Paleo Vegan Vanilla Sauce

This paleo vegan vanilla sauce is cashew-based, maple-sweetened and only takes 5 minutes to make!

I’ve been making a lot of paleo + vegan fall treats lately that’d go great with vanilla ice cream. I don’t know about you, but I’ve never had dairy-free ice cream that’s just as delicious as the regular stuff. So here’s my solution – healthier vegan vanilla sauce that’s just as yummy as the traditional kind!

I love using vanilla sauce on crisps, crumbles and pies but I rarely make it because I’m a little lazy. This recipe, though, is SO easy. Now I don’t have any excuse not to make it! (just ignore that double negative :))

This paleo vegan vanilla sauce is cashew-based, maple-sweetened and only takes 5 minutes to make! Grain-free, gluten-free and dairy-free.

All you do is pour some boiling water over cashews, let them sit for 1 1/2 hours, and then blend those and all the other ingredients in a blender. Then you’re left with a totally smooth and creamy sauce.

Make sure to use raw cashews! I first tried with roasted and salted cashews and the cashew taste was much too strong. And the next day the vanilla sauce tasted like peanut butter sauce.

At least I think it did – Mr. T didn’t agree, but he did agree that the version using raw cashews is way better! He was actually bummed about me using this sauce on some desserts. He thought it was best enjoyed straight from the jar with a spoon!

This paleo vegan vanilla sauce is cashew-based, maple-sweetened and only takes 5 minutes to make! Grain-free, gluten-free, dairy-free.

The lemon juice in the recipe doesn’t make it taste lemony at all. It’s needed to perk up the sauce, if that makes sense. Without it, it tastes kind of flat.

I used the seeds from half a vanilla bean and vanilla extract. If you want to use all extract, just add more to taste! I first tried using more vanilla bean seeds and no vanilla extract but thought the bean + extract way seemed much more balanced.

Maple syrup is used to sweeten this vanilla sauce, but if you want to use agave, I’m pretty sure it’d work. If you’re not vegan and want to use honey, I think that’d work, too, but I think it’d taste quite a bit like honey. If you use a lighter maple syrup here, like Grade A Medium Amber, the maple taste isn’t strong at all.

This paleo vegan vanilla sauce is cashew-based, maple-sweetened and only takes 5 minutes to make! Gluten-free, grain-free and dairy-free.

One thing to note is that if you use the sauce on something heavily spiced, you can’t taste it super well unless you use quite a bit.

See how I drowned my crumble in that second picture? That’s what you’re going to need to do. But that paleo vegan apple crisp has a ton going on in it – it’s made out of almond flour, walnuts and lots of spice.

Unlike other cashew-based vegan treats, this one doesn’t really firm up much in the fridge. What you see if pretty much what you get. So you can make it and immediately enjoy!

Wondering what to do with it? Here are some vegan + gluten-free ideas!

  • Apple Crumbles for Two (gluten-free, vegan, whole grain)
  • Swedish Apple Pie (gluten-free, vegan, whole grain, dairy-free)
  • Paleo Vegan Apple Crisp

Paleo Vegan Vanilla Sauce

Rated 5.0 by 4 readers
Paleo Vegan Vanilla Sauce
  • Prep Time:
  • Cook Time:
  • Ready in:
  • Yield: just under 1 1/2 cups


  • 1 cup (145 grams) raw unsalted cashews, soaked1
  • 1/2 cup (120 milliliters) water
  • 5 tablespoons maple syrup
  • seeds from 1/2 vanilla bean
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 teaspoons lemon juice (plus an additional 1/2 teaspoon or more, if desired)
  • salt to taste (I used a little less than 1/4 teaspoon but like things salty)


  1. Drain the cashews and place all the ingredients in a high speed blender jar.
  2. Process on high speed for about 40 seconds or until totally smooth and no chunks remain.
  3. Add more lemon juice, vanilla and salt, if desired. This doesn't thicken much so it can be served immediately.
  4. Refrigerate in an airtight container for up to 3-4 days.


  1. To soak the cashews, place them in a large mug, small pot, or some kind of container that's safe to pour boiling water into. Pour enough boiling water over the cashews to cover them. Let them sit 1 1/2 to 2 hours.
  • Please use a high-speed blender like called for in the recipe. I don't believe a food processor will grind the cashews finely enough.

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64 comments on “Paleo Vegan Vanilla Sauce” — Add one!

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  • Lynne Henshaw says
    October 31, 2021 @ 5:33 pm

    Thanks for this recipe, was so easy and delicious! I only used half the brown sugar and it was sweet enough for me.

    • Erin replies to Lynne Henshaw
      November 2, 2021 @ 6:48 am

      I’m so glad that you enjoyed it! And great to know that it works well with less sugar. Thanks a bunch for your feedback. :)

  • Sara
    November 24, 2020 @ 2:44 am

    Which do you prefer most between this and your other vegan custard recipe? Thanks!

    • Erin replies to Sara
      November 24, 2020 @ 7:01 pm

      I prefer the ingredients in this recipe so I personally prefer to make this one. But the other one is more like custard. It actually tastes just like custard. This one doesn’t. It’s super delicious but it’s not custard.

