Cashew Béchamel | Basic White Sauce

Cashew Béchamel | Basic White Sauce

Details

This foundational plant-based white sauce is incredibly versatile with multiple applications. Use it as you would a traditional cream-based white sauce or Béchamel in recipes from sauces to soups.
  • Serves: 4 cups
  • Active Time: 45 mins
  • Total Time: 4 hrs
  • Views: 86,852
  • Success Rating: 80% (?)
    0% - I fed it to the dog
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Steps

Step 1: Preparing the Cashews

• 2 cups raw cashews
• 4 to 6 cups warm water

Method

In a medium bowl, soak the cashews in water for 3 to 4 hours to soften. Strain, reserving the cashews and discarding the liquid.

Step 2: Preparing the Sauce

• 1 cup onion, diced
• 1 1/2 cups vegetable stock
• 1/2 cup dry white wine
• 2 1/2 tbsp nutritional yeast
• 2 cloves garlic
• 1 tbsp onion granules
• pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
• pinch of white pepper
• 2 tbsp olive oil (optional if you choose to use oil in this dish)
• 1 tsp sea salt (optional)

Method

First, gather and prepare your mise en place.

If choosing to use oil:

Heat the pan to low to medium heat and add the olive oil. Add the onions and sweat for at least 5-8 minutes to bring out the flavor until translucent. Continue by then adding the garlic and sweat for an additional couple minutes.

*For no oil sauté:

Heat the pan to medium to high heat. Be sure the pan is heated properly (water test). Add the onions to the dry pan and continue to stir well until the onions begin to turn translucent and stick. Try to keep the onions from browning, adding a little stock or water if needed. You can add the garlic to the onions or add directly into the blender as shown in the video. Remove from heat.

Transfer the cooked onions and garlic into the blender.

To finish the sauce, add the cashews, the remaining vegetable stock, white wine, garlic, nutritional yeast, onion granules, nutmeg, white pepper and salt (if using). Blend on high speed until smooth. Add more liquid if you choose to have a thinner consistency.

Chef's Notes

This sauce will reduce and continue to thicken when used in other recipes.

