Learn how to make a sauce with healthy vegan ingredients. Here we use a base of cashews. Then we'll build the flavors based on your exact tastes. Fun!
If you've been hanging with me for a while, you know I'm a HUGE fan of vegan sauces. A local paper once wrote an article about me and they called it Saucy Sassy.
YES, that describes me to a T. :)
It's important to learn how to make easy sauces from scratch for many reasons.
Firstly, they add so much last-minute flavor to any dish you whip up. Secondly, it helps to boost the nutrition of your dish when you make sauces based on plant-based whole foods. And last but certainly not least, it can be difficult to find vegan sauces on your store shelf. So learn how to make it yourself! (Hey, that rhymes!)
First off, the sauce can be changed up each and every time. And very easily at that.
There are MANY foods you can use as a base for your sauce. One of my old standby faves is cashews. Why? Because they're a healthy fat that you need, and they whip into a very smooth and creamy sauce.
My next step is to add ingredients that will balance the flavor of the sauce. These are sweet, sour, bitter, spicy/pungent and salty.
But before you go there, check out the flavors that will match with your finished dish. Since I was making a Quinoa and Spinach Wrap, I looked over the Spinach Flavor Matches, but I could have also zeroed in on the Quinoa Flavor Matches and the results would have been just as fantastic. Just choose one main ingredient from your finished dish to focus on, as this will be sufficient.
So, armed with my Spinach Flavor Matches, and keeping flavor balancing (sweet, sour, bitter, spicy/pungent, salty) in mind, here's how my sauce came together.
SWEET - You can use any sweetener you like here, such as maple syrup or a granulated sweetener. I like coconut nectar because it doesn't cause your blood sugar to spike -- very helpful for those who have blood sugar problems or are trying to lose weight. :)
SOUR - I like to add a foodie acid, such as lemon juice or apple cider vinegar. But scour your cupboards for other ideas, such as sauerkraut juice, for instance.
BITTER - Freshly ground black pepper is always a good bitter ingredient that most people have on hand.
SPICY/PUNGENT - Garlic is sort of my go-to for a pungent flavor, so I added a clove
SALTY - I used sea salt here, but you can use Tamari, soy sauce, miso -- any ingredient with an overriding salty taste.
And to add a little zip, I added some green olives since olives are a great match for spinach too. And upon noticing that horseradish is a flavor that matches well with spinach, I tossed some into my sauce to "up" the spicy side of things.
Some nutritional yeast really helps it to have more of a "cheesy" flavor.
And then water is added at the end until I was happy with the thickness -- it should be thin enough to pour, yet thick enough to give it a rich, yummy mouth feel.
Sea salt and pepper finish it off.
Of course, you're going to taste your sauce as you go along. Then, at the end give it another taste -- does it need anything? More sweetener? More of a sour taste? Always remember, there's no right or wrong way to do this. Just follow these few simple ideas with a big dose of intuition and you'll find success.
Here's what my finished sauce looked like when all was said and done...
Tangy Horseradish Sauce
2 large handfuls cashews (about 1 1/2 cups)
1/3 cup nutritional yeast
1 clove garlic
2 large pimento-stuffed green olives
1 Tablespoon coconut nectar
1 Tablespoon lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon horseradish
Water, to desired consistency
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
Add all ingredients to a blender, and process until completely smooth.
Hope you've found this primer on how to quickly and easily make a vegan sauce helpful. As you can see, you don't need a recipe, just a couple tools to help you along.
Be sure to visit the Vegan Cooking article for a list of main ingredients (veggies, grains, beans, fruits) that contain the Flavor Matches you'll need to assist you in your sauce creation.
And be sure to check out Get Sauced With Sass! which teaches you how to create homemade rich and creamy sauces without recipes. When you learn how to use the ingredients you have on hand to make a sauce any time you want or need one—in minutes!—your meals will never be boring again.
p.s. Some people wonder how you know which ingredients fall into the sweet, salty, bitter, spicy/pungent and sour categories? Understandable, of course! When you're cooking freestyle, these are important skills you need to get under your belt, and this is a perfect example of the type of thing we teach in our cooking courses. If you're fairly new to cooking a whole food plant-based diet, I recommend our class Vegan FUNdamentals to get started with flavoring your meals without measuring! You'll have fun, I promise!