There are numerous reasons why people stay away from dairy. Whether they are lactose intolerant or have regular skin breakouts, we know at least one person who cannot consume it. If you are one of those people, we recognize it can be very tough to skip out on all the yummy foods that have creamy sauces. Luckily, there are some solutions in the foodie world that will have you second-guessing whether your meal contains dairy or not. From macaroni and cheese to creamy curries, you can have all your favorite creamy foods with the help of these amazing ingredients. Here are five of our favorite dairy-free sauce ingredients, what flavors they pair well with and some recipes to help you add them to dishes.
1. Coconut cream or milk
Coconut cream or milk, which usually comes in a can, is the perfect replacement for the creamiest form of dairy: whipping cream. The thick cream of coconut has the consistency of butter and is white as whipping cream. It has a slight coconut flavor but can be masked by potent spices. We love it paired with South Asian flavors such as turmeric, ground ginger, Thai chili and coriander.
Try it: Want to make a creamy coconut curry? Whip up this “30-minute Coconut Curry” recipe from Minimalist Baker.
2. Dairy-free yogurt
The yogurt industry has come so far in just the past few years! What used to be a product dominated by cow’s milk is now diversified with plant-based options such as soy, almond and cashew milk. You can even find Greek-style almond milk yogurt, which is a perfect ingredient in sauces. Love onion dip? Mix Greek-style almond milk yogurt with French onion powder and pair it with your favorite veggies. Want a nice sauce for fish? Blend cashew yogurt with lemon and dill.
Try it: Pair this “Dairy-Free Vegan Tzatziki Sauce” from The Spruce with chopped vegetables for your next snack, or add it to the top of some fresh grilled halibut.
3. Nuts and seeds
Probably the most famous sauce made with nuts and seeds is pesto, which is typically made with pine nuts but can also be made with everything from almonds to pumpkin seeds. While delicious, pesto is not always super creamy! Want a creamier base made with nuts? Look to cashews. Due to their higher fat content and creamy texture, cashews are the perfect base for sauces and can be adapted to any flavor. We recommend nutritional yeast and sriracha sauce for a spicy vegan cashew cheese sauce.
Try it: The options are endless when it comes to adding flavor to this “Five-Minute Cashew Sauce” by Pinch of Yum. Use it as a base for some of your favorite casseroles!
4. Silken tofu
Silken tofu is the O.G. ingredient to add a creamy texture to vegan recipes from chocolate mousse to smoothies, but not many know it can also be used to make sauces. We recommend pairing it with Japanese flavors such as miso, mirin and tamari and added to soba or udon noodles. Or, use it as a base for creamy pasta dishes.
Try it: Miss creamy alfredo pasta? Try this “Vegan Alfredo Sauce” recipe by Silk for your next pasta night.
5. Canned winter squash
Great news! Pumpkin can be used for more than just lattes and pies. It also can be used for creamy sauces along with its winter squash friends. Most winter squashes have the same color profiles as cheese, so it can fool some of your friends into thinking it contains the real stuff.
Try it: We love the American classic macaroni and cheese and recommend making this “Vegan Pumpkin Mac N Cheeze” recipe by Oh She Glows. It is oh so creamy!
So much inspiration to bring creamy foods back into your life, and lucky you… many of these dishes are heart healthy! As you can see, the majority of these ingredients are low in fat, cholesterol and sodium. A win-win for everyone! Don’t think you need to try these just because you don’t do well with dairy; these are healthy substitutes for all to enjoy.