{Vegan} Cashew + Sun-Dried Tomato Dip

This simple recipe came about when I did a little mini-cleanse a couple of weeks ago. It’s so easy that I wasn’t even planning to share it here, but when I fed some to Erin, she insisted. My favorite natural foods blogger was not to be denied, so here it is in all its stupid-easy glory.

The last time I did a cleanse, I ended up so weak I could barely walk. I made it through three (out of ten) spaced-out days of the Master Cleanse, wherein you starve yourself on nothing but a mixture of maple syrup, water, lemon juice, and cayenne. I thought it might give my digestive system a break, but instead, my stomach was in knots after the first couple of days. On day three, after 24 hours of ingesting nothing but water, I hobbled up the hill to acupuncture, where my practitioner told me to cut it out immediately. Which I did.

But a couple of weeks ago, I decided to brave a mini-cleanse to see if it might help reduce the neck pain and inflammation I was suffering from. My chiropractor suggested I nix caffeine and eat more protein. Inspired by my friend Ana‘s Whole 30 diet, I decided to take it a step further by ousting dairy, gluten, refined sugar, milled grains, beans, and alcohol (basically all my favorite things) just for a week. I decided I wouldn’t be too crazy stringent about the rules. I wanted to make it fun.

I went to our vegetarian co-op and stocked up on nuts, fruits, vegetables, lentils, whole quinoa and buckwheat. I roasted some chicken with vegetables and we ate lots of salads topped with creamy hempseed dressing and braised salmon. I made some vegan treats to keep on-hand for snack and sweet cravings. The week-long fast turned out to be a feast.

I’ve found that the most transforming part of any dietary change is the forced consciousness. I often pour myself a glass of wine or reach for the cheese and crackers without giving it much thought. It made a nice change to have to stop and consider first. In our world of excess and too much choice, I also found it helpful to have the options narrowed down. I enjoyed ordering things I wouldn’t normally at restaurants, like grilled trout with mango salsa at B Star, and trying out new recipes. (Though I totally ate a bowl of berry peach crisp with ice cream while at the launch party for Kimberly’s new book. I wasn’t about to pass up that opportunity.)

Some of the week’s highlights included:

-Raw Vegan Brownies adapted from Minimalist Baker and topped with a thick slick of a variation on this ganache
Cacao Nib Buckwheat Granola from The Vibrant Table, with fresh almond milk and fruit for breakfast, or atop:
-vegan balsamic-roasted strawberry ice cream (adapted from Minimalist Baker)
-a quinoa and lentil salad packed with sweet corn, tomatoes, cucumber, red onion, and herbs
-this cashew+ sun-dried tomato dip

I’m sure I’ve seen something like this somewhere before, (in fact, there are about 300,000 recipes already online) but the idea struck me seemingly out of nowhere as I browsed the aisles of Rainbow Grocery. I soaked some cashews, drained some oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes, and began adding in other ingredients to taste: garlic, lemon, basil, a splash of almond milk, a dash of smoked paprika, all blended together until silky smooth. I like this with the herb-flavored Mary’s Gone Crackers, which are pretty much the healthiest that crackers get, and they’re so crisp and flavorful, too.

This stupid-easy recipe will especially please your health-conscious, vegan and lactose-intolerant friends. I like to top it with good olive oil and spread it on crackers for mid-afternoon snackage, but I could also see it making a killer spread on a roasted vegetable sandwich. When finished with the cleanse, we tossed the dip with quinoa pasta, fresh tomatoes, chicken Italian sausage, and more basil, and it made a lusciously creamy sauce when thinned with a bit of pasta water. I’d like to try making this with oven-roasted tomatoes when the dry-farmed early girls come into season, but jarred tomatoes make this a possibility for any season.

I’m pleased to report that my neck pain has subsided, and I’m back to eating (and drinking) just about everything. Unfortunately, my woes aren’t over: I got poison oak for the first time while hiking in Northern California last weekend. The mini-cleanse was fun, though, and I plan to do it again sometime. I’m looking forward to sharing some of the other recipes I discovered soon, as well.

Thanks for reading! For more Bojon Gourmet in your life, follow me on Facebook, Twitter, Bloglovin’, Pinterest, or Instagram, or subscribe to receive posts via email.

Summery Dips and Spreads:

Avocado Tomatillo Salsa
Smoky Baba Ganouj
Roasted Summer Vegetable Caponata

One year ago:

Moroccan Mojitos

Two years ago:

Maple Buckwheat Blueberry Scones

{Vegan} Cashew+ Sun-Dried Tomato Dip

Top a bowl of this dip with good olive oil, cracked black pepper, and flaky salt and serve with crackers and olives for a snack. Or use as a spread for roasted vegetable sandwiches. The dip can also be thinned with a little pasta water and tossed with pasta, chopped tomatoes, and more basil for a zippy sauce. For a nut-free version, you could probably use sunflower seeds in place of the cashews. And for a non-vegan version, I’d imagine you could trade the cashews for cream cheese, goat cheese, or a combination. This dip keeps well, refrigerated, for at least a week.

