Going vegan can be a great way to make a healthy change by adding more vegetables and plant-based proteins to your diet. To fully embrace a vegan diet, you need to cut out anything that is made with animal products, including meat, fish, dairy, eggs, and even honey.
If a diet full of kale and quinoa sounds a little lackluster, don’t despair. A good sauce or dressing can enhance even the blandest block of tofu or tempeh. And while many standard sauces contain eggs, dairy, or honey, as resourceful plant-eaters know, there are several ways to substitute vegan ingredients (aquafaba anyone?) for non-vegan ones.
We’re not here to convince you that seitan bacon tastes EXACTLY like the real thing, but we can give you a dozen vegan sauce recipes–some of which are naturally vegan and some of which rely on clever substitutions—that will satisfy your cravings and jazz up your kelp noodles. Omitting animal products doesn’t have to mean omitting flavor. So grab your blender, prepare a plate of fresh veggies, and get ready to enjoy.
The perfect way to use up fresh herbs—and a great reason to start growing herbs at home—this vibrant green sauce is great on grilled veggies (though traditionally it’s paired with meat). You can use a blend of parsley and oregano, or parsley and cilantro, depending on what you have and prefer. Get our Chimichurri Sauce recipe.
What’s not to love about a creamy, salty, spicy sauce that can be made with only five ingredients? Soaking cashews in water for an hour then throwing them in a blender creates a creamy base, while adding chipotle peppers and adobo sauce allows you to bring just as much heat as your heart desires. This aioli is perfect on sandwiches, fresh veggies, or mixed in with your favorite potato salad recipe to give it a little extra kick. Trust us, you won’t even miss the mayo. (But if you’re looking for a shortcut, just doctor some store-bought vegan mayo with spices and lemon juice.) Get the Vegan Chipotle Aioli recipe.
Green goddess dressing is a staple for any health food junkie. While you can always substitute vegan mayonnaise and non-dairy yogurt in a traditional recipe, this avocado-based version tastes fresh and summery thanks to lemon juice and herbs. Great on steamed veggies, quinoa bowls, and pasta salads, this green goddess dressing lives up to its virtuous name. (You can also try a version based on silken tofu if you’re fresh out of ripe avocados.) Get the Vegan Green Goddess Dressing recipe.
You may think that jar of pesto in your refrigerator is already vegan, but chances are it secretly has parmesan cheese in it. This dairy-free recipe features nutritional yeast as a substitute for grated Parmesan. It may sound weird, but nutritional yeast is a popular vegan substitute that really does mimic the taste and texture of cheese (so try it in vegan queso and vegan mac and cheese too). Slather this healthier pesto over pasta or bake it into breadsticks or on pizza for a truly savory treat. Get the Vegan Pesto recipe.
You may not have realized that most barbecue sauce recipes are naturally vegan (the words barbecue and vegan don’t typically go together). While we can’t promise that slathering this sauce on tofu will make you forget all about pulled pork and short ribs, it will remind you of your favorite BBQ joint thanks to the savory-sweet combination of brown sugar, paprika, and Worcestershire sauce—which is typically not vegan, so make sure to get an organic and vegan brand (or make your own vegan Worcestershire). Get our Barbecue Sauce recipe (and ignore the fact that it is pictured on pulled pork…or just pretend it’s pulled jackfruit!).
Who knew the secret to a good non-dairy cheese sauce is root vegetables? Starches from carrots and potatoes give this sauce the thick gooey consistency that makes it perfect for a hearty and healthy mac and cheese. You can also drizzle it over broccoli to deliver a (secret) double dose of vegetables to even the pickiest eater. Get the Superfood Vegan Cheese Sauce recipe.
Miso, a paste made from fermented soybeans, packs concentrated flavor and nutrition (probiotics for days), making it the ideal base for a sauce to add to your Japanese-inspired dishes. With ginger to brighten the miso’s umami flavor, this sauce is perfect for noodles, tofu, and stir-fries. Just be sure you substitute agave or maple syrup for the honey in order to keep it vegan! Get the Miso Ginger Sauce recipe.
Red peppers, smoked paprika, and garlic give this recipe a rich flavor while almonds add a tiny crunch that you can sink your teeth into. Most recipes for this savory Spanish sauce are naturally vegan, although to be sure with this one, use bread that doesn’t have egg in it or omit the bread entirely. Romesco is great on pita slices, potato wedges (or our Vegan Kale and Potato Mash recipe, pictured above), or as a standalone dip for veggies. Get our Romesco Sauce recipe.
Ranch dressing, which often contains all kinds of dairy, can be made vegan by blending cashews for the base, or, as in this recipe, simply using non-dairy substitutions like soy, nut, or oat milk and and store-bought vegan mayonnaise (you can make your own vegan mayo if you like). Parsley, garlic, onion powder, paprika, and apple cider vinegar give this dressing a tangy taste that will enhance any salad or vegetable dish. Get the Vegan Ranch Dressing recipe.
Vegan “honey” mustard sauce is as simple as mixing mustard with the liquid sweetener of your choice, like maple syrup or agave nectar. Dip pretzels, faux chicken nuggets, or whatever else you like, or thin it out with a little vinegar for a salad dressing. Switch up the type of mustard too, but note that most Dijon mustard is not vegan! Get the Vegan Honey Mustard recipe.
There are many versions of vegan Caesar, but they all have two things in common: plenty of garlic and no anchovies, which might be a plus even to omnivores who remain suspicious of the salty little fishes. You don’t have to stick to salad with this one, either; drizzle it on wraps, bowls, and sandwiches, and use it for dipping fresh or fried veggies. Get the Vegan Caesar Dressing recipe.
Our peanut sauce may not be authentic, but it is delicious—and vegan. Made with creamy peanut butter, hoisin sauce, lime juice, soy sauce (swap in liquid aminos if you’re gluten-free), chile-garlic paste, a touch of sugar, and toasted sesame oil, this beautiful blend is great on stir-fries, noodle salads, crunchy slaw, Asian-inspired wraps, broiled tofu, and so much more. Thin it out with coconut milk and add a dab of curry paste for a saucier dish you can spoon over rice (or straight into your mouth). Get our Peanut Sauce recipe.
Of course we saved the best for last! Embracing a vegan diet doesn’t mean being 100 percent virtuous 100 percent of the time. This vegan chocolate sauce recipe uses coconut milk and coconut oil in the place of traditional dairy like cream to sweeten the bittersweet cocoa powder. For a thinner version that’s good for flavoring non-dairy milk, try this vegan chocolate syrup recipe. Of course, either sauce tastes great on fresh fruit, non-dairy ice cream, and other sweets, but hey, if you want to put it on more than just desserts, we won’t tell anyone… Get the Vegan Chocolate Sauce recipe.