This simple vegan bechamel sauce recipe is versatile and ideal to use on pasta, pizza or lasagna! Made from a roux with soy milk, vegan bechamel is a truly satisfying sauce with classic flavor.
In this recipe I also provide plenty of tasty options enhance the sauce and take its flavor to a higher level! Customize to your taste preferences and for whatever you’re using the bechamel for.
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Is Bechamel Sauce Vegan?
Bechamel is a classic roux-based milk sauce that’s used in many different recipes! As a milk sauce, it’s not traditionally vegan however it’s a simple sauce that’s easily veganized.
Roux is a butter and flour mixture that thickens sauces. It’s typically made with dairy butter but can easily be veganized by using vegan butter or oil. This, along with flour is the base of the sauce and creates a rich flavor that thickens the milk!
Instead of dairy milk, just use plant-based milk. Select an unsweetened, unflavored vegan milk for a neutral flavor that’ll work however you’re using the recipe. I prefer soy milk since it’s one of the creamiest plant-based milk options. Oat milk is my second choice, so use either if you have it on hand.
While this recipe can be made with almond milk, I find it quite thin (watery) and may not result in the creamiest bechamel sauce.
Ingredients to Make Soy Milk Bechamel
This is a simple recipe that can be kept classic or enhanced with any combination of flavors. For a classic vegan bechamel you’ll need:
- Vegan butter: To make the roux, start with vegan butter or margarine. You can also use oil, but oil may flavor the sauce depending on what type you use (ex. olive oil has a stronger flavor). Fat is essential for flavor and richness and creates a perfect roux that will thicken the milk into an ultra creamy bechamel!
- All purpose flour: Used to thicken the sauce, flour creates a smooth, velvety consistency!
- Soy milk: While any type of plant-based milk can work in this recipe, I prefer soy milk since it has a nice creaminess. It’s neutral in flavor so the final product tastes more like a classic bechamel!
- Salt: Enhance all the simple flavors in this sauce with some salt.
- Ground nutmeg: To add some complexity into bechamel, ground nutmeg is essential. This is a classic spice used in bechamel sauces!
- Black (or white) pepper: I keep black pepper on hand and it’s perfect to use for a boost of traditional flavor. If you’re concerned about keeping the sauce as white as possible, you can use ground white pepper (not a concern for me!).
If you’re looking for extra cheesy flavor, some nutritional yeast is a delicious add-in. Just note the sauce turns yellow (not a concern unless you want the sauce to be very white).
I also love the addition of lemon juice. This adds a burst of fresh acidity that perfectly compliments the heavier, creamy flavors of a bechamel.
See my list of additional flavorings below!
How to Make Dairy Free Bechamel Sauce
Bechamel (or any roux sauce) can seem intimidating to make but it’s really very simple!
Step 1: Prep Ingredients
It’s best to start this recipe with the ingredients measured and ready to stir in. Cooking happens quickly so have the butter, flour, soy milk and spices ready to go.
It’s best to warm your soy milk in a small pot over low heat since this helps keep the sauce smooth. If you don’t do this, there’s a chance of the sauce splitting (clumping) when you pour in cold milk. So, set yourself up for success by using warm soy milk!
Step 2: Cook Sauce (Whisk)
In a medium sauce pot, melt the vegan butter over medium heat. Once your butter just starts to sizzle, add the flour and whisk together until there are no clumps.
Keep the butter-flour mixture (roux) cooking for 30-45 seconds after all the clumps are out, whisking the entire time.
At this point, slowly pour in your soy milk, whisking continuously. I like to pour in about ½ cup at a time, whisking until smooth, then slowly pouring in the next ½ cup.
The first ½ cup of milk will create a large clump that looks like dough. Whisk through this; you’ll end up with a liquid sauce consistency after you add the first full cup of milk.
As you pour in more milk, the sauce will seemingly become quite thin. This is okay because once you add all the milk (slowly, while whisking continuously and vigorously) you’ll keep the sauce cooking for about 8-10 minutes until it’s nicely thickened.
I like to turn up the heat to medium-high once all the milk is in and whisk continuously until it’s thickened. Be patient; the sauce starts thin but will thicken with time and heat. Whisking prevents the sauce from burning and keeps everything smooth!
Step 3: Flavor and Serve
After your sauce is thick, reduce the heat to low and whisk in any spices (salt, pepper and nutmeg, plus nutritional yeast or other flavorings as desired).
Remove the sauce from heat and use over pasta, in lasagna or for pizza!
Easy Vegan Bechamel Tips and Variations
The best tips I have for making bechamel (or any roux-based sauce) are:
- Warm the soy milk before using. This helps ensure your sauce doesn’t “split” when cooking.
- Keep whisking, vigorously. It’s hard to pour milk and whisk at the same time, so pour in about ½ cup at a time, set down the milk, whisk until completely smooth, then slowly pour in the next ½ cup.
- Be patient. After all the milk is added, your sauce will seem thin. It takes another 8-10 minutes of medium-high heat to thicken.
There’s plenty of delicious ways to add flavor to this simple sauce. In the recipe card below I recommend adding in nutritional yeast and lemon juice for a burst of freshness.
Some other tasty ingredients worth adding to vegan bechamel include:
- Roasted garlic (or garlic powder)
- Sauteed or caramelized onions
- Vegan cheese shreds
- Fresh or dry herbs (any combo you like!)
Refrigerate and Freeze Vegan Bechamel
You can refrigerate extra sauce in an airtight container or jar for up to a week, or freeze in a freezer safe container for up to 3 months. To thaw, let the sauce sit in the fridge overnight, then heat through in a small pot (while whisking!).
If you make this recipe, please rate and comment below to help others benefit from your experience!
Vegan Bechamel Sauce (Roux with Soy Milk)
- ¼ cup vegan butter (or margarine)
- 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 2 ½ cups soy milk , unsweetened
- 1 teaspoon salt
- ¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
- ¼ teaspoon black pepper (or white pepper)
- 2 tablespoons nutritional yeast
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice
- To start, gather and measure all your ingredients. You'll need to whisk for a while, so having everything ready to go is essential for great sauce!¼ cup vegan butter, 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour, 2 ½ cups soy milk, 1 teaspoon salt, ¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg, ¼ teaspoon black pepper, 2 tablespoons nutritional yeast, 2 tablespoons lemon juice
- Melt vegan butter in a medium sauce pot over medium heat.¼ cup vegan butter
- Once the butter starts to sizzle (bubble), add all-purpose flour and whisk until combined – make sure there are no clumps of flour.3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- Cook the butter-flour mixture for 30-45 seconds.
- Next, slowly pour in soy milk, whisking continuously. Add about ½ cup at a time and whisk vigorously until the mixture is completely smooth. Continue until all the milk is incorporated.2 ½ cups soy milk
- Turn up the heat to medium-high and whisk your sauce for 5-8 minutes, until it’s thick and sticking to the edges of the pot and whisk.
- When your sauce is thick, turn the heat to low and whisk in salt, ground nutmeg and ground black pepper. If using, whisk in nutritional yeast and/ or lemon juice.1 teaspoon salt, ¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg, ¼ teaspoon black pepper, 2 tablespoons nutritional yeast, 2 tablespoons lemon juice
- Remove the sauce from heat and use for pasta, lasagna, pizza; whatever you like!
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About Nicole Stevens
Nicole is a vegan Registered Dietitian (RD) and founder of Lettuce Veg Out.
She helps people thrive on a vegan diet with balanced recipes and easy-to-understand nutrition science.