By Mackenzie Schieck

It used to be tough to find enough vegan dinner recipes to keep me happy. But, inspired by a local cafe that makes a variety of salads and rice bowls with just a handful of different sauces, I realized that the key to transitioning was finding great dairy-free sauces. Because once you have those handy, there are so many vegan dinner recipes you can create from them.

Here are five dairy-free sauces that can each be used to create three different meals. All of these sauces will keep great in the refrigerator, covered, for about a week and a half. Or for easy meals on the fly, pour sauce into ice cube trays, freeze, then store in a resealable plastic bag and defrost when needed.

Sauce #1. Vegan Green Chile Cilantro Sauce

Cashews are used as a non-dairy base in this sauce with a jalapeno kick.

Make it a Meal

  1. Tacos: Let this sauce take the place of sour cream and cheese in tacos with black beans, bell peppers, and onions. I also love this sauce in these Roasted Cauliflower and Black Bean Tacos.
  2. Quinoa bowl: Stir together chopped bell peppers, romaine, avocado, and quinoa, then drizzle this creamy sauce on top.
  3. Creamy tortilla soup: Make your favorite tortilla soup recipe, but instead of adding meat, add a generous dollop of this sauce for a cream-based version that packs some cashew protein.

Sauce #2: Vegan Spicy Adobo Dressing

A little adobo sauce goes a long way in this dairy-free Mexican-style dressing.

Photo by Mackenzie Schieck

Make it a Meal:

  1. Taco salad: I originally created this recipe to top this Hearty Mexican Chop Chop; if you're looking for a salad that eats like a meal, look no further.
  2. Mexican-style wrap: Toss pico de gallo, chopped romaine, and black beans with this dressing, then wrap it up in a tortilla. This makes a great lunch you can take to work.
  3. Rice bowl: Take the ingredients from the taco salad and add some cooked rice for a meal with a little more umph.

Sauce #3: Pesto with Arugula

"This pesto is unique due to the arugula, which gives it a peppery bite. Use as a spread or on pasta. My favorite is on baguette slices or on whole wheat crackers. It's addictive!" --Mark Caron

Photo by Sweet Basil

Make it a Meal:

  1. Pizza: Spread this pesto on your favorite pizza crust recipe, then top it with sliced tomatoes for a margherita-like pizza.
  2. Pasta: Toss pesto with fettuccine, white beans, toasted pine nuts, and a little more arugula for an easy pasta dish.
  3. Tofu sandwich: Bake or pan-fry slices of tofu, then layer them up in sandwiches along with roasted red peppers--all on slices of bread slathered with pesto, of course. (And I'm a big fan of toasting the bread.)

Sauce #4: Vegan Dill Sauce

Dill and garlic come together in the most delicious way in this versatile dairy-free sauce.

Photo by Mackenzie Schieck

Make it a Meal:

  1. Open-face veggie sandwich: Simply slice up cucumbers and tomatoes, then place them on toasted bread with generous amount of this dill sauce.
  2. Tomato-cucumber salad:Dill just begs to be paired with tomatoes and cucumbers, so they are making a second appearance here. Chop the veggies up, then toss with garbanzo beans and the dill sauce for a light meal.
  3. Falafel: Prepare your favorite falafel recipe, then load them into pita pockets along with this sauce and your choice of veggies.

Sauce #5: Vegan Wasabi Sauce

Just four ingredients get blended together to create this sauce with some wasabi heat.

Photo by Mackenzie Schieck

Make it a Meal:

  1. Rice bowl/salad: I love doing this sauce as a cross between a rice bowl and a salad--sometimes I go heavier on the veggies and lighter on the rice, and other times I do the opposite. I'll leave the proportions to you, but it's basically a mix of rice, greens, edamame, avocado, and cucumbers. And topped with this wasabi sauce, it is the best.
  2. Sushi-ish wrap: Fry cubed tofu on the stove top, then toss with cucumbers, avocado, torn up nori snacks, and this wasabi sauce, and wrap it in spring roll wrapper.
  3. Edamame salad: Toss this wasabi dressing with edamame, shredded carrots, peas, and sliced bok choy. If you want to get crazy, sprinkle some black sesame seeds on top. (They look super cool.)


See All Vegan Recipes