Cheese addiction is srs bsns, people!
Beyond the physical withdrawal, there’s the psychological loss of a big staple of the typical vegetarian diet. Meghan has always been big on sauces, and taught me all about bechamels when we first started dating, so there was an actual sense of loss for us both when we swore off of dairy. Gone were the days of smothering pasta in alfredo sauce...or were they?
We came across discussions about cashew-based cream sauces somewhere or other, and started experimenting. It took a few tries, but we now have a great all-purpose vegan cream sauce to use in place of traditional bechamels, and wanted to share it here. This one is pretty straightforward, which is great, since you’ll be seeing it referenced often.
1 C. raw, unsalted cashews (whole or pieces)
1 C. water
½-¾ C. vegetable stock (recipe here)
1-2 T. olive oil
½ T. dried basil
½ t. dried oregano
1-2 T. nutritional yeast
Salt and pepper to taste
1-2 T. chopped garlic (optional)
Prep time: 10-15 min
Yield: 1 ½-2 C. sauce
Quick-soak the cashews by putting them in a bowl with the water and microwaving for 5 min. No microwave? No problem - boil in 1 C. water for ~10 min. or until water is milky and cashews have softened noticeably. Drain cashews while prepping the rest of the ingredients in a food processor or immersion blender container. We prefer using an immersion blender, as it quickly processes liquid-based ingredients with little mess and easy clean-up, but use whatever you have available.
Pour ½ C. vegetable stock, olive oil, basil, oregano, nutritional yeast, salt and pepper (start conservatively with these) into your mixing container, cut your lemon in half and squeeze the juice in. Add cashews and process until smooth, 2-3 min. If your sauce looks too thick or isn’t processing well, add more veggie stock; if it’s too runny, continue to process until it’s texture is very smooth, then pour into a saucepan and cook on medium heat for a few minutes, stirring constantly. The cashews will absorb the excess liquid and your sauce will thicken. Be sure to taste your sauce after each seasoning so you can best pair it with your palate and dish. From our experience, the hard part is NOT tasting the sauce while preparing!
This sauce is incredibly versatile, and goes great over pasta, as a general-purpose bechamel, and can even be used as a replacement for eggs in savory dishes like spanakopita!
What do you use it for?