Going vegan can be a great way to make a healthy change by adding more vegetables and plant-based proteins to your diet. To fully embrace a vegan diet, you need to cut out anything that is made with animal products, including meat, fish, dairy, eggs and even honey.
If a diet full of kale and quinoa sounds a little lackluster, don’t despair. A good sauce or dressing can enhance even the blandest block of tofu. And while many sauces contain eggs, dairy or honey, as resourceful plant-eaters know, there are several ways to substitute vegan ingredients (aquafaba anyone?) for non-vegan ones.
And while we’re not here to convince you that seitan bacon tastes EXACTLY like the real thing, we can give you nine vegan sauce recipes – some of which are naturally vegan and some which rely on substitutions – that will satisfy your cravings and jazz up your kelp noodles. Omitting animal products doesn’t have to mean omitting flavor. So grab your blender, prepare a plate of fresh veggies and get ready to enjoy.
1. Chipotle Aioli
What’s not to love about a creamy, salty, spicy sauce that can be made with only five ingredients? Soaking cashews in water for an hour then throwing them in a blender creates a creamy base, while adding chipotle peppers and adobo sauce allows you to bring just as much heat as your heart desires. This aioli is perfect on sandwiches, fresh veggies or mixed in with your favorite potato salad recipe to give it a little extra kick. Trust us, you won’t even miss the mayo. Get the recipe here.
2. Green Goddess Dressing:
Green goddess dressing is a staple for any health food junkie. While you can always substitute vegan mayonnaise and non-dairy yogurt in a traditional recipe, this avocado-based tastes fresh and summery thanks to lemon juice and herbs. Great on steamed veggies, quinoa bowls, and pasta salads, this green goddess dressing lives up to its virtuous name. Get the recipe here.
You may think that jar of pesto in your refrigerator is already vegan, but chances are it secretly has Parmesan cheese in it. This dairy-free recipe features nutritional yeast as a substitute for grated Parmesan. It may sound weird, but nutritional yeast is a popular vegan substitute that really does mimic the taste and texture of cheese. Slather this healthier pesto over pasta or bake it into breadsticks or on pizza for a truly savory treat. Get the recipe here.
4. Barbecue Sauce
You may not have realized that most barbecue sauce recipes are naturally vegan (the words barbecue and vegan don’t typically go together). While we can’t promise that slathering this sauce on tofu will make you forget all about pulled pork and short ribs, it will remind you of your favorite BBQ joint thanks to the savory-sweet combination of brown sugar, Worcestershire sauce (which, is typically not vegan, so make sure to get an organic + vegan brand) and paprika. Get our Barbecue Sauce recipe.
5. (Mac and) Cheese Sauce
Who knew the secret to a good non-dairy cheese sauce is root vegetables? Starches from carrots and potatoes give this sauce the thick gooey consistency that makes it perfect for a hearty mac and cheese. Drizzle it over broccoli to deliver a (secret) double dose of vegetables to even the pickiest eater. Get the recipe here.
6. Miso Ginger Sauce
Miso, a paste made from fermented soybeans, packs concentrated flavor and nutrition, making it the ideal base for a sauce to add to your Japanese-inspired dishes. With ginger to brighten the miso’s umami flavor, this sauce is perfect for noodles, tofu and stir-fries. While many miso ginger sauce recipes use honey, this recipe doesn’t call for any extra sweetness. If you want to sweeten it to taste, add agave or maple syrup to keep it vegan. Get the recipe here.
7. Romesco Sauce
Red peppers, paprika and garlic give this recipe a rich flavor while almonds add a tiny crunch that you can sink your teeth into. Most recipes for this savory Spanish sauce are naturally vegan, although to be sure with this one, use bread that doesn’t have egg in it or omit the bread entirely. Romesco is great on pita slices, potato wedges, or as a standalone dip for veggies. Get our Romesco Sauce recipe.
8. Ranch Dressing
Ranch dressing, which often contains all kinds of dairy, can be made vegan by using non-dairy substitutions like soymilk and store-bought vegan mayonnaise. (You can also make your own vegan mayo https://www.chowhound.com/recipes/basic-raw-vegan-mayonnaise-29242). Parsley, garlic and onion powders give this recipe a tangy taste that will enhance any salad or vegetable dish. Get the recipe here.
9. Chocolate Sauce
Of course we saved the best for last! Embracing a vegan diet doesn’t mean being 100% virtuous 100% of the time. This vegan chocolate sauce recipe uses coconut milk and coconut oil in the place of traditional dairy like cream to sweeten the bittersweet cocoa powder. Of course this sauce tastes great on fresh fruit and sweets, but hey, if you want to put it on more than just desserts, we won’t tell anyone… Get the recipe here.