Creamy, thick, and tangy, this Sunflower Seed Cream Cheese is the best dairy-free cream cheese substitute! It's nut-free, gluten-free, and made with 7 ingredients only!
This sunflower cream cheese is a true staple in my house. It's easy to make, budget-friendly, and makes a big batch that we keep in the fridge and use during the week.
It goes well on anything from homemade bagels, to sourdough bread, to vegan flour tortillas.
The cheese has a tangy and nutty flavor, yet the sunflower taste is not too overpowering. It's well-balanced and goes well with anything, both sweet and savory!
Ingredients and notes
- Coconut oil: Make sure to use refined coconut oil so that your cream cheese doesn't taste like coconut.
- Sunflower seeds: It's important to use raw sunflower seeds, and not roasted. The results won't be the same.
- Lemon: I use only the juice, but you can also use the zest if you want to add more zing. If you don't have lemon juice, you can substitute it with apple cider vinegar.
How to make sunflower seed cream cheese
Start by rinsing the sunflower seeds well under cold water. Then, add to a small pot and cover with water. Bring to a boil and simmer over medium-high heat for 25-30 minutes or until soft.
Next, drain them into a colander, but make sure not to rinse!
To a food processor or a high-speed blender, add the cooked sunflower seeds, melted coconut oil, nutritional yeast, boiling water, lemon juice, salt, and black pepper. Blend on high until creamy and smooth, this takes around 10 minutes.
Then, transfer the mixture into a container and let it set in the fridge for 6-8 hours. If you're too impatient, you can serve it right away, but the texture is way better after the cheese has had the time to firm up.
This recipe is pretty versatile, so feel free to make it your own! You can add one or more of the following ingredients for even more flavor.
- Garlic- I suggest adding 1-2 cloves of garlic.
- Herbs- 1 cup fresh cilantro, parsley, dill, or a combination of all three.
- Green onion - ½ cup chopped green onion.
- Chives - 2-3 tablespoon chopped chives.
- Jalapeños - 1-2 jalapeños, seeds removed for less heat.
- Sun-dried tomatoes - ⅓ cup chopped sundried tomatoes.
- White/yellow miso paste - add up to 2 tablespoon for more of a salty, umami flavor.
- Boil the sunflower seeds instead of soaking them. I tested the recipe using both methods, and I have found that when the seeds are boiled the cheese stays fresh for much longer.
- Use boiling water to blend. Again, using boiling water will keep your cheese fresh for longer, because most of the bacteria gets killed from the heat.
- Be patient when blending. To get a creamy consistency you'll need to keep blending for at least a couple of minutes.
If you want a super creamy, perfectly smooth cream cheese, then yes. But if you don't mind having some texture, then a regular blender might do the job as well. Also, you can always add more water to make blending easier, the end result won't be as thick.
Yes and no. If you omit the oil, the cheese won't firm as well, which I find quite important. However, you can always do it if that's not a problem for you, but make sure to add a bit more water.
You technically can, but the texture won't be the same. I suggest serving this fresh, but if you *really* need to freeze it, it can be stored in the freezer for 1 month.
Serve it with
Stuffed Sweet Potatoes with Black Bean "Meat"
Sunflower Seed Cream Cheese Recipe
- Food processor or a blender
- 2 cups raw sunflower seeds
- Juice from 1 medium lemon (~3 tablespoons)
- ⅓ cup melted refined coconut oil*
- ½ - ¾ cup boiling water, slightly cooled (start with lesser amount)
- ¼ cup nutritional yeast**
- ½ - 1 teaspoon salt (start with lesser amount)
- ¼ teaspoon black pepper
- Rinse sunflower seeds well. Add pot a pot and cover with water. Bring to a boil, then simmer on medium-high heat for 25-30 minutes or until soft.
- Then, drain the sunflower seed, and DO NOT rinse! Add them to a food processor or a high-speed blender, alongside the coconut oil, boiling water, lemon juice, nutritional yeast, salt, and black pepper. Blend on high for a few minutes, until very creamy and smooth. You'll need to stop a few times to scrape down the sides with a spatula.
- Taste and adjust the flavor if needed, adding more salt for saltiness, lemon juice for tanginess, or nutritional yeast for cheesiness.
- Transfer the cheese into a container and refrigerate for at least 4 hours, ideally 6-8 hours. This will help the cheese to set and firm up.
- Serve with veggies, crackers, or pita chips. Keep in mind that the cheese will start to melt slightly if kept for 1-2 hours at room temperature.
Nutrition information is a rough estimate calculated with third-party calculations without including the optional ingredients.
I have been missing cream cheese so much since I became vegan, and this was so good. I will definitely make it again!
Thank you for sharing, Ella!
This one of the BEST vegan cheese alternatives I have ever made! Thank you!
You're welcome, Valentina!
I just came across this recipe- is there a reason you suggest NOT rinsing sunflower seeds after boilling?
Hi, Candace! Yes, this helps the cream cheese last much longer since washing the seeds with fresh water re-introduces some bacteria, which we don't want. Hope that helps!
Many thanks- I am taking this spread to my family Christmas dinner!
I am so happy to hear! Thank you for sharing, Candace!
Instead of cooking sunflower seeds to soften then can you soak them over night s if you where going to sprout them. I would only make 1/2 the recipe and freeze what is not used in 24 hours.
Hi, yes, you can soak them in cold water and leave them in the fridge overnight. Make sure to give them a good rinse before blending. Just keep in mind that the texture may change when you freeze and then thaw the cream cheese. Hope that helps!