I am not a vegan, and this is not a vegan blog. Far from it. We eat meat once in a while, and those of you who read my site regularly know that I love cheese WAY too much to swear it off. But sometimes, I find myself getting creative while working on dairy-free recipes for my kosher readers. I stumbled across this sauce somewhat by accident while developing my Dairy-Free Scalloped Potatoes recipe. I was trying to make a creamy vegan sauce for the potatoes, and I was inspired to combine saffron, coconut milk, garlic and salt. What resulted was better than I could have imagined– a creamy, buttery, gluten free sauce that reminded me a lot of hollandaise. I developed the sauce further to stand alone, and here is the result… Vegan Saffron Hollandaise!
Now, for those of you who love regular hollandaise sauce, let’s be brutally honest– it’s tough to measure up to the rich, buttery, eggy standard. That said, this sauce has its own creamy personality that I think comes as close to hollandaise as a dairy-free sauce can. The full-fat coconut milk lends a lot of richness to the sauce (please, please, PLEASE don’t use the light coconut milk– it won’t have nearly the same flavor!). Despite the fact that the sauce is overwhelmingly made from coconut milk, it doesn’t taste overly “coconutty.” There is something magical about the combination of saffron, garlic, salt and lemon juice in the midst of that creamy coconut milk… it’s absolutely delish. The cayenne adds just a touch of heat that rounds out the flavor. I could eat it with a spoon.
This sauce is gluten free, dairy free, and cholesterol free. Coconut milk is high in saturated fat, which is a downside, but recent studies show that the medium chain fatty acids in coconut milk may be healthier than previously thought. That’s not to say that coconut milk should be consumed in massive quantities, but like everything, in moderation it’s not so bad. My friend Kirstin informed me that this sauce is also paleo-friendly if you substitute coconut oil for the dairy-free butter substitute. The whole paleo thing frankly confuses me a bit. But if it works for you and you happen to be paleo, then that’s awesome!
This sauce can obviously be used as a hollandaise substitute, but I can also see it being used other ways… on pasta, over roasted vegetables and rice, or on a baked potato. So many possibilities!
- Generous pinch saffron threads, plus 2 tbsp hot water for soaking
- 2 tbsp non-hydrogenated butter substitute (I recommend Earth Balance)
- 3/4 tsp crushed garlic
- 2 1/2 tsp corn starch
- 3/4 cup coconut milk (full fat, unsweetened, canned)
- 1/4 cup unsweetened almond or soy milk (no vanilla added)
- 1 tbsp fresh lemon juice, or more to taste
- 1/2 tsp salt, or more to taste
- Pinch of cayenne pepper, or more to taste (I use a generous pinch, about 1/8 tsp)
You will also need
- Mortar and pestle, small saucepan, whisk
- Have all your ingredients assembled before you begin, so you can work quickly to ensure a smooth, even sauce. Crush the saffron threads in a mortar and pestle.
- Pour 2 tbsp water over the saffron threads to let them soak for 5 minutes. This opens up the flavor of the saffron.
- In a small saucepan, melt the butter substitute over medium heat. Quickly sauté minced garlic till fragrant, then whisk in corn starch. Continue whisking till smooth. Don't let the cornstarch cook very long.
- Slowly whisk in the coconut milk, a quarter cupful at a time, followed by the almond or soy milk.
- Whisk in the lemon juice, salt, cayenne and saffron threads and water. Heat the sauce over medium, whisking frequently, until it bubbles around the edges and thickens. Reduce heat to low and keep warm. Stir in additional salt, lemon juice or cayenne to taste, if desired. Serve warm sauce over a variety of dishes. It goes well with steamed artichokes and asparagus, and would make a terrific tofu benedict. Keep in mind that like any thick sauce, if left to cool it will develop a skin on the surface. Be sure to warm it up and whisk it to break up any skin on the surface before serving.
Other Great Recipe Ideas
Tasty Kitchen: Creamy Cashew Garlicky Sage Sauce
Weelicious: Tofu Scramble Two Ways
In Erika’s Kitchen: Chickpea Curry with Coconut
Healthful Pursuit: Vegan Alfredo Sauce