Condiments can instantly transform even the simplest dish into a delicious one, so they're great to keep on hand for when your dinner needs a little help. I've been trying to eat meat-light lately, so I've been focused on ways to quickly add flavor to vegetarian and vegan weeknight meals. Fortunately, we have no shortage of vegan condiments that can do wonders to a simple bowl of pasta or plate of sautéed veggies (many of them, of course, are great on non-vegan dishes, too). From an herb-packed pesto made with miso instead of cheese and harissa two ways, to mayonnaise made with chickpeas, keep reading for 17 of our favorite vegan condiment recipes.
Easy Vegan Mayonnaise (With Aquafaba)
Next time you open a can of chickpeas, don't pour the liquid they come packed in down the drain. Called aquafaba, it's packed with protein and is a remarkable egg substitute. Aquafaba isn't quite a strong enough emulsifier to make mayonnaise on its own, but add a couple chickpeas to the mix and the texture will be perfect.
Traditional Toum (Lebanese Garlic Sauce)
Garlic is also a powerful emulsifier—we use a little of it in our standard mayonnaise, but if you use extra you can make a thick, mayo-like sauce without any eggs. Because you're using so much garlic the quality really matters, so start with the freshest stuff you can find.
The Best Vegan Nacho Cheese Sauce
Neon-yellow nacho cheese sauce is one of my favorite guilty pleasures, and when I want sometime equally satisfying but slightly more nutritious I turn to this vegan version made with potatoes, cashews, and almond milk. The recipe starts with a generous amount of vegetable shortening, which gives it a wonderfully rich texture. I won't tell you that this tastes just like nacho cheese, but I promise that it's equally delicious.
Tahini Sauce With Garlic and Lemon
Tahini is best known as an ingredient in hummus, but this version is good enough that you'll want to eat it on its own. The secret is a technique we learned from Michael Solomonov's excellent cookbook Zahav: blending a whole head of unpeeled garlic with lemon juice. The acidity tames the garlic's bite while letting its flavor shine.
Vegan Garden Pesto With Miso and Mixed Herbs
This recipe diverges from our traditional pesto in a couple ways. The most obvious is that because it's vegan, the Parmigiano-Reggiano and Pecorino Fiore Sardo have to go—we replace the cheese with savory miso paste. We also replace the more typical pine nuts with pistachios or walnuts and intensify the mix by using cilantro, parsley, and mint along with the basil.
Catalonian-Inspired Grilled Vegetable Salad (Xató)
The word xató can refer to either a Catalan salad or the sauce that it is served with, a nutty mixture of peppers, tomatoes, almonds, sherry vinegar, and more that is very similar to romesco. We char the vegetables before blending up the sauce to give it a deep smokiness.
A classic accompaniment for idlis and dosa, this versatile chutney is made with lentils, coconut, tamarind paste, black mustard seed, and asafetida. Traditionally the chutney would start with clarified butter, but neutral oil works, too. This recipe is a starting point into the world of chutneys—once you're comfortable with it you can start experimenting with other ingredients like green chilies, cilantro, or curry leaves.
Chimichurri is a bright, parsley-based sauce from Argentina that is most commonly served on steak, but you can absolutely spoon it over grilled vegetables as well. The sauce is super easy to make—all you have to do is chop parsley, garlic, and oregano in a food processor, then whisk the mixture with oil, vinegar, salt, and red pepper flakes.
Zhug (Yemenite Hot Sauce With Cilantro and Parsley)
Sauces made from fresh herbs and olive oil are common across the world—moving from Argentina to Yemen we find a fiery variety called zhug. We make it by pounding parsley, bird chilies, and aromatics with a mortar and pestle and drizzling in olive oil to emulsify, ending up with a bright sauce that will give your falafel a serious kick.
Homemade Spicy Chili Crisp
Some background for those not yet familiar with Laoganma’s Spicy Chili Crisp—this sauce has taken China by storm thanks to its addictive blend of mouth-numbing málà sauce and crunchy roasted soy nuts, fried onion, and fried garlic. Our homemade version gets a triple dose of spice from árbol, japones, and Kashmiri red chilies and has an amount of fried shallots and garlic chips that some might describe as unreasonable.
Dried Chili Harissa
Similar to what you might be used to buying from the store, this harissa is made with an assortment of dried chilies that we seed, grind, and toast. At that point you're left with a dry harissa that will take your popcorn to the next level, but to make the paste you need to rehydrate the chilies and season the mixture with salt, vinegar, and olive oil.
Fresh Chili Harissa
This recipe has a lighter flavor and looser texture than the harissa you might be used to because we start with fresh red bell, poblano, Fresno, and serrano peppers. We char the peppers under the broiler; remove the seeds, skins, and stems; and blend in a food processor until smooth. This recipe is flavored with caraway and coriander, but feel free to add whatever aromatics you'd like.
Dried Olive and Miso Shake (The Best Vegan Parmesan Substitute)
This umami bomb combines green olives, white miso paste, lemon zest, and rosemary to make an aromatic condiment that we use as a substitute for Parmesan cheese. Dehydrating the mixture concentrates its flavor and has the added benefit of increasing its shelf life—this will keep at room temperature for two months.
Chaat Masala (Indian Street Snack Spice Blend)
This fragrant spice mix is a crucial part of the South Asian street snack chaat, but is also wonderful sprinkled on fruits and vegetables. You can buy premade chaat masala at Indian grocery stores, but as with any spice blend, you're going to get the best flavor by making it at home from whole toasted spices. The ingredient list might seem a little intimidating, but everything is widely available online.
I know what you're thinking—we're talking condiments, not salad dressings. But vinaigrettes are tasty on more than just greens, so we think they're important to mention. This recipe is about as simple as a vinaigrette can be: olive oil, white wine vinegar, water, Dijon mustard, garlic, and shallots, whisked or shaken together until emulsified and seasoned with salt and pepper.
The Food Lab's Walnut Vinaigrette
This recipe closely resembles our simple vinaigrette, but we sweeten it with honey and add chopped toasted walnuts for crunch. Walnut oil isn't a staple in most pantries, but if you want to add a teaspoon, it will add an extra nutty note. Try serving it with micro-steamed asparagus and poached eggs (you can omit the egg, if you are vegan) or roasted vegetables.
Tangerine and Fennel Vinaigrette
The key to making vinaigrette is never forgetting the 3:1 ratio of oil to acid. Notice that I said "acid" rather than "vinegar"—this recipe gets its acidity from a mixture of tangerine and lemon juices. We also add a teaspoon of tangerine zest and just half a teaspoon of ground fennel seed to give the vinaigrette extra depth.
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