Ever since having my first baby three years ago, I’ve tried all sorts of things to get a leg up on feeding my family healthy meals. There has been quite a bit of trial and error, but I’ve found that preparing a few sauces, dressings, and/or dips to have on-hand throughout the week is the cornerstone to successful meal prepping. It’s also the key to making wholesome meals come together in a pinch. Whether you’re prepping for one, or an entire family, taking no longer than 15 minutes to prepare a homemade condiment or two is sure to make your weekday and weeknight meals a bit more easier.
The trick to keeping things simple is to make a sauce, dressing, or dip that can do double duty. Pesto, for example, can be used for all sorts of dishes (think: pasta, over fish or chicken, on pizza, etc.), but it can also be thinned out and used as a salad dressing, or made into a dip by filling it out with unsweetened yogurt. So whenever I’m prepping a sauce, I’m looking to see how it can be used in numerous ways.
A Few Tips To Making Dairy-Free Homemade Condiments:
Kitchen Equipment. Arming your kitchen with a Vitamix is the key to making things quick and easy. It whizzes up ingredients in a flash, leaving them the silkiest version of themselves. While I’m sure we all use our Vitamix for smoothies, it’s way more than a smoothie maker. I find it makes the smoothest hummus, the creamiest cashew cream, and the silkiest plant-based sauces. Throughout my years recipe developing, I have a designated spot in my kitchen for my Vitamix. That way when I’m going to make my sauces that week, I don’t have to go sifting through my cabinets, making preparation that much faster.
Think beyond dairy. Dairy is typically added for thickening and flavor, but we can achieve a similar flavor and texture by using plant-based, dairy-free ingredients as well! By soaking nuts and/or seeds, for a few hours (I like to soak them overnight, that way I have them ready to go the next day) they become softer, and therefore make a smoother, less gritty sauce - win, win! Take for example this Maple-Vanilla Cashew Cream , a sweet sauce that’s used to drizzle over breakfast as well as dessert! I like to add some other pantry staples to give condiments the ultimate flavor. Some of my go-to’s are good olive oil, nutritional yeast, apple cider vinegar, lemon juice, garlic powder, Dijon mustard, (gluten-free) miso paste, fine sea salt, and freshly ground pepper. In some cases, I love adding store-bought, plant-based yogurt, or cream cheese for certain recipes.
Seasoning is key. Your pantry staples are what make homemade plant-based condiments super flavorful. When I first started making my own sauces I thought adding things like miso, or gluten-free tamari was strange. But for dairy-free condiments, we need to replace the bacteria found in dairy products (aka the stuff that gives them all that delicious flavor), with a similar taste and depth of flavor. You may look at the ingredient list for this Vegan Onion Dip with some curiosity, but when blended all together, it gives you a plant-based onion dip that tastes just like the (dairy-based) one you grew up with. Vinegar and lemon juice are also used frequently to offer a tangy flavor. While Dijon mustard and garlic powder are typically used for added depth of flavor as well, especially in this Vegan Caesar Dressing recipe. As you get more comfortable making your own sauces, dressings, and dips, you can play around with ingredients and flavors. But remember to always blend thoroughly, and taste as you go!
In other words, think outside the box a bit. The last thing I want to do after a long day during the workweek is to make salad dressing. So, I always think of ways to repurpose sauces or dips in my fridge into super flavorful, creamy dressings that come together in a pinch. Here’s a really simple equation I use:
½ cup olive oil
2 tablespoons vinegar
1-2 tablespoons prepared sauce or dip
Salt & pepper, to taste
Whisk everything together and you’re good to go. I always find salads more palatable and exciting to eat when I have a creamy dressing to go with it!