Raw cashews have their place, and actually make an excellent substitute, in vegan "cheeses," dairy-free sauces, "cashew butter" or "cashew sour cream." For other appetizers, salads, entrees and desserts that include the nuts, roasted cashews are the way to go for an enhanced flavor and elevated dish. Roasting cashews only takes a few minutes to toast from raw, and the flavor and texture of the nuts improves exponentially during the process. Keep either raw or roasted cashews in the refrigerator for as long as four months. Again, raw or roasted, cashews will keep in the freezer for as long as 12 months. This reduces the chances of the fats in the nuts turning rancid and rendering the nuts useless.
Roasting in the Oven
As long as you have heated the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit, you can toast raw cashews straight from the refrigerator or the freezer. Spread the nuts in a single layer on a flat baking pan and roast them for eight to 10 minutes. The longer you cook the cashews, the deeper the nuttiness. You'll know the nuts are done when you can smell their fragrance and they have turned golden brown. Do keep a close eye on them while in the oven so as to avoid over-roasting. The nuts should come out of the oven a litter earlier than expected because they will continue to toast as long as they are on the hot pan.
Toasting on the Stove Top
Toasting raw cashews on the stove top requires a bit more attention than roasting. Preheat a large skillet on low to medium heat and toast only a single layer of nuts at a time for three to five minutes. The nuts may begin toasting in less than a minute, so watch them closely and shake the pan frequently so they don't burn. If the cashews seem to be burning instead of toasting, turn the heat down a notch and lift the pan off the heat until it cools slightly.
Toaster Oven Cooking
Like a skillet on the stove top, a toaster oven cooks cashews quickly. Because they cook close to the heating element, stir them two or three times during cooking to help ensure that they toast evenly and don't burn. Set the oven to 325 F and cook the nuts for three to five minutes until they are golden brown and smelling nutty. As with all cooking methods, let the nuts cool completely before storing them.
Using Roasted Cashews
Measurements aren't important when cooking with roasted cashews. Toss a generous handful into green, fruit or whole-grain salads, or stir-fries and curries. Sprinkle them over ice cream or cut fruit for dessert. For appetizer cashews, choose Southwest chili and cumin seasonings, Mediterranean flavors with dried oregano and thyme, or Indian curry mixes. Spices adhere best if you coat the nuts with 1 beaten egg white for every four cups of nuts before tossing them with the spices and roasting in a 325 F oven for 25 to 30 minutes, stirring twice.
Susan Lundman began writing about her love of cooking, ingredient choices, menu planning and healthy eating after working for 20 years on children's issues at a nonprofit organization. She has written about food online professionally for ten years on numerous websites, and has provided family and friends with homemade recipes and stories about culinary adventures. Lundman received her M.A. from Stanford University.