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Vegan Tzatziki Sauce

Herbaceous, rich, and tangy, homemade vegan tzatziki sauce is deliciously healthy, using magic cashew cream as its base. Unless you spill the beans, your peeps will never guess it’s dairy-free! {Vegan, vegetarian, gluten-free, oil-free}

Dairy-free Tzatziki Sauce, vegan and delicious. Recipe at SoupAddict.com

A few weeks ago, I had an episode of “Mom” playing in the background while I worked. I don’t follow this show, so I’m ignorant to its charms, but one of the characters was taking some heat for dating a vegan. I stayed tuned in, curious.

The only way this hippie-vegan could’ve been more stereotyped was if they’d outfitted him with blue-tinted granny glasses and a headband, lol. His diet was eyeroll-worthy: at a meet-the-girlfriend’s-family dinner of sloppy, hand-held BBQ ribs (but of course that’s what you’d serve a vegan guest), he brought a bowl of kale and quinoa. Like, literally, kale and quinoa.

I think I can safely speak for my fellow plant-based-eating peoples and say that we don’t eat bowls of kale. We have kale salads, yes, but a kale salad does not mean a bowl of kale. It means that the greens of said salad are predominantly kale, but lots of other non-kale things go in there, too.

It’s worth pointing out two things: First, while insanely nutritious, leafy greens like kale do not provide sufficient calories when consumed on their own. A pound of kale — and dat’s a whoooole lotta kale — is only about 220 calories. Humans cannot survive on kale. Second, kale is difficult for many to digest, so while a nice one-cup serving of kale leaves is a beautiful thing, I personally can’t wrap my head (or my tummy) around an entire bowl of kale.

I realize that this TV caricature was exaggeration-as-comedic-device, but from a strictly healthy-eating perspective, it was strange and unhelpful.

Dairy-free Tzatziki Sauce, perfect as a veggie dip. Recipe at SoupAddict.com

Because the truth is, in 2017, eating healthy, plant-based — and yes, even vegan — meals is easier than ever. Not just cooking easier, but delicious easier. As more cooking-minded people have turned their attention to plant-based recipes, our tasty vegan options have grown exponentially.

But, let’s back up a sec: Just what does vegan mean? A vegan diet (and lifestyle) eliminates anything that is made from animals, period, including animal byproducts, such as milk. Following a vegan diet means no honey, no milk, cheese, or yogurt, no eggs, no non-organic cane sugar (did you know that conventional cane sugar is not vegan? Truth! It’s processed and bleached white in a procedure that uses charred animal bones. Our food system is sooo bizarre).

As with any elimination diet, giving up something you love is a real challenge to success. Cutting out dairy has been a personal goal, ever since I learned it was a significant source of bad cholesterol (the kind that builds up in your arteries). I can’t stand milk in a glass, so that’s easy-peasy. Yogurt’s not my favorite, either (byeyeeee). Cheese, I cut cold turkey and have just never looked back, despite thinking that would be the most difficult.

But, I do like certain creamy, dairy-based things like sour cream, dips, and ice cream. Fortunately, I already have an arsenal of yummy substitutes, including dairy-free tzatziki sauce. (Almond milk ice cream, btw, is da bomb. Buh-byeee, dairy ice cream.)

It wasn’t that long ago when following a vegan diet meant lots and lots of tofu. Dairy substitutes were — and, when purchased from the grocery store, still largely are — tofu-based. I’ve written about my isshhues with tofu before, so I won’t rehash it here, other than to say I’m not silken tofu’s biggest fan.

But the awesome news is that you don’t have to rely on tofu for things that our omnivore selves miss, like dips and cheese sauces.

Dairy-free Tzatziki Sauce, vegan and delicious. Recipe at SoupAddict.com

Just look at that spoon! Know what the secret to that thick, creamy, herb-loaded dip is?

Cashew nuts.

No way! Way!

I’ve made a lot of vegan sauces over the years, with all kinds of ingredients, including cauliflower (y’all know about cauliflower cheese sauce, right?), coconut milk roux, and yes, even tofu.

But the best sauce by far is made with raw cashews. I don’t know what the dealio is, but those chunky, beige, half-moon nuts blend down into a rich, smooth, and creamy white sauce that’s gently savory and completely addictive, right out of the blender.

It’s unexpected, because blended peanuts = peanut butter and blended almonds = almond butter. So, how is it possible that cashews end up so smooth and silky and creamy?

I dunno, but here’s the proof:

Dairy-free Tzatziki Sauce, vegan and delicious. Recipe at SoupAddict.com

If you’ve been curious about vegan substitutes for dairy — curious but tentative — this should be your first homemade introduction. Seriously, try it. Just try it. Don’t make it for a party or a potluck or anything where you’ll feel pressure about the result.

