Vegan kitchen basics – An update on making cashewnut curd – Vegan|Dairy-free

The loss of curd is perhaps the worst nemesis for most vegans in India.

Curd in the West, usually means coagulated dairy milk, made by addition of rennet, vinegar or lemon (an acidic medium) to dairy milk causing it to separate.  The coagulated milk is then hung to separate the curd from the whey.

Yogurt as known in the West is closer to curd we use in India.  But we neither flavour nor sweeten it.  We set it with a natural starter, which is nothing but old curd.  This is the kind of curd I refer to in my post.  Only, mine is made with a natural starter used in some villages in India, and the curd itself is dairy-free.

I use the stems of chilli peppers as a starter.  While one can use any of the hot varieties, I prefer using the small, hot, green peppers.
green chilli peppers |

I had written a post a couple of years ago on how to set cashew and peanut curd. I did not think it was necessary to give temperatures when I wrote it. The feedback on the post was mixed. Some people, like my friends Lata, and Rithika, and a few readers tried and found the cashew curd easy and could not detect any difference. Some wrote back saying that the instructions were not clear and the cashew paste simply got spoilt. Hence this updated post. There is a fine line between setting and spoilage, and I hope this post clarifies the chilli pepper crowns |

When I wrote crowns, I meant the stems (picture on the right)

Over the years, I have also found that a thinner mixture makes better curd. When it is Summer I use water heated between 50 and 60 deg. C. In Winters I use boiling hot water and wrap my curd-setting pot with a thick towel to retain heat. During Monsoons I am afraid the curd does not set well and sometimes gets spoilt. I think humidity plays a major role.


Good cashew curd is easy to mix.  It will look like buttermilk, and taste similar, though not as sour.  Please note that cashew curd tastes like ‘just set dairy milk curd’.  It does not ferment beyond a point.  You will have to lemon juice in order to bring it to the same level of sourness as dairy milk curd.  The curd will not break further when lemon juice is added.

Cashew milk with chilli crowns for setting curd |

 Cashew milk topped with pepper crowns and kept for fermentation

Setting dairy free curd with starter |

Cashew curd topped with starter to set | You can see the starter as a depression


Spoilt cashew curd turns sticky and stringy when stirred.  It happens when the water added is not heated enough.  I have noticed that cashew-curd often spoils in Monsoons, and I suspect that it is because of the humidity.

In this update I have diluted the cashew milk further as compared to the earlier method I posted.

Recipe: Vegan kitchen basics – An update on making cashewnut curd – Vegan|Dairy-free


Cashewnuts (without skin) – 1 cup, soaked for 4-5 hours or till softened
Water – 2-3 cups
Stems (crowns) from about 8-10 green chillis
Juice from one lemon (if needed)


Rinse the soaked cashews in clean water and drain.

Heat water to about 60 deg. Celsius (140 deg. Fahrenheit).

Place cashews in a blender, adding enough of the water and blend to form a smooth paste, stopping in the middle to scrape down the sides if needed. Do not add all the water as it is hot, and can cause burns if it splashes.

Remove the paste into the bowl in which you need to set the curd. Add the rest of the water and stir to bring to uniform consistency.

Wash green chillies, remove the crowns (stems) and place drop into the curd. There is no need to stir.

In Indian Summer, it takes about 6-7 hours for the curd to ferment. The first photograph in this post shows the curd as it will look once it has set.  The top layer should be thick as compared to the bottom but should not separate, or break. Stir to check that it is not stringy. This indicates that the curd has set well.

Cashew curd after setting |

 Cashew curd after it has set well, and not yet been stirred

If it tastes milky leave it out for 2-3 hours to let it sour. Unlike dairy curd, cashew curd sours only mildly. After 2-3 hours, add enough lemon juice to sour it according to your taste.

The first batch might carry the flavour of chilli.  I use the first batch as a starter for the next batch.  Unlike dairy-curd, I find that the amount of starter needed is high, about 3 teaspoons of starter for one cup of cashew curd.
Starter for cashew curd |

 This is the starter I used

The texture of cashew curd will be liquid as thick as the amount of water added by you.  It will not set as firm as dairy curd.

The science behind the process of fermentation using stems/crowns of chilli peppers:

The fermentation is caused by air-borne wild yeast.  The underside of stems of chilli peppers have the property to attract wild yeast frotm the surroundings, and this helps in fermentation.  Wild yeast are attracted only at certain temperatures, around 25 to 30 deg. C.  Below that the fermentation may not take place, and above that temperature, sourness (in this case splitting) might occur

Since the fermenting agent is wild yeast, one should preferably use filtered tap water, and non-chlorinated water.  Hard water does not allow wild yeast to grow.

Wild yeast are less available in cold regions or air-conditioned areas hence it is advisable to keep the curd in an airy, sunny area with a lid on.

I use fresh, green chillies of the spicy variant, as I find these good.  You can also use stems from dried red chillies.  Use boiling hot water in Winters, and wrap vessel with a towel.

As a vegetarian too, I never liked my thayir chaadam (curd rice) sour, so the vegan cashew curd with its mild sourness suits me.  If you like yours sour, add lemon juice as per taste.  I assure you that the curries made with curd are the same as dairy curd.  There is absolutely no difference in taste or texture.  It is ideal for any kind of kadhi, morkootan, aviyal etc.  Just substitute dairy curd with cashew curd.

This method of setting curd is being followed in India since ages and I just happen to be the first to apply it to non-dairy milk.  This is an original recipe and if you make it and it works for you, please let me know.  I would like it if you link my post to yours if you modify it or use the method on your site/blog.