  • Chris Schulenberg says
    September 6, 2018 @ 7:49 pm

    Just made this with the apple crisp for a get together yesterday. Everyone loved it and it was so easy to make! I used my Nutrabullet and it came out so creamy! Can you tell me the nutrition in a serving e.g tablespoon? Interested in calories, fat, carbs. Thanks!

    • Erin replies to Chris Schulenberg
      September 7, 2018 @ 9:09 pm

      I’m so happy that everyone liked it! Thanks for the feedback. :) I don’t have that info but you could use this recipe analyzer for the nutritional profile.

  • Jana D says
    February 4, 2018 @ 3:18 pm

    Do you know if another nut would work in place of the cashews? Maybe blanched almonds? Unfortunately, I have a sensitivity to cashews and macadamia nuts and cannot eat them.

    • Erin replies to Jana D
      February 4, 2018 @ 8:47 pm

      Unfortunately not. Soaked almonds (and other nuts) don’t get nearly as soft or creamy as cashews. Sorry about that. :(

  • Gladys says
    December 2, 2017 @ 5:30 am

    Hi! This looks so good. I wanted to ask, I am making this to top off your gluten-free apple crisp! Which looks delishes as well! But I’m making it for my friends party as well and she cannot eat nuts. I was wondering if you knew of something I could substitute the cashews for or of another topping that would go well with the crisp?
    Thank you so much in advance!

    • Erin replies to Gladys
      December 2, 2017 @ 3:44 pm

      Hi there! There’s no sub for cashews in this recipe but you could make this vanilla sauce. :) The sauce recipe is down in the notes section below the pie recipe.

  • Kathy Zach
    October 17, 2016 @ 5:54 am

    Have you ever substituted cashew milk for the cashews? I am just wondering in a pinch if would work (no high speed/powered blender). I don’t think it would be as thick, but I’m not sure what to add to help thicken it up? cornstarch? Xanthan gum? I don’t have a high speed/powered blender yet, but it’s on my black Friday Christmas list! Thanks!

    • Erin replies to Kathy Zach
      October 17, 2016 @ 4:36 pm

      Hi there! I’m pretty sure that wouldn’t work (even if you omitted all the water). Sorry! It’d still be as thin as milk. If you added a starch to help thicken it, I think you’d need so much that it’d be really starchy and unpleasant. Are you vegan? If not, I have another vanilla sauce that’s thickened with eggs / cornstarch! It’s in this Swedish apple pie recipe.

      • Kathy Zach replies to Erin
        October 18, 2016 @ 12:37 am

        Thanks for the reply! Yes we are a vegan household, but I may try you other recipe with an egg substitute and see how it goes. I will definitely give this a try when I get my handy dandy Vitamix for Christmas though!

        • Erin replies to Kathy Zach
          October 18, 2016 @ 5:47 pm

          Good luck using an egg sub! And I’m super excited for you – those blenders make all the difference in vegan cashew-based recipes!

      • Job replies to Erin
        December 4, 2017 @ 5:18 am

        I had the same question about the blender. I don’t have one, and rarely have a need for one. Also, wasn’t sure where to find raw cashews. So should I use your original recipe with flax egg (egg substitute)? And if I wanted to have the almond flavor instead of vanilla as someone suggested, would I just substitute almond extract in the same amount as vanilla?

        • Erin replies to Job
          December 4, 2017 @ 5:51 pm

          Unfortunately, a flax egg won’t work in a sauce recipe like this. I’ve tried. Sorry about that! About the almond extract – I’d probably add half the amount of almond extract (so 1/4 teaspoon) and add more to taste.

        • Job replies to Job
          December 5, 2017 @ 2:06 am

          Since I don’t have the powerful blender, and flax can’t be used in the original vanilla sauce recipe, is there any other topping that would be right for this recipe…or should I just forget about making it since I wouldn’t have a sauce?

        • Erin replies to Job
          December 5, 2017 @ 9:43 pm

          “Any other topping that would be right for this recipe” – which recipe? This is the vanilla sauce recipe post so I’m not sure which recipe you’re referring to.

        • Job replies to Job
          December 5, 2017 @ 10:00 pm

          Oh, sorry. I was referring to the Swedish Apple Pie recipe. Guess I clicked the link that brought me to the sauce recipe.

        • Erin replies to Job
          December 6, 2017 @ 12:29 am

          No worries! The pie is great on its own so you could still make it. :) Or you could serve with ice cream if you want!

  • Bethany @ Athletic Avocado says
    October 1, 2016 @ 2:45 am

    I’m sure this sauce would make anything taste better! I’d love to add it on top of my oatmeal! Heck, I could probably drink it ;)

  • Carla says
    September 28, 2016 @ 9:47 am

    Nice! Some times ice cream is too much but a crumble does need a little something on top and I don’t always want to open a can of coconut to make whipped cream. Great recipe and can’t wait to try it.

