How to make cream sauce without cream

By: Hilary Meyer  |  Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Anything draped in a velvety-smooth cream sauce is bound to be delicious. It’s also bound to be high in calories and full of saturated fat—which most of us could do without. So before you kiss your mother’s recipe for macaroni and cheese goodbye or take your last spoonful of a creamy, comforting soup, consider that you could make the same creamy recipes with WAY less fat and fewer calories by using no cream at all. Yes, really.
Chef John Ash developed a no-cream cream sauce for EatingWell Magazine made from simple pantry staples as a way to slash fat and calories from dishes that are usually laden with fat. One cup of his Cream Sauce without the Cream has only 159 calories and 0 grams saturated fat. Compare that to 1 cup of heavy cream, which has 820 calories and 55 grams saturated fat.
Here are our tips to make a cream sauce without cream and Ash’s secret no-cream cream sauce recipe.
1. Use Onions and White Wine to Add Flavor
Fat has a knack for amplifying flavor. So if you’re going to take fat out of a dish, you need to compensate by adding a little more flavor to what you’re making. That’s why this no-cream cream sauce is better for using in creamy dishes than just replacing heavy cream with reduced-fat milk. To add savory flavor to your cream sauce, sauté onions in a little bit of olive oil. Then add a generous dose of white wine to brighten it up. The result is a mild, satisfying flavor that you wouldn’t get by just using reduced-fat or nonfat dairy to replace heavy cream.
2. Use Rice to Thicken the Sauce Without Adding Fat
The fat in heavy cream also gives creamy dishes viscosity—a thick texture. To replicate that texture in this healthy recipe for cream sauce, we use starchy white rice as a thickener. By cooking and blending rice into the sauce you get a creamy texture without adding much in the way of flavor. And of course, rice is virtually fat-free. So you get the rich mouthfeel of heavy cream without added fat and calories.
3. Blend the Sauce to Make It Smooth
Another key to making a healthy cream sauce with a smooth consistency is to blend it. It’s best to use a blender instead of a food processor since blenders do a better job of pureeing liquids into a smooth consistency. If you have a large blender, you may be able to blend all your sauce in one batch. If the liquid comes more than two-thirds of the way up the bowl of your blender, you should blend your sauce in two batches—you’ll get a smoother consistency that way. And don’t forget: use caution when blending hot liquids! Don’t overfill your blender and do take the plastic stopper off the lid and cover it with a towel so the steam can escape.
Don't Miss: See how we use a similar technique and ingredients to make a creamy chicken and rice casserole without heavy cream.
Ready to whip up a batch of no-cream cream sauce to make all your favorite creamy recipes healthier? Here’s a tip: make a big batch and save some in your refrigerator for a week or freeze it. If you put in the effort one time to make a big batch of this cream sauce base, you can use just a portion of it now and have the rest at the ready for a later time so you’re not tempted to just take the easy route and open a carton of heavy cream for your next creamy recipe.
Recipes That Use This No-Cream Cream Sauce: Old-Fashioned Winter Vegetable Chowder, Mac & Cheese and More Creamy Recipes Without Cream
Cream Sauce without the Cream
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Here’s a formula for making “cream sauce without the cream” to use as a healthy replacement for fat- and calorie-rich cream sauces in your favorite soups, pastas or sauces. This healthy recipe for cream sauce without heavy cream makes a big batch, more than you’ll most likely need for one recipe, so refrigerate or freeze the extra sauce to use in other recipes.