This rich vegan bechamel will become a staple in your kitchen! Super creamy, quick and easy to prepare, you will also love how easy it is to personalize this simple luscious sauce with the flavors of your choice.
Not that long ago, I shared one of my favorite recipe that I make regularly: a vegan white sauce made out of cashews. It is so, so good, that we find many ways to use it in the kitchen. If you are a pasta addict like me, then you have to try it!
But, I was also looking for another classic white sauce that's as easy to prepare, but also nut-free (hello, nut-free schools's kids) and done extra fast.
You can use the classic technique to make a regular bechamel and prepare a very easy and delicious vegan version. For short, you can simply use oil and dairy-free milk and you are good to go! But, here is how I make a dairy-free bechamel to make it as delicious as the traditional one.
Why you will love this vegan bechamel
- Only requires 3 simple (everyday) ingredients, plus seasonings.
- Super quick and easy, done under 15 minutes
- Very versatile: you can flavor it, drizzle it or use it as a filler!
- Dairy-free, nut-free (choose a nut-free vegan milk) and low in fat
- SO delicious and creamy
Ingredients to make a vegan bechamel
It doesn't get any simpler than this!
- Oil or butter. Although avoiding any added fats when cooking is what I try to do, I simply could not omit or replace the fat with any other ingredient when making a bechamel. The fat prevents the flour from clumping and allows it to thicken the milk, and thus essential.
- Flour. I used white whole wheat flour from King Arthur, but any all purpose flour works well too.
- Vegan plain milk. Any kinds will work! But, see below the comparison for a bechamel made with oat milk, almond milk and soy milk.
Also, you will have to add some seasoning to this basic sauce. You can keep it very simple with just a little salt, but I like also adding lots of ground black pepper, nutritional yeast and nutmeg.
What kinds of plant based milk are best when making a vegan bechamel
Most plant-based milks will work great to make a bechamel, but in all cases, make sure you choose a unsweetened and unflavored one (check for no vanilla added!). Also, some store-bought milks contains added ingredients that can make your bechamel more or less thick.
- Oat milk bechamel: This is great if looking for a nut-free vegan bechamel. I used the one from Oatly. Oat milk is naturally a little sweet, but after adding seasonings, the flavor is great. Oat milk also yield a bechamel that was a little thicker than the other two kinds (especially after cooling down).
- Almond milk bechamel: The flavor using almond milk was my favorite, mostly neutral and smooth.
- Soy milk bechamel: Great choice as well, although more pronounced in flavor (actually tasted closer to a bechamel made with regular dairy milk).
How to make a vegan bechamel
This recipe should be done under 15 minutes.
- Start by warming the oil in a small sauce pan on medium-high heat until looking thinner.
- Add the flour and whisk until a creamy texture forms. Cook on medium-high heat for about 1 minute while whisking.
- Then pour the milk gently in the sauce pan (go slow!) and keep whisking while adding the milk. Whisk strongly until there are no visible clumps anymore.
- Keep cooking, while whisking often, until boiling gently. Then, let simmer for about 7-10 more minutes, still while whisking. It will slowly thicken.
- Remove from the heat, add the seasonings of your choice and whisk to combine.
There is a lot of whisking in there! Stay around the pot so it does not overflow and whisking a lot will help prevent lumps from forming.
The texture of the bechamel will thicken as it rests and cools down. When I remove the pot from the heat (usually after I let it simmer on gentle boil for about 7-8 minutes), then the bechamel actually looks a little thinner than what I want it to be. After adding the seasonings and resting for 5-10 minutes aside, it becomes nice and thick.
Watch how to make it
How to use this sauce
This recipe is a great base to add the ingredients of your choice to flavor it the way you want:
- Add basil pesto to make an herb bechamel
- Combine with marinara sauce for a rosé creamy pasta sauce
- Add more nutritional yeast or even vegan shredded cheese to make a cheese sauce
- Whisk in garlic powder and dried oregano
- Keep it simple with plenty of salt, lots of ground pepper and a pinch of ground nutmeg
There are so many usages for this bechamel sauce:
- Delicious as a simple sauce for any pasta dishes
- Perfect for layered lasagna or roll-ups (also check out this vegan ricotta if making lasagna)
- Great as a drizzle sauce for steamed broccoli or cauliflower
- Use it in any oven-baked dish, like gratins or pasta bakes.