    • Erin replies to Carla
      September 28, 2016 @ 10:15 am

      Thanks! And I have to say, this is WAY better than coconut whipped cream. ;) You probably already know this, but if you don’t, Lidl has the cheapest raw cashews. In case you go through a lot like me and want to save a little money. :D

      • Carla replies to Erin
        September 29, 2016 @ 6:03 pm

        Thanks! I will check that out. We recently moved to a new city and I’m having to re-find my shopping places. There is a Kaufland here which I didn’t have before but also a Lidl not too far up the road.

        • Erin replies to Carla
          October 1, 2016 @ 11:29 am

          Oooh! Kaufland is nice. Hope you like your new city! :)

  • Joanie @ ZagLeft says
    September 27, 2016 @ 9:24 pm

    This sauce would be wonderful served on so many things, I even think I could eat it by the spoonfuls.

  • Brandy | Nutmeg Nanny says
    September 26, 2016 @ 3:15 pm

    I’m pretty sure I could slather this on everything in sight! Pinned!

  • Yar | OfRecieps says
    September 26, 2016 @ 2:09 pm

    This looks superb! I love cashews so much and incorporating it like that sounds heavenly!

  • Krista says
    September 25, 2016 @ 9:26 pm

    I want to just eat this by the spoonful!

    • Erin replies to Krista
      October 18, 2016 @ 6:11 pm

      It’s definitely an efficient way of going about it! ;)

  • Miranda
    September 24, 2016 @ 7:46 pm

    I would love some of this sauce right now! It sounds so good!

  • Karyn Granrud says
    September 24, 2016 @ 2:05 am

    Look at all those vanilla beans in there! It looks amazing. And desserts always need more sauce on them. It’s a good thing..

  • Lauren Kelly Nutrition says
    September 23, 2016 @ 10:05 pm

    Is it weird that I want to drink this??? Ok, I am making this and putting it on EVERYTHING!

  • Ashley @ Wishes & Dishes says
    September 23, 2016 @ 5:01 pm

    This looks so smooth and perfect!! Love that you used raw cashews.

  • Kirsten/ComfortablyDomestic says
    September 23, 2016 @ 4:59 pm

    The lemon really is a great addition. It’s amazing how a touch of lemon can even out a flavor profile to make it all come together.

  • Laura | Petite Allergy Treats says
    September 23, 2016 @ 4:00 pm

    I love the idea of this! Vanilla anything is great for adding that something to dessert, but protein too? Genius. Love all the real vanilla specks in the sauce too!

  • The Food Hunter says
    September 22, 2016 @ 11:55 pm

    I’m thinking of all the things I would put this on.

  • Kelly @ Nosh and Nourish says
    September 22, 2016 @ 10:03 pm

    I agree with your hubby… I want it by the spoonful!!!! OK, and on the crumble too… and on fruit… and… and… see where I’m going with this?!

  • Cathy | Lemon Tree Dwelling says
    September 22, 2016 @ 5:28 pm

    I love the sound of this! Such a great addition to so many desserts!

  • Sarah @ says
    September 22, 2016 @ 5:03 pm

    How do you get it so smooth? Every time I’ve tried the soaking cashews in water, even overnight, and then processing them, it tastes good, but the texture is definitely not smooth!

    • Erin replies to Sarah @
      September 22, 2016 @ 8:23 pm

      Are you using a high speed blender? I use the small jar. I haven’t tried it in a food processor because mine is so huge that I think I’d have to make a few batches of this to even get it to blend well. But using a food processor, I don’t think it’d ever get totally smooth like in a high speed blender. And are you using raw cashews? Although, I’ve also used roasted cashews and that resulted in a totally smooth texture, too, so I don’t think that’s it, either. :/

      • Sarah @ replies to Erin
        September 22, 2016 @ 8:28 pm

        I only have a large high speed blender or the individual serving cups – I have previously used a food processor, but I may try combinations of the other options. Yes, I have been using raw cashews – I actually don’t like the taste of the roasted and salted nuts.

        • Erin replies to Sarah @
          September 22, 2016 @ 8:32 pm

          What are individual serving cups? Another idea! Are you using boiling water to soak your cashews or just room temperature water?

        • Sarah @ replies to Sarah @
          September 22, 2016 @ 8:34 pm

          Maybe individual serving cups is not the correct description – the cups for individual smoothies … And no, I don’t think I’ve tried with boiling water. I have a craving to try to make this now!

        • Erin replies to Sarah @
          September 24, 2016 @ 10:11 pm

          I hope it goes better next time! :)

  • Kimberly @ The Daring Gourmet says
    September 22, 2016 @ 7:18 am

    That looks so creamy – I really want to try this!

  • Anna @ Crunchy Creamy Sweet says
    September 22, 2016 @ 6:07 am

    I am loving this cashew based sauce! So creative!

  • Charlotte Moore
    September 22, 2016 @ 1:51 am

    I have never made any kind of vanilla sauce. This sure looks good. I really like the taste of vanilla. Caramel and chocolate are the only kinds I have made I think.

    • Erin replies to Charlotte Moore
      September 22, 2016 @ 8:15 pm

      You should try vanilla sauce, too! It’s such a great ice cream sub on pies and other fruit desserts. :)


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