Plant Based Red Wine Balsamico Sauce


My plant-based Red Wine Balsamico sauce fits the plant-based “trend” that has challenged chefs to think outside the box. We all remember the days when we found the classic “grilled seasonal vegetable” plate on restaurant menus as a vegetarian meal. This was the only option available and many times the kitchen crew struggled to provide something else. Thankfully, those days are over and plant-based food can be found on most restaurant menus.

Plant-based cooking is a lifestyle change, not a trend

Plant-based cooking is a lifestyle change, not a trend, just like Nouvelle Cuisine was and still is. Nouvelle Cuisine originated in France and is rooted in simplicity and the use of light sauces. It stressed the freshness, seasonality, clarity, and lightness of food and inspired chefs around the world. Pretty much what has happened with plant-based food.

The plant-based food movement is here to stay, it’s not only the healthiest and most sustainable food around, but it’s also some of the most affordable. Another eye-opening fact that cannot be ignored, is that we need a serious shift regarding food waste and climate change. Plant-based food plays an important role in climate change.

Cooking a classical  Red Wine sauce

Cooking a classical red wine sauce takes time and experience. It’s a time-consuming process of roasting bones, simmering, and straining. A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away,  in a professional kitchen, the Chef saucier was one of the most important positions in a kitchen. The chef saucier was the senior Chef de Partie and had the required knowledge and experience because his work covered an extensive variety of dishes and the cooking of all sauces.

Sauce Espagnole (basic brown sauce), is one of the five basic mother sauces and is cooked with vegetables and brown beef or veal stock  (using roasted bones) and then refined into a demi-glace. From there, the classical Marchand de Vine sauce (Red Wine Sauce) was cooked.

Cooking a plant-based Red Wine Balsamico sauce

The good news is that you can create a wonderful plant-based red wine balsamic sauce at home without a Chef Saucier in your kitchen. Sweat your vegetables when cooking your red wine balsamic sauce, which gives your sauce oomph, and flavor. Gently sweating veggies is my favorite technique to create that wonderful layer of flavor. Add spices, herbs, red wine, traditional balsamic vinegar, and a good vegetable stock and you are in business. I recommend cooking the sauce with a Cabernet Sauvignon, a full-bodied red, that can be inexpensive, is widely available in grocery stores, and is perfect for cooking a solid red wine sauce.

Red Wine Balsamico Sauce

Reducing the sauce

Reducing, in the culinary sense of the word, means to concentrate the flavor of a liquid by means of simmering or boiling. If you use salt in your sauce or stock, be careful not to use too much. If you reduce too much, you may end up with an overwhelmingly salty concentrated sauce. My recommendation is to start cooking sauces or stocks without salt, you can always add salt if needed. 

Red Wine Balsamico Sauce

Vegetable scraps

Vegetable scraps are a great way to reduce waste and create flavor. I keep a Ziploc bag or container of veggie scraps in my freezer and add to it whenever I cook. Scraps can contribute to a flavorful stock or sauce and are a small, but important contribution to reducing food waste.

Here are a few that work especially well:

  • leek tops
  • fennel fronds
  • carrot tops and peelings
  • herb stems
  • mushroom stems
  • scallion roots or tops
  • onion ends

Facts about Vegetables and Pesticides

There’s a good reason to wash all produce: Pesticides like to hang on!!!
We all know that most fruits and vegetables are sprayed with pesticides, research shows that 70% of non-organic fresh produce sold in the U.S. contains residues of potentially harmful chemical pesticides.
A reason for me to wash all my vegetables in a DIY vegetable wash, which is very simple to do. Fill your kitchen sink or large container with cold water. Add 4 tablespoons of baking soda and soak your vegetables, for 15 minutes. The longer you soak the more pesticides you get rid of. Wash your vegetables thoroughly and rinse with cold water.

