Vegan béchamel is a dairy-free take on the classic, creamy white sauce. Instead of the usual method of using butter and flour, this sauce is made with non-dairy milk, cashews, garlic, and a few select cheesy ingredients. It's rich, savory, easy to make, and perfect for white lasagna, moussaka, or simply tossing with pasta and vegetables for a quick meal!
The main recipe for vegan béchamel below is gluten-free, grain-free, and easily made oil-free, if needed. For a nut-free sauce made the more traditional way with flour and non-dairy milk, see the recipe notes!
What is béchamel?
Béchamel is a creamy sauce made with butter, flour and milk. It is considered one of the "mother sauces" in French cuisine and can be used as a base for other sauces such as Mornay.
To create a dairy-free, vegan béchamel sauce, it's easy to swap the dairy ingredients for their non-dairy counterparts, vegan butter and plain, unsweetened non-dairy milk.
But another option is to use cashews to replace both the butter and flour, creating a grain-free, gluten-free, AND dairy-free béchamel sauce!
Since cashews contain more starch than other nuts, they help thicken the sauce and become wonderfully creamy when heated.
This recipe is essentially two recipes in one! The main one is for cashew béchamel sauce, but we've also included instructions in the recipe notes for a more "classic" vegan béchamel made with vegan butter, flour, and milk.
- plant milk - I used plain, unsweetened soy milk because it's nice and creamy and has a neutral flavor. Watch out for refrigerated milks that claim to be unflavored but actually aren't! The shelf-stable boxes of unsweetened soy milk are the safest bet.
- garlic - important for the overall flavor of the savory, cheesy sauce
- oil or broth - to saute the garlic
- lemon juice - adds just a touch of tangy, cheesy flavor
- miso - look for either white or chickpea miso. If you're new to using miso, I hope I can convince you to give it a try. It's fantastic for vegan cheeses and savory sauces. You'll usually find it in the refrigerated section near the tofu.
- nutritional yeast - adds a cheesy, umami flavor. I like this non-fortified one by Sari.
- raw cashews - these add richness and replace the need for flour or starch since cashews thicken and get nice and creamy when heated. For other options see Substitutions below.
Find ingredient amounts and full instructions in the recipe card below.
How to Make Cashew Vegan Béchamel
Saute garlic over low heat for 2 to 3 minutes, then transfer it to a blender.
Add the remaining sauce ingredients and blend until completely smooth.
If you're using the sauce as part of another recipe, such as vegan white lasagna (pictured below), you're all set! There's no need to heat the sauce.
Otherwise, pour the sauce into a medium saucepan and slowly cook over medium-low heat until thickened and creamy. This should take around 6 to 7 minutes. Now it's ready to eat and can be tossed with pasta or drizzled on steamed or roasted veggies.
Ways to Use Vegan Bechamel
Use it as a base for vegan mac and cheese or simply toss it with cooked pasta for a quick meal.
Vegan bechamel is also delicious drizzled on baked potatoes, potato wedges, and french fries.
- oil-free - instead of oil, use a splash of water or vegetable broth to sauté the garlic.
- cashews - for a nut-free sauce you have a couple of options. Replace the cashews with raw sunflower seeds and add 2 teaspoons of arrowroot or corn starch. Or follow the more classic flour-and-butter version in the recipe notes.
- blender - since we're blending whole cashews, a high-speed blender like a Vitamix works best. Otherwise, it's a good idea to soak the cashews first. You can do this overnight or in hot water for 1 to 2 hours. Drain before blending.
Store vegan bechamel in the refrigerator for up to 5 days. Reheat on the stovetop or in the microwave.
Absolutely. Once the sauce is cool, store in a freezer-safe container and freeze for up to a month. Thaw overnight in the fridge before reheating.
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I hope you enjoy this creamy, flourless vegan bechamel sauce!
If you try the recipe be sure to leave a comment and star rating below and let us know how you served it! ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
Vegan Béchamel Sauce Two Ways
- 4 to 5 large cloves garlic, minced - About 2 rounded Tbsp
- 1 tablespoon oil, optional - Or ¼ cup vegetable broth
- 2 cups plain, unsweetened, non-dairy milk - Such as almond, soy or cashew
- ¾ cup raw cashews - Soak overnight or in hot water 1 to 2 hours if not using a high-speed blender
- 2 Tablespoons nutritional yeast
- 1 Tablespoon white miso - or chickpea miso
- ½ teaspoon fine sea salt
- dash of freshly grated nutmeg, optional
- black pepper, to taste
- 1 Tablespoon lemon juice
- Preheat a large saute pan over low heat, and add the oil. Once hot, saute the garlic for 2 to 3 minutes, stirring frequently.
- Transfer the garlic to a blender. Add the milk, cashews, nutritional yeast, miso, salt, nutmeg, and black pepper. Blend on high speed until completely smooth. Taste and adjust the seasonings as desired.
- If you're planning to use the sauce in another recipe where it will be cooked, such as lasagna, there's no need to heat the sauce now. Simply add the lemon juice to the blender, pulse to combine, and use the sauce in the desired recipe. Otherwise, pour the sauce into a large, heavy-bottom saute or saucepan. Cook over medium-low heat, whisking frequently, until thickened, about 5 minutes.
- Whisk in the lemon juice, and taste for seasoning. Remove from heat. Toss with your favorite pasta and vegetables, and serve hot.
- 4 Tbsp vegan butter
- ¼ cup all-purpose flour
- 2 ¾ cups plain, unsweetened non-dairy milk, room temp
- 2 Tbsp nutritional yeast
- ¾ tsp fine sea salt
- black pepper, to taste
- dash of freshly grated nutmeg
Estimated Nutrition (per serving)
Nutrition information is an estimate and will vary depending on the exact amounts and specific products and ingredients used. We calculate this information using the online calculator cronometer.com.