Alternatives in Action: Dairy-Free Bechamel Style Sauce with Lisa

Being from an Italian heritage, I’ve mentioned previously the role that tasty cheeses played in my life growing up and how much I loved the taste of the tangy, salty and oozy cheeses.  The small problem was that the rest of my body didn’t love them as much as my tastebuds did, as I found when I stopped eating dairy and the eczema and tummy issues I’d been plagued with as a kid (eg. constipation and excruciating stomach aches) cleared up.

So back when I started creating alternatives one of the first recipes I played with was a Bechamel style sauce, because lasagne just wasn’t lasagne without the melty cheeses in my mind. So if you don’t have a melty cheese alternative on hand, this sauce oozes beautifully between the layers of your lasagne and browns nicely on the top as well giving you that “creamy cheesy feeling” without any cheese at all.  So check out the quick video snippet from our Lasagne episode to see how you can make this at home. If you want the recipe it’s in our book (the link is below).

The important steps in the recipe & how to minimise lumps in your sauce: This sauce is a little more sensitive than the wheat/ butter/ milk version is and there are 2 key places in this recipe that you can end up with a clumpy mess if you’re not careful.
The first is to make sure you add the flour to the oil SLOWLY. Bit by bit. I cannot stress this enough. If you try and just lump all the flour into the oil and stir like mad it’s going to end up like a clumpy mess (and look like the “wrong” one does in the short video). It’ll also end up like a clumpy mess if you use too much flour and not enough oil (I know because I’ve tried).
The second spot to be careful: When you’re adding the milk to the paste. Again, do it as slowly as you can. The first ~150-250 ml are the hardest as when you add the milk the “cooked” paste re-hydrates and looks like it’s going to go lumpy, but as long as you keep stirring until all the rice milk has been absorbed before adding the next 50 mls, you’ll be cool.

Alternative tip:  If you’re wondering how it works with other milk alternatives, I’ve done a little experiment  here. Basically, different milks can affect the colour, flavour and opacity of the sauce (eg. how “solid white” the sauce looks) and some milk alternatives work better than others but it’s going to depend on what your particular dietary needs are. You can also use a commercial rice milk, but be sure to check the labels to make sure they’re suitable for the person you are cooking for.

Also if you’re using a low fat, low protein milk alternative  eg. plain rice milk – made with just rice and no sunflower seeds, you might find that the olive oil comes out of solution and floats on top when you’re adding the milk in step 2. This is partly because the sunflower seeds have a bit of an emulsifying effect which help to keep the watery milky part and the fatty olive oil part better combined.


  Find the recipe here:

The Little Book of Allergy-Friendly Italian Recipes.