Creamy vegan bechamel sauce recipe transports you to the best plant-based, dairy-free white sauce in luxury with 10 ingredients, easy cooking, and rave reviews.
Bechamel, basic white sauce, is one of those staple recipes that every cook should have in their arsenal or back pocket. It’s delicious over pasta or roasted veggies. But bechamel can also serve as the base sauce for more elaborate concoctions such as lasagna or even vegan mac and cheese or casseroles.
Traditional bechamel, classic white sauce, is one of the mother sauces in French cuisine because it can serve as a foundation for other sauces. It’s considered a traditional milk sauce and is made with a combination of all-purpose flour, dairy butter, and milk as the main ingredients.
This vegan version of the classic requires 10 simple ingredients (or less) and lands squarely in the healthy category. This means it's made without oil (including no vegan butter) and no flour. Many vegan bechamel recipes use cauliflower or cashews. We’re using both because we’ve discovered this is the healthiest version that is the best tasting.
If you are rightfully asking how we're coming up with a creamy sauce, hang on. We've got a few tricks under our aprons and spoiler alert – it's easy, no matter your level of cooking expertise.
Cauliflower – Steamed cauliflower is a key recipe ingredient. It helps to thicken the sauce and gives the bonus of nutrition and fiber. This is a great way to eat cauliflower. With the other ingredients, you won't end up with an overwhelming cauliflower flavor.
Cashews – You don’t need a lot of cashews to create a creamy sauce with a luxurious texture. Just ¼ of a cup (more if you want).
Onion and garlic – The combination of diced onions and garlic, lightly sauteed, gives vegan bechamel a bit of buttery, depth of flavor.
Lemon juice – Believe it or not, but when lemon juice is added in moderation, it adds a slight, sharp, cheesy flavor.
Nutritional yeast – The flavor of nutritional yeast is savory, cheesy, and salty. It’s also a great vegan source of B12.
Nutmeg – A pinch of sweet nutmeg fresh grated or ⅛ of a teaspoon of ground is often used in bechamel sauce, and we aren’t making an exception here.
White pepper – White pepper is often used in bechamel for its slightly mellower flavor. You can use ground black pepper with similar results.
Plant milk – I usually use oat milk for this recipe because it makes a creamy blend. However, you can use almond milk, soy milk, or whatever suits your fancy.
There is a combination of 3 processes needed for making vegan bechamel sauce – Steaming, sautéing, and blending.
- First, use a steamer basket for cooking the cauliflower and softening the cashews. This is one time when it's beneficial for the cauliflower to be slightly past fork tender. This doesn't require the precision you need for 'lightly steaming' for something like a side dish. It should be threatening to fall apart.
- We steam the cashews to soften them. This avoids soaking and has the same effect except for your time and another bowl. Just drop the cashews in and let them cook with the cauliflower.
- While the cauliflower steams, just a small skillet to cook the onions. Heat the pan to medium heat first, then add the onions. Be sure to stir them constantly so that they don't stick. Use a wooden spoon or a non-abrasive utensil to keep the onions from sticking to the bottom of the pan. Adjust to low heat if the onions start to get too dark. The onions should be soft and translucent, not brown. Brown onions will discolor the sauce.
- Cooking onions release their sugars, making them less sharp. For the exact same reason, right at the end, add the garlic to the pan. Let the garlic cook for about 30 seconds.
- Promptly remove the cooked onions and garlic from the pan and add them to a food processor or blender. Add the lemon juice, nutritional yeast, nutmeg, and pepper.
- When the cauliflower is tender, be sure to press it a bit to release any excess water. You can also transfer it to a colander, but there shouldn’t be too much moisture.
- Add the cauliflower and cashews to the food processor or blender. I like to blend the ingredients before starting to add plant milk. This helps the cashews to break down and gives you a sense of the texture.
- Add plant milk starting with 1 cup. Then blend, add more plant milk and repeat the process until you have a smooth, creamy sauce with a consistency that you like.
- Before adding salt, be sure to taste the sauce. Nutritional yeast can taste quite salty. As a final whirl in the blender, adjust the pepper or lemon juice to your liking.
- You may want to heat the sauce in a medium saucepan or skillet after blending, depending on what you are serving it with. It can cool off quickly. Skip this process for oven pasta dishes or veggie bakes.
If the sauce is too thick after adding the plant milk, try heating the sauce in a pan for a couple of minutes. If this doesn’t help, add a few more cashews to the blender. You can also add a teaspoon of cornstarch or flour.
