If you’re a cashew nut (pun intended) like us, you know that you can use cashews in just about everything. Cashew pieces can be used in granolas, roasted and salted for a savory snack, or blended up to create creamy sauces. With more people than ever dabbling in vegan and plant-based lifestyles, cashews provide a wide variety of ways to enjoy the healthy nut. Here we’ll discuss some of our favorite ways to enjoy cashew pieces, and we’ll explore ways that other parts of the world make use of the cashew fruit and nut. We bet you’ll want to book a ticket soon to explore all the ways people enjoy cashews around the world.
A Brief History and Why You’ll Find Cashews Everywhere
Raw cashews are truly a worldwide product. The nut is native to Brazil, discovered by Portuguese explorers in the early 1500s. These Portuguese started exporting a mere 50 years after discovering it. That means the world has been trading in cashew pieces for almost 500 years. From Brazil, these nuts soon made their way to Southeast Asia and eventually Africa. Now, most of the world’s cashew production comes from Asia, India, and Africa. Cashews are used in prominent Asian, Indian, and African cuisines, and now that the world is more open and traversable than ever, foreign dishes using cashews have made their way across oceans for new, Western palates to try.
Cashew Apple Consumption in India
Not only is India one of the biggest producers of cashews in the world, but the country also consumes the most cashews in the world. In fact, India consumes so many cashews that they eat double the amount of cashews as the next largest consumer, the United States. Every year, India consumes over 300,000 metric tons of cashews. That equates to almost a half-pound of cashews per person every year.
Because cashews are grown in India, they have access to different parts of the whole cashew fruit than consumers in non-producing countries. Because the cashew fruit is so delicate and easily rots, it isn’t fit to export to other countries. But, that means that producing countries like India get to enjoy not only the cashew nut, but also the cashew fruit in many different ways.
The cashew apple is the fleshy stem of the cashew fruit. The cashew nut is attached to the bottom of the cashew fruit. A ripe cashew apple can be eaten fresh in producing countries, where they have access to bountiful fruit. In India, the cashew apple is also cooked for use in curries and sometimes fermented into vinegars. The fruit is also commonly used to make preserves, chutneys, and jams.
Cashew Alcohol and Other Brazilian Delicacies
Like India, Brazil has access to the entire cashew fruit, giving them more opportunities to enjoy the entire product in new and exciting ways (at least to us). Brazilians make use of cashew apple juice and pulp to make juice and sweets that they mix with alcoholic beverages like cachaca. Like India, Brazil also lets this cashew fruit juice ferment. This turns the juice into a unique alcohol. Depending on the method used and other ingredients added, Brazilians can turn the cashew apple juice into mocororo, a fermented cashew juice, or jeropiga, a bottled table wine. In India, this fermented cashew alcohol is commonly known as Feni.
Traditionally, an orgeat liquor is a sweet, cherry and almond-flavored addition to many cocktails. The original orgeat liquor is made with almonds, but now bartenders around the world are finding new ways to update an old classic: with cashews! An Austin-based bartender shared his fondness for substituting raw cashew pieces for almonds when he makes his homemade, small-batch versions of the traditionally almond liqueur.
If these delicious-sounding ways of consuming cashews don’t make you want to jump on a plane, we don’t know what will. We love experimenting with cashews in our own kitchens like incorporating cashews into your keto lifestyle, and we love experiencing the creativity that other cultures bring to a food we are so familiar with. We’re keeping an open mind as we continue to explore how we can use healthy, ethically sourced cashew pieces in any and every recipe we create!