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Like vegetarians, vegans shun meat, but they take it an additional step and avoid all foods that are animal products, such as milk, eggs, and cheese. To a nonvegan, this may sound limiting, but the truth is that there are work-arounds for most dishes, including condiments and sauces. In fact, vegan sauces abound; some, such as salsas, don’t have animal products to begin with, while others, like cream-based sauces, simply trade the dairy for something dairy-like but nonanimal.
Generally, oil-based sauces aren’t a problem for a vegan. Salad dressings that incorporate vinegar, tamari, or nut butters are fine as long anything that involves processing animal products, such as some red wines, is left out. Vegan sauces can't contain butter, but a rich and flavorful substitute can be made with ground sesame seeds.
Extra personality is lent to veggie and grain-based meals with vegan sauces that range from velvety and subtle to hot cha-cha. While cream sauces are off the list because most of them contain cream, butter, and eggs, a serviceable, even delicious, substitute can be created out of rice or almond milk, oil, and a thickener, such as corn starch or tapioca. Another way to create a smooth cream sauce is by basing it on silken tofu.
Hot sauces can dance on the tongue of any vegan, as long as there’s no meat juice or other animal products. A topping for tempeh or veggies and brown rice made by sautéing onion family foods, like leeks, garlic, and scallions, together with ginger, roasted red and green peppers, and cayenne or another hot pepper brings a sweet heat. Even vegan ketchup is no problem and can become the base for any number of creative sauces.
Oil-based pesto sauces are also good eating. Basil-based pesto is the traditional go-to for pasta, rice, and potato dishes, but it also makes a swell garnish for everything from mellow tofu to crunchy veggies and crackers on an appetizer tray. To mix it up, many vegans like a pesto that has a cilantro foundation instead of basil or one constructed of roasted red pepper. Garlic, ginger, and other tongue twisters can be added to these sauces at will.
Like everyone else, many vegans like a good dessert. Berry sauces can top a vegan carrot cake or pumpkin pie. Maple rum, caramel, and even nondairy chocolate vegan sauces spooned over a creamy, sweet mound of rice or almond ice cream is the perfect end to a delicious and healthy meal.
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