Suppose I want a cheesy-tasting sauce that is vegan. How could I obtain this flavor (or something close to it) without using any actual milk or cheese?
Many vegans use nutritional yeast as a cheese substitute.
There are also "vegan cheeses" that are available. However, check the ingredients closely as many fake cheeses contain casein and thus are not vegan. Some vegan cheeses will melt and some will not. I've never tried them in a sauce.
Here's a link to The Vegetarian Resource Group that has more information about vegetarian and vegan cheeses.
I've made a soy milk bechamel with nutritional yeast. It's not exactly cheese, but for foods like lasagnas and bakes it gives you a nice flavor.
For the sauce, you make a roux with oil and flour, and whisk in soy milk. If the white color is not important, some shoyu or white miso help a lot with the blandness caused by lack of butter. Otherwise you'll have to use quite a bit of salt. Then just add nutritional yeast flakes to taste.
the cashew cheddar cheese sauce from real food daily is fantastic.
and the agar makes it set after it cools down:
(ps: real food daily is a restaurant in LA, their cookbook is great for vegan comfort food)
the sauce tastes great on pasta and my omni husband loves it with mac and cheese.
There are actually quite a few vegan cheese products out there that you can look into. Here are my favorites:
- Follow Your Heart Vegan Gourmet - Easiest of these to find, in my experience, but has the least realistic flavor and texture.
- Daiya - Reasonably easy to find. (I can get it at the regular grocery store down the road, though the local co-op has it for much cheaper.) Melts really easily. I have personally made some really fantastic cheese sauce for mac and cheese with this.
- Teese - Best flavor, harder to find. The regular stuff is difficult to melt properly, but they do make a cheese sauce, which might be exactly what you're looking for.
You can also look at the products offered by Pangea, but depending on where you are, the shipping can be prohibitively expensive, as they require you to have refrigerated items shipped with a cold pack. Still, if you see one you want to try, paying a little extra to order it once and then asking your local co-op to stock it is always an option.
I make a pretty good creamy sauce which is just cooking butter beans with garlic, onion, salt and pepper in vegetable stock - blend that until you get a good sauce consistency - add some turmeric and adjust the seasoning to taste. This is good for people who cant have soy/nut milks. Doesn't necessarily have the exact same taste as cheese sauce, but has a similar consistency and big filling savoury feeling. Plus beans are full of protein.
I usually use cashews and nutritional yeast to make a vegan cheese sauce. You could also add some miso paste for extra "cheese" flavor. Just blend it with some unsweetened almond milk in a food processor until it's creamy. It's so easy to make! :-)
Or you could also buy vegan cheese at the store. My favorite is Daiya I made a vegetarian breakfast casserole with vegan Daiya cheese last Sunday and even my boyfriend loved it and he's usually not really into vegan substitutes.
Tahini is known to be useful for a sharp/tangy element... incorporating smoky flavors into the sauce (smoked salt/liquid smoke/smoked paprika...) also seems to kind of help the illusion...