Is gluten-free, dairy-free bread sauce an oxymoron? Probably! But I say, why should you go without bread sauce just because you have dietary restrictions? For those who have never heard of it, bread sauce is a wonderful creamy, richly spiced sauce that is an absolute must with an English roast. It is very easy to prepare and will spruce up your veggies beautifully and perfectly complement any vegan Christmas lunch.
Bread sauce is one of the great traditional British sauces that dates back to medieval times! It was once a way of using up stale bread to thicken milk into a sauce. This simple recipe has been passed down through the generations relatively unchanged and is a firm family favourite still to this day.
The secret to a good bread sauce is in the spices. Not only is it milk thickened with bread but, the milk is first infused with the heady scent of onion and spices. The result is a creamy, spiced sauce that pairs beautifully with a roast dinner! To many in the UK, bread sauce is thought of as an essential accompaniment to the traditional Christmas lunch.
Gluten-Free and Dairy-Free Bread Sauce?
Bread sauce is a particularly emotive sauce for me. I absolutely LOVED bread sauce as a child but I’m ashamed to admit that I used to prefer the Colman’s packet bread sauce to my Mum’s delicious homemade bread sauce! 🙈 Thankfully my taste buds developed over time and I learnt to love the real deal!
So, I was gutted when I had to go gluten-free 11 years ago and realised that bread sauce would be off the menu for me. Luckily, it turns out that gluten-free bread does a pretty good job of thickening milk in the same way. Likewise, when you add dairy-free/vegan into the mix, oat milk (or nut milk if you prefer) also likes to be thickened in the same way as normal milk! So, we can have gluten-free, dairy-free bread sauce even though it sounds like an oxymoron! Hooray!
- Onion – the standard brown onion is best for this sauce.
- Spices – cloves, bay leaf, nutmeg, peppercorns – these are the very traditional flavours for bread sauce but feel free to adjust to your liking!
- Oat Milk – I like the neutrality of oat milk but if you prefer to use nut milk then that would work too as long as it is unsweetened. If using oat milk, make sure it is made with gluten-free oats.
- White Gluten-Free Bread – ideally you would use stale bread but fresh bread will just give a slightly gooey-er consistency. I find that I never use a whole loaf of gluten-free bread before it goes stale so I keep ends of loaves chopped into cubes and kept in the door of the freezer so that they can be ready to use for making sauces, dips, stuffing, or croutons whenever you fancy it.
- Rapeseed (Canola) or Olive Oil – In the traditional recipe, this would have been butter but I have substituted it for rapeseed or olive oil. Rapeseed makes more sense as it is a traditional British crop but, frankly, we are all accustomed to the taste of olive oil nowadays and it works well. For this recipe, I’d say go for the regular refined version as opposed to the highly flavoured extra virgin kind. This is not meant to be a flavouring but just a way to enrich the sauce. If you want the buttery flavour instead, then go for vegan butter in place of the oil.
How do you make vegan GF bread sauce?
Bread sauce is such a simple recipe. The French have their complex roux based sauces and we Brits just throw in some stale bread! Ha ha!
- Stud the onion with a handful of cloves and put in a pan with the milk and other spices.
- Bring the mixture to the boil then immediately turn off the stove and leave the milk to infuse with the flavours of the onion and spices for ½ hour.
- Strain the milk and then add back to the pan with the cubes of GF bread and simmer for a few minutes, stirring, until thickened.
- Enrich with the oil (or skip this step if you want it to be oil-free).
Vegan and Gluten-Free Bread Sauce FAQs
Yes! Gluten-free bread thickens bread sauce just as well as normal bread. It’s not the gluten that is doing the thickening but the structure of the bread itself, i.e. the lumps of bread disintegrating into the milk. So it doesn’t matter that it’s gluten-free!
My favourite milk to use for this vegan bread sauce is oat milk (I like Oatly) but you could also use nut milk if you prefer. I would recommend using a mild flavoured plant-based milk like cashew or macadamia milk rather than the stronger flavoured almond milk.
Yes! If you make it ahead, don’t add the oil at the end of the recipe, just pour the sauce into a freezer-proof container and pour the oil on top (or melt vegan butter on top) so that the oil seals the sauce. Then freezer in the container. When you’re ready to use it, defrost in the fridge the night before, then gently re-heat in a saucepan (don’t let it boil), whisking the layer of oil into the sauce at the same time.
Traditionally, bread sauce is served with a classic English roast, either chicken or turkey. It is a classic accompaniment to the traditional English Christmas lunch. However, just because you’re vegan, doesn’t mean you have to go without! This vegan and gluten-free bread sauce goes so well with all the accompaniments to a roast, such as the veggies, the potatoes, the gravy and cranberry sauce and of course an indulgent nut roast, so it is every bit as important for the vegan Christmas table!
Use up leftovers with a pie. Something like this Creamy Vegan Tofu Pot Pie would work really well with the bread sauce. You could use up all the Christmas veggie leftovers and mix together with the sauce from that pie and either serve the bread sauce on the side or throw it in with the mixture and any leftover gravy too! Either way, it would be delicious, especially served with a little leftover cranberry sauce on the side.
See this page for a Full Vegan and Gluten-Free Christmas Dinner Menu Ideas.
📖 Recipe 📖
Bread Sauce (Vegan and Gluten-Free)
- 1 large onion, peeled
- 6 cloves
- 290 ml oat milk, (or any mild flavoured plant-based milk)
- 1 bay leaf
- 10 black peppercorns
- pinch of grated nutmeg
- pinch of salt
- 55 g plain gluten free bread, cut into small cubes
- 25 g rapeseed (canola) oil or olive oil, (optional)
- Peel the onion and cut it in half. If you want to be traditional, stick the cloves into the outside of the onion. Place the clove-studded onion in a pan with the oat milk, bay leaf, peppercorns, nutmeg and salt. (Make sure the cloves are covered by the milk - you may need to cut the onion into smaller pieces depending on the size of your pan). Bring it to the boil and then immediately remove it from the heat and leave to infuse for 30 minutes.1 large onion, peeled, 6 cloves, 290 ml oat milk, 1 bay leaf, 10 black peppercorns, pinch of grated nutmeg, pinch of salt
- After 30 minutes, strain the milk through a sieve and throw away the onion and spices from the sieve. Wash the pan out to remove any scum, then pour the strained milk back into the pan.
- Add the bread cubes to the milk and reheat the pan over a medium heat, stirring constantly. Make sure not to let the milk boil, just heat it up very gently, stirring constantly while the sauce thickens (about 5 minutes).55 g plain gluten free bread, cut into small cubes
- Once the sauce is thickened, whisk in the rapeseed or olive oil (if you want to) to enrich the sauce and serve immediately.25 g rapeseed (canola) oil or olive oil
- This makes enough for 6 people to have a fairly generous serving each. However, if you're anything like my family, you might need to double the recipe for extra helpings! 😁
- If you want to store the sauce to serve another day, don’t add the olive oil in step 3 above and instead, pour the thickened sauce into a little dish and then pour the olive oil over the top to seal it. When you are ready to re-heat it, you can just stir the oil into the sauce at that point. Be careful not to boil the sauce while re-heating.
- To infuse the milk well, make sure that the cloves on the onion are covered by the milk. If they poke out the top, you may need to cut the onion into smaller pieces to ensure that it is all well covered.
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More Christmas Recipes
If you like this recipe, you may like these other delicious vegan and gluten-free Christmas recipes too: