Roasted Broccoli Bowl with Spiced Sunflower Sauce

Created by Laura Wright
No ratings yet

Roasted Broccoli Bowl with Spiced Sunflower Sauce is a filling and wholesome vegan main course. The sauce is delicious on anything!

vegan special sauce + a roasted broccoli bowl //
vegan special sauce + a roasted broccoli bowl //
vegan special sauce + a roasted broccoli bowl //

Happy 2016! I always feel a soothing wash of calm when the calendar changes over. I like the holidays like anyone else, but the busyness aspect wears on me pretty fast. The best descriptor I can think of for the entire month of December is cluttered. The holiday decorations that feel necessary for merry-making, but actually just mess up the entire flow of your living space, become a little TOO symbolic as the days go by. I can get anxious when there’s a few extra balls in the air, so January 1 is relief city, population: me.

Deep winter is quiet, cold, and sort of dark (at least where I live). The natural conditions offer an easy outlet for contemplation and self care. I’ve never found winter depressing or draining–even though I do get just a little bit tired of all the root vegetables and tubers after a while. I see the season as one of restoration, an opportunity to realign yourself on life and how you really feel.

Anyway. I think this sauce could help you stay true no matter what your dietary proclivity is. It’s creamy, rich, and savoury, but also totally balanced. The base is sunflower seeds, water, and any oil with a neutral flavour profile. There’s lemon, garlic, nutritional yeast, turmeric, spices, and a few other good things in there. I include a dab of tomato paste in the mix, too–not because I want this to taste like tomatoes, but because the concentrated paste is so flavourful in that umami way. It gives the sauce that little extra something it needs. The ingredient list looks long on this one, but I think 98% of the items are pantry stock for most–even if you’re just slightly interested in plant-based cooking at home.

I used the sauce on a bowl with broccoli, but it would be just as good as a finishing cream for tacos, a caesar-like salad dressing, a creamy garnish for a pureed soup, a drizzle over roasted vegetables, dabbed on a veggie burger, or just about any savoury application you could think of. If you make and use it in a funky way, let me know in the comments or tag me on Instagram!

Sending it off with all my warmth and gratitude for the new year :)

vegan special sauce + a roasted broccoli bowl //
vegan special sauce + a roasted broccoli bowl //

Roasted Broccoli Bowl with Spiced Sunflower Sauce

Roasted Broccoli Bowl with Spiced Sunflower Sauce is a filling and wholesome vegan main course. The sauce is delicious on anything!
No ratings yet
Servings 2


Spiced Sunflower Sauce

  • ½ cup raw sunflower seeds (see note about soaking)
  • 2 tablespoons nutritional yeast
  • 1 clove of garlic, peeled
  • 1- inch piece of fresh turmeric (OR ½ teaspoon turmeric powder)
  • 1 teaspoon tomato paste
  • 1 teaspoon raw apple cider vinegar
  • ½ teaspoon ground cumin
  • ½ teaspoon chili powder
  • ½ teaspoon pure maple syrup or other liquid sweetener
  • ¾ cup filtered water
  • ½ cup neutral-tasting oil (I like sunflower or avocado)
  • ¼ cup fresh lemon juice
  • sea salt and ground black pepper, to taste
  • hot sauce, to taste (I used about 7-8 dashes of Cholula)

Roasted Broccoli Bowl

  • 2 heaped cups of broccoli florets (from roughly 2 broccoli stalks)
  • 1-2 teaspoons olive oil
  • sea salt and ground black pepper, to taste
  • 2 portions of cooked brown/black/red rice, kept warm
  • 1 cup cooked chickpeas
  • the spiced sunflower sauce!
  • 2 green onions, thinly sliced
  • extra sunflower seeds



  • I don’t soak the sunflower seeds since I use a high-speed blender for this sauce. If you have a normal kitchen blender, I’d recommend soaking the sunflower seeds for at least 2 hours. For a food processor, a reader has told me that the sunflower seeds smooth out just fine if soaked for 8 or so hours.


  • Combine all of the special sauce ingredients in an upright blender and blend on high for a full minute, or until completely smooth. Check the sauce for seasoning and adjust if necessary. If the sauce seems too thick, blend it with an extra splash or two of water until it’s at the consistency you like. Scrape the sauce into a glass jar, seal it tight, and store in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.
  • Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
  • Toss the broccoli florets with the olive oil and some salt and pepper on a baking sheet. Once the florets are lightly coated, spread the vegetables out into a single layer. Slide the tray into the oven and roast until broccoli is lightly browned/crisped and the stalks are tender, about 15 minutes for medium-sized florets.
  • In two good-sized bowls, divide the warm rice and chickpeas. Top each bowl with the roasted broccoli florets. Finish the bowls with a healthy drizzle of the special sauce, sliced green onions, and sunflower seeds. Serve immediately.
vegan special sauce + a roasted broccoli bowl //
07/01/2016 (Last Updated 07/03/2024)
Posted in: broccoli, chickpeas, creamy, earthy, gluten free, main course, nut free, quick, refined sugar-free, roasted, sour, vegan, winter


Recipe Rating

  • Laurie

    Hi Laura!
       How well does this sauce freeze, and for how long can it be frozen? I’m asking because we are a family of two and I like to change our menu around by using my freezer.