38 Comments

  • Bonnie D
    Bonnie D
    I have not made this sauce yet. What is the fridge life of this bechamel and can it be frozen? It seems to be a versatile sauce. If frozen, would there be degradation in the consistency once frozen and defrosted?
  • Dawn T Rouxbe Staff
    Dawn T
    Cashew béchamel will keep for a few day in the refrigerator and can be frozen for up to 6 months or so. After freezing it may be a bit lumpy or just not as smooth, so you might need to re-blend to smooth it out and bring it back together. Try it for yourself and see if you notice any major degradation in the consistency once thawed. I know I have frozen it I am generally okay with the final product afterwards. Hope that helps. Cheers!
  • Rebecca B
    Rebecca B
    Are the cashews soaked for better consistency, or is their a nutritional/digestive reason for the soaking? For example, most cookbooks that I own recommend cold soaking conventional beans to remove excess oligosaccharides -- though of course, there exist some controversy pertaining to lost nutrients using this method. If the soaking is for consistency, can the cashews for this sauce be quick soaked (either conventionally on a stovetop for 5 min/covered 1hr rest, or pressure cooker cold soaked for 1 min high pressure/15 minute rest) to achieve the same consistency in a shorter period of time? Thanks
  • Ken R Rouxbe Staff
    Ken R
    Hi Rebecca- I have personally tried a few methods and I find the best results with a regular/cool (i.e. not hot/boiling) soak. Try hot water for an hour and see what kind of results you get. With broken cashews I can soak for a shorter time than with whole cashews. Soaking is for the texture and consistency of the final product - the hydration in the nut helps it achieve a smoother finished texture when blended. ~Ken
  • Rebecca B
    Rebecca B
    I'm don't rely much on meal planning -- something that I'm hoping to change, but just haven't implemented consistently yet. That's generally why I try to find ways to speed up things like soaking time. I like the idea of substituting more cashew cream for dairy, so anything that I can do to make it more convenient -- it's really just too easy to grab the milk or cream from the fridge rather than make the cashew substitute -- means a higher likelihood of that actually happening. I'll try breaking up the cashews into smaller bits the next time I attempt a cashew based recipe. As you can tell, I routinely quick soak beans and am quite satisfied with the result, so a hot water soak of the cashews just makes sense. Becky
  • Steven Z
    Steven Z
    Hello, I am trying to figure out some ways to enhance the Cashew Bechamel but not sure what to add to add to the basic white sauce. Any recommendations? Thanks! Steven
  • Rebecca B
    Rebecca B
    Hi Steven, I've been playing with this sauce a bit, trying different variations as an alternative to traditional white/alfredo style pasta sauces. I'm not vegetarian, so my goals may be different than yours. With this base sauce I've made: 1.) Macaroni and Cheese 2.) Chicken and Broccoli Alfredo 3.) Tomato Alfredo: just add a can of stewed tomatoes (or in my case, blanched/skinned and chopped garden tomatoes) to the base for a creamier style tomato pasta dish. 4.) Spiralized roasted yellow beet noodles (garden beets) with a Smoked Salmon and Dill Cream sauce. This sauce is used as a base on the Rouxbe website for a smoked tofu penne that I've tried a couple of times. I think that this sauce can substitute for a standard white sauce from most conventional recipes. I personally have struggled with the balance of the cashew base flavor, finding many white wines too overpowering in relation to the cashews. After some experimentation, I agree with Ken that sauvignon blanc is a solid, versatile wine that goes with most variations that can be made with this sauce. Hope this helps
  • Ken R Rouxbe Staff
    Ken R
    Great thoughts Rebecca - thanks for contributing. If the wine blanace is an issue, try to reduce the amount by a little. Oftentimes "on its own" it may be too assertive, but on food (greens/pasta), the flavor is more balanced. ~Ken
  • Jay L
    Jay L
    Hi, I'm wondering what are considered good alternatives to substitute for the white wine in this recipe please? Also, is there any online resource which may help generally with suggestions for alcohol substitutes in cooking and baking please?
  • Kim N
    Kim N
    Hello, I'm wondering if I can add the white wine to the cooked onions in the pan to burn off some of the alcohol. I found the alcohol taste a little too much when added straight to the blender...what would work to counter that? many thanks.
  • Kirk B Rouxbe Staff
    Kirk B
    Hi Kim - Great question and great insight - absolutely you can add the white wine to the cooked onions in the pan to burn off some of the alcohol - in fact, this is a great technique to build added flavor. Taking your wine to the "au sec" stage (or almost gone) will create a lovey "fond" or foundation for the white sauce - bravo! Thanks for learning with Rouxbe! Chef Kirk
  • Kathryn B
    Kathryn B
    I've used mirin (a sweet Japanese cooking wine with very little alcohol content) and it worked very well.
  • Kirk B Rouxbe Staff
    Kirk B
    Thanks so much for your comments Kathryn! We are happy that you are enjoying your experience with Rouxbe! Chef Kirk
  • Mims E
    Mims E
    what is a dry white wine? can i omit this one and/or substitute it with something that is not alcohol based?
  • Kirk B Rouxbe Staff
    Kirk B
    Hi Mims and thanks for your question. So the dry white wine suggested for this particular recipe is any white wine that isn't sweet and one with high acidity such as crisp Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Grigio, Pinot Gris, Pinot Blanc, Sémillon, or even a dry sparkling wine. You can certainly omit the wine or replace with white grape juice or vegetable stock. I hope this helps and thanks for cooking with Rouxbe! Chef Kirk
  • Vibha V
    Vibha V
    I can't have any wine (I am under 18) so can i substitute it or remove this ingredient all together?
  • Eric W Rouxbe Staff
    Eric W