Cauliflower bechamel sauce freezes well. Be sure to let the sauce cool thoroughly, then add it to an airtight container or a freezer bag. After you thaw the sauce, let it simmer in a pan so that it heats and thickens.
Bechamel is a basic sauce, so you can flavor it depending on your preferences and how you want to use it. For a bit of spice, consider adding crushed red chili, cayenne pepper, or paprika. A teaspoon of dry mustard powder will give it a creamy cheese flavor. Add more nutmeg or a pinch of cinnamon or allspice will make it warm and sweet.
To make a mushroom bechamel, prepare vegan bechamel sauce as directed, then sauté sliced mushrooms, allowing their moisture to evaporate as they cook. Then add the bechamel sauce. Serve over your favorite pasta or grain.
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Creamy Vegan Bechamel Sauce (simple plant-based white sauce)
Creamy vegan bechamel sauce transports you to the best dairy-free white sauce in luxury with 10 ingredients, easy cooking, and rave reviews.
- Prep Time: 10 minutes
- Cook Time: 30 minutes
- Total Time: 40 minutes
- Yield: 6 1x
- Category: Sauces
- Method: Steam/Blend
- Cuisine: French
- Diet: Vegan
- 1 head cauliflower cut into florets
- ¼ cup raw cashews
- 1 medium onion, diced
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 tsp. lemon juice
- ¼ cup nutritional yeast
- ⅛ tsp. nutmeg (a pinch)
- ¼ tsp. white pepper (you can use black pepper as well)
- 2-3 cups plant milk (I used oat, but any you prefer will work
1 tsp. salt (optional)
- Steam the cauliflower. Heat a medium pot with enough water that it doesn't overflow the steamer basket. Bring the water to boiling. Add the cauliflower florets and cashews. Cover the pot and cook the cauliflower until it is super tender and nearly falling apart. 20 minutes.
- Sauté the onions and garlic. Heat a small skillet over medium heat and add the onions. Stir the onions consistently until they are soft and translucent, not brown. Add the garlic at the end and stir it for 30 seconds.
- Blend the sauce. Transfer the onions and garlic to a food processor or blender. Add the lemon juice, nutritional yeast, nutmeg, and white pepper. When the cauliflower is done, press it to dry it out. You can also transfer it to a colander for this purpose. Add the cauliflower and cashews to the food processor. Blend everything for a few minutes.
- Add plant milk. Add 1 cup of plant milk, then continue blending. Add another cup or more until the sauce is smooth, creamy, and has a consistency you like.
- Adjust the flavor. Taste the sauce and add salt, more pepper, or lemon juice if desired.
- If you decide the sauce is too thin after adding the plant milk, add more cashews (ground or soaked) or a teaspoon of cornstarch or flour. Heating the sauce in a pan on the stove over low heat will also help to thicken it.
- Cauliflower bechamel sauce freezes well. Be sure to let the sauce cool thoroughly, then add it to an airtight container or freezer bag. After you thaw the sauce, let it simmer in a pan so that it heats and thickens.
- Bechamel is a basic sauce, so you can flavor it depending on your preferences and how you want to use it. For a bit of spice, consider adding crushed red chili, cayenne pepper, or paprika. A teaspoon of dry mustard powder will give it a creamy cheese flavor. Additional nutmeg or a pinch of cinnamon or allspice will make it warm and sweet.
Keywords: vegan bechamel sauce, white sauce, cauliflower, cashews, plant-based bechamel
Made this tonight and it’s an interesting and yummy combination of ingredients- I didn’t think it would be so nice. Wondering however how long I can keep it in the freezer for and whether I just defrost on the evening when I’m making my dish?!??
Thanks for your so kind comments. I am happy to hear you enjoyed the bechamel as much as we do. I've had great success freezing it for up to 3 months. I usually take it out and defrost it before reheating. It's also great over rice or with vegetables, so you can be creative. Thanks for the kind reply.
Hello. Il new on this vegan journey, but I made this white sause and I was surprised of how tasty it is. Thank you. Have you ever tried it for oven stew or dishes like gratin ?
I'm so happy you enjoyed this recipe. We love this sauce as a base for a veggie stew. Peas and mushrooms are particularly good as are red peppers. Thanks for leaving this comment. It is much appreciated. My best to you on your new eating adventure.
Thanks for this - we love this recipe the more we make it.