Harini is a vegan food photographer, writer and recipe developer. She also loves feeding birds, reading, watching crime thrillers, and travelling amongst other things.

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  • Viji

    Hi, I tried the cashew curd and it did come out well, but there seem to be too many air pockets. Besides I used probiotics instead of chillies. I shall try it out with the chilli next time. My concern is the fat content being high , is it a good alternative to the regular diary on a long term use basis.

    • Harini Prakash

      Yes, the right words did not come to me while writing the post but you have worded it perfectly! There are a lot of air pockets, just as in fermented urad dal. That happens whether you use probiotics, chillies or store bought vegan starter. I also did a bit of reading as the ‘fat’ concerned me as well, and found that cashew fats are mostly heart healthy mono-unsaturated fats and these nuts are unnecessarily maligned. I am not sure about the science of what happens after fermentation of cashew fats and have been trying to find out more. If you get some information, please share with me. 🙂

      Meanwhile, let me how it goes with chillies. Try on a relatively hot day.

  • Smitha


    I have made both cashew curd and peanut curd. I.made rava idly with peanut curd. I have given credit and posted the pic on vegans of India and vegans Bangalore. Please check. Thanks so.much.

    Smitha hemadri

    • Harini Prakash

      Hi, thanks! I am not a part of both groups. I used to hardly access facebook so removed myself from all groups. Can you please share it on my facebook page? If it’s not too much to ask.
      Thank you. 🙂

  • Subha

    I am so excited that the cashew curd turned out very well. We made mor(buttermilk) out of it and could not find any difference except for the fact that it is not as sour as the dairy curd. My daughter is allergic to milk and this would be an excellent substitute. Thank you so much for the great recipe. I would be posting it on my blog very soon. I am so glad that I have found your blog..

    • Harini Prakash

      So glad, Subha, that your daughter will be able to enjoy curd once again. 🙂 Thank you for the feedback.

  • Adeline

    Hi there! I’m thinking of using this fermentation method with soy milk (already in liquid form that I have on hand). How much soy milk should I use for x number or chili stems?

    • Harini Prakash

      I think 1 or 2 stems should be enough. I haven’t tried this method with soy milk so can’t really comment on that.

  • Shirish Gogate

    Harini, cashew curd really worked well as per your recipe. It took some more time than expected, may be because of the weather, but it worked. The description ‘just set dairy milk curd’ is apt. I used it in fruit salad, it was great. Thanks.

    • Harini Prakash

      So glad it worked. Knowing that you are a good cook makes it even better. 🙂

  • charanyaram

    Hey 🙂 with peanut yogurt, do I need to boil the milk. It’s winter here in Sydney and I have tried like 3 times, but nothing works. How much water do I add to a cup of peanuts. Any suggestions?

    • Harini Prakash

      About four cups for one cup of peanuts is the standard used, but you can reduce by half a cup if you like it thick. Yes, you need to boil the milk, let it cool to a little over room temperature, just like you do with dairy milk and then add the crowns. I am not sure why it is not working for you. It’s a little hard for me as I do not know the climate there and this whole thing is so temperature dependent!

      • charanyaram

        Thanks for getting back. Probably it is the climate :(. Do you reckon its worth a try with cashew :)? Is that simpler?

        • Harini Prakash

          Same with cashews, Charanya. This one might work with peanuts – Curdle a small quantity (about two tbsps.) of peanut milk with a teaspoon of lime and use this as a starter to set 1/4th cup of peanut milk. The third batch so formed makes good peanut curd, that can be used for forming bigger batches. Works for me here. The first two or three batches will taste and look spoilt, but the subsequent batches will turn out good.

          • charanyaram

            Oh okay 🙂 Will give it a go. Thank you so much Harini for taking time to reply. Appreciate it. I have been craving for it for more than a year or so. 🙁

  • Ebony

    How do you store the starter? Thanks for the post!

    • Harini Prakash

      Ebony, I freeze a small quantity in a small sized tupperware box, and let the starter thaw completely before use. If I know that I will be needing the starter any time soon, I keep it in the refrigerator section itself. It stays good for a about a week.

  • Susmitha - Veganosaurus

    I’d linked your old post to my old peanut curd post. Recently I created a new peanut curd post last week with a HowDo tutorial and was so happy to find a new cashew curd post on your blog yesterday. So I linked it right up into my new post. 🙂

    • Harini

      Thank you for that Sush! Much appreciated. 🙂

  • Lisa

    I haven’t been able to get pictures yet, but they are coming, of my curd. But is it supposed to be watery or in between a paste and watery. My first batch I did the original post and the second time, I tried this method (though I used 3 tea spoons of the first curd as a starter). This method came out really watery so I let it sour and put it in the fridge and then put some lemon juice. Maybe letting it sit in the fridge with help set it more, but it turned out watery (not a paste) without even me putting the full amount of water.

    • Harini

      The curd will turn out like well beaten dairy-curd. The second one too should turn out the same way. On my part I should say that I have tried with Indian cashews and I assumed that they will be the same everywhere in fat consistency. Maybe you could try with less water next time.

  • Reena

    can we use almonds instead of cashews?………………i suffer from lactose intolerence this recipe will be very useful for me………thank you for sharing this recipe

    • Harini

      I am not sure whether the curd would turn out as thick as with cashews Reena. If you try it let me know. Meanwhile I will try it myself sometime.

  • Ida S

    If it is your first time, what starter should you use? I love your blog!

    • Harini

      Thanks, Ida! You have to use the green chilli peppers if its the first time. I would suggest starting with half the quantity to see whether you get it right. Do let me know the results.

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