For a creamy, rich, and tangy vegan crema, you’ve come to the right place! With just 4 simple ingredients you can make a dairy-free Mexican crema ready to be enjoyed in a matter of minutes!

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Vegan crema in a glass jar.

This is the ultimate vegan crema to use with all of your favorite Mexican dishes. It’s so simple to make your own vegan version at home with just a few ingredients.

My favorite way is with cashews but I do provide a nut-free alternative if needed. Either way, this creamy sauce is truly irresistible, you’ll want to drizzle over not just Mexican food, but all of your plant-based meals—it’s that good!

What is Mexican Crema

Mexican crema, also known as crema Mexicana, is a cultured cream similar to sour cream but with a milder flavor and slightly thinner consistency. It’s commonly used in Mexican cuisine as a topping for tacos, enchiladas, soups, and other dishes.

There is crema, crema fresca and crema agria. They vary in level of tartness and thickness. Both crema and crema fresca are on the milder side, whereas crema agria is more similar to American sour cream.

Mexican crema is made by fermenting cream with lactic acid bacteria, which gives it a tangy flavor and creamy texture. It adds richness and a hint of acidity to dishes, balancing out spicy or rich flavors. You can think of it like the Mexican version of French crème fraîche.

Homemade versions are often made by blending together heavy cream, buttermilk, lime juice, and salt.

Ingredient Notes

Gathered ingredients for this vegan crema recipe with labels.

This vegan crema recipe calls for just 3 simple ingredients:

  • Raw cashews – The base ingredient for vegan crema. Soak the cashews for several hours or overnight before blending to soften them which gives the crema a smooth texture. Choose unsalted and unroasted cashews.
  • Lime juice – This is the key ingredient for the tangy and citrusy flavor, mimicking the tanginess of traditional crema. Use freshly squeezed lime juice for the best flavor.
  • Salt – Enhances the flavors of the crema and balances the sweetness of the cashews. Start with a small amount and adjust to taste as needed.

Substitutions and Variations

  • Nut-free – You can replace the cashews with 7 ounces of firm or silken tofu. After mixing, allow the flavors to meld in the refrigerator for a few hours before using, otherwise it may have a strong tofu taste initially.
  • Lime juice – You can swap with fresh lemon juice or even apple cider vinegar.
  • Sriracha Crema – Add 1 tablespoon of sriracha sauce to the mixture.
  • Cilantro Lime Crema – Make it a vegan cilantro lime crema by adding 2-4 tablespoons of chopped cilantro leaves.
  • Avocado Crema – Add a peeled and pitted ripe avocado to mix for extra creaminess.

How to make vegan crema

​Ready to make this cashew cream in minutes? Soak your cashews if you haven’t yet and let’s get started!

Vegan crema ingredients in a blender before blending.

Step 1: After soaking, drain the cashews and place them into a high-speed blender. Add room temperature water, fresh lime juice, and salt to the blender.

Vegan crema ingredients blended in a blender pitcher.

Step 2: Blend the ingredients until completely smooth, pausing occasionally to scrape down the sies of the blender as needed.

If the mixture appears too thick, gradually add an additional tablespoon of water at a time and blend again. Keep in mind that the crema will thicken further when refrigerated.

Step 3: Once you’ve reached a smooth consistency, transfer the vegan mexican crema to a sealable glass jar.