Just make it for yourself. No biggie. Get some raw cashews from the bulk bins, some fresh herbs and garlic, and raid your pantry for everything else. You’ll need a good blender — a Vitamix or a Nutribullet (which I have, because I’m cheap) will work great; standard blenders might require a trial run and a little extra buzzing, but they should do the job.

Like most dips, dairy-free tzatziki is better when allowed to sit overnight (or at least 4 hours), so get your patience on and plan ahead. You’ll need to soak the cashews in water for about an hour before you assemble the recipe, so factor that in, too.

For the rest, you just dump stuff into the blender and process until creamy smooth. Stir in the herbs and cukes, and taste. Incredible, amirite? Not cashew-nutty at all, just smooth and creamy and dairy-y. Scrape into a bowl, cover, and stick it in the fridge, and let time do its magical thing where it makes all the seasonings do a happy flavor handshake. Tzatziki purists, you might be frowning a little at all the dill, which is not traditional (as I learned after yearzzz of making tzatziki with lots of dill, lol). Nor is the cilantro. But I love herbs and the verdant freshness they add to creamy dips. You can simply add more mint if you’d rather, but I hope you’ll try this dilly version. The tzatziki police will know no better, I promise.

Once you fall in love with this vegan tzatziki, I think you’ll understand how it’s totally possible to be a food-loving cook and thrive on vegan foods, and why “vegan” is not weird, or all about kale and quinoa. I’m not here to convert, only to help people find solutions to their food challenges. And that challenge might be as complex as a diet overhaul for you, or, as simple as needing a dip for a vegan friend your kid is bringing home from college.

One of the unexpected results of eliminating dairy was discovering it was the cause of a few annoying, persistent icks that sometimes made life a little womp-womp, such as rosacea flair-ups, and minor, but almost nightly, digestive upset. By eliminating dairy, not only do I feel noticeably better every day, but I’ve reduced my bad cholesterol intake (my new numbers … {swoon}). Cashew nuts — all nuts, in fact — are naturally cholesterol-free and feature healthy monounsaturated fats. They’re none too shabby on protein, too.

Vegan, dairy-free tzatziki sauce is delicious on gyros, tacos, veggie burgers, and makes a double-dippable veggie dip. I hope you’ll give it a go! 😀

Karen xo

Dairy-free Tzatziki Sauce | Recipe at SoupAddict.com
Print Recipe
5 from 1 vote

Dairy-free Tzatziki Sauce

A delicious, creamy vegan tzatziki sauce made with the magic of cashews. Note that the sauce is best when refrigerated overnight, so factor that into your prep time. Goes great on gyros, and as a veggie dip or salad dressing.
Prep Time1 hr 15 mins
Servings: 4 tablespoons
Author: Karen Gibson

Ingredients

  • 1 cup raw, whole cashews
  • 1/2 large field cucumber
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 1 small clove garlic, roughly chopped
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh dill
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh mint
  • 2 teaspoons minced fresh cilantro
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

Instructions

  • Place the cashews in a small bowl and cover with water by 1/2". Let soak for an hour, then drain, discarding the soaking liquid.
  • While the cashews soak, peel the cucumber and remove the seeds (slice the cucumber in half length-wise, and cut a "V" around the seed bed). Grate the cucumber on a box grater, and transfer the grates to a sieve set in a bowl. Press the cucumber grates with a paper towel, and let drain until ready to use, discarding the cucumber liquid.
  • Add the drained cashews and 1/2 cup water, lemon juice, vinegar, and garlic to a high-performance blender, and blend. Stop after 30 seconds, and check the mixture. If it's thick and grainy like paste, add a tablespoon of water, and blend for another 30 seconds. Check again. Add another tablespoon of water, if necessary, and blend. The sauce should creamy-smooth.
  • Scrape the sauce into a bowl, and stir in the drained cucumbers, herbs and salt. Cover, and refrigerate overnight or at least 6 hours. Taste. Add a pinch more salt for a pop of flavor, and/or a small splash of lemon juice for additional tang.

Notes

It might be tempting to use roasted, salted cashews, but I don't recommend it. Raw cashews are wonderfully neutral and blend much better with the sauce's seasonings.
Nutritional information, if shown, is provided as a courtesy only, and is not to be taken as medical information or advice. The nutritional values of your preparation of this recipe are impacted by several factors, including, but not limited to, the ingredient brands you use, any substitutions or measurement changes you make, and measuring accuracy.

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Sarah L.

Sunday 24th of March 2019

I tried this yesterday, even though I felt way in over my head with the cashews and felt it couldn't possibly work. I thought it was really good, but the true test was my son's vegan girlfriend, who declared it a success!

SoupAddict

Sunday 24th of March 2019

The first time I tried cashew cream, I was soooo skeptical (especially since I'm not really a fan of cashews). I made sour cream, and was shocked at how good it was. I'm glad it passed the family and friends test for you!