1/2cup(120 ml) full fat coconut milk (or sub another dairy-free milk, such as almond or rice)
3tbs(45 ml) grape seed or olive oil (or use coconut, but it will impart more coconut flavor)
2tbs(30 ml) lemon juice (1 small lemon), plus more to taste
3/4cuppacked (150 g) pitted dates (plus water to blend)
3/4cup(109 g) roasted salted peanuts (I like the roasted lightly salted peanut from Trader Joe’s)
3/4 cup(90 g) chopped vegan dark chocolate (I like the 72% dark chocolate from Trader Joe’s)
1tbsoptional: (15 ml) coconut oil
Add cashews to a bowl and cover with boiling hot water. Let set, uncovered, for 1 hour, then drain thoroughly. Also line an 8×8-inch baking dish* with parchment paper. Set aside.
In the meantime, make crust by adding dates to a food processor. Blend/mix until small bits remain or it forms into a ball. Remove and set aside.
Add walnuts and sea salt to the food processor and process into a meal. Then add dates back in and blend until a loose dough forms – it should stick together when you squeeze a bit between your fingers. If it’s too dry, add a few more dates through the spout while processing. If too wet, add more walnuts.
Press the crust into the parchment-lined dish (see photo), until uniformly flat. I like to lay parchment paper on top and then press down with something flat – like a liquid measuring cup – and press down so it’s firmly packed. Set crust in freezer to set.
Next make date caramel by adding 3/4 cup dates to the food processor. Blend until a paste forms, then add hot water a little at a time until it forms a nice caramel-like paste that’s spreadable. Try not to add more than 3-4 Tbsp (45-60 ml), which will depend on the freshness of your dates. Set aside.
Add your drained, soaked cashews to a high speed blender, along with vanilla (optional), maple syrup, coconut milk, sea salt, oil, and lemon juice. Blend on high until creamy and smooth, scraping down sides as needed.
Taste and adjust flavor as needed, adding more lemon for brightness, salt for flavor balance, or maple syrup for sweetness.
Pour filling over the crust and tap on the counter to release any air bubbles. Then add half of the date caramel in small spoonfuls and swirl with a toothpick or chopstick (see photo).
Sprinkle the peanuts on top and tap once again so they gently sink in. Cover lightly with plastic wrap, and then seal the top with foil. Freezer for 4-6 hours, or until completely set and firm.
When ready to serve, set out cheesecake (to thaw briefly) and top with remaining date paste and a few more roasted peanuts (optional).