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Forget water baths and cracked tops, this raw chocolate cheesecake is a foolproof dessert that will impress any chocolate lover.
I don’t know about you, but I love making any dessert that doesn’t involve an oven.
But when I’m making a dessert to impress my guests, turning on the oven always makes me nervous that so much can go wrong – especially when you live at a high altitude.
My mom’s go-to dessert for her birthday is a chocolate Kahlúa cheesecake with a sour cream topping – so rich, but worth every bite.
However, despite following the same recipe every year, I think I’ve only had a handful of successful attempts.
The cheesecake has always been edible, yet something often goes wrong: the top gets a bunch of cracks in it, the crust isn’t cooked evenly, or the sour cream topping doesn’t set right.
While I’m sure there’s some user error happening here, I choose to blame it on the oven, since I don’t think I’ve ever made it in the same oven twice.
But with a raw cheesecake, those fears melt away… Well, technically they freeze away.
What is a “raw” dessert, anyway?
A raw dessert is one that’s made from a handful of whole, unprocessed ingredients. So, rather than using refined all-purpose flour and white granulated sugar, these recipes usually include pulsed nuts and dried fruits.
Additionally, any food cooked above 118°F is technically off-limits.
Still, if you are following a strict raw foods diet, you’ll want to use raw cacao powder in place of cocoa powder, raw honey instead of maple syrup, and raw virgin (cold-pressed) coconut oil.
For the vanilla extract, you can use a raw vanilla bean powder instead. However, as vanilla powder is more concentrated, I recommend using 1/2 teaspoon of powder for every 1 teaspoon of extract. Try this raw vanilla bean powder from Summer Day Naturals, available on Amazon.
Another aspect of raw desserts is that they aren’t baked. Yes, this means no water bath or worrying about the top of your cheesecake cracking.
Instead, your freezer will do all of the work. As a result, raw desserts can be a great option if you’re looking for a recipe that you can make a day or two ahead of time.
So, how do you make a cheesecake without cream cheese?
Cashew cream is the answer.
If you haven’t discovered the pure bliss that is cashew cream, just wait – you’re in for a real treat.
Unlike many other types of nuts, cashews are crunchy but with a little softness, and they have a slightly sweet flavor.
As a result, when you blend raw cashews, they become incredibly creamy. It’s perfect as a base for many vegan desserts. We’ve used this technique to make our raw berry cream pie. It’s also very useful for savory applications as well, like our creamy vegan mushroom soup.
To keep them from taking on the thicker consistency of a nut butter, for this cheesecake we’re blending them with maple syrup, cacao powder, vanilla extract, and coconut oil.
The key to creating a super smooth filling is soaking your cashews first.
While this step does add a few hours to the prep time, it’s worth it. Soaking helps to soften the nuts, making them easier to blend.
Whole cashews can take at least 4 hours to soften; however, you can cut the soaking time in half by using cashew pieces and warm water.
In addition to making a creamy filling, these sweet nuts are also an excellent source of healthy fats, vitamins, and minerals. In particular, they’re a good source of copper, phosphorus, zinc, and magnesium, as well as vitamin E.
Remember how I said raw desserts are perfect for making ahead of time? As much as I enjoyed the first slice the day that I made this, the bites that I snuck out of the fridge over the next couple of days were even better.
While there’s automatically something that feels a little indulgent about eating cheesecake directly out of the fridge with a fork, I promise that the flavors and textures were actually better after a day or two in the fridge.
If you have the willpower to wait when you know you have a chocolatey homemade dessert sitting in your fridge, I highly recommend making this recipe a day or two before serving it. It’ll be worth the wait!Print
Looking for a foolproof, impressive dessert that’s raw and vegan, too? You’re going to love this indulgent cashew cream chocolate cheesecake.
For the Cashew Cream:
- 3 cups raw cashew pieces
- 6 cups warm water
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
For the Crust:
- Coconut oil, for greasing pan
- 1 cup raw pecans
- 3 pitted medjool dates
- 1/2 cup raw cacao powder (or cocoa powder)
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 1 tablespoon water
For the Filling:
- 3/4 cup pure maple syrup, raw honey, or agave syrup
- 1/2 cup water
- 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
- 3/4 cup raw cacao powder (or cocoa powder)
- 1/2 cup coconut oil
For the Chocolate Drizzle:
- 2 tablespoon raw cacao powder (or cocoa powder)
- 2 tablespoons raw virgin coconut oil
- 2 tablespoons pure maple syrup, raw honey, or agave syrup
- Place cashews, 6 cups warm water, and 1/4 teaspoon salt in a large bowl. Cover with a lid or kitchen towel and let sit at room temperature for at least 2 hours, or up to 12 hours.
- Grease a 9-inch springform pan with coconut oil and set aside.
- Make the crust by placing pecans, dates, cacao powder, salt, vanilla extract, and 1 tablespoon water in a food processor. Pulse until mixture is crumbly, but sticks together when pressed.
- Using a rubber spatula, scoop crust mixture into prepared springform pan and press it into an even layer. Place pan in the fridge while you prepare the filling.
- Strain soaked cashews into a colander. Transfer to a high-speed blender.
- Add maple syrup, water, and vanilla extract. Blend on high until smooth.
- Add cacao powder and coconut oil, and blend again until smooth.
- Pour filling on top of crust, and smooth it out with a rubber spatula or back of a spoon.
