coffee creamer/half-and-half made from cashews - vegan, paleo, ketoIt looks like half and half. It’s thick, fatty, and creamy like half and half. It doesn’t separate or curdle and pulls more than  doubly duty – coffee creamer, half and half, cream …  enter vegan coffee creamer/half-and-half based on cashews. On top of being low in carbs, this coffee creamer is also paleo and keto friendly. 

Dairy Creams

If you’ve ever shopped in the dairy aisle of a grocery store, you might have gotten confused by all the milk-cream varieties – skim milk, low fat milk, reduce-fat milk, whole milk, half-and-half, light cream, heavy cream … 

The difference between all these varieties is really just the amount of fat they contain. 

  • Skim milk contains 0% fat
  • Low-fat milk contains 1% fat
  • Reduced-fat milk contains 2% fat
  • Whole milk contains 3.25% fat
  • Half-and-half contains 12% fat
  • Light cream contains 20% fat
  • Heavy cream contains 38% fat

The ingredients are pretty simple (ideally just milk and cream). No mystery there. But what about coffee creamers? Do they contain dairy?

Non-Dairy Creamers

Although the ingredients can vary by brand, most commercial coffee creamers are made from a combination of water, sugar and vegetable oil. Often they are called non-dairy creamers because they contain no lactose (milk sugar). However, they do contain casein (milk protein) to impart a milky flavor and texture. So, while the label may say “non-dairy” or “lactose-free,” it does not mean it contains no dairy-derived ingredients. 

To mimic the qualities of milk and cream, coffee creamers are also highly processed. The most common ingredients are hydrogenated oils (to achieve the creamy look without using any cream), sugar or corn syrup (to add the flavor you lose when you lose the milk or cream), artificial flavors and colors (to mimic the way milk or cream will change the color of coffee), carrageenan (to thicken the creamer), cellulose gel, cellulose gum, etc.

So, if you’re looking for a dairy-free coffee creamer with a shorter ingredient list, vegan coffee creamers might be a better option.

homemade cashew milk in a glass bottle

Vegan Coffee Creamers

While the ingredient list of vegan coffee creamers looks much more promising (mostly just plant-based milk and/or cream, cane sugar or no sweetener at all, sunflower lecithin, palm oil, and some type of starch or gum), vegan coffee creamers come with their issues as well. Let me explain …

Have you ever added plant-based milk or plant-based coffee creamer into your coffee only for the milk to split and curdle into an unpalatable mess? Have you ever wondered how and why it happens?

There are two main reasons: big temperature changes (hot coffee versus cold coffee creamer), and pH differences (highly acidic coffee versus neutral or moderately alkaline non-dairy coffee creamer). What’s happening is the acids in the coffee are coagulating the proteins in the plant-based milk, a kind of liquid-to-solid chemical reaction that can be exacerbated by the shock of the temperature difference between the two beverages.

What works to alleviate the problem will depends on the acidity of your coffee, the temperature of your coffee and cream, and a little bit of technique (more on that in the technique section). If you’re not willing to experiment but still want to enjoy a splash of vegan coffee creamer  in your coffee, you can get a “barista blend”. 

Barista Blends

The popularity of alternative milks have led to the development of “barista blends” intended for professional use. These dairy-free milks and dairy-free creamers have been specifically designed for coffee drinks by increasing the stability of plant-based milk proteins by buffers – carbonates, phosphates and citrates. These buffers prevent a rapid change in pH when the plant-based milk comes in contact with acidic coffee.

In addition to buffers, these barista blends also contain added fat for nice flavor and to protect the proteins. Dairy milk fat naturally contains compounds with buffering properties, which is why it doesn’t curdle as easily as plant-based products. Last but not least, the barista blends also contain stabilizers for improved heat tolerance and structural homogeneity. 

cashew milk & cashew cream (coffee creamer)

Tips for Making Vegan Coffee Creamer (Half-and-Half)

Ingredients

The main ingredient in this vegan coffee creamer are cashews. There are a few reasons why cashews perform better than any other nut or seed. They are creamy and rich with a nuttiness that is very subtle. They also have a touch of natural sweetness due to their naturally occurring sugars, so no additional sweetener is needed. Most importantly though, cashews don’t tend to curdle as much as other popular alternatives (almonds, coconut, hemp …) because their pH is quite low (more acidic). 

  • The pH of almond is 6.9
  • The pH of cashews is 6.3
  • The pH of coconut is 6.7
  • The pH of hemp is 6.6

The second ingredient in this recipe is sunflower lecithin, which is a phospholipid-based dietary supplement beneficial for the brain and the nervous system. In this recipe it acts as a fat emulsifier. In other words, it brings the fat from the cashews and the water together, holding them in suspension. No separation as the coffee creamer (half-and-half) sits in the fridge.

Technique

Making Vegan Coffee Creamer 

There are two methods for making vegan creamer. The first thing you can do is increase the nut to water ratio. The usual ratio for nut milk is 1:4. So, anything higher than that will yield thicker milk/cream. The second thing you can do is keep the nut to water ratio at 1:4, and then heat the milk. Bringing the cashew milk to just under a boil for a few minutes permanently increases its viscosity. 

The advantage of the first method is that the cream stays raw. The advantage of the second method is that the cream is lower in calories and more cost-effective.

