Honey Walnut Tofu Cream Cheese
My high school existence was powered by the hope of wooing my secret crush in history class, the opening of a Forever 21 at our local mall, over-quoting Old School, and copious amounts of Panera honey walnut cream cheese.
Honey walnut cream cheese was a staple component of my diet senior year. As seniors, we had the distinct privilege of being allowed to drive off campus for lunch, a rite of passage we students anticipated with longing and embraced with vigor. Every day at 12:10 p.m., our steady stream of old Jeeps and rusty Toyotas poured out of the parking lot, then dispersed to every fast-food destination within a 2-mile radius. We only had a half hour to grab our chow and be back at our desks, so at least two days a week, I zipped into Panera for a cinnamon crunch bagel, smeared with a solid inch of honey walnut cream cheese.
In retrospect, eating a bagel the size of my face topped with enough honey walnut cream cheese to bake a respectably-sized cheesecake was not the best dietary decision, but I was 17 and blissfully ignorant. To this day, I still love the sweet, nutty taste of honey walnut cream cheese, so I decided to see if I could invent a healthy version that I could feel comfortable slathering on my bagels with excess.
I found my healthy cream cheese inspiration on my last trip to New York City. Our hotel was ideally situated one block from the great Murray’s Bagels, the ideal sustenance to fuel a long morning of city exploring (ahem, shopping and people watching). I noticed tofu “cream cheese” on the menu, and in an adventurous moment, I decided to try it—delicious. If I hadn’t known that it was tofu, I would have assumed I was back at my high school Panera, piling on the schmear with reckless abandon.
Inspired by Murray’s, I made my own tofu cream cheese but in my favorite honey walnut flavor. Its base is a combination of silken tofu and raw cashews, which blend into a creamy, dreamy protein-packed spread. Lemon juice provides the signature cream-cheese tang, vanilla extract and cinnamon add lovely background notes, and honey makes the spread sweet and addictive.
Once the spread is whipped together, you can fold in any variety of toasted nuts you like. I stuck with the classic walnut, but I imagine that almonds, pecans, and pistachios would be lovely too.
I’ve been enjoying this healthy version of honey walnut cream cheese dipped with fruit (it’s wonderful with grapes), stirred into oatmeal, and of course, smeared all over my bagels. My latest find is Cobbleston Bread Co. 100% whole wheat bagels. Most of the bread products labeled “multi-grain” or “whole wheat” in stores are deceptive and offer fewer whole grains than they imply (read the label—many have more refined, white flour than fiber-rich whole wheat flour). While 100% whole wheat sandwich bread is fairly available, CBC is the first bagel option I’ve found that is completely whole grain. They’re super soft and tasty, and with this healthy honey walnut cream cheese, they make a convenient, filling breakfast that’s perfect for busy mornings. I wish I could travel back in time and give a hearty supply to my hungry high school self.
Though I’ve become wiser about the make-up of my bagels and honey walnut cream cheese since high school, I’m certain that I’ve had the quantity right all along. Slather it on thick and enjoy every rich, creamy, honey-kissed bite!
Honey Walnut Tofu Cream Cheese
- 1 block silken tofu — (16 ounces)
- 1/2 cup raw cashews
- 4 tablespoons honey — (if vegan, use maple syrup)
- 3 tablespoon lemon juice
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/4 cup chopped toasted walnuts
Wrap the tofu in paper towels and press out excess moisture. Wait 30 seconds, then repeat with fresh paper towels.
Place the pressed tofu in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade, then add the cashews, honey, lemon juice, vanilla extract, cinnamon, and salt. Blend until smooth, about 1 to 2 minutes, stopping to scrape down the bowl as needed.
Transfer the tofu cream cheese to a small bowl and fold in the walnuts. Cover and refrigerate to allow the mixture to thicken, about 4 hours or overnight. Enjoy spread on Cobblestone Bread Co. bagels or English muffins, on toast, mixed with oatmeal, dipped with fruit, or right out of the container.
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