When you go vegan, you worry about all the foods you will no longer be able to enjoy, especially those hug-in-a-bowl meals. And nothing says hug like béchamel sauce on top of your favourite bake.
Traditionally made with butter, milk and cheese, you would be forgiven for thinking that this is forever off the menu. But you would be wrong.
I’m going to share not one, but two recipes for dairy-free béchamel sauce. Both are made without vegan butter or cheese, for guilt-free comfort-eating with accessible and affordable ingredients!
What is vegan béchamel, and how is it used in cooking?
Béchamel is a classic French white sauce made by adding milk to a roux base (a mix of butter and flour) and cooking it until it is thick and creamy.
This versatile sauce can then be enhanced with herbs or cheese, and used in a variety of all-time favourite comfort dishes, such as macaroni cheese, cauliflower bake, carbonara, vegetable lasagna, gratins, ziti, and more.
What’s the difference between béchamel and white sauce?
Many people use both terms interchangeably since, by definition, béchamel is a white sauce.
However, for me, the difference lies in the ingredients used. My recipe for a vegan white sauce is made simply by blending soaked cashews with a handful of other ingredients and can be eaten without being cooked first. This recipe is also great if you want to keep your dish gluten-free.
On the other hand, my vegan béchamel recipes are made with flour and therefore need to be cooked.
Both white sauce and béchamel work well in pasta dishes, but béchamel is particularly useful in oven-baked dishes such as lasagne, moussaka, gratin and ziti.
What’s more, using a secret ingredient (which I’ll share below!), you can obtain that classic crispy and cheesy topping, without adding vegan cheese—taking your oven dishes to a new level and delighting both vegans and non-vegans. It’s a slightly thicker béchamel, however, makes up for it in flavour!
What’s the best plant milk to use in a béchamel sauce?
Soy milk works very well, since it has an almost savoury flavour, plenty of protein, and is also unlikely to curdle. You can also use oat milk, which has a subtle flavour that won’t interfere with the balance of your dish.
These are the two kinds of milk that I recommend using in these recipes. I’ve tested them both, and they’re both very interchangeable.
It’s also possible to use nut-based milks, such as almond or cashew—but make sure you choose brands that contain only water and nuts. Many nut-based milks also contain rice milk, which is sweet and won’t work very well in savoury dishes. Unsweetened plant milk will deliver the most authentic flavour.
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How to store vegan béchamel sauce
You can store béchamel for 4-5 days in the fridge in an airtight container. Simply allow to cool completely, then place some parchment paper directly in contact with the béchamel—this will stop it from forming a skin. Store in the fridge until you are ready to use it.
You can also freeze béchamel to use at a later date (within three months). Simply allow to cool completely, spoon into freezer-safe airtight containers, and freeze. When you’re ready to use it, defrost it slowly in the fridge overnight.
To reheat béchamel, place it in a saucepan and heat on low, stirring constantly. You may need to add a little more milk if it is too thick – especially the leek version.
Making a dairy-free béchamel sauce is not as complicated as you might think—even without using a ton of butter and cheese. It only takes around 10-15 minutes and a handful of ingredients. Once you’ve mastered it, your veggie bakes will be transformed!
Other recipes you’ll love:
- Creamy Vegan Cauliflower Bake (7 Ingredients)
- Creamy Vegan Potato Gratin
- Easy Vegan Baked Ziti
- Simple Creamy Vegan White Sauce
- How to Use Aquafaba in Your Cooking (+2 Recipes)
Recipe: Wholesome Vegan Lentil Lasagna
And there you have it—two easy ways to make a vegan béchamel sauce and add that comfort-food vibe to your meal. Let me know which one you make in the comments below!