Preventing Coffee Creamer from Curdling

The tricky part is not how to make the coffee creamer (all you need is a high-speed blender). The tricky part is how to use it so it doesn’t curdle or separate when you add it to your coffee. Here are a few tips:

  • Warm the creamer to ~ 104°F/40°C.
  • Pour the warm creamer into the mug first. Then add the desired amount of coffee to help temper the coffee creamer. You could also let your coffee cool slightly to bring the creamer to the coffee temperature even faster. 
  • Pour the coffee into the creamer slowly, so the pH of the creamer doesn’t rapidly decrease. 

If none of these tips help (but you still want to enjoy a splash of homemade dairy-free creamer in your coffee), you might want to consider finding less acidic coffee. As you probably know, some coffees are more acidic than others. So, if you’re not having much luck with African coffee you could try South American coffee instead. Also, the lighter the roast, the higher the acidity.

Tips for Using Vegan Coffee Creamer (Half-and-Half)

Not a fan of coffee? As I mentioned in the beginning, this vegan cream can pull more than doubly duty.

It’s a great addition to homemade hot chocolate and/or frozen hot chocolate. My daughter (Katie) asks for it in her morning oatmeal instead of almond milk. Adding a splash of this cream into creamy soups, such as this raw broccoli soup, takes any soup to another level. If you want to add extra creaminess to stove-top mashed potatoes, add this vegan half-and-half into the warm pot instead of milk. And finally, if you’re a hot tea drinker – chai or matcha, anyone? – you might like the added flavor boost from a splash of healthy coffee creamer in your cup after your tea has steeped.   

Tools You’ll Need

kitchen tools for vegan frozen hot chocolate

1. Blender (Vitamix 5200) | 2. Cookware Set (Calphalon, Stainless Steel) | 3. Measuring Cup (2 Cups, Pyrex, Glass) | 4. Measuring Cups (Set of 6, Stainless Steel) 

Nutrition Refined is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites — at no extra cost to you. Thank you for your support!

vegan coffee creamer and half-and-half
5 from 3 votes

Raw Coffee Creamer

Prep Time: 5 minutes
Yield: 2 cups
It looks like half and half. It’s thick, fatty, and creamy like half and half. It doesn't separate or curdle and pulls more than a doubly duty - half and half, coffee creamer, cream ...  enter vegan coffee creamer/half-and-half based on cashews. On top of being low in carbs, this coffee creamer is also paleo and keto friendly. 

Ingredients
 

  • 1 cup (137 g) raw cashews, soaked*
  • 1-2 cups (240-480 ml) water**
  • 1 tsp. (2.5 g) sunflower lecithin, liquid or powdered***
  • pinch (pinch) sea salt
  • sweetener and vanilla extract, optional

Instructions
 

  • Add the soaked cashews into a high-speed blender with water and a pinch of sea salt. 
  • Blend for at least 3 minutes to ensure the cashews have been fully pureed. If you don't have a high-speed blender, you might need to strain the milk/cream.
  • Add the sunflower lecithin and blend for another minute (you want the lecithin completely mixed in with the milk, so don't shorten the blending time).
  • Pour the cashew milk/cream into an airtight glass jar and chill before serving. 
  • Leftover cashew milk-cream keeps in the refrigerator for 3-5 days. (If the milk prematurely sours, it may be from an unclean blender or poor quality nuts. For longer term storage, freeze in an airtight container for up to 3 months (make sure you only use jars safe for freezing). 

Notes

*Soak the cashews in water for at least 8 hours or overnight. You may be able to get away with as little as 4 hours of soaking, but the longer you soak, the better the cashews will blend. I usually soak for about 12 hours and this works perfectly. Drain and rinse the cashews and use as instructed.
**I recommend starting with 1 cup (240 ml) water, which will make a very rich cream, and adding more water as needed.
***Lecithin is a fat emulsifier, so it brings the water and the fat from the nuts together, holding them in suspension.
****Prep time does not include soaking the cashews (at least 4 hours, but preferably 12 hours). 
vegan coffee creamer and half-and-half
5 from 3 votes

Coffee Creamer

Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 10 minutes
Total Time: 15 minutes
Yield: 4 cups
It looks like half and half. It’s thick, fatty, and creamy like half and half. It doesn't separate or curdle and pulls more than a doubly duty - half and half, coffee creamer, cream ... enter vegan coffee creamer/half-and-half based on cashews. On top of being low in carbs, this coffee creamer is also paleo and keto friendly. 

Ingredients
 

  • 1 cup raw cashews, soaked*
  • 4 cups water
  • 1 tsp. sunflower lecithin
  • pinch sea salt
  • sweetener and vanilla extract, optional

Instructions
 

  • Add the soaked cashews into a high-speed blender with water and a pinch of sea salt. 
  • Blend for at least 3 minutes to ensure the cashews have been fully pureed. If you don't have a high-speed blender, you might need to strain the milk/cream.
  • Add the sunflower lecithin and blend for another minute (you want the lecithin completely mixed in with the milk, so don't shorten the blending time).
  • Pour the cashew milk into a medium saucepan and heat it over medium heat. Stir constantly until the milk reaches high temperature (right before a boil). Once the milk thickens (it will happen almost instantaneously), remove it from heat.
  • Transfer the cream to a jar or a bottle and refrigerate. Leftover cashew cream keeps for 4 days though best when fresh.

Notes

*Soak the cashews in water for at least 8 hours or overnight. You may be able to get away with as little as 4 hours of soaking, but the longer you soak, the better the cashews will blend. I usually soak for about 12 hours and this works perfectly. Drain and rinse the cashews and use as instructed.
**Lecithin is a fat emulsifier, so it brings the fat from the nuts and the water together, holding them in suspension.
***Prep time does not include soaking the cashews (at least 4 hours, but preferably 12 hours).