Each year, the EWG Environmental Working Group publishes an eye-opening dirty dozen list of vegetables. Each of the foods included on the list tested positive for a variety of pesticide residues. They also averaged higher concentrations of pesticides than other fruits and veggies. If you’re concerned, and you should be concerned about your exposure to herbicides and pesticides, check out the EWG’s “Clean 15 list of fruits and vegetables” that tend to have the lowest levels of chemical toxins.

Variations of the Red Wine Balsamico sauce

Think of this sauce as your mother sauce, which you can use on its own or build on it and transfer into another sauce. Here are a few sauces that can use the red wine balsamico sauce as a base.

  • Vegan Red Wine sauce: with no butter and vegan red wine makes an excellent vegan red wine sauce.
  • Mushroom cream sauce – add cream and sautéed mushrooms
  • Sauce Robert –  finished with Dijon mustard
  • Sauce Lyonnaise – cooked with onions and white vinegar

The Taste

A concentrated red wine flavor,
that makes your taste buds go into overdrive.

The Process

Easy and quick to cook
A good full-bodied red wine like an inexpensive Cabernet Sauvignon will do
No need to use a high-end red wine for cooking this sauce

The Verdict

A great plant-based sauce that can be used as a base to build on it and create other sauces.
More important, using vegetable scraps is a small, but important contribution to reducing food waste.

Chef’s Tip

Omit the butter, use a vegan red wine, and you have an excellent vegan red wine sauce.
Traditional balsamic vinegar is not necessarily the cheapest however it is true vegan balsamic.
Most modern balsamic vinegar is still vegan, but if the ingredients say “caramel”,
you want to be sure that it doesn’t contain any animal ingredients.

Red Wine Balsamico Sauce 

Chef Norbert
A great plant-based red wine sauce that can be used as a base to build on it and create other easy-to-cook sauces.
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 1 hour
Total Time 1 hour 10 minutes
Course Better for you, Sauces, Vegan, Vegetarian
Cuisine American
Servings 16 servings
Calories 76 kcal



Sweat the vegetables

  • Heat the saucepan to a medium. add the olive oil. Add the carrots, onions, celery, leeks, and fresh thyme. Sweat for about 15 minutes.
    1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil, 2 ounce onion, 2 ounce carrots, 2 ounce celery stalks, 2 ounce leek, 3 sprigs thyme fresh
  • Add the tomato paste, peppercorn, bay leaf, caraway, and mustard seeds, and sweat for an additional 5 minutes.
    10 peppercorn black, 1 bay leaf, 1 tbsp mustard seeds, 1 tsp caraway seeds, 1.5 tbsp tomato paste

Cook and strain the Sauce

  • Add red wine, vegetable stock, kitchen bouquet, and balsamic vinegar. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to a simmer, and simmer for about 30 minutes, to reduce the sauce by half, strain sauce.
    24 floz red wine, 1 tsp kitchen bouquet, 1/4 cup vinegar balsamic, 8 floz vegetable stock

Finnish the Sauce

  • Add soy sauce to the strained sauce. Mix cornstarch with a bit of water, add to the sauce, and bring to a quick boil to thicken the sauce with the cornstarch slurry. Reduce heat and finish with a knob of butter.
    You should end up with about 16 ounces of plant-based red wine sauce
    2 tbsp soy sauce, low sodium, 1.5 tbsp corn starch, 1 knob butter, salted

Chef Notes

Chef's Tips:
By reducing the sauce, you are concentrating the flavor so my recommendation is to start cooking sauces or stocks without salt, you always can add salt if needed.
Omit the butter and use a vegan red wine, and you have an awesome vegan red wine sauce.
The sauce can be cooked ahead, cooled completely, then chilled, covered, and stored in the refrigerator. 


Serving: 1 ounze | Calories: 76kcal | Carbohydrates: 5g | Protein: 1g | Fat: 2g | Saturated Fat: 1g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 0.3g | Monounsaturated Fat: 1g | Trans Fat: 0.04g | Cholesterol: 3mg | Sodium: 105mg | Potassium: 137mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 2g

Nutrition information is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate

Keyword Balsamic, Red Wine Sauce
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