I’ve got one more reason to keep your blender (or food processor) out on the counter! With a few healthful pantry staples, you’ll have the basis for creamy, satisfying dishes without all the fat and calories of cream.
Here are some of my favorite ingredients for delivering thickness and satisfying texture while letting the natural flavors in food really shine through. Better yet, each is a nutritional superstar in its own right, so blending them up makes great health sense.
Beans — They’re packed with protein and fiber, and adding them to everything from soups to sauces to dips adds thickness and body. White beans are particularly popular because of their neutral color. Cannellini beans are featured in our Creamy Spinach Dip opens in a new tab and garbanzo beans are the star of the rich vegan sauce used in this Creamy Tahini and Broccoli Pasta opens in a new tab.
Cashews — Not only are they an irresistible snack, but blending cashews with liquid makes a power-packed alternative to dairy. Try your hand at the spreadable Cashew Nut Cheese opens in a new tab or the versatile Cashew Sour Cream opens in a new tab and top a dessert with Cashew Cream opens in a new tab. Their naturally sweet flavor and velvety texture enrich these satisfying casseroles: Chicken Enchilada Casserole opens in a new tab and Creamy Cashew Macaroni opens in a new tab.
Tofu — Tofu’s creamy texture and neutral flavor makes it ideal for replacing high-fat ingredients. Ditch the cheese in lasagna and opt for Tofu Ricotta opens in a new tab. Use vegan Tofu Spread opens in a new tab instead of mayonnaise on sandwiches, wraps and in dips. It does double-duty in our recipe for Sonoma Tofu Salad opens in a new tab, blended first with white beans to make a thick dressing and then tossed with celery and grapes for a hearty main-course salad.
Vegetable purées — Smoothly blended cooked vegetables are an ideal way to bring cream-like richness to soups and sauces while adding virtually no fat. Root vegetables like parsnips, potatoes and carrots are popular choices, as are winter squash and cauliflower. The latter gets star billing in lean and flavorful Creamy Curried Cauliflower Soup opens in a new tab. Snag canned pumpkin and sweet potato purées for easy work.
Walnuts — These healthy nuts are packed with antioxidants and heart-healthy nutrients, and they’re tops when it comes to deep, rounded flavor. In our popular Kale Waldorf Salad opens in a new tab, they’re blended with nothing more than good old H20 to produce a wonderfully rich and satisfying dressing. With garlic and sherry vinegar, they make a good-for-you creamy dip for steamed artichokes opens in a new tab.
Bananas — When it comes to sweets, nothing adds naturally lean creaminess like ripe bananas. Frozen bananas are the delicious highlight of this great alternative to ice cream opens in a new tab and in this one with honey and cinnamon opens in a new tab..
Do you have any tricks for adding creaminess without the cream? Share your thoughts and suggestions in the comments section below.