Serving Ideas

There are tons of ways to enjoy this cashew crema but here are some of my favorites:

  • Homemade nachos – Top tortilla chips with tofu ground beef, vegan nacho cheese, pico de gallo or this chili corn salsa, avocado, and a dollop of this vegan crema.
  • Vegan Tacos – Drizzle a little over these vegan tofu tacos and any of your favorite taco recipes!
  • Burritos – I like to spread a little onto the tortilla before rolling up these chili burritos for some extra creaminess. You can also make breakfast burritos with it! Use this silken tofu scramble or chickpea scramble with a burrito-sized vegan tortilla, add the crema, salsa, and whatever you desire!
  • Burrito Bowls – Not feeling a tortilla? Dump your burrito filling ingredients into a bowl with a bed of rice and dollop of crema.
  • Enchiladas – This crema goes great on enchiladas too! Or if you want to mix it up, try black bean enfrijoladas instead. They’re like enchiladas but made with a hearty bean sauce!
  • Guacamole – Add a couple spoonfuls when making a vegan guacamole to give it some extra creaminess and flavor!
  • Chili – Adding a dollop on chili is a must! Try it with this hearty three bean chili or this delicious chili sin carne!
  • Mexican Spaghetti – Stir a little crema into this Mexican Spaghetti recipe—I promise you won’t be disappointed!
Enfrijoladas on a plate topped with crema, avocado, cilantro, and pice de gallo.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is vegan crema made of?

Vegan crema is typically made from plant-based ingredients to replicate the creamy texture and tangy flavor of traditional crema, which is made from dairy. Common ingredients in vegan crema include: cashews, almonds, or tofu, plant-based milk or water, an acidic component like lime juice, lemon juice, or vinegar, and a little salt. Additional ingredients such as garlic, nutritional yeast, jalapeno, or herbs are sometimes incorporated.

What is a substitute for Mexican crema?

A common substitute for Mexican crema is a mixture of sour cream and heavy cream or even Greek yogurt. You can blend equal parts sour cream and heavy cream until smooth to achieve a texture similar to Mexican crema. Alternatively, you can use plain yogurt or crème fraîche as substitutes, though they may have slightly different flavors and consistencies compared to Mexican crema. For a dairy-free alternative, you can use raw cashews blended with a bit of lime juice and salt to mimic the tanginess of crema.

What does vegan crema taste like?

It is creamy with a very similar texture and flavor to regular Mexican crema. It has a slightly nutty undertone from ingredients like cashews, but when served over vegan Mexican dishes, it’s not noticeable.

Storage

Store leftover vegan crema in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to a week.

If needed you can also freeze the crema. Store in an airtight freezer-safe container for up to 3 months. To use, allow it to thaw overnight in the fridge. Give it a good stir before using, add a little water to it if it’s too thick.

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Vegan crema in a glass jar.

Vegan Crema

5 from 2 votes
Author: Rachel
For a creamy, rich, and tangy vegan crema, you've come to the right place! With just 3 simple ingredients you can make a dairy-free Mexican crema ready to be enjoyed in a matter of minutes!
Prep Time 5 minutes
Total Time 5 minutes
Servings 8

Method

  • High-speed blender

Ingredients  

  • 1 cup raw cashews soaked in hot water for 30 minutes.
  • ½ cup water plus more as needed
  • 2 tablespoons lime juice
  • ¼ teaspoon salt

Instructions 

  • To start, soak the cashews in hot water for 30 minutes. Then drain and add to a high-speed blender along with room temperature water, lime juice, and salt.
  • Blend until completely smooth, stopping to scrape down the sides as needed. If it’s too thick, add an extra tablespoon of water at a time and blend again (note: it will thicken in the fridge).
  • Use immediately or transfer to a sealable glass jar and store in the refrigerator.

Notes

Store in the refrigerator for up to a week.

Nutrition

Calories: 90kcal | Carbohydrates: 5g | Protein: 3g | Fat: 7g | Saturated Fat: 1g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g | Monounsaturated Fat: 4g | Sodium: 75mg | Potassium: 111mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 1g | Vitamin A: 2IU | Vitamin C: 1mg | Calcium: 7mg | Iron: 1mg
Course: Condiment
Cuisine: Mexican
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2 Comments

    1. Silken tofu is a great nut-free alternative. When using tofu, I like to make it a day in advance so that the tofu has time to absorb the flavors, otherwise it may not have the right flavor if you use it right away.