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From naturally sweetened ketchup and barbecue sauce to luscious plant-based mayo and queso, these vegan sauce recipes are surprisingly simple to make. And unlike store-bought versions loaded with refined sugars, salt, oil, or all of the above, they’re as healthful as they are flavorful. Use them liberally to add oomph to grain bowls, sandwiches, stir-fries, and more!

Looking for a primo salad dressing? Check out our roundup of flavorful homemade dressings or learn how to create your own signature vinaigrette using our how-to.

Thai Red Curry Sauce

Deliciously versatile, this tasty Thai red curry sauce combines roasted red bell peppers, warming spices, lemongrass, kaffir lime leaf, and fresh galangal (Thai ginger). For a comforting meal that bursts with complex flavors, simmer veggies in the sauce and serve over rice. Note: If you can’t find kaffir lime leaves, use lime zest; and fresh ginger is a good stand-in for galangal.

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Homemade Harissa

Harissa is a Tunisian red chile sauce and is a tasty way to boost the flavor of so many dishes. Featuring red peppers, dried chiles, fragrant spices, and a squeeze of lemon juice, it’s wonderful added to hummus or made into a dressing; the possibilities are endless.

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Masala Simmer Sauce

Add Indian flair to any meal with this delicious—and easy to make—vegan Masala sauce. A few dates and a good amount of onions lend sweet flavor to the tomato sauce base while fresh ginger and lemon juice perk up the flavors. Note: You don’t need a laundry list of spices for this one, just store-bought curry powder, cumin, coriander, and cayenne pepper (optional). To store, refrigerate in an airtight container for up to 1 week, or freeze for up to 2 months.

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Homemade Vegan Pesto

This lip-smacking pesto is an ace up any vegan cook’s sleeve, quickly turning an average meal into a cafe-quality one. Featuring cashews for creaminess, fistfuls of basil for sweet-peppery flavor, and nutritional yeast for cheesy depth, it’s a handy family-friendly sauce to keep around. Add it to pasta, wraps, grain bowls, or tomato soup.

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Fresh Tomato Ketchup

Naturally sweetened with dates and featuring a tantalizing blend of fresh tomatoes and tomato paste, this delicious, subtly spicy ketchup is like summer in a bottle. Note: Preserving instructions are provided, so make plenty; it’ll keep for up to six to eight months!

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Del's Basic Barbecue Sauce

A simple can of tomato sauce is transformed into a heavenly smoky barbecue sauce with this delish recipe by Chef Del Sroufe. A great flavor-booster in a variety of dishes, barbecue sauce works well on pizza, veggie burgers, and vegetable steaks, and in grain bowls, Sloppy Joes, and homemade baked beans. It’s also yummy as a dipping sauce for Buffalo Cauliflower Bites and Chickpea Nuggets. One reader shares: “I have made this BBQ sauce many times. It is reliably yummy.”

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Easy Vegan Ranch Dressing

Fresh dill, parsley, and chives add enchanting herb flavor to this versatile vegan ranch dressing. This recipe calls for silken tofu, but feel free to use a blend of cannellini beans and plant milk instead. You can also use dried herbs if you don’t have fresh. Writes a fan, “One of my favorite ranch dressings! It has great flavor and really hits the spot!”

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Vegan Potato “Cheese” Sauce

Nut-free, soy free, and gluten-free, this creamy, potato-based “cheese” sauce is so good you’ll want to add it to everything: veggies, pasta, casseroles, pizza, the lot! Added bonus: It freezes well, so make extra for when time is tight.

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Almost Instant Peanut Sauce

Ground ginger adds a luscious warmth to this yummy five-minute peanut sauce. Want it spicy? Just add cayenne pepper to taste. Use this sauce anywhere you want creamy, peanutty flavor, such as with fresh spring rolls. One reader notes, “Oh my, is this ever good—and so easy!”

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Sour “Cream”

A dollop of sour cream is a great way to add creaminess to soup, pasta, or anything else you can think of. This vegan version requires just three ingredients—tofu, white wine vinegar, and salt—so it couldn’t be simpler!