    • Laura

      Hi Laurie,
      I think it should freeze fine. When you thaw it out to use again, I would give it a run in the blender just to get it really incorporated again.

  • Cat

    Yum. Delicious sauce. I work as a cook and I really appreciate that your measurements are always perfect. I never feel the need to change them. Thank-you. I appreciate your care to detail. Cheers

  • Bridget

    I think I did something wrong. My sauce is very watery. How do I thicken it up?

    • Laura

      Hi Bridget,

      The sauce will firm up in the fridge quite a bit. You can try blending more sunflower seeds into the finished sauce-maybe about 1/4 cup.


  • Cathren

    I really like your recipes and I love your website. I have made quite a few of your recipes and loved them all. I made this sauce for my vegan son. It tasted amazing but it is very runny. Not a thickish sauce at all! We were disappointed about that.
    Any suggestions? I followed the recipe 100%.
    I thought the amount of water was quite high so maybe I should cut that down to 1/2 or 1/4 cup?

  • Suzanne

    This sauce is quite yummy and addictive.
    I used cashews and drizzled it on roasted cauliflower over a bed of couscous. A keeper!
    Must be excellent as a veggie dip ❤️

  • Molly

    Oh my. This special sauce is LIFE-CHANGING!!! A plant-based sauce this creamy and delicious is a dream come true. It’s better than cheese! Love it with this broccoli, rice, and chickpea combo and can’t wait to try out the rest on other veggie bowls, tacos, etc. in the coming days. Thank you so much for sharing, Laura!

  • Carrie

    Oh, my. This was great but the sauce….Oooooh, the sauce. It was taste bud orgasmic. My whole family was in love, including my 5-year old who said, “mommy, can we use this sauce instead of hummus on our veggies this week?”

    Yes! I love when super-good-for-you food is this delicious.

  • Nada

    This sounds really tasty. I must try this sauce!

  • Melissa Sobey

    Made the sauce only- just as written, for a rice bowl with veg & black bean patty. It was lovely! Thanks

  • Jeremiah

    I made the recipe this evening and loved it. However, I was halfway through the sauce and had the broccoli in the oven before realizing I didn’t have nutritional yeast (only active) so I omitted it. What does the yeast do to the sauce? I don’t typically keep nutritional yeast in my kitchen and want to know if I should start.

    • Laura

      Hi Jeremiah,
      Nutritional yeast just gives foods a very savoury, almost cheese-like flavour. I sprinkle it on roasted veggies, popcorn, and include it in a lot of my savoury vegan sauces. It’s a decent source of Vitamin B12 too.

  • Brenna

    MMmmmm I made this last night and it was delish! The sauce is definitely special, no doubt about it. I must say you are the Queen of dinner bowls! Thanks for all the great recipes!

  • atiya

    Vow…this is such a simple, healthy, fresh and delicious sauce! I made it a few days ago and loved it. I might try it with pumpkin seeds next time. It is a good way of getting those healthy seeds into your diet.

    Thank you for this recipe.

  • Natalie

    I soaked the sunflower seeds overnight and used an immersion blender – worked super well!

  • Denise

    This recipe is fantastic… A keeper! I would eat this sauce on nearly everything. Thank you, Laura!

    • Laura

      That’s great to hear! Thanks so much, Denise :)

  • lynn @ the actor's diet

    Hey, I have nutritional yeast! I can make this!

  • Carolyn

    This sauce is amazingly delicious and the recipe is so simple, low maintenance, but totally satisfying! Thank you Laura!

  • Sofie Bollen

    Looks really great and beautiful pictures :) xx Sofie

  • Jodi

    “Instead of shouting “DETOX,” we should be whispering “Stay true,” and administering a gentle pat on the back.”

    mega high fives for the words + the special sauce, lady. all the love for 2016 x

  • Christy

    Hello, I’m really interested in the beautiful glass canisters with wooden tops that you have on your wooden shelf in your next to last picture. I have been looking for something similar. Would you mind sharing the brand? Thanks!

    • Laura

      Hi Christy!
      I got half of them from Home Sense/Home Goods and they weren’t marked with a brand or anything. But then I found some that were really similar in Food 52’s online shop. They can be found HERE :)

  • Debi ford

    This sounds great! I don’t use oils-would there be something else I can use?

    • Laura

      Hi Debi,
      If you want to try this without oil, I would try to replace the oil with a 1/4 cup of water (in addition to the 3/4 cup). See what the texture is like from there–you can always add more water if you want the sauce to be thinner. I can’t vouch for this though because I haven’t personally tried it. The sauce’s texture will definitely be different.

