need to add coconut extract since I bet the olive oil adds a lovely flavor of its own. Let me know how it goes!

  11. Hi Alanna
    Thanks for sharing the recipe! I'll be trying it out today. Is there a difference between raw cocao powder an unsweetened cocoa powder,other than the spelling? I always thought they are one and the same exact thing!
    Thanks

    1. Hello! I've done a bit of online research, and it looks like the main difference is that raw cacao powder is heated less than unsweetened cocoa powder. In raw cacao powder, the cocoa butter is extracted by a cold pressing, whereas unsweetened cocoa powder gets a lot warmer during the extracting process. I'll keep looking, but I'm thinking you'll be fine to use unsweetened cocoa powder here if you prefer. I'm traveling at the moment but will do a taste test when I'm home. :)

  12. O.M.Goodness! This is A-MA-ZING… So thankful to you and Comfy Belly for figuring this out! I used to be famous for my "Super Rich Chocolate Cheesecake" and have lamented at times never making it again. Even my "very-fussy-about-coconut-flavour-in-anything" kids liked this! The only adaptation I made was that I added a fat Tbsp of honey to make up for the fact that I accidentally used too many cashews (2 cups as in the original recipe), and I made the filling in the Vitamix to ensure a super-smooth filling… oooh, did I ever enjoy licking the bowl!

    1. Hi there! Thank you for the wonderful note! I'm so glad you and your kiddos are liking this cheesecake, and I too am grateful to Comfy Belly for the original recipe. (And I too enjoy licking the bowl.)

  13. Hi Alanna!

    Here's an update on the full-sized chocolate tart:

    I had made these before in little ramekins and they came out great! After I tackled your pumpkin tart for Thanksgiving, I was inspired to try a full-sized chocolate tart for Christmas Eve. I checked out Comfy Belly's site for inspiration, but decided not to buy another new pan and emulated your (mostly) raw pumpkin cheesecake instead (which was amazing). I doubled the recipe as you suggested and made the same crust as the pumpkin tart, minus the ginger and the cinnamon and adding the cacao. I swirled the ganache, just like you swirled the cashew cream and it was GORGEOUS! It was again the hit of our family gathering, outstripping Christmas cookies, peppermint bark and ice cream with no trouble at all. Even the little kids loved it! My next attempt is going to involve subbing Coconut Nectar for the maple syrup … I'll let you know if it turns out :-). Thanks again! This is such a stunning pie with infinite flavor possibilities. Very inspiring. It's going to continue to make many vegans and celiacs happy. It should be sold in every cafe. Seriously.

    1. Wow! Thanks for the glowing endorsement, Vanessa! I'm so glad the full-sized tart turned out. Your version sounds wonderful – I'll have to try that next time. I'm so glad you liked the pumpkin one, too! Coconut nectar sounds like a brilliant substitution for maple here – I'll have to try that too! Please let me know how it goes. And thank you again for the very kind words!!!

  14. Just saw the pics of your full-sized tart since I was making this AGAIN for a new mom who's vegan (it's the second one I've made for her). Wow! Gorgeous, as usual. And the coconut nectar tasted great, btw. We were on a cleanse and couldn't have any refined sugar and were desperate for a dessert. This tart sustained our sweet tooth for the 21 days. Thank you again for putting this (and all your recipes & pics) into the world! Very inspiring.

    1. Aw! Thank you, Vanessa! I really love creating this space, and it is extra lovely when nice readers like you give such positive feedback. :) I'm so glad you're continuing to love this recipe, and glad to know that coconut nectar can stand in for the maple syrup. Brilliant! I'll add that option in up top. Thanks again!

  15. Yum, this looks great! I was wondering what your thoughts are on using almond pulp from making almond milk for this – do you think it would work, and what ratios do you think I should substitute? I love making almond milk but don't really know what to do with all that extra goodness!

    1. OMG, I know – my fridge is packed with almond pulp right now! I wouldn't put the pulp in the filling as it will ruin the smooth and silky texture. But it might work in the crust? You may need to add cacao powder to absorb the extra moisture. But! You should totally make these almond pulp energy bites that I posted last month: http://www.bojongourmet.com/2014/03/chocolate-hemp-seed-and-almond-pulp.html You will love them, and they use up a ton of pulp. The almond pulp crackers from Elana's Pantry are great, too.

    1. Interesting! Did you use natural (regular) cocoa or the dark dutch-process stuff? I wouldn't add nutritional yeast as it might give it a savory flavor, but you could probably dial down the cocoa if you wanted to lighten up the color. I'm so glad you liked it regardless! :)

    2. Sorry for the slow reply. I believe it was regular cocoa. I may have to get some cacao for special occasions. I don't want to miss out on the contrast of color between the filling and ganache. Thanks again!

  16. the cake was really good, but my filling didnt turn out light brown, my was as dark as the crust, so mine didnt look as good as yours. It probably depend on the color of the cacao, right?!

  17. I’ve just discovered your site via pinterest, and can’t wait try this recipe! I looked through the Cafe Gratitude’s dessert book a while back, but got discouraged from trying any of their recipes because they used agave syrup in most of the recipes and ingredients like Irish moss which required some extra prep. So I’m really glad to find this simplified recipe with ingredients I already have.. it’s exactly what I’ve been looking for! Thanks so much!

  18. Oops I forgot to ask my question.. You say that these can be refrigerated for about a week, but can these also be kept in the freezer for a longer period? If so, for how long? Thanks!

  19. I’m not vegan, but I am breastfeeding and my daughter is lactose intolerant. I only drink almond milk anyways but I still have to avoid sweets and cheese. These turned out beautiful and delicious! I garnished with a sliced almond teepee and a fresh mint leaf. Gorgeous! Made a few subs: used almonds, cocoa, and a few peanuts with a dash of sea salt for the crust, almond milk and honey in the batter prepped in a greased mini muffin tin. Again, amazing! Thanks for all the inspiration! Lactation approved.

  20. Hi. Can i use honey instead of maple syrup? And roasted cashews on the filling? I really wanna try this but i can’t find any raw cashews :( and ran out of maple syrup. TIA!

    1. Hi! Roasted cashews will probably work. Honey is more dense and sweet, and less liquid, than maple syrup, so you may want to research how to substitute the one for the other first – you may need to use less honey and add more water. It also has a more dominant flavor. Let me know how it goes!

  21. I made the small cheesecakes several times, they are delicious! Planning to make the large cake, too. I substituted maple syrup for honey and it was great, although the amount should be reduced when using honey, I usually put half. Thank you for the brilliant recipe!

  22. I made this as a dairy and gluten free dessert for my brother and sister in law’s 40th Burthday party. I didn’t let on it was raw or egg free or refined sugar free – maybe I should have done then there may have been more leftovers than one tiny sliver! I used soaked dates and no cacao in the base and replaced the coconut oil with cacao butter as I knew it might be out for a while in a warm hall. I used this quantity in a 8inch pie dish and it was perfect. I am sure I will be making this again – next time I want to replace the water with orange juice and decorate with orange zest for a chocolate orange version :-) Thank you so much.

    1. Haha, that’s fantastic! Coconut butter sounds delicious, I’ll have to try that next time, and same goes for the orange variation – yum! Thanks so much for the sweet note!

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