This recipe is a firm favorite in my household. It makes a good quantity, is easily scalable (if you have a big enough pan), keeps well in the fridge, freezes well, and works brilliantly in pretty much any recipe where you’d traditionally use a béchamel or classic creamy sauce.
Here are a few of the dishes I’ve tried this in, and in each of them it worked brilliantly!
You can add a bunch of chopped fresh dill and half a chopped nori sheet or 2-3 tsp of seaweed flakes, frozen peas and smoked, pressed tofu cubes. Add chopped chestnut mushrooms (just before the use-by date is best) fried lightly in vegan butter, to make the base of an ocean pie. Top with mashed potato (with steamed kale added, for extra tasty texture) and bake at 180–200°C until golden brown.
This sauce also works as a versatile savory sauce with most other ingredients. Tossed through some pasta with a few steamed vegetables (asparagus or cavolo nero are firm favorites), a handful of chopped chestnuts and a good grating of vegan cheese/nutritious yeast, it makes for a lovely, satisfying yet light meal.
Fry some onion, pressed tofu, thinly sliced mushrooms (chestnut or Portobello are good) and thyme in a pan. When they start to get nicely cooked and release their earthy juices, spoon over enough of the sauce to coat everything. Add some chopped fresh parsley, grated zest of an unwaxed lemon and seasoning (a teaspoon of miso paste would also work well in this dish). Spoon into individual ramekins, or into a pie dish. Spray a few sheets of phyllo pastry with vegan butter, and arrange on top of the pie(s) in an artistic/messy cool way. Bake as per the phyllo packet instructions, until the pastry is brown and crispy, and serve with roast or mashed potatoes and broccoli (or any veg—let’s face it, that sauce will go great with anything!).
But one of my favorite uses for this sauce, is as the white sauce in a lentil lasagne, sprinkled with grated Prosciano (vegan parmesan) or vegan mature cheddar (as per the photo below)!
And if you’re not slimming, you could make this recipe with rapeseed oil or vegan butter—I do like the lightness that using an oil spray brings, though.
Vegan Béchamel Sauce (Classic French Cream Sauce)
- 2 small to medium onions, diced
- 2 cloves of garlic (1 large and 1 small), peeled and finely chopped or grated
- 1 head of cauliflower, washed, leaves removed and cut into florets and stalk
- low-calorie oil spray (I use butter-flavored Frylight)
- 1 tbsp veggie bouillon or stock powder (or more to taste)
- 1-2 tsp turmeric
- 2 bay leaves (or more to taste)
- 1 large carrot, washed, peeled, finely sliced or grated
- to taste mustard or mustard powder
- 600 ml oat milk (or unsweetened plant milk of choice)
1. Fill and boil a kettle.
2. Cover the bottom of a large saucepan or stockpot with 1-calorie oil spray, and add the chopped onions and bayleaves.
3. Sauté the chopped onions on a low heat, to soften rather than brown them. If the mixture gets too hot or too dry, add splashes of hot water from the kettle.
4. When onions are beginning to soften, add the garlic and carrot, and stir. Saute for a couple of minutes, stirring regularly to stop the garlic from burning, but letting the carrot soften a bit, and start to release its juices.
5. Add the cauliflower, stir everything up, and when the cauliflower is coated in the onions etc, pour in enough hot water to almost cover everything. Pop on the lid.
6. Bring to the boil with the lid on, then add bouillon/stock cube, turmeric and plant milk. Stir to combine.
7. Turn the heat down slightly and simmer, with the lid off, until the cauli is tender but not mushy, and the liquid has reduced by around half.
8. Turn off the heat and use a wooden spoon to break down the cauliflower florets into smaller pieces.
9. Remove the bay leaves and leave the mixture to cool.
10. Use a stick blender to make a really smooth, thick sauce. You can add a bit more butter for extra creaminess, half a teaspoon of mustard powder (or to taste), taste, and season with salt and pepper. Add more stock powder/cube (I generally use 1-2 teaspoons of stock powder) at this stage, and more water if the sauce is too thick. If it’s too thin, heat it up and simmer gently whilst continuously stirring (to stop it catching on the bottom), until it thickens up to a lovely thick velvety texture.
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Photo: Ema Melanaphy