The Ultimate Guide To Vegan Sauces: 18 Must-Try Recipes

Before Larissa and I became vegetarians in 2013, I held a common misconception about plant-based diets–that they’re bland. In other words…boring.

Oh, how wrong I was!

With more people trying plant-based diets, the demand for delicious vegan and vegetarian foods has skyrocketed. There are so many great plant-based recipes, and when it comes to enhancing the flavors of any dish, a good sauce can make all the difference. Vegan sauces add a burst of flavor to any meal without using animal products.

In this article, we’re sharing our Ultimate Guide to Vegan Sauces. From discovering what makes a sauce “vegan” to cooking and storing it, we’ll cover it all! And of course, we wouldn’t leave you without some yummy recipes to try. We’ve got 18!

You can listen to us discuss some of our favorite vegan sauces below or read on for more details. Note: This article has been updated since recording the podcast episode to include even more helpful tips!

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Sauces

What Are Vegan Sauces?

Vegan sauces are a crucial component of plant-based cooking. They’re versatile and flavorful and can elevate any dish to the next level. Vegan sauces are made without animal products such as meat, dairy, or eggs, making them suitable for those following a vegan or plant-based diet. These sauces can be used in various ways, such as appetizer dipping sauces, salad dressings, pasta sauces, and more.

One of the key benefits of vegan sauces is that they are often healthier than traditional sauces that contain animal products. Many vegan sauces are made with whole food ingredients such as nuts, seeds, herbs, and spices, all of which are rich in nutrients and provide numerous health benefits.

Additionally, they can be lower in saturated fat and cholesterol, making them a heart-healthy choice.

Which Sauces Aren’t Traditionally Vegan?

When it comes to sauces, some traditional ones aren’t vegan because they contain animal products. For example, some off-the-shelf tomato sauce brands may contain beef stock in addition to tomatoes.

Another example is teriyaki sauce, which may contain ingredients (fish sauce, for example) that are unsuitable for a vegan diet. It’s important to read labels carefully and look for teriyaki sauces specifically labeled vegan to ensure they do not contain any animal products.

Tips for Making Vegan Versions of Classic Sauces

While buying sauces off the shelf is convenient, making your own at home allows you to control the ingredients. Here are a few tips to make some of your favorite classic sauces into vegan versions:

  1. Butter swap Use vegan butter instead of dairy butter. It works just as well to create a smooth, rich base in sauces like Alfredo or in gravy recipes.
  2. Milk alternatives Opt for unsweetened almond or oat milk rather than cow’s milk, especially in creamy sauces. These alternatives blend in nicely without adding extra sweetness.
  3. Cheesy flavor Nutritional yeast can be your go-to for achieving a cheesy taste in vegan sauces. It’s also perfect for sprinkling over dishes for extra flavor.
  4. Stock substitutions Instead of beef or chicken stock, vegetable stock is an excellent vegan option, providing a robust base for your sauces and soups.
  5. Creamy textures For sauces requiring heavy cream, try blending soaked cashews with water. This creates a creamy texture that’s ideal for luxurious sauces.
  6. Egg replacements If your sauce recipe calls for eggs to bind or thicken, consider using soft tofu or a commercial egg replacer. These work well to create the texture you need.

These simple substitutions will allow you to enjoy your favorite sauces while sticking to a vegan diet. Enjoy experimenting with these tips in your kitchen!

Vegan Sauce Recipes

With a little kitchen creativity, there are endless possibilities for creating vegan versions of classic sauces using plant-based ingredients. Here are a few of the classics that can be made vegan with just a few simple swaps.

Main Dish Sauces

1. Vegan Alfredo Sauce

Alfredo sauce is a classic creamy sauce usually made with butter, heavy cream, and parmesan cheese. Not only are these ingredients not vegan, they’re also loaded with unhealthy saturated fat.  Luckily, there are plenty of delicious and creamy vegan Alfredo sauce recipes available to satisfy your cravings for this indulgent pasta sauce.

One popular way to make vegan Alfredo sauce is by using cashews as the base, as in this recipe from The Vegan 8. Soaked cashews are blended with garlic, nutritional yeast, vegetable broth, and seasonings to create a rich and creamy sauce that mimics the texture and flavor of traditional Alfredo sauce. This dairy-free version is just as velvety and decadent as the original, but without any animal products or all the fat. 

2. Vegan Nacho Cheese

One of my favorite snacks is nachos, which usually means a ton of cheese. While I’m a lacto-ovo vegetarian and do consume some cheese, I’m always looking for delicious, melty vegan cheese sauce options to pour over tortilla chips.

