Lemon “Cheese” Cake

March 22, 2014 in Categories: by

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One of my husband’s favorite desserts before our paleo journey began was cheesecake.   I rarely made it at home (and if I did, it was the standard graham cracker crust with lemon cheese cake filling following the directions on the cream cheese box), but it was guaranteed what he ordered every time we ate in a restaurant.  I think he was (is?) something of a cheesecake connoisseur, always preferring the denser custard-like cheesecakes to the more ethereal whipped topping style, and typically preferring a simply-flavored custard which could then be paired with fresh fruit or fruit coulis.  I freely admit that while my husband always ordered cheesecake (and I always had a bite), I was more reliably a “whatever on the dessert menu has lots of chocolate in it” kind of gal.

Well, when it came time to celebrate some good news for him, it seemed like as good excuse as any to try a re-creation of this old favorite.  And I think being able to enjoy lemon cheesecake with fresh blueberries for dessert that night might have even topped the good news we were celebrating!

It seems strange to me to make cheesecake without, well, cheese.  And certainly, if you follow a primal diet or lacto-paleo diet, making a cheesecake that fits within your diet is actually pretty easy (the trickiest part is the crust, but there’s tons of recipes out there for different options).  But, both my youngest daughter and I are very sensitive to casein, and while I more often than not make desserts that I can’t eat but my family can, I wasn’t about to create something that my youngest daughter would have to miss out on too.  So, voila!  A paleo-friendly, grain-free, dairy-free “cheese” cake.  Oh yeah, and it’s delicious!

Gelatin gives the filling a lovely heft, and it holds up well even left out of the fridge.   The filling is not particularly sweet (which I love!), but you could easily adjust the sweetness by adding an extra tablespoon or two of honey.  The combination of cashews and lemon juice replicate the cream cheesiness well (and the flavor is even better if you use  coconut milk yogurt or kefir [homemade or store-bought] in place of plain coconut milk).  I don’t think any other nut works quite the same.

For the crust, I modified my recipe for Paleo Graham Crackers.  The use of chestnut flour gave it a bit more density and let it hold together even as a thin crust beautifully.  If you’d rather stick with the more stereotypical almond flour and coconut flour as ingredients and have a softer, crumblier crust, you can make a half batch of Graham Cracker dough, mold it into your shallow pie dish and bake as per the instructions below.  You could also easily make this in a spring form pan with crust just on the bottom (I’d suggest doubling the filling).

Servings: 8

Paleo "Cheese" Cake | The Paleo Mom

Ingredients (crust):

  1. Preheat oven to 300F.
  2. Combine all of your ingredients in the bottom of a shallow 8″ or 9″ pie plate.  Use your fingers to work it into a dough (it will be quite dry and crumbly, that’s okay).  Then pat it down to line the pie shell (embrace your inner playdough-loving child).  It will be quite thin, and that’s okay.  Now, grab a fork and stab little holes all over the crust (this helps it be a bit more crumbly than solid cookie).
  3. Bake crust for 13-14 minutes, until starting to go golden brown on the bottom.  Remove from the oven and let cool completely.

Ingredients (Filling):

  1. Soak cashews in enough cool water to cover for 2 hours (or more).  Drain.
  2. Meanwhile, bloom gelatin in coconut milk (this just means sprinkling the gelatin over the top of the coconut milk and waiting for it to go translucent as it absorbs liquid) in a small saucepan.  Heat over medium heat until just starting to simmer and remove from heat. (If you’re using coconut milk yogurt or kefir and want to protect the probiotics, add a thermometer to your pot.  Gelatin dissolves at 82F and as long as you keep your temperature below 100-105F, your probiotics will survive.  I’d aim for about 90F just to make sure you get all that gelatin to dissolve.)
  3. Pour coconut milk, soaked cashes and remaining ingredients into a blender.  Blend on high until completely creamy (this will take about a minute in a high-powered blender like a Blendtec or a Vitamix).
  4. Pour filling mixture into crust and spread out evenly.  Chill until set, about 3-4 hours in the fridge or about an hour in the freezer.
  5. Serve with fresh fruit.

