The Swaptastics, Part Three: Creamy Bean Sauces


Welcome back! When we last met, the subject had turned from béchamel and subsequent cheese sauce to a nut-based variety. In this section, cannellini beans become the new creamy base, as an alternative for those with nut allergies.

Above, you see the memela picture I included in my Mad for Memelas post: The creamy white sauce is made using the recipe below.

Puréed beans — or even store bought hummus — work amazingly well as a sauce base and can take nearly no time to prepare.

In this version, I’m using canned beans rather than cooking dried beans. Why? Time. As a Culinary instructor, I taught six classes per day lasting 52 minutes, so activities had to be designed to be completed within that timeframe. However, in the future I’ll outline how I have cooked beans from a dry state.

This creamy sauce is incredibly versatile. I’ve used it as the base of enchilada sauce and soups such as corn chowder. I’ve also used this mixture as a gravy substitute when making pot pies, and with chopped cooked spinach and artichokes for a vegan version of the classic dip. Those recipes coming soon; below is a recipe for a basic creamy sauce.

Basic Creamy Bean Sauce, Version One

Prep time: 5 minutes
Cook time: 10 minutes
Inactive time: 10 minutes
Serves 10


2 tablespoons olive oil
2 cloves garlic, whole
1 teaspoon onion powder, plus more to taste
2-15 ounce cans cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
Salt to taste
Pepper* to taste
1 cup water, plus more if needed


1. In a medium-sized pan, on a medium heat, warm your olive oil and garlic cloves for 2 minutes. Stir frequently to prevent the garlic from burning. Remove from heat and cool 2 minutes. This is to prevent an issue when you add in your water in the next step.

2. Add in the drained and rinsed beans, water, onion powder, salt and pepper and stir to combine. Bring mixture to a boil, then simmer for 5 minutes, tasting and adjusting the seasonings to your preference.

*NOTE: White pepper has a much stronger flavor and aroma than black pepper. However, for cream-based sauces and mashed cauliflower, celery root, or potatoes, restaurants opt for white pepper because it blends seamlessly and is not visible. I’m more a fan of black pepper’s flavor so when cooking at home that’s what I use. If you prefer white pepper, start with pinches (1/8th teaspoon) and adjust after tasting.

3. Cool the mixture a bit before you place it in your blender or food processor. If using a blender, you’ll need to purée in batches, filling the blender no more than 3/4 of the way and ensuring there is 1/4 cup water at the base to keep the motor running properly. Hold the lid down tightly as you purée the mixture.

Once the blending is complete, you have a mixture that can be used just like any creamy sauce. Above, the memela is topped first with vegetable chili and salsa, then the creamy bean sauce, and lastly a sriracha swirl and chives.


Fun Facts and Figures

To make the sauce costs $3.50. The price for purchasing all ingredients for the first time is $10 and, after making the sauce, there’s still most of the other ingredients left to use in other recipes. The breakdown:

Olive oil: $4 for the bottle
Garlic: $0.50 for a whole bulb
Salt: $1
White pepper: $1
Onion powder: $1
2-15 ounce cans cannellini beans: $2


In terms of nutrition, beans are a good source of carbs, potassium and, if accompanied with rice, ‘complete protein’ with the nine essential amino acids also found in animal proteins.

Based on a 1/4 cup (two ounce) serving

Basic Creamy Bean Sauce
75 calories
9.5 grams carbohydrates (3 grams fiber)
3 grams fat
0.4 grams Saturated
0.4 grams Monounsaturated
2 grams Polyunsaturated
Protein 3.5 grams
Potassium 135 mg


Nutrition facts gathered from purchased product labels and supplemented with information supplied by

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