Casey Means, MD, a Portland-based doctor and nutrition expert, recently shared one of her all-time favorite healthy cooking tips on Instagram: Whipping up a creamy nut- and seed-based sauce that makes vegan and plant-based meals "instantly 10 times better." Using a base of any combo of nuts and seeds (her go-to is sunflower seeds and flaxseeds) combined with a splash of ACV, garlic, and a little tamari and chili powder leaves you with a dairy-free sauce that can be used on nearly any plant-based dish. It also provides some major health benefits.
"For many of my patients trying to improve their diets and move away from inflammatory foods, kicking the dairy habit is the biggest hurdle," says Dr. Means. "One of my favorite tips to ease this transition away from dairy is to substitute creamy, rich sauces made from nuts and seeds, which are extremely simple and quick to make in a high-powered blender, and can be tailored to any thickness or flavor. These sauces contain a number of health-promoting compounds, like omega-3 fatty acids, antioxidants, micronutrients, and phytochemicals."
Using the sauce is also a great way to add satiating fats to your dishes without depending on oils. "I don't generally cook with oils, because refined versions of fats are never going to be as healthy as a whole food form of a fat," she says. "When I'm cooking mixed vegetable sautés for dinner, I don't use any oil in the pan. Then at the very end of cooking, I'll toss the veggies in one of my homemade nut/seed creams to give the dish a more savory, creamy texture."
And using it with veggie sautés is just the beginning. When Dr. Means says she uses this sauce every day, she's not lying. "I use nut and seed sauces as an alternative to sour cream, cream cheese, creamy salad dressings, mayo, creamy taco sauce, dips, queso, gravy, and pasta sauce," she says. You can also drizzle it over roasted veggies. The options are endless. To make the sauce yourself, follow her recipe below.
The perfect nutty sauce
1/2 cup nut/seed blend
1/2 cup + 3 tbsp filtered water
1 tbsp chili powder
1 tbsp liquid aminos or tamari
1 tbsp apple cider vinegar
3 cloves garlic (whole)
1. Put 1/2 cup nuts and seeds—any combo you want—into a blender. Dr. Means uses flaxseeds and sunflower seeds.
2. Add 1/2 cup + 3 tbsp water and your seasonings: apple cider vinegar, garlic, and tamari or liquid aminos.
3. Blend on high for one minute until it's creamy. Add chili powder and briefly blend until mixed throughout.
4. If you want to thin out the sauce, simply add more water.
5. Use in all your plant-based dishes for a flavor—and nutritional—punch.
For another healthy recipe, try this vegan buffalo dip:
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