This cheese sauce recipe from Eat Plant-Based is a great example.  It’s a vegan nacho cheese sauce that isn’t just creamy and flavorful but is also simple to make. With just a few ingredients and a quality blender (such as our Vitamix blender which we use almost like a food processor), you can have a big plate of yummy vegan nachos in no time. You can also use an instant pot to make this recipe.

3. Vegan Peanut Sauce

Peanut sauce is a versatile and flavorful condiment that can elevate any dish with its creamy and nutty taste. This vegan version of peanut sauce is easy to make and can be used as a dip, dressing, or sauce for noodles, stir-fries, and grilled vegetables.

With just a few simple ingredients like peanut butter, maple syrup, and rice vinegar, you can create a delicious and satisfying sauce that will add depth and richness to your meals. Check out this recipe from Nora Cooks for an easy 5-minute version.

4. Vegan Bechamel Sauce

Bechamel sauce is a classic French white sauce typically made with butter, flour, and milk. However, with a few simple swaps, you can easily create a vegan version of this creamy and luscious sauce.

Vegan bechamel sauce can be used in a variety of dishes such as lasagna, gratin, or even as a topping for vegetables or pasta. This recipe from Minimalist Baker (one of our go-to recipe sites) was created while they were perfecting their recipe for vegan moussaka.

5. Vegan Pad Thai Sauce

When Larissa and I go for Thai food, we both usually order Pad Thai. Many Thai restaurants offer a tofu substitution so it’s veg-friendly. And it’s easy to customize the “heat” (spice) of the dish. This is great since I usually order mine “Thai hot” and Larissa opts for no spice. And yes, I do give her a lot of grief for that! 

We found a great, easy recipe for Pad Thai (which includes the sauce, of course) from Nora Cooks. One of the best things about this recipe is that it only takes about 30 minutes to make. It also makes delicious leftovers!

6. Marinara Sauce

Marinara sauce is a great fridge or pantry staple because you can use it to top off a quick bowl of pasta and veggies or as a sauce for veggie pizza. This recipe from Pass The Plants uses a pressure cooker and has a total cook time of about 25 minutes, which means you can serve up dinner quickly with minimal supervision!

Condiments

7. Easy Lemon Tahini

I’d never eaten tahini before becoming a vegetarian. If you’re unfamiliar with tahini, it’s a paste made from crushed sesame seeds. It’s a common condiment in Eastern Mediterranean and Middle Eastern cuisine and is a main ingredient in hummus.

Tahini is versatile and easy to use in a variety of dishes. Sure, you can buy it off the shelf but homemade is so much better! Here’s a recipe from A Couple Cooks for a lovely lemon tahini sauce.

8. Vickie’s Easy Salsa

It’s no secret that I LOVE spicy stuff–the hotter the better! Salsa was a common condiment in our refrigerator when I was growing up.

While there are plenty of salsa brands and varieties on store shelves they often contain a lot of unhealthy additives. Also, even the best store-bought salsa out there can’t compare to the fresh flavors of homemade.

To make my salsa, you’ll need:

  • 2 serrano peppers, boiled (use jalapenos if serranos are too spicy)
  • 8 oz can of stewed tomatoes
  • Pinch garlic salt
  • Chopped cilantro (optional)

Blend this all together in a high-powered blender for a few seconds and chill before serving for an awesome vegan salsa! If you’re looking for more spicy goodness, check out my recipe for Pico De Gallo.

bowl of salsa on a multicolored placemat. surrounded by salsa ingredients: serrano pepper, jalapeno pepper, tomatoes, cilantro

9. Cashew Sour Cream

I’m a big fan of sour cream. Although I still eat dairy sour cream on occasion, I prefer to reduce my dairy consumption when I can. Fortunately, I can easily swap regular sour cream for the vegan version without noticing too much.

Oh She Glows has a great recipe for making cashew sour cream. Try a spoon or two of this on your next baked potato or spinach enchiladas for some added flavor!

10. Miso Sauce

You can use miso in stir fry, for dipping, as a dressing, or as a flavoring for rice. The possibilities are endless, making miso a great staple to have around your kitchen.

If you aren’t familiar with miso, it’s made from cooked soybeans and grains (most often, rice and barley) and mixed with salt and a fungus called koji. Miso has an umami (savory) flavor.

It’s rich in essential minerals and is a good source of vitamins B, E, K, and folic acid. Miso also helps promote good gut bacteria. For an all-purpose miso sauce, check out Just One Cookbook. This simple 4-ingredient recipe can be used in a variety of ways.

