There are two ways I approach brainstorming and developing recipes for this little food blog of mine. I either Paleo-fy tried and true classic dishes, or I walk into a grocery store, grab what looks good and then go home and pretend I've been casted for an episode of Chopped. The recipe I'm sharing with you guys today was definitely created during one of my play-pretend Chopped episodes and despite the lackluster presentation, the judges LOVED it! 😉
Today, I'm sharing my recipe for Vegan Roasted Root Vegetable Gratin featuring a flavorful dairy-free cashew cream sauce, an assortment of in season hearty root vegetables and a super simple grain and gluten-free crumb topping. This Whole30 compliant and Paleo-friendly dish is aimed to please all of the special dietary needs around your table this holiday season. It's wonderful served as side dish but also filling enough to be served as a vegetarian main course.
I want to take a few seconds to talk about how I ended up with a plethora of root vegetables to create this dish. In my pocket of Maryland there are ethnic grocery stores on just about every corner. For someone like me who grocery shops almost daily, these stores are a blessing on my bank account. Ethnic grocery stores sell produce at HEAVILY discounted prices. One the reasons everything is so inexpensive is because they put the less aesthetically pleasing chain grocery store rejects on their shelves. Call me crazy, but I could care less if my vegetables aren't the perfect size and shape. I'll take all of the ugly orphaned produce, please and thank you. Anywho, I was at one of these markets a few weeks ago and the variety of unique root vegetables was outstanding. Needlesstosay, I grabbed a little bit of everything (for dirt cheap), returned home and the Chopped episode ensued.
A traditional gratin recipe usually has boat loads of cheese and some sort of bread topping. My recipe has neither because I'm a firm-believer that not all casseroles have to be weighed down with dairy and gluten. This Vegan rendition of a classic is just as delicious without all of the crap.
I'm pretty sure if I was Vegan, this is what my Vegan dreams would be made of thanks to the dairy-free cashew cream sauce. The sauce is what makes the dish.
For the Cashew Cream Sauce:
I've attempted making Vegan cashew cream sauce once before and it was DISASTROUS. Disastrous might even be an understatement. I needed it for the green bean casserole I volunteered to contribute to my family's Christmas Eve dinner. Long, painful story short, I used roasted cashews instead of raw, it tasted awful and there was no green bean casserole at Christmas Eve that year. That being said, RAW CASHEWS are a necessity if you want an edible cream sauce.
Making the sauce is fairly simple. Begin by soaking the RAW CASHEWS in a bowl of boiling water for at least an hour. Next, drain the cashews reserving at least a cup of the water for the sauce. In a blender or food processor, blend together the soaked cashews, 4 cloves of smashed garlic, 2 tablespoons of nutritional yeast, 1 tablespoon of lemon juice, 1 teaspoon of Italian seasoning, 1 teaspoon of salt and ½ teaspoon of pepper. While blending, add the reserved water ¼ cup at a time until the sauce becomes smooth and creamy (similar to an Alfredo sauce).
*Side note: I'll probably give this sauce it's own blog post that it respectfully deserves in the near future but until then, just know that you should totally double this recipe and serve the rest with pasta for the best Vegan Alfredo that ever was.
For the rest of the dish:
From start to finish, this dish (including soaking the cashews) takes a little under 3 hours, but the end result is well worth the wait.
Once the cashew cream sauce is prepared, this is how you finish the dish:
1) Preheat your oven to 400 degrees. While the oven preheats, prep the vegetables. Peel and large dice the vegetables. It's important that the veggies be chopped into uniform size and shape so they cook evenly.
*I went with a mixture of sweet potatos, celery root, red onions, green radish and carrots but each of these root vegetables can be swapped out for other veggies such as turnips, rutabaga, kohlrabi, daikon or parsnips. The possible combinations are virtually endless.
2) In a large bowl, mix together the chopped veggies with salt, pepper and half of the cashew cream sauce.
