When I was learning to cook for myself in college I mostly ate prepackaged food and simple meals my mom used to cook when I was a kid. I ate vegetables but they were mostly baked into dishes like chicken and Stovetop stuffing, or chili.
A few years after college I developed some health problems and had to overhaul my diet. That meant incorporating a lot more vegetables and a lot less processed food. At first I hated it. Most of my meals were terribly bland and boring but I wasn’t sure why.
As it turns out, the secret is in the sauce.
I’m not talking about bottled salad dressing. I’m talking about sauces that are so delicious you will want to drink them straight from the jar and that you can slather over any vegetable and enjoy it.
Now, our weekly menu is full of healthy, delicious meals that include a few basic ingredients – a protein (quinoa, tofu or beans), a variety of vegetables (carrots, kale, tomatoes, green beans) and a sauce.
The following recipes come from several of my favorite food bloggers and cookbook writers. We’ve made a few slight changes to them over time, based on what we have on hand. You should definitely check out their blogs and cookbooks because they will provide you with recipes that accompany these sauces.
This peanut sauce is hands down my favorite sauce. We make it at least twice a month. Our favorite recipes to add it to include veggie spring rolls, tofu & veggie noodles, roasted cauliflower, or as a dip for veggies.
- 1 cup creamy, unsalted peanut butter (we buy the grind-your-own from Winco)
- 2 cloves garlic
- Zest and juice of one large lime (about 1 tablespoon of juice, ½ tablespoon of zest)
- 1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes
- 3 Tbsp. soy sauce
- 2 tsp. rice vinegar
- 3 tsp. toasted sesame oil (start with less and add more to taste)
- 4 tablespoons full fat coconut milk
- 1/4 cup chopped cilantro, optional
- Water, as needed to thin
Instructions: Add all ingredients to a blender except for the cilantro and water and blend until completely smooth. Add the cilantro and 1 tablespoon of water and blend again. Add more water, 1 tablespoon at a time, until it is the desired consistency. It will thicken up after it has been in the fridge so you might need to add more water before serving.
Everyday Green Dressing (adapted from Sprouted Kitchen book #2, Bowl + Spoon)
This sauce is bright and delicious. We love it on eggs, potato salad, or any dish with quinoa and veggies.
- 2 cloves garlic
- 2 green onions, white and green parts
- 2 tbsp drained capers
- ½ tsp sea salt
- ½ tsp freshly ground pepper
- ¼ tsp red pepper flakes
- Zest and juice of 2 lemons
- 2 tsp apple cider vinegar
- 2 cups firmly packed basil leaves
- 1 cup flat-leaf parsley
- 1 cup cilantro
- ¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
Variation: if you eat dairy, add 1 cup whole Greek yogurt
Instructions: In a food processor, pulse the garlic, green onions, capers, salt, pepper, red pepper flakes and lemon zest & juice to combine. Add the vinegar, yogurt (if using), herbs. With the motor running, drizzle in the olive oil. Taste and add more vinegar or oil to taste.
Lemon-Tahini Dressing (from Oh She Glows)
Is it okay to say I have two favorite sauces? There are a lot of variations on lemon-tahini sauces but this one is my favorite. It comes together really quickly and goes well with all veggies. We usually have a jar of this in the fridge. I always double this recipe.
- 1 large clove of garlic
- ¼ cup tahini (I buy mine from Barbur World Foods)
- ½ cup fresh lemon juice
- 2-4 tablespoons nutritional yeast, to taste
- 6-8 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil (or grapeseed oil)
- ½ tsp sea salt
- Fresh ground pepper, to taste
- Water, if needed for consistency
Instructions: Mince garlic in food processor. Add the rest of the ingredients and process until smooth. Adjust dressing to taste and add water if you want it thinner.
Roasted Carrot & Cumin Dressing (from Thug Kitchen)
I recently discovered this recipe and it will definitely make its way into more salads this summer. It’s easier than you might think even though you have to roast the carrots, because there is no need to peel them and roasting them is also hands-off. This is really good on a green salad with lots of veggies.
- 3 medium carrots
- 1 tsp olive oil
- ½ tsp ground cumin
- Pinch of salt
- ⅓ cup white wine vinegar, or rice vinegar
- ¼ cup water
- 2 tablespoons orange juice
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
Instructions: heat your oven to 375 degrees. Chop the carrots into ½ inch chunks. Toss them with oil, cumin & salt and roast until they are tender, about 40 minutes. Let them cool and add them to a food processor with the rest of the ingredients. Blend until smooth. It might take a couple minutes.
Do you have any favorite sauce recipes?