Back in 2010, I spread my wings and launched myself over to Eastern Canada for a little trip. I spent a few lovely days in Toronto, a week learning aromatherapy massage in Guelph, and another glorious week partying it up in Montreal with one of my best friends.
Montreal was fantastic. The architecture was gorgeous and full of character (as compared to Vancouver’s overpriced blockish structures), the stores stylish, the produce cheap, and the vegan eats plentiful and delicious. My friend hooked me up with a steady stream of amazing vegan food, both at home and at the many vegan and vegan-friendly eateries the city had to offer.
One of the places we were sure to visit was Aux Vivres, which, judging by the number of happy online reviews, is quite the hot spot there. I was urged to try anything featuring their Veggie Butter, a rich, yummy sauce used generously on their menu to up the ante in any number of dishes. I don’t remember what I ate, but I do remember that the Veggie Butter was stunningly delicious. Since they also sold packages of this bounty for out-of-restaurant enjoyment, I took one home, and have since enjoyed quite a few more brought lovingly back when my friend comes to Vancouver.
Fast-forward to this month, when I was gifted with another precious jar of veggie butter from Aux Vivres.
Imagine my delight when I saw that their new packaging includes an ingredient list. Whoohoo! Being far from Montreal, and wanting (needing?) to enjoy this tastiness on a more frequent basis, I set about trying to recreate it.
I’d known already that the sauce had to rely heavily on nutritional yeast. The surprise (and yet, once it’s mentioned, the obvious player) is sesame oil. Whether the original sauce uses toasted sesame oil, or regular, I don’t know. But I’m telling you…use toasted sesame oil.
Toasted sesame oil is used in Asian dishes, and has a rich, deep, nutty flavour. Find it, accordingly, in stores well-stocked with Asian foods. Sometimes it’s labeled as ‘toasted’ and sometimes just as ‘sesame oil’, but you’ll know it from its garden variety cousin by its gorgeous deep-brown colour.
It’s definitely an accent oil rather than one to use generously in sauteing and pan-frying, both because a little goes a long way, flavourwise and because it’s not cost effective to go sloshing it about by the cup-ful. (Note: I don’t generally condone using cup-fuls of oil, anyway.)
Don’t waste time trying to skirt around using toasted sesame oil. Don’t use regular sesame oil. Don’t use an extra tsp of olive oil. Don’t use sesame seeds. Don’t omit it altogether, then cuss me when the sauce doesn’t turn out. (These are all precisely the sorts of hardheaded things I do when following other people’s recipes, so I know what you might be up to. I might be up to it too.)
The final version is by no means identical to the treat from Aux Vivre, and is really much more of a sauce than a spread, even a runny one. That said, it’s pretty darn good. I used their ingredient list as a strong basis, and while I liked the first version that used only the water, sunflower oil, nutritional yeast, sugar, salt, and sesame oil, when it comes to my home-made version, I much prefer this take, with extra virgin olive oil, a hunk of garlic, and a dash of apple cider vinegar for a little more zing.
It’s a quick sauce, and I tend to make three or four servings at a time, so I’d recommend using it up in less than a week. This sauce is yummy, umami (i.e., delicious and savoury…and did I mention delicious?), and 100% nummable, so that won’t be a problem, I promise you.
As a quick side note, I’d like to go on record as not officially supporting the use of baby talk in reference to culinary pleasures, above num-related word notwithstanding.
Vegan Butter Sauce
2/3 cup nutritional yeast
8 Tbsp water
4 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2 tsp organic sugar
2 tsp toasted sesame oil
1 large, or two small, garlic cloves, finely grated
1/2 tsp apple cider vinegar
salt, to taste
a pinch or two black pepper
1. Place nutritional yeast in a small pot, over medium heat.
2. Stir in olive oil and water.
3. Add sugar, garlic, sesame oil, and a dash or two of salt and black pepper and stir.
4. Heat until sauce just starts to bubble, then reduce heat to minimum, and stir some more.
5. Let simmer on minimum 5-8 minutes, then remove from heat. Stir in apple cider vinegar.
6. Taste, and add a bit more salt and pepper, if needed. The nutritional yeast and sesame oil are really very flavourful, so not much salt is needed here.
7. Drizzle (ah, who am I kidding…shamelessly dunk) over grain or potato dishes, or any savoury dish you like. Enjoy!
I’ve enjoyed this as a quick way to spruce up otherwise somewhat humdrum tossed-together lunches of rice, greens, and quickly pan-fried tofu. I am not a morning person, but am always ravenously hungry (to the point of extreme grumpiness) by the time lunch rolls around, so anything I can do to bulk up and improve the quality of packed lunches is a big thumbs up in my books!
Nutritional highlights: Rich in B-vitamins (nutritional yeast).