Updated date:

Two Cheese Sauce Recipes: Vegan and Non-Vegan

A vegetarian/vegan since 1960 at age 14, I have always enjoyed cooking primarily with vegetables and creating non-traditional recipes.

Cheese sauce (this is the non-vegan version).

Cheese sauce (this is the non-vegan version).

A Word About Sauce

The basic ingredients for any sauce or gravy are butter, flour, salt & pepper, and milk. You can use all-purpose flour, whole wheat flour, or a combination of the two, which is my favorite use. Other ingredients may be added for special dishes, depending on the desired flavor.

Adding onion enhances the flavor for dinner meals; nutritional yeast adds a nutty flavor while helping to thicken as well as add some key healthful nutrients. Adding hot sauce, soy sauce, fresh herbs such as basil and rosemary, or dried, ground spices can also add special flavors that will enhance any dish.

Everyone knows that gravy and sauce make many dishes taste great. Corn becomes creamed corn; broccoli (or any green vegetable) along with a light gravy makes an appealing dish for even the most battle-scarred veggie hater.

The Background of Béchamel

The French term for such a sauce is "béchamel," which was named for the marquis de Nointel, Louis de Béchamel (1630–1703), who was a warrior but also a farmer. He became very influential as well as quite wealthy as an advisor and then treasurer to King Louis XIV of France. While the fame of his biography has not kept up with the fame of his name, the sauce or some form of it has traveled far and wide, and most nations have some version of this tasty sauce.

Indian, Italian, Mexican as well as the American South's plain old gravy—all have equivalents of the French béchamel. Indian curry sauce, Italian spaghetti sauce, and Mexican enchilada sauce are just a few examples of the versatility of the basic béchamel. And whether you call it sauce or gravy, it always adds a delicious flavor in addition to a comforting texture to foods, including pasta, vegetables, breads, and chips.

Mushrooms also add a depth of flavor to any basic béchamel recipe, as mushroom gravy enhances the flavor of veggie burgers, turning those already delicious burgers into Swiss-stake-like creations.

From Béchamel to Cheese Sauce

Naturally, cheese sauce is also based on the simple ingredients of the basic béchamel—butter, flour, salt & pepper, and milk. The only other necessary ingredient is, of course, cheese. And the amount of cheese you use depends completely upon your own taste. The thicker you like your sauce, the more cheese you add.

However, you also might want to consider the type of dish for which the sauce is intended. For mac & cheese, you might like to keep the sauce thinner than the version you will use for nachos. But again, ultimately, it just depends on individual taste. So use the amount that you decide suits your taste.

How to Use These Sauces

In addition to mac & cheese, you can use the vegan or vegetarian cheese sauces for potatoes, peas, broccoli, cauliflower, or any vegetable you like. You can also use these sauces over any variety of pasta. I especially like penne pasta with these cheese sauces.

Both basic gravy and cheese sauce are very versatile additions to any meal. From biscuits and gravy for breakfast, to mac & cheese for dinner, to nachos for supper and snacks, both vegetarians and vegans can enjoy the yummy, comfort-food texture of these amazing sauces.

The completed cheese sauce.

The completed cheese sauce.

Non-Vegan Cheese Sauce

Ingredients

  • 1 stick butter (1/2 cup)
  • 1/2 cup unbleached flour, plus 2 tablespoons
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 2 teaspoon coarse ground black pepper
  • 4 cups milk
  • 1/4 cup nutritional yeast
  • 1 tablespoon hot sauce (optional)
  • 6 cups shredded cheddar cheese

Instructions

  1. Melt butter in large saucier over medium heat.
  2. Whisk in flour, salt, and pepper, and blend to a paste.
  3. Whisk in milk until well incorporated.
  4. Stir until sauce begins to thicken, about 4 minutes.
  5. Whisk in nutritional yeast and hot sauce.
  6. Whisk in cheese until well blended.
The completed vegan cheese sauce.

The completed vegan cheese sauce.

Vegan Cheese Sauce

Ingredients

  • 1 stick vegan butter (1/2 cup)
  • 1/2 cup unbleached flour, plus 2 tablespoons
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 2 teaspoons coarse ground black pepper
  • 4 cups unsweetened almond milk
  • 1/4 cup nutritional yeast
  • 1 tablespoon hot sauce (optional)
  • 6 cups shredded vegan cheddar cheese (3 8-ounce bags of Daiya)

Instructions

  1. Melt butter in large saucier over medium heat.
  2. Whisk in flour, salt, and pepper, and blend to a paste.
  3. Whisk in milk until well incorporated.
  4. Stir until sauce begins to thicken, about 4 minutes.
  5. Whisk in nutritional yeast and hot sauce.
  6. Whisk in cheese until well blended.

© 2018 Linda Sue Grimes