Whether you’re an at-home vegan chef or a student taking an online pastry course, vegan cooking can be a rewarding challenge, especially when it comes to thickening vegan sauces, stews, dressings or desserts. Many recipes call for gelatin or butter as thickening agents, neither of which are vegan; fortunately there are plenty of tasty, healthy alternatives.
For your next vegan recipe, try one of these four thickening methods:
Make a roux
A roux is a mixture of equal parts fat and wheat flour that is cooked together to create a thickening agent. Creating a roux is a simple way to thicken any sauce or stew, and can be made vegan by using oil instead of butter as the fat.
To make a roux, cook the oil over medium heat until it is heated through. Once the oil is hot, slowly sprinkle in the flour, whisking constantly. Once all the flour is added, the mixture should turn into a thick paste. Continue whisking the thick paste for two to three minutes, until it is pale yellow.
The key to thickening a soup, sauce or stew using a roux is to make sure the base liquid of the recipe is added slowly to the roux before adding the other ingredients. This will ensure the roux is incorporated fully.
Use nuts or seeds
Nuts and seeds are extremely versatile ingredients to thicken vegan recipes. Flax and chia seeds are both excellent binders. Chia seeds are especially good for thickening thin liquids like almond milk or smoothies. Cashews are perhaps the most popular nut among vegan chefs, as they can be used to thicken – and serve as the base ingredient for – vegan cheeses and creamy soups. One Green Planet offers a recipe for a creamy, vegan clam chowder using raw cashews.
Dates are a common thickener in vegan desserts. Just make sure you soak the dates overnight before you use them. Another way to loosen up dates is to pour a small amount of boiled water over them after they’ve been chopped.
Incorporate thickening powders and flours
Arrowroot powder, coconut flour and chickpea flour are great thickening agents for any vegan recipe. Coconut flour is especially versatile, as it is gluten-free and can be used to thicken oatmeal, cookies, smoothies and muffins. Chickpea flour is great for thickening more savory dishes, notably soups and stews.