Yummy vegan sauces?
April 30, 2012 9:08 AM   Subscribe

Looking for vegan sauce recipes to make my healthy meals more appealing.

I'm trying to eat a simple, mostly vegan diet of grains, beans and vegetables and had this idea that sauces could go a long way towards helping me eat this way by adding some yumminess. Recipes don't have to be non-fat but since I'd like to freely add the sauce, can't be too high in fat. Oil, soy, and any nuts are fine. Has to be good at room temperature since I'll be taking meals to work for lunch.

To get even more vegetables into my diet I'd love some recipes that incorporate greens or any other veggies. Something like a thinned down less-rich pesto is one type of sauce I'm looking for. I have lots of cookbooks and haven't been able to find what I'm looking for. Not so much interested in salsas, need something that will add liquid, moisture, and flavor so that I look forward to the meal. Any ideas? Thanks!
posted by daikon to Food & Drink (25 answers total) 67 users marked this as a favorite
Tahini dressing would be great for this! I mix up about 1 tablespoon of tahini paste, with 1 tablespoon of lemon juice and 2 tablespoons of water, and as much minced garlic or garlic powder as you like to taste.

(If you've ever had falafel, it's the dressing that comes with it.)
posted by shortyJBot at 9:13 AM on April 30, 2012 [1 favorite]

Romesco sauce! It's a yummy, smoky, tomato or bell pepper based sauce and though it's traditionally served on meats it's also delicious on veggies. I like it with roasted cauliflower, tossed with freshly grated lemon zest right at the end.
posted by CookieNose at 9:16 AM on April 30, 2012 [2 favorites]

Peanut sauce! Peanut butter, soy sauce, some garlic, some chili powder, onions, and coconut milk or a little orange juice to thin it out. It's great with veggies & over pasta or rice.
posted by belladonna at 9:17 AM on April 30, 2012 [1 favorite]

Just to give you ideas (I haven't personally tried any of these specific recipes):

*vegan peanut sauce
*roasted red pepper pesto or vegan roasted red pepper cream sauce
*ginger-carrot sauce
*fat-free vegan baba ganoush
*light vegan spinach pesto
posted by flex at 9:19 AM on April 30, 2012 [1 favorite]

Reca├Čto is delightful on rice and beans. You can get it in a jar from Goya or make your own.
posted by BrashTech at 9:26 AM on April 30, 2012

I made a sauce last Friday that was 1/4 cup each of tahini and miso paste and a clove of garlic, plus water to thin it. I could not believe how great it was. I had it with soba noodles, lentils, and some roasted vegetables, but will also be using it as a salad dressing in the future since I pretty much always have those three ingredients in my kitchen.
posted by something something at 9:30 AM on April 30, 2012 [2 favorites]

I recently put this sauce together to serve with roasted salmon, but it would be pretty great on steamed or roasted vegetables too, or as a sandwich condiment:

In a blender:
A handful of parsley leaves
About a tablespoon of Dijon
A few garlic cloves
About 2 tablespoons of lemon juice

Start the blender and add a stream of olive oil just until it emulsifies.

This may very well have a name and already be established as a Recipe somewhere, but basically just adjust everything to taste.
posted by shrieking violet at 9:34 AM on April 30, 2012 [1 favorite]

I used to make a sauce with tofu and tahini and garlic in the blender, very creamy, good hot or cold.
posted by mareli at 9:38 AM on April 30, 2012 [1 favorite]

How about home-made chutneys? A classic combination is a hot, minty hari chutney with a sharp, sweet date-tamarind one. If you're interested, I can dig up the recipes I use. Excellent with cold chickpeas and potatoes, and any number of other things too.
posted by tavegyl at 9:40 AM on April 30, 2012

This is a great cookbook:

posted by sngbk at 9:46 AM on April 30, 2012 [1 favorite]

Try a nice vinaigrette made with olive oil, salt and balsamic vinegar. Add basil and then it is like a thin acidic vegan pesto. Put it on everything.
posted by bdc34 at 9:49 AM on April 30, 2012

If tomato-based isn't too boring for you, I really like lentil sauces, especially for pasta but they also work for rice or just throwing over a plate of vegetables. There are a bunch of recipes out there but basically you want lentils, onion, garlic, canned tomatoes, tomato paste and/or puree and whatever other vegetables you feel like throwing in (zucchini, mushrooms, spinach, carrot...)
posted by lwb at 9:53 AM on April 30, 2012

I just made something last night that was surprisingly tasty. One can cannelini beans, 2+ cloves of garlic, 1/2 cup greek plain yogurt, one lemon, salt and pepper. Puree it. Enjoy. I'm going to play with this and figure out a way to turn it into a healthier ranch dressing. The tofu and tahini someone mentioned is tasty as well but I rarely have tofu handy, your fridge is obviously different. If you've never tried it, nutritional yeast has a salty, pseudo-cheesy flavor. If you're vegan, you already know this. If you are trying to eat less animal fats like me, this may be news to you.
posted by karlos at 9:55 AM on April 30, 2012 [2 favorites]

You could do a chimichurri: just whiz some lime juice or cider vinegar, olive oil, parsley, garlic, a bit of cilantro, salt, pepper and red pepper flakes. Being an omnivore I use it on meat (grilled beef or pork chops) as is traditional, but I can't imagine it wouldn't work with vegetable dishes.

