Made with healthy, real food ingredients, this creamy, tangy, soy-free, and just-sweet-enough paleo and vegan cream cheese frosting is the perfect icing to slather on all your favorite gluten-free and grain-free desserts!
Unfrosted cake tastes fine, but there will be more oohs and aahs if you slather your cake layers with a decadent and creamy frosting. After all, who wants to celebrate a birthday with a naked cake?
As you all know, I’m always on a mission to create healthier and better-for-you versions of my favorite dishes and treats, so I threw on an apron and started experimenting with a crave-worthy, dairy-free cream cheese frosting.
My standards are high: I didn’t want to rely on store-bought vegan dairy substitutes (e.g., non-dairy cream cheese, vegan butter sticks, or vegan margarine) and I was intent on sweetening this frosting with just the right amount of natural sweetener. Most importantly, it has to be delicious enough to delight my non-paleo eating pals.
I’m happy to report that after tinkering with the recipe for my Cheesecake Stuffed Strawberries, I came up with a fab junk-free dairy-free, vegan cream cheese frosting that tastes remarkably like traditional cream cheese frosting—and even my picky and decidedly non-paleo mother-in-law gave it a big thumbs up!
Ingredients for Paleo and Vegan Cream Cheese Frosting
- Raw cashews: This frosting is made with a base of soaked cashews rather than a blend of store-bought vegan cream cheese and vegan butter. If you’d rather use cashew butter, you can substitute ½ cup in place of the soaked cashews. (If you’re looking for a nut-free paleo cream cheese dressing, check out this one.)
- Refined coconut oil: Use refined coconut to avoid an overly coconut-y frosting. The coconut oil helps stiffen the frosting when you chill it.
- Coconut cream: Adds creaminess and spreadability to the frosting.
- Freshly squeezed lemon juice: Gives this dairy-free cream cheese frosting the necessary tang and acidity to balance out the sweetness.
- Maple syrup or honey or allulose: Instead of using cups and cups (!) of powdered sugar (!!), you can use ¼ cup of maple syrup or honey as the sweetener. If you want a lighter colored frosting, make sure to use a light-colored honey. (Duh!) To make this vegan frosting recipe keto and low carb, you can use liquid allulose—just increase the amount of sweetener to ⅓ cup.
- Vanilla extract
- Diamond Crystal kosher salt
Tips for the best dairy free cream cheese frosting
- Use a powerful blender! The only way the frosting will end up silky and creamy is with a high powered blender like a Vitamix, Blendtec, or Ninja. If you don’t have a good blender, feel free to use ½ cup of cashew butter to make it less grainy.
- Chill the frosting! The frosting is loose and liquid-y right after you blend it, so you need to chill it for a few hours or overnight to stiffen the frosting before you use it. Also, make sure the cakes and cinnamon rolls are cooled before you spread on the frosting so it doesn’t melt!
- Use light colored honey or allulose to keep the frosting light colored! Although maple syrup will make a delicious vegan cream cheese frosting, it will turn the frosting a darker beige color. To keep the frosting light colored, stick with a light colored honey or liquid allulose.
How to make paleo and vegan cream cheese frosting
Place the cashews in a measuring cup or bowl and pour in 2 cups of cool water. Soak the cashews for 2 to 4 hours at room temperature. (If you’re in a hurry, you can soak the cashews in 2 cups of boiling water for about 20 minutes.) Drain the cashews and set aside.
Take out a powerful blender (a Vitamix, Blendtec, or Ninja is necessary to produce a silky smooth texture). Blend the soaked and drained cashews and the other frosting ingredients on high speed until very smooth.
Transfer the frosting to an airtight container and chill in the fridge until stiff (about 3 hours and up to a day).
Once chilled and the proper consistency, you can spread it on all your favorite desserts!
What can you spread it on?
Anything your heart desires, like carrot cake cupcakes, red velvet cake, and cookies!
Here are some of my favorite paleo desserts to slather it on:
- Apple Bundt Cake
- Pumpkin Bars
- Easy Cinnamon Rolls in a Muffin Pan
- Pumpkin Muffins
- Strawberry Muffins
How do you store the cream cheese frosting?
You can store the cream cheese frosting in a sealed continuer in the refrigerator for up to 4 days. You can also store the frosting in a sealed container in the freezer for up to 4 months. If using from frozen, thaw it in the refrigerator overnight and whisk well before using.
Looking for more recipe ideas? Head on over to my Recipe Index. You’ll also find exclusive recipes on my iPhone and iPad app, and in my cookbooks, Nom Nom Paleo: Food for Humans (Andrews McMeel Publishing 2013), Ready or Not! (Andrews McMeel Publishing 2017), and Nom Nom Paleo: Let’s Go! (Andrews McMeel Publishing 2022).
PRINTER-FRIENDLY RECIPE CARD
Cream Cheese Frosting (Paleo, Vegan)
- 1 cup raw cashews
- ¼ cup refined coconut oil
- ¼ cup honey or maple syrup or ⅓ cup liquid allulose (for keto)
- 3 tablespoons coconut cream
- 3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
- ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
- ⅛ teaspoon Diamond Crystal kosher salt
- Place the cashews in a measuring cup or bowl and pour in 2 cups of cool water. Soak the cashews for 2 to 4 hours at room temperature. (If you’re in a hurry, you can soak the cashews in 2 cups of boiling water for about 20 minutes.) Drain the cashews and set aside.
- Take out a powerful blender (a Vitamix, Blendtec, or Ninja is needed to produce a silky smooth texture). Blend the soaked and drained cashews and the other frosting ingredients on high speed until very smooth.
- Transfer the frosting to an airtight container and chill in the fridge until stiff (about 3 hours and up to a day).
- Once chilled, you can spread it on all your favorite desserts!
- A serving is 2 tablespoons.
- You can store the cream cheese frosting in a sealed continuer in the refrigerator for up to 4 days. You can also freeze the frosting in a sealed container for up to 4 months. If using from frozen, thaw the frosting in the refrigerator overnight and whisk well before using.
Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.