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Liven Up Your Meals with Easy Plant-Based Sauces and Dressings

How often have you felt like your lunch left something to be desired in the flavor department? Have you ever looked at yet another dinner of chicken and rice, or pasta, or fish and potatoes and just felt so bored?

Banish food boredom and spruce up your meals with just one simple addition – an awesome sauce! (The phrase “awesome sauce” is a thing for a reason.)

Making a homemade sauce might sound intimidating, but the truth is that many of them are a total breeze to pull together. The recipes below come together in minutes if you have a food processor or blender at your fingertips. If not, a sharp knife can mince the herbs or garlic, and a fork can whisk it all together! Boom! Done.

But why not just buy a bottle of premade salad dressing at the store? I’m glad you asked! Your health will fare far better by making some sauces and dressings at home, as many store-bought versions are loaded down with sugar, unhealthy oils, preservatives, and unnecessary thickeners.

The recipes below get bonus points for containing fresh herbs, healthy fats like olive oil or tahini, and potent cancer-preventing antioxidants like those found in garlic or ginger. You’ll get a dose of vitamins and minerals, and the fresh flavors will take your food to the next level.

Feeling saucy yet?!


Elevate your food in minutes with these simple recipes:


Fresh Basil Pumpkin Seed Pesto

Pesto is one of the easiest sauces to make, and its bright, garlicky flavor can’t be beat. This pesto pairs well with fish, chicken, roasted vegetables, whole grains, pasta, baked or roasted potatoes, and even eggs. Spread it on your sandwich instead of mayo for a flavor boost, or stir it into your scrambled eggs to add some excitement to your breakfast. Don’t have basil or pumpkin seeds? Feel free to swap in fresh cilantro or parsley for the basil, and switch out the pumpkin seeds for walnuts, almonds, sunflower seeds, or cashews.

Makes about 1 cup



1 garlic clove, papery skin removed

¼ teaspoon sea salt

3 tablespoons hulled pumpkin seeds

1 ¼ cups fresh basil, stems removed

¼ to ½ cup extra virgin olive oil, depending on desired consistency



  1. Place garlic, salt, and pumpkin seeds in a food processor. Secure the lid and turn food processor on for about 20-30 seconds, or until garlic and seeds have become finely chopped.
  2. Remove the lid, add the basil, and replace the lid.
  3. Turn on the food processor. While it’s running, pour the oil in a slow steady stream through the hole in the top of the lid. If you like a thinner pesto, add more oil. If you would like the pesto to be a thick spreadable consistency, add less oil. The pesto will come together in just a few seconds.


Use right away or store in an airtight container in the fridge. The pesto will turn slightly brown on the surface if not used the first day. This is harmless – just stir the pesto before using. Pesto can also be frozen in an airtight container for several months.


Lemon Tahini Dressing 

This dressing pairs beautifully with fresh salads, roasted vegetables, or cooked whole grains. It keeps well for about 5-6 days in the fridge. It will thicken a bit in the fridge – just stir in a spoonful of water to revive it.

*recipe from https://food52.com/recipes/28159-lemon-tahini-dressing

Makes 1 1/3 cups



½ cup tahini (sesame paste)
2/3 to ¾ cups water (as needed)
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
¾ teaspoon sea salt (or to taste)



  1. Whisk all ingredients together, starting with 2/3 cup water and adding more until you reach a desired consistency.


Thai Almond Butter Sauce

This savory sauce would be a delicious addition to steamed brown rice, sautéed or steamed leafy greens, roasted chicken or pork loin, roasted root vegetables, or cooked noodles.

Makes about 1 cup



½ cup almond butter

¼ cup cilantro leaves and/or stems

1 tablespoon fresh ginger, peeled and roughly chopped

2 cloves garlic, roughly chopped

2 tablespoons lime juice

1 tablespoon honey (optional)

½ – 1 teaspoon sea salt or soy sauce (or gluten-free tamari or coconut aminos)

¼ – ½ jalapeño (remove seeds for a milder kick)

½ cup water



  1. Combine all of the ingredients in a blender and puree until smooth.


Romesco Sauce

*recipe from https://nyssaskitchen.com/fast-and-easy-romesco-sauce/

This Spanish sauce is orange in color and pairs beautifully with fish or vegetables. Serve it alongside roasted chicken, baked halibut, or sautéed shrimp, or use it as a creative dip for veggie sticks. Try spreading this tasty, smoky sauce on a sandwich in place of mayo. You can even make a luscious pasta sauce by warming this romesco sauce with a bit of cream and tossing it with your favorite whole grain pasta.


2 large roasted red bell peppers from a jar

½ cup whole roasted almonds

2 tablespoons tomato paste

2 ½ tablespoons red wine vinegar

2 tablespoons fresh parsley

1 clove garlic

1 teaspoon paprika

½ teaspoon cayenne

½ cup extra virgin olive oil

1 ½ tsp salt

black pepper to taste



  1. Add all ingredients to food processor except olive oil and pulse until fairly well combined.

With the motor running, add oil in a steady stream until emulsified and almost smooth. Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary.

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