Makes a scant 2 cups

1 cup (5 ounces / 140 grams) “raw” cashews, covered with a few inches of cool water and soaked 8-24 hours
1 (8-ounce / 225 gram) jar olive oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes, drained, oil reserved
4-8 tablespoons lemon juice (to taste, from 1-2 lemons)
3-4 large garlic cloves (to taste)
large handful of basil leaves
1 teaspoon smoked paprika (optional)
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons good olive oil or oil from the tomatoes
4-8 tablespoons unsweetened plant milk (such as almond) or water, as needed to smooth the mixture
good olive oil, pepper, and flaky salt for topping the dip

Drain the soaked cashews and discard the soaking water. Place them in the body of a food processor with the drained tomatoes, 4 tablespoons of the lemon juice, 3 of the garlic cloves, basil leaves, smoked paprika, salt, and oil. Process until smooth, adding the plant milk little by little to help the mixture turn over, scraping down the sides of the bowl occasionally, about 5 minutes. Taste, adding more lemon or garlic to punch up the flavors as you like. (I’ve noticed that the garlic flavor starts out soft, but will become stronger as the mixture sits.) Use right away, or chill airtight for up to 1 week.

39 thoughts on “{Vegan} Cashew + Sun-Dried Tomato Dip”

  1. I've always been very anti-cleanses (mainly because they do tend to involve missing out on all of my favourite things) but you make it sound positively appealing; something I never thought I'd say! I really love your approach and what you say about the forced consciousness that a mini-cleanse like this can bring. It sound like a great way to not only re-set your body but also your mind. Thanks for the inspiration (and the totally delicious recipe, of course!)

    1. Totally! I didn't think my cleanse was necessarily anything that other people should do, but I'm glad you feel inspired nonetheless. Thanks for the kind words, Kathryn!

  2. Gorgeous, just gorgeous–and I want to leave work right NOW and go pick up some cashews. This sounds ridiculously delicious.

    Thumbs up for no neck pain, thumbs down for poison oak, but double thumbs up for such an awesome post!

  3. Alanna, I LOVE this! The lemon, the basil, the garlic…YUM!
    Good for your mouth, good for your body…gorgeous to look at! I love all the variations like thinning and tossing with quinoa pasta or spreading on grilled veggie sandwich. My mouth is ready for this! Wonderful story; glad your neck is better; not glad you got poison oak. :(

  4. What a beautiful dip. I have had the same experience with cleansing – once I accidentally (long story) did a juice fast and felt like either weeping or strangling someone at all times. Not healthy. That lasted about a day. I'm glad to hear you benefited from a healthier menu! Really looking forward to seeing what else you ate during that period.

  5. Hi Alana, have been seeing many recipes that are using raw cashews, very interesting. Will give this a try, sounds delicious! Glad your neck pain has subsided, but now poison oak, oh man!

    1. Thanks, Cheri! You are so sweet. Cashew's are pretty great! One of my new favorites is Minimalist Baker's vegan ice cream which is made with cashews and coconut milk. So yum!

    1. Haha! That's why I called it "kind of a little mini-cleanse" ;-). It kind of forced me to prepare food more than usual, which I liked, of course. Thanks a lot for the kind words.

  6. Ouch for the poison ivy. I haven't run into that before, but I hear it's not a fun deal. BUT on the positive side I am glad your neck pain as subsided!!!! This dip is wonderful. No other word for it. I could make a whole meal of it easily—-well with crackers or cucumber chips or baguette slices—-the list goes on.

  7. This looks awesome! I don't like sun-dried tomatoes at all, but I think I might enjoy them in this–the color is too vibrant to pass up. I've been playing around with cashew cream lately and it's such a versatile base!

    I am also scared of cleanses, but did my first successful Whole30 in January (after a failed one last summer) and absolutely loved it. I've been eating a lot of dairy and sugar since February, but still feel like I'm reaping benefits from that one month of really clean eating. I'm trying to convince myself to do another one in August, but somehow summer feels like a hard time to do it…

  8. I'm pretty scared of cleanses because I tend to drop weight way too fast but I loved the mini cleanse that you participated in. Seems much more balanced! And this gorgeous dip? How lovely! Ryan and I love making dips and creams with cashews. We can't wait to try this!

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