Paleo "Cheese" Cake | The Paleo Mom


I was wondering the same thing, but surely it should be fine since the cashews will get blended up (too bad I don’t have a high-powered blender, though – I doubt my food processor would get things creamy enough). Naturally the minimum soaking time should be less, but since two hours is a minimum and not a maximum for whole cashews it would presumably be fine for cashew meal. I looked up the weight of two cups of cashews and it’s supposedly 10 oz., so I think using that weight in cashew meal would be safest.

I blended soaked cashews yesterday in my teeny weeny cuisinart food processor. The one I bought for baby food. The trick is to soak them longer. I soaked for 3 hours and then let them blend for over a minute. It worked great for the cashew ricotta recipe.

where do you get truly gluten-free cashews? or other nuts? I order almonds from Just Almonds, but spent years getting sick from cross-contaminated nuts from TJ’s and about every other place! needless to say, macadamias and cashews and brazil nuts (my favorites) have been long absent from my menu…..

Could you recommend a good alternative to coconut oil and coconut cream for desserts? My husband is allergic to coconut and I have the most difficult time finding dessert recipes without coconut. Thank you

Coconut oil can be replaced with any kind of cooking fat, like lard or butter/ghee. Coconut cream concentrate is a little trickier. You may be able to imitate its texture with avocado or plantain in certain recipes and heavy cream (if you tolerate it) or almond milk in others. – Christina, Sarah’s assistant

I absolutely love your site and your recipes!! Thank you!! However , I can not do almonds or egg whites :(. Can you recommend alternatives please. Thnx

I understand that the gelatin gives the filling a heft, but I’m a vegetarian. I was wondering if I could omit it or substitute something else?

Can raw cashews be substituted with something easier to find? We just moved to Spain and don’t have the specialty grocery stores we had access to in the states. I’d like to avoid ordering online because it takes a long time to receive the items.

I have always wanted to try making a vegan cheesecake, but thought my blender would not be strong enough. I decided to go for it and make this for our Easter supper. It turned out great! I love reading though recipe comments and seeing other’s experiences, so here are mine:
+ I subbed coconut oil for the fat in the crust and it worked fine.
+ I used an 8.5″ spring form cake pan, lined the bottom with parchment paper and greased the sides with a bit of coconut oil and the cake came out perfectly. The crust itself was very thin, barely .25″ thick and only fit the bottom of the cake pan. In the future I would double the recipe, or use a much smaller cake/pie tin.
+ I subbed pectin for gelatin and it seemed to work fine.
+ Next time I will increase the lemon zest and juice, the lemon flavor was very subtle and the filling was so rich and dense it could have used a bit of acid to balance it.
+ I would like it a bit sweeter, others found it just right. Matter of preference. Next time I would go up to 5 or 6 Tbl of honey, or use agave which is sweeter in general. (Not sure if agave is AIP or paleo?)
+ The filling was very dense! Though very similar to actual cheesecake. Personally, I prefer something a bit lighter and plan to experiment with more liquid to create more of a custard/jell-o consistency.
I am so happy I tried this! Now I know my blender can handle it and I’m ready to continue experimenting. Thanks for providing such a great resource Paleo Mom!

My son is allergic to peanuts but is fine with tree nuts. I cannot find whole/raw cashews that are not cross-contaminated with peanuts. I can, however, find cashew butter (nothing else added). I’m thinking I could do that (find my ratio/yield the 2 cups whole would make). I know it’s written as such by Sarah but thought I’d check to see if anyone has tried. He’s been asking for a Paleo cheesecake & I have this cashew butter in my pantry!

Well, I know this is way late, but it takes about 1 1/4 cups cashew butter to make 2 cups whole cashews. Just thought I’d give the info in case anyone else wonders. Also it would need a little more liquid to compensate for the soaking.

Did it work btw? I would think that it could.

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