This sauce is best when used right away, but if you have leftovers, then store in a air-tight container in the fridge for up to 3 days. When doing so, cover the sauce with a plastic paper (saran wrap type) making sure it touches the sauce. This will prevent forming a thicker film on the surface of the sauce as it rests and cools down.
Also, while resting in the fridge, keep in mind that the bechamel will thicken. You can easily thin it by adding a splash of vegan milk and whisking before reheating.
You might not be whisking often or vigorously enough. You really need to stay around and whisk every minute or so. When I make a bechamel, I really keep all my focus on the stove and slow down on multitasking. When it gets close to boiling, you should pretty much whisk without any breaks, going in all the corners, until done.
Also, I usually add the milk slowly, but all at once (see video). In order to prevent lumping, some recipes require to work in batches and add the milk a little at the time, take a break to whisk, then add more milk, etc. I have to say that even if I pour all the milk at once, I usually don't end up with a lumpy bechamel. I believe the secret is all in the whisking!
If your bechamel end up with too many lumps, then simply pour it through a fine mesh colander before using.
You can simply thin it out by adding a splash of vegan milk and giving it a good whisk. Keep doing this until you reach the right texture.
The texture of your bechamel will depends on the type of milk you use, how long you simmered it for and how long it has rested for (it thickens significantly as it cools down).
But if the sauce is still too thin, then here is what you can do:
- In a small bowl, combine by whisking about 1 tsbp of corn starch with 1 tbsp of water. When the bechamel is simmering on a low boil, then add the corn starch mixture to the pot and whisk very well. Keep cooking for 1-2 minutes. Repeat this step until you get the texture you are looking for.
More vegan creamy sauces you might like:
- Vegan white sauce (cashew base)
- Vegan white Queso (potato base)
- Thai peanut butter sauce
- Butternut squash cheese sauce for pasta
- Cauliflower Alfredo
- Tahini pasta
I hope you enjoy this vegan bechamel as much as we do! If you try it, please leave a comment below and rate the recipe to let me know how it was. Your feedback is so helpful!
- 3 tbsp olive oil
- 3 tbsp flour - white or whole wheat
- 2 cups vegan plain milk - unsweetened
- salt and black pepper - to taste
- seasoning of your choice (nutritional yeast, nutmeg, dried herbs, garlic powder, etc) - see notes
- In a small sauce pan, start by warming the oil on medium-high heat or until it looks thinner. Make sure it does not smoke. Then, add the flour and whisk for about 30-60 seconds (this will allow the flour to cook).
- Add the vegan milk slowly while whisking vigorously. Make sure there are no clumps anymore. Keep cooking on medium-high heat while whisking often. Stay around the pot and once it starts to boil, then keep simmering on medium-high heat for about 7-8 more minutes or until thickened, still while whisking a lot. Remove from the heat. The bechamel will also thicken as it rests and cools down, so usually when I remove it from the heat, it looks still a little thinner than I actually want it to be. After resting for 5 minutes, it becomes nice and thick.
- Add the seasonings of your choice and whisk to combine. I like to keep this sauce quite simple with about ½ to 1 tsp of salt, a pinch of nutmeg, ½ tbsp of nutritional yeast and plenty of ground pepper. Don't be shy on the ground pepper!
- Serve over cooked pasta, steamed vegetables, use in oven-baked dishes, lasagna, gratins or anytime a bechamel is asked for!
- You can also use vegan butter in place of the oil.
- Store any leftovers in a air-tight container for up to 4 days. If you want to avoid having a film forming over the sauce while resting in the fridge, then add a plastic paper (saran wrap) over the sauce making sure it touches its surface.
- Whisking vigorously will help prevent the lumps, but have your bechamel go through a fine-mesh colander before using it if it ends up with too many lumps.
- How thick your bechamel will be depends on the type of milk you use, how long you simmered it for and how long it has been resting or cooling for. If your bechamel is still too thin after done, then here is what you can do: in a small bowl, combine 1 tbsp of corn starch with 1 tbsp of water, whisk well with a fork. Then add to the bechamel that is still simmering on the stove and whisk while cooking for 2 more minutes.
- If your bechamel is too thick, then simply add a splash of vegan milk and give it a good whisk before using or re-heating.