11. Sweet and Spicy Chili Sauce

This recipe for Sweet and Spicy Chili Sauce comes from The Veggie Society. You’ve probably seen this sauce sitting on tables at Asian restaurants. Not only is it great for dipping veggie-packed spring rolls but you can also use it for tofu, tacos, and drizzled on your favorite Buddha Bowl.

12. Vegan Ranch Dressing

Vegan ranch dressing is a creamy and flavorful alternative to traditional ranch dressing, perfect for those following a plant-based diet. This dairy-free version from Karissa’s Kitchen is made with vegan mayo and plant milk, plus apple cider vinegar to give it a ZING! It’s a delicious and creamy dressing that pairs perfectly with salads, veggie burgers, and as a dip for fresh vegetables.

13. Vegan “Honey” Butter

Vegan honey butter is a delightful and indulgent spread that adds a touch of sweetness to your favorite breads, muffins, pancakes, and more. While the traditional version is made with a combination of honey and butter (both not vegan), this vegan version from Namely Marly swaps agave nectar and chamomile tea (which also has a slight honey flavor) for the honey.

14. Vegan Blue Cheese Dressing

If you’re a fan of bold and tangy flavors, you’ll love this homemade Tangy Blue Cheese Dressing from It Doesn’t Taste Like Chicken. In fact, it’s my personal favorite dressing!

This creamy dressing is perfect for drizzling over salads, using as a dip for veggies, or even as a spread on sandwiches. Made with vegan ingredients, this dressing is dairy-free and packed with delicious blue cheese flavor. Tofu crumbles give this dressing the texture of its traditional counterpart. Loads of yum!

15. Spicy Barbeque Sauce

This recipe for spicy barbeque sauce from Rainbow Plant Life is sweet yet tangy, quite smoky, and a little spicy! Slather it on your favorite grilled dishes like veggie burgers or veggie steaks, or even use it as a dipping sauce for buffalo cauliflower bites. The combination of smoky, spicy, and sweet flavors will send your taste buds soaring!

The Sweet Side

16. Vegan Jalapeno Jelly

Jalapeno jelly is a classic condiment that adds a sweet and spicy kick to a variety of dishes. This vegan version of jalapeno jelly from Wow, It’s Veggie!  is just as delicious and easy to make. The combination of sweet and spicy flavors makes it the perfect addition to sandwiches, crackers, or even as a glaze for tofu or vegetables.

17. Vegan Caramel Sauce

This sauce comes from one of our FAVORITE sites, Pinch of Yum. You can use this caramel sauce not only for desserts but also in oatmeal or yogurt, on toast, for dipping fruit, and of course on your favorite plant-based ice cream!

18. Vegan Hot Fudge

If you’re more of a fudge fan than a caramel fan, we’ve got a recipe for you! Check out this Vegan Hot Fudge Sauce recipe from Vegan On Board. While some traditional hot fudge recipes can contain dairy, this recipe uses vegan butter and almond milk to create a fudgy, rich, decadent, chocolate treat.

How to Store Your Sauces

Proper storage of sauces is essential to maintain their freshness and flavor. Here are some tips on how to store your homemade sauces:

  1. Air-tight containers Store your sauces and dressings in an air-tight container in the fridge. This will help prevent any odors from seeping into the sauce and keep it fresh for longer.
  2. Refrigerate Eat your sauces within 2-3 days of making them for the best and freshest taste. While most sauces can last longer in the fridge, it’s best to consume them sooner rather than later.
  3. Freeze If you want to keep your sauces longer, consider freezing them. Pesto sauces, in particular, freeze well for up to 6 months. Put them in a small jar or ice cube trays to have smaller portions at hand.
  4. Prevent oxidation Some sauces need to be eaten immediately or refrigerated right after making to prevent them from turning brown due to oxidation. Eating these sauces right away will ensure they have their original vibrant color and flavor.
  5. Use small portions If you make a large batch of sauce, consider portioning it out into smaller containers for easier use. This way, you can defrost only what you need and keep the rest frozen for later.

By following these storage tips, you can enjoy your homemade sauces for longer and add a burst of flavor to your meals whenever you need it. Store them properly, and you’ll always have a delicious sauce on hand to elevate your dishes.

By incorporating a variety of vegan sauces into your cooking, you can create a diverse range of delicious and satisfying plant-based meals. Experiment with different flavors and combinations to find your favorite ways to use vegan sauces in your dishes.

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