By Mackenzie Schieck
August 23, 2016

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.

vegan spicy adobo 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

pesto with arugula
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.

vegan dill 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.

avocado-cucumber bowl with wasabi dressing
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.)