How to Make Vegan Béchamel Sauce (Two Ways)

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.

Baked Cauliflower Florets with a Leek Béchamel Sauce

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!

A Leek Béchamel Sauce

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.

A Traditional Vegan Béchamel Sauce

This post may contain affiliate links, for which we earn a small commission at no additional cost to you. Read our full disclosure here

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:

  1. Creamy Vegan Cauliflower Bake (7 Ingredients)
  2. Creamy Vegan Potato Gratin
  3. Easy Vegan Baked Ziti
  4. Simple Creamy Vegan White Sauce
  5. How to Use Aquafaba in Your Cooking (+2 Recipes)

If you try these recipes, let me know! Would love for you to leave a comment and rating below. If you want to go that extra mile, tag us on Instagram or share your photo of the recipe on Pinterest

Traditional Vegan Béchamel Sauce

Traditional Vegan Béchamel Sauce

Yield: 3.5 cups
Cook Time: 20 minutes
Total Time: 20 minutes

This vegan béchamel sauce is the one to use when you’re after the closest thing to a traditional one. Add one magic ingredient and you obtain a crispy, cheesy topping to your oven-baked dishes.

Ingredients

  • 3 cups (750ml) unsweetened oat milk
  • 1 bay leaf, torn in half
  • Pinch of ground nutmeg
  • 1 tsp whole peppercorns
  • 1 tsp good-quality salt
  • 6 tbsp (55ml) olive oil
  • 5 level tbsp (43g) all-purpose flour
  • ⅓ cup nutritional yeast

For the topping:

  • 2 tbsp tapioca starch
  • 4 tbsp water

Instructions

    1. Place oat milk, bay leaf, nutmeg, peppercorns and salt in a small pan, and heat on low-medium heat for 10 mins—this will allow the flavours to infuse into the milk. Take care not to boil.
    2. To make the roux, heat the olive oil on medium heat until warm. Add the flour and whisk. Keep whisking for around a minute, this will begin cooking the flour. 
    3. Strain the milk mixture into a pouring jug and add it to the roux GRADUALLY. This is around ¼- ½ cup every minute until the mixture is smooth before adding more milk and mixing again - repeat until you’ve used all the milk. 
    4. Keep cooking on medium heat and whisking until any lumps have gone and the sauce is thick—this will take 10 minutes.
    5. Add the nutritional yeast and whisk in. Take off heat.
    6. Taste and add a pinch more salt if needed.
    7. Your sauce is now ready to be layered in your lasagna, moussaka or other oven-baked dishes.

    For the topping:

    1. Reserve around 1/2 cup of the béchamel to create the crispy cheesy topping.
    2. While your dish is baking, mix together the tapioca starch and water until smooth. Whisk this mixture into the reserved béchamel until it is all well combined. 
    3. When you have 10 minutes of bake time left, remove the dish from the oven, pour on the béchamel & tapioca mix, and bake for around 8 minutes.
    4. Turn the oven off, move the dish to the top shelf, and grill until the top has browned to your liking.

Did you make this recipe?

Tag @theminimalistvegan on Instagram and follow us to see the latest!

Lasagna with The Traditional Béchamel Recipe

Recipe: Wholesome Vegan Lentil Lasagna

Leek Béchamel Sauce

Leek Béchamel Sauce

Yield: 3.5 cups
Prep Time: 3 minutes
Cook Time: 20 minutes
Total Time: 23 minutes

Want to sneak some veggies into your meal? This leek béchamel adds a beautiful depth of flavour and a rich, thick sauce to make any dish amazing.

Ingredients

  • 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 large leek- both green and white parts, finely chopped
  • 4 level tbsp (35g) all-purpose flour
  • 2 ¾ cups (665 ml) unsweetened soy milk
  • ¾ cup nutritional yeast
  • 1 ½ tsp salt
  • 1/8 tsp black pepper

Instructions

    1. Heat the olive oil in a medium-sized pan; gently frying the leek until soft and just beginning to caramelize.
    2. Add the flour and stir until combined. Keep stirring for a minute with the heat on low, allowing the flour to cook.
    3. Pour the milk into a jug for easy use and add it to the roux GRADUALLY. This is around ¼- ½ cup every minute until the mixture is smooth before adding more milk and mixing again. Repeat until you’ve used all the milk. 
    4. Bring to the boil, then turn down the heat. Simmer for 5 minutes, stirring constantly. Take off the heat and mix in the nutritional yeast. This will thicken the sauce even more.
    5. Using a hand blender, blend until smooth. Alternatively, allow to cool slightly before transferring to a high-speed blender and blending until smooth. 
    6. Add salt and pepper, taste, and adjust seasoning if needed.
    7. Your sauce is now ready to be layered in your lasagne or other oven-baked dishes. See cauliflower bake above for some inspiration.

Did you make this recipe?

Tag @theminimalistvegan on Instagram and follow us to see the latest!

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!

Interested in more?

Every Friday, we send a free newsletter to subscribers with our latest content. Enter your email below for fresh recipes and articles delivered straight to your inbox.

Note: we believe that your email inbox is a sacred place and promise to never misuse your information or send you spam.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.