Or a mango-habanero pico de gallo: Small-diced mango, red onion, red and green bell pepper, cilantro, mint, lime and lemon juices, salt, and as much finely chopped habanero pepper as you can tolerate. Let this sit in the fridge overnight. Again, I use this with meat (grilled fish in particular) but I'm sure it would work well with veggie dishes.
posted by deadmessenger at 10:02 AM on April 30, 2012 [1 favorite]

Vegan Cheesy Sauce (this is a recipe for "mac and cheese" but I always just make the cheese sauce. See below.)
Easy Creamy Curry Sauce

My method for easy vegan living: Slice up a whole zucchini, one carrot and/or whatever other vegetable you have. Steam. Pour sauce over vegetable pile. Consume. Add in some rice when you are feeling fancy.
posted by Katine at 10:27 AM on April 30, 2012 [1 favorite]

I came to recommend Romescu sauce like CookieNoise did above. Pepper / tomato + vinager and Olive oil (and other stuff) is delicious.
posted by garlic at 11:25 AM on April 30, 2012

Best answer: I highly recommend The Saucy Vegetarian - a lot of really versatile ideas and recipes.
posted by mkim at 1:38 PM on April 30, 2012 [3 favorites]

More of a condiment, I think, than a sauce, but mojo picon is a canarian sauce perhaps most familiarly found with their "wrinkly potatoes" ("papas arrugadas") dish, but it's a made from raw garlic, chilis, cumin, olive oil, and acid, usually from a citrus fruit but also vinegar. You can think of it, texture-wise, as a garlic-chili pesto, almost.

I'm an omnivore, but some of these sauces here look amazing! Good thread.
posted by Sunburnt at 1:53 PM on April 30, 2012 [1 favorite]

Toum and skordalia are both garlicky vegan sauces that come from the same oil-and-lemon-emulsion family that also includes mayonnaise. (Where normal mayo uses egg to hold the emulsion together, these guys use raw garlic and possibly some sort of starch, which is how they end up vegan.) They're not exactly low-fat if you just measure by volume, but the garlic flavor is so intense that it's easy to use them in moderation without feeling all self-denying about it.
posted by nebulawindphone at 3:24 PM on April 30, 2012 [1 favorite]

Lately I've been mixing up chopped garlic, ginger, some sort of chili or other, a small amount of toasted sesame oil, fairly generous amounts of rice wine vinegar, and either lemon or lime juice, and using it on just about everything from salads to steamed veggies & Chinese noodles. It's one of those things you sort of need to mess around with to get your preferred proportions, but it's very tasty and very low in fat, depending on how much sesame oil you use -- I use very little, just a few drops.
posted by skybluepink at 3:49 PM on April 30, 2012 [3 favorites]

Came in to suggest Saucy Vegetarian -- since someone else said it, I'll second it. Your library might have it if you don't want to buy, but it is an all-sauce, all-vegan, all-no cook recipe book and the recipes are great.
posted by pupstocks at 7:24 PM on April 30, 2012

I have a go-to quick "cheesy" sauce that I use with pasta and vegetables, and it is similar to the cashew-cheese sauce above. I started using this by modifying a vegan mac and cheese recipe, and I don't have any really good measurements, but I have had fun tweaking the spices and flavors. This is by no means as fancy as some of the other suggestions posted above.

* ~half cup soy milk - maybe a little more if it is too thick
* three big tablespoons of nutritional yeast
* one tablespoon (maybe a little more) olive oil
* one tablespoon of ground flax seed, which thickens it up

From there, I monkey around with various seasonings - sriracha sauce, tabasco, curry powder, ginger-garlic paste, black pepper, curry powder, garam masala, tamarind paste, soy/shoyu/tamari/bragg's sauce. I think once I was almost out of yeast, and I used a bunch of tahini, and it was awesome.

I use that to make a quick meal for myself with a cup of pasta and a cup of steamed peas or broccoli. I have totally screwed it up before, either over-seasoning, or combining flavors that I didn't like together, but it makes for a quick base to start from.
posted by glycolized at 1:35 PM on May 1, 2012

Lots of great recipe suggestions here.

In terms of adding more greens, steam some spinach (or other greens I guess), throw it in a blender with a little water, and then add it to your sauce. If it's something strongly flavoured like Indian or Mexican you won't taste it but you'll get an extra serving of greens with your meal.

And if you find yourself with an over-spiced sauce, add some finely grated carrot to sweeten and mellow out the sauce.

I also like to use pureed carrot or kumara (sweet potato) as a sauce base. Roasted garlic, caramelised onions, kumara, balsamic vinegar, and salt makes a nice gravy.
posted by sarahw at 12:37 AM on May 2, 2012 [1 favorite]

Thirding Saucy Vegetarian! The reason the book works for me is not that it has great recipes (it does), but because the author also gives you an explanation of what makes a sauce work, and what components you need to consider in going away from her recipes and into your own new territory (I wonder if ...).

I have asked a similar question before. It didn't have the specific vegan angle, but many of the answers would be appropriate anyway. Maybe it will be useful to you?
posted by whatzit at 3:48 AM on May 2, 2012 [1 favorite]

After reading this thread, I got Saucy Vegetarian from my library and have my own copy now on order. It also helps with your other goal of getting in more veggies, since each sauce recipe includes serving suggestions in the margin (just easy ones, like "brown rice and sauteed zucchini"). I guess that means I'm fourthing the book rec.
posted by catlet at 8:58 AM on May 10, 2012

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