Each month FBC member and nutritionist, Sondi Bruner, takes a favourite dish and shows you how to adapt it to be allergen-friendly, as well as delicious and healthy. This month she's showing us how to make luxurious, creamy pasta sauces that are totally dairy free!
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In the food world, there's often an aura of guilt and transgression about recipes that are rich, creamy and indulgent. This seems to be exponentially true for pasta dishes, where tomato sauce is deemed 'healthy' and cream sauce is naughty, naughty, naughty.
What if I told you it's possible to whip up delicious, luxurious and velvety cream sauces that are healthful and don't require dairy?
Yep, it's true. And for you die-hard milk and cheese fans who believe that life is best viewed through butter-coated glasses: I spread my palms and invite you to give a non-dairy cream sauce a try. It'll expand your culinary horizons, allow you to sneak some extra veggies into your food (or into the meals of picky children), and will arm you with something to serve dairy-intolerant or allergic guests.
A traditional creamy alfredo sauce will likely contain some (or all) of the following:
- Milk or cream
Other versions might also include:
- Cream cheese
So what culinary magic should you throw down to make tasty, non-dairy cream sauces? Here are some of my favourite replacements for dairy.
Cashews, Tahini or Sunflower Seeds
Is there anything the sweet, nutty cashew can't do? Cashews are one of the most versatile ingredients in a non-dairy kitchen, especially when it comes to sauces, smoothies and desserts.
Simply soak 1/2 cup to a cup of cashews in water overnight (the amount of nuts you use will depend on how creamy you want your non-dairy cream sauce to be), then drain and rinse in a fine mesh strainer or colander. Blend your nuts with 1/2 cup of water and a simple splash of lemon juice and sea salt, and voila - you have your saucy base. From here, you can toss in raw or roasted garlic, olive oil, herbs and spices, or additional water if needed. Heat and serve.
A high-speed blender will help make your sauce extra, extra creamy, but this isn't an absolute necessity. A food processor or regular blender will work just as well.
If nut allergies are a concern, simply substitute sesame seeds, tahini or sunflower seeds (this can be a cheaper option, too!).
One To Try: these Yupik Cashews are raw and already chopped into small pieces making them easier to blend!
Winter Squashes and Root Vegetables
Butternut squash, yams, sweet potatoes, carrots, celery root, parsnips, turnips - it's dealer's choice here. These veggies are abundant during the cold, wintry season when we're more likely to gravitate to warm comfort foods, so take advantage of them. Plus, they're full of immune-boosting, anti-inflammatory, digestive-healing and antioxidant nutrients that add that healthy boom-blam-kapow to your sauce.
Start off by adding one cup of cooked squash to the basic sauce recipe outlined above and see how you like it!
Canned Coconut Milk or Cream
Don't be afraid of fat - it's great for our skin, nails and hair, and supports the brain, heart, hormone production, weight management, immune system and more.
Coconut products are loaded with the good saturated fats, plus they're anti-microbial and anti-bacterial. And let's not forget heavenly, sweet and delicious!
Use full-fat, thick coconut milk or cream in your non-dairy cream sauces. Start off with about 1/2 cup, since coconut is a strong flavour, and add more if you need it.
One to Try: one of our favourite coconut milks to try: 365 Everyday Value Organic Coconut Milk.
Those of you who follow a Paleo-style diet have likely experienced the versatility of the humble cauliflower. Cauliflower rice, cauliflower pizza crusts, cauliflower hummus, cauliflower mashed 'potatoes' - and now you can add cauliflower cream sauce to your list. As member of the cruciferous family of vegetables, cauliflower contains compounds that encourage detoxification, support digestion, fight inflammation and help prevent cancer (bonus, no?). It's also extremely high in Vitamin C, another nutrient we often require during the winter cold and flu season.
Simply roast or steam a whole head of cauliflower, then blend it with a few tablespoons of water, broth, or non-dairy milk. Add herbs, spices or additional liquid to taste.
- 1 cup chopped butternut squash or sweet potato
- 1 cup chopped red, orange or yellow bell pepper
- ¼ -1/2 cup cashews, soaked
- ½ tsp salt
- pinch of cayenne or smoked paprika, optional
- ½ cup water, or more to thin as needed
- In a small pot, add the butternut squash and bell pepper, along with about ½ cup of water. Cover and cook over medium-low heat for about 15 minutes, until the vegetables are tender.
- Pour the vegetables along with the cooking water into a blender. Toss in the cashews, salt and cayenne (if using), and blend until smooth. Add more water to thin, if needed.
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Do you have a favourite dairy-free sauce recipe? Please share the link in the comments!
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Check out more of Sondi's Allergen Friendly Remixes for great ideas on revamping your favourite recipes to make them allergen friendly!
Sondi Bruner is a holistic nutritionist, freelance writer, food blogger and author of Simple Superfood Smoothies, The Anti-Inflammatory Diet in 21, The Candida Free Cookbook and Action Plan, co-author of The Anti-Inflammatory Diet and Action Plans. She educates people who follow allergen-friendly diets about how to eat simply, deliciously and safely, allowing them to rediscover the pleasure of food. She is also the head program coach for the Academy of Culinary Nutrition. When she’s wearing her writer’s hat, she works with natural health brands to create content that will help their customers live fulfilling, healthful lives. Find out more at www.sondibruner.com.