- Cover pan tightly with plastic wrap and place in freezer for 2-4 hours, or until firm.
- When ready to serve, prepare chocolate drizzle. Place cacao powder, coconut oil, and maple syrup in a small saucepan over low heat. Cook until coconut oil has melted, about 3 minutes. Stir well to combine.
- Remove pan from freezer, and run a butter knife around the edge. Release and remove the springform collar. Drizzle the chocolate mixture on top. Slice and enjoy immediately.
- Store leftovers in the fridge for up to 5 days.
- Prep Time: 20 minutes
- Category: Dessert
- Method: No-Bake
- Cuisine: Vegan
Keywords: raw, vegan, cashew cream, cheesecake, cocoa powder
Cooking By the Numbers…
Step 1 – Soak Cashews
The key to a smooth raw filling is softening the cashews by soaking them.
To do this, place 6 cups of warm water and 1/4 teaspoon of salt in a large bowl. Add the cashew pieces and cover with a kitchen towel or lid. Let sit at room temperature for at least 2 hours, or up to 12 hours.
You can also use whole cashews, but keep in mind that they’ll just need an extra 2 hours to soak.
Step 2 – Measure Remaining Ingredients and Grease Springform Pan
Measure out all of the remaining ingredients. It helps to keep the ingredients for each part of the recipe grouped together, so everything is in the same place when you need it.
Grease a 9-inch springform pan with coconut oil and set it aside.
Note: you can also use an 8-inch springform pan for a slightly taller cheesecake. I don’t advise using a larger springform pan, as the crust will be too thin and it may fall apart when you slice it.
Step 3 – Make Crust
Place the pecans, dates, cacao powder, salt, vanilla extract, and water in a food processor. Pulse until the mixture is crumbly, but sticks together when pressed.
If the mixture is dry and doesn’t stick together, add more water 1 teaspoon at a time, and pulse again.
Using a rubber spatula, scoop the crust mixture into the prepared springform pan and press it into an even layer. Place the pan in the fridge while you prepare the filling.
Step 4 – Make Filling
Add the maple syrup, water, and vanilla extract. Blend on high until smooth.
Add the cacao powder and coconut oil, and blend again until smooth.
Step 5 – Assemble and Freeze
Remove the pan from the fridge.
Pour the filling on top of the crust in an even layer. Use the back of a spoon or a rubber spatula to smooth out the top.
Cover the pan tightly with plastic wrap and place it in the freezer for 2-4 hours, or until the filling is firm.
If you’re not planning to eat it right away, transfer the cheesecake to the fridge until you’re ready to serve.
Step 6 – Make Chocolate Drizzle
Just before serving, combine coconut oil, cacao powder, and maple syrup in a saucepan and place it over low heat. Cook for 3 minutes, or until coconut oil has melted. Remove from heat and stir to combine.
Step 7 – Garnish and Serve
Remove the pan from the fridge or freezer. Run a butter knife around the edge of the springform pan and then open the sides.
Pour the chocolate drizzle on top, slice with a knife, and enjoy!
Does Raw = Healthier?
As a dietitian, one of my pet peeves is the use of the word “healthy.” There’s no one set definition of healthy after all, as we all have very different nutrition needs.
If we’re comparing the nutrients in this raw cheesecake against a more traditional recipe, then yes, this recipe is healthier. It’s filled with healthy fats, antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals.
However, if healthy means low calorie to you, then this may not be the dessert for you.
While nutritious, each slice has about the same amount of calories as a traditional slice of cheesecake.
But being high in calories isn’t necessarily a bad thing!
I’m all about making your calories count. For example, if I’m going to eat a slice of cheesecake, it had better be creamy and worth every bite. And I can vouch for this recipe being worth the indulgence, without the nutrient-devoid “empty” calories from refined flour and added sugar that you find in many recipes.
This isn’t your average Wednesday night dessert. It’s a rich, chocolatey dessert that’s meant for celebrating special occasions and sharing with friends.
Have you made a cheesecake with cashews before? Let us know if there are any tips or tricks that we might have missed. And be sure to rate this recipe after you’ve given it a try!
Looking for even more vegan, no-bake, and raw desserts to make at home? Get your fix with one of these equally chocolatey recipes:
- Raw Brownies with Fudgy Chocolate Avocado Frosting
- No-Bake Vegan Chocolate Torte with Avocado Mousse
- Dairy-Free Chocolate Cheesecake
Photos by Kelli McGrane, © Ask the Experts, LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. See our TOS for more details. Originally published by Shanna Mallon on February 1, 2016. Last updated on July 12, 2020. With additional writing and editing by Allison Sidhu.
Nutritional information derived from a database of known generic and branded foods and ingredients and was not compiled by a registered dietitian or submitted for lab testing. It should be viewed as an approximation.
The written contents of this article have been reviewed and verified by a registered dietitian for informational purposes only. This article should not be construed as personalized or professional medical advice. Foodal and Ask the Experts, LLC assume no liability for the use or misuse of the material presented above. Always consult with a medical professional before changing your diet, or using supplements or manufactured or natural medications.
About Kelli McGrane, MS, RD
Kelli McGrane is a Denver-based registered dietitian with a lifelong love of food. She holds undergraduate and master’s degrees in nutrition science from Boston University. As a registered dietitian, she believes in the importance of food to nourish not only your body, but your soul as well. Nutrition is very personal, and you won’t find any food rules here, other than to simply enjoy what you eat.