3) Lightly grease a casserole dish with olive oil. Spread half of the vegetable mixture into the prepared casserole dish and sprinkle with 1 tablespoon of nutritional yeast. Top evenly with the remaining vegetable mixture and another tablespoon of nutritional yeast.
4) Cover the casserole dish loosely with tin foil and bake for 1 hour and 10 minutes in your toasty pre-heated oven.
5) While the gratin bakes, prepare the crumb topping. Simply mix 1 tablespoon of coconut flour with 1 teaspoon of Italian seasoning.
6) Remove the casserole dish from the oven and reduce the oven temp to 375 degrees. Spread the remaining cashew cream sauce in an even layer over the veggies.
Last but not least, sprinkle the crumb topping evenly overtop.
Return the dish to the oven and bake until the topping is golden brown and bubbly (about 20 minutes).
- To accommodate the large amount of veggies in this dish, I used a 7" by 10 ½" inch rectangular casserole dish. If you're using a smaller casserole dish, you will definitely need to cut the ingredient measurements down a bit.
- I portioned out the leftovers into single-serving containers. I froze half and stored the other in the fridge. That being said, this dish does not freeze well at all, but will keep for 3 to 5 days in the fridge.
- This is a wonderful dish to bring to a potluck, family gathering or holiday event. It can be made in advance and reheated by simply warming it in a 350 degree oven until it's brought back to temperature.
Ok, I get it. This dish could be prettier. I could have sliced the veggies with a mandoline and arranged them in the dish like a set of dominoes, but this is real life and ain't nobdy got time for that. Not every dish needs to be beautiful and quite frankly, not everyone has a mandoline. Aren't we all taught not to judge a book by it's cover? Or in this case a casserole by it's presentation? But no seriously, this is a truly decadent side dish or vegan main course worthy of making an appearance at your table this holiday season! Dig in!
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Hungry for more Vegan-friendly AND Whole30 compliant dishes? Here ya go!
Vegan Root Vegetable Gratin (Paleo & Whole30)
For the cashew cream sauce
- 2 cups water
- 9 ounces cashews raw
- 4 garlic cloves smashed
- 2 tablespoons nutritional yeast
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
- 1 teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoons pepper
For the rest of the gratin
- 12 ounces sweet potato
- 12 ounces celery root
- 12 ounces radish
- 12 ounces carrot
- 8 ounces red onion
- 1-2 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 teaspoons salt
- ½ teaspoon pepper
- 2 tablespoons nutritional yeast divided
- 1 tablespoon coconut flour
- 1 teaspoon Italian seaoning
For the cashew cream sauce
- Bring 2 cups of water to a boil. In a heat-safe bowl, pour boiling water over cashews. Let soak for at least an hour. Drain the cashews. Reserve at least 1 cup of the water.
- In a blender or food processor, blend cashews with garlic cloves, nutritional yeast, lemon juice, Italian seasoning, salt and pepper. While blending, slowly pour in ¼ cup of the reserved water at a time until the sauce becomes smooth and creamy.
For the rest of the gratin
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees. While the oven preheats, assemble the gratin. Peel and large dice all of the vegetables.
- In a large bowl, mix together the diced vegetables with salt, pepper and half of the cashew cream sauce.
- Lightly grease a casserole dish with olive oil. Spread half of the vegetable mixture into the prepared casserole dish and sprinkle with 1 tablespoon of the nutritional yeast. Top evenly with the other half of the vegetable mixture and sprinkle with remaining 1 tablespoon of nutritional yeast.
- Cover loosely with foil and bake in preheated oven for 1 hour and 10 minutes.
- While the gratin bakes, prepare the topping. In a small bowl, combine coconut flour with Italian seasoning. Set aside.
- After 1 hour and 10 minutes, remove dish from oven. Reduce oven temperature to 375 degrees. Spread remaining cashew cream sauce over top and sprinkle with coconut flour topping. Return to oven for an additional 20 minutes or until the topping is golden brown.