    Vibha, please omit the wine. This will be the easiest solution and still deliver a nice flavored finished sauce.
  • Simone M
    Simone M
    I found that it did not have enough nutritional yeast. I added a bit more and the flavor bloomed.
  • Loreal M
    Loreal M
    Will a red vinegar or rice vinegar substitute for the wine?
  • Lauren L Rouxbe Staff
    Lauren L
    HI Loreal. I would skip a substitute and make the sauce without it. If you need more liquid, either add more stock or the juice of a lemon. I think vinegar will be too powerful in this sauce. Lauren
  • Sweeny C
    Sweeny C
    My daughter is allergic to Cashews and Pistachios - is there another nut I can substitute in?
  • Char N Rouxbe Staff
    Char N
    Hello, Sweeny--thanks for writing. Without knowing you daughter's specific allergy situation, it would be wise to check with your medical provider. If she has a tree nut allergy, I would be reluctant to suggest any nuts. White beans are a perfect substitute in this recipe, and will make a smooth and creamy white sauce. You may need to add a little more nutritional yeast. The flavor and thickness will be delicious. I think the beans would be the most prudent way to go. Thank you for writing. - Char
  • Hansa P
    Hansa P
    I can not use wine, please suggest the alternative to wine without changing the flavor. thank you
  • Char N Rouxbe Staff
    Char N
    Hi Hansa: I cook without wine and will use one of the following fresh lemon juice (diluted), vegetable stock, white rice vinegar (diluted). Non-alcoholic wines are another option. Hope this helps. Cheers, Char
  • Laleh M
    Laleh M
    My son has severe allergy to cashew, and I don't think that this white sauce being good with sun flower seeds, Would you please give me another option?
  • Sandy S Rouxbe Staff
    Sandy S
    Hi Laleh, I'll assume (to be conservative here) that tree nuts should be avoided. Never fear though, cooked white beans can sub in and make a lovely white sauce. Be sure to taste and adjust any ingredients, such as salt and/or nutritional yeast, to help you achieve a well rounded flavor profile. Cheers, Sandy
  • Laleh M
    Laleh M
    Thank you Sandy, White bean is a great idea, and also Almond is safe. can I use soaked almond instead of cashew?
  • Char N Rouxbe Staff
    Char N
    Hello, Laleh: You can use soaked almonds, just make certain to remove the skin before applying in your recipe. You can also mix white beans with the almonds. Thanks for writing. Cheers, Char
  • Ann G
    Ann G
    Is there a substitute for nutritional yeast since that ingredient makes me nauseous?
  • Char N Rouxbe Staff
    Char N
    Hi Ann: Thanks for writing. Since most vegan parm cheeses have nutritional yeast in them, I would suggest to add a cashew butter for texture and flavor. You may want to play around with the onion powder to lift the flavor. I would also suggest a teaspoon of freshly squeezed lemon juice. Hope this helps. Thanks for writing, great question! Cheers, Char
  • Jennifer C
    Jennifer C
    New here. First comment. I've noticed while browsing that recipes call for onion granules rather than onion powder. Can you explain this preference? Can't wait to get started!
  • Char N Rouxbe Staff
    Char N
    Hi Jennifer, Welcome! Excellent question. Granulated onion will combine better with liquids, making it the right choice for recipes like salad dressing, sauces, soups, and stews. Seems to work well with this recipe, as I have made it often. It's also a better choice when using a blend of spices, because the granulated onion's coarse texture lets it mix more easily with other spices, while onion powder is so fine it's hard to mix it with other spices evenly. Hope this helps. We are all looking forward to your cooking adventures! Cheers, Char
  • Aziza S
    Aziza S
    I recently made cashew béchamel for my creamed greens assignment; it came out delicious. I placed the unused sauce in the fridge for two days when I found it expanding the plastic lid of its container. I followed the recipe but soaked my cashews for a few days, consistently changing the water every 12 hours. Could I have made a fermented sauce? I am not sure what happened so I ended up tossing the remainder of the sauce into the trash. If so, would this be a good starter to make bread?
  • Char N Rouxbe Staff
    Char N
    Hello, Aziza-- Thanks for writing, cashews can bloat and ferment if left soaking for more than one day. So, you were able to see the science of fermentation in your own refrigerator. The cashews were soaked too long. I am not certain about the starter, since there are other ingredients already in the sauce. Cashews, however, are used in some starters, just not the bechamel. Thanks for writing. And, keep cooking. Char
  • Shannon C
    Shannon C
    Hi there! Is it ok if I use veggie broth instead of white wine?
  • Char N Rouxbe Staff
    Char N
    Hi Shannon: Excellent question, and the answer is YES! Gives it a nice flavor. Excellent choice. I cook without alcohol, and that is my go-to. Cheers, Char
  • Kate G
    Kate G
    Cashews are delicious but I just learned that there are some significant environmental and ethical issues with their production. Including a very thirsty, expensive production and workers getting their hands burned from the lining of the shell. With the rate of demand for cashews with the exponential growth of plant based diets it is reason for concern. https://www.nomeatathlete.com/sunflower-seed-sauce/ I’m going to try to substitute sunflower seeds, any tips?
  • Sandy S Rouxbe Staff
    Sandy S
    Hi Kate, Yes, the food world is huge and any industry so big will certainly have it's issues! I applaud your eagerness to make a change starting at home. You can certainly use sunflower seeds, it will give a distinct flavor to the sauce. You may want to (if you desire a mellower flavor profile) combine the sunflower seeds with some white beans as referenced above in the comments. Could add great flavor and texture with a combo. You would just need to experiment with the ratios until you reach your desired outcome. Best of luck! Cheers, Sandy

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