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Vegan Queso Sauce

Jarred roasted red bell pepper is the secret ingredient in this scrumptious vegan queso, adding robust flavor while nutritional yeast brings cheesiness and ground rolled oats keep it creamy. Try it with our Mac and Cheese with Roasted Veggies, on a baked potato, over veggies, or as a dip. As one reader puts it: “This is the best I have ever made. It can be used for so many dishes. The whole family just loves it.”

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Ponzu Sauce

Naturally sweetened and fragrant with lemon and lime zest, this classic Japanese citrus sauce is great with veggies and will turn a bland stir-fry or salad into something special. For a deeply satisfying pasta meal try our Ponzu Noodle Salad or Vegan Soba Noodle Salad; served cold, they’re ideal for a make-and-take lunch.

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Tahini Dipping Sauce

Simple yet famously useful, tahini sauce can add subtle nutty flavor and an appealing tang to just about anything. Add it to a salad, sandwich, or grain bowl, or use it as a dip with veggies or crackers. Drizzle over falafel and serve with Homemade Pita Bread

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Roasted Tomato Salsa

The success of this full-bodied salsa comes from pan-roasting chile and tomatoes separately, giving a rich, grilled flavor. Ready in 20 minutes, the payoff for making your own salsa is so great you’ll wonder why you didn’t do it sooner. Writes a fan, “I turned tasteless tomatoes into a really tasty salsa!” For more salsa tips and tricks, check out our handy guide to making salsa.

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Chimichurri

Jam-packed with herbs, chimchurri is a popular Argentinian condiment that’s as versatile as it is delicious. Never heard of it before? Enjoy this treasure trove of melt-in-your-mouth flavor with bread or serve it alongside Corn and Mushroom Empanadas or Baked Tortilla Chips.

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Myrna’s Marinara Sauce

You’ll occasionally find an oil-free marinara at the store, but it’s never as good as what you could make at home. This toothsome recipe from Myrna, mother of Forks Over Knives founder and President Brian Wendel, is one to bookmark for when tomatoes are in season. Notes one reader, “We love it! I use it wherever marinara sauce is used.”

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Vegan Mayo

Keep some tofu in the fridge and you’re only five minutes away from the best vegan mayo around! It’s truly a miracle how a splash of vinegar and a few basic seasonings can transform tofu into a finger-licking good dressing. Writes one reader, This is amazingly simple and great. I can’t believe how much it tasted like mayo.”

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Wasabi Orange Sauce

Your taste buds will flip over this fresh-tasting peanut-orange sauce seasoned with the earthy-spicy tones of wasabi. Drizzled over a salad or used as a dipping sauce for spring rolls, this vibrant sauce will make you feel like a professional chef! Notes one reader, “Delicious, creamy, and smooth.”

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Enchilada Sauce

This marvelously mellow, intensely flavored enchilada sauce is a boon for the plant-based home cook. Beyond enchiladas, it’s also divine with pasta and veggies, or stirred through leftover rice, beans, and veggies for a quick meal.

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Cauliflower Bechamel

Featuring a creamy cauliflower base made from a whole head of cauliflower, this vegan bechamel is perfect for when you want a white sauce without all the butter and wheat found in traditional versions. Poured over vegetables, stirred through pasta, or added to a casserole, the possibilities are endless. Attests a fan, “I hardly ever eat leftovers but I couldn’t stop eating this sauce.”

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Vegan Cheesy Sauce (Plus 5 Ways to Use It)

This velvety veggie-based cheese sauce leverages the creamy texture of pureed cauliflower and potato to delicious effect. Turmeric adds golden color, and nutritional yeast gives a rich cheesy flavor. Other tasty seasonings lend subtle complexity. Even hardcore cheese lovers will be impressed! Note: This recipe is gluten-free, and can also be nut-free if you use nut-free plant milk.

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This article was originally published on Dec. 1, 2021, and has been updated. 

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about the author

Lisa Esile, MS

Lisa Esile is an author, illustrator, blogger, vegetable gardener, and whole-food enthusiast with a special fondness for potatoes. She has a master’s degree in human nutrition and is passionate about showing people how to live happier, healthier lives. She is the author of Reach Your Big Calm and the co-author of Whose Mind Is It Anyway? Find her on Facebook.

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