  • Helen

    Just love reading/seeing your recipes and looking forward to trying this one here. One question about chili powder: Is this chili as in cayenne or chili as in a mix of spices from the southwest US? I consider myself a pretty well-read cook, but I am always thrown off by “chili powder”, especially, say when it appears in recipes for Indian or southeast Asian cooking. Any insights? Can chlli powder also be neither of the above? Thanks!

    • Laura

      Hi Helen!
      If I specify just plain chili powder, I just mean the ground up milder chilies–THIS is the one I use. Although I also keep chipotle chili powder and ancho chili powder around as well. In this case, I’m just talking about ground chilies :)

      • Karen

        Hi Laura

        I used hot chilli powder and the result was too hot, so I made double, leaving out the chilli powder in the second lot. The sauce is AMAZING! Well done! However, my question is, since I have so much of it now, do you know if it freezes?

        • Laura

          Hmmmm, I haven’t froze this sauce or anything like it in the past. If I was attempting to freeze this, I’d probably do it in a ziploc bag, trying to squeeze as much air out as possible before sealing it up. After thawing, I’d re-blend it for sure. If there’s a little ice build-up, it shouldn’t hurt too much. Let me know how the whole thing goes if you try it ;)

          • Suzanne

            I froze this sauce and It thickens a bit but great result! I cannot live without it. Literally changed our life. Older couple in their seventies thank you

      • Helen

        Thanks for the clarification!

  • Lauren Gaskill | Making Life Sweet

    I was literally just telling my husband this morning I wanted to do something with roasted broccoli for dinner. This is PERFECT! Pinning!

  • Tori

    You have such a way with making nutrition look to-die-for, and this bowl does! A delicious meal that packs a really healthy punch, so yum!

  • atiya

    This sauce sounds amazing. I’ll give it a try and let you know my feedback.

  • Jacqui

    Oh man, special sauce on everything!! I’ve made something similar, but using tahini and I love it so much, especially on roasted veggies. Love the idea of a sunflower seed version though!

  • isabel

    feeling like we’re on the same wave length – i just roasted some broccoli last night and was in the process of cooking chickpeas and making rice when i read this post. definitely just made the sauce, and am happily eating a big bowl of love and yum right now :).

    happy new year, and happy relaxing in january. sending lots of good vibes your way :)

    • Laura

      I love big bowls of yum and love! ;) Happy new year to you as well, Isabel!

  • Jessie Snyder | Faring Well

    I love this sauce Laura! One of my favorite sauces I make is a sunflower seed based one, aren’t they just the best? Cannot wait to give your version here a try, it sounds so stellar. And I love how you described winter, as someone who struggles with the winter time now that I live in a place that experiences it – it was nice to read about your positive emotions connected to it. Lots of hugs, and happy new year!

    Ps. I feel the SAME way about December. Yay for it being January! xo

    • Laura

      January high five! Sunflower seeds always blow me away with their diversity. Just wild.

  • Marta @ What should I eat for breakfast today

    hahaah it must be a good sauce then :D Happy New Year!

  • Chelsea | Whole Bite Blog

    Laura, I love your outlook on the start of a new year. So refreshing! I tend to get a little bummed out, come January and the end of the holidays. But viewing these winter months as a special, calming time is such a better approach. Thank you for your encouraging words.
    And this sauce looks so good! I love a good go-to sauce that you can use on everything. It adds so much!

  • Anneli

    I’m so excited to try this sauce!

    We have so many food restrictions in our household that it’s sometimes disheartening to see a recipe and then find out it’s not going to work. One kid is allergic to cashews, both to peanuts and legumes plus a multitude of other things. This sauce looks amazing and has none of the ingredients that they can’t have! I’m heading out to buy me some sunflower seeds :) My daughter wants to be vegan (we are all just about there anyway) but, with all the nut, soy and other allergies it makes it more of a challenge.

    Thank you for all of your wonderful recipes… I’ve tried out several.

    • Laura

      Thanks for making my day, Anneli! I hope your family likes the recipe :)

      • Anneli

        I made the sauce yesterday. It is so good!! So, far I’ve poured it over left over steamed broccoli, on a bun with a vegan burger, and over my leftover pasta. I’m so happy wth it! I’m going to try making a vegan caesar salad with it… my son will be thrilled because that is one thing he misses!

  • Hnade sh

    This looks soooo amazing… Id love to make it today but I don’t have any sunflower seeds is there a replacement I can use?!

    • Laura

      You could use cashews or almonds as well! (Hope I’m not too late on the feedback)

      • krystal

        I made this last night as a dip for sweet potato fries and it was AH-MAZING. I used cashews since I didn’t have sunflower seeds and it turned out great.

  • Elizabeth

    Hi Laura. This looks fantastic… like all of your recipes!
    I was wondering if I could replace the sunflower seeds with tahini, in case I want to make a version of this sauce but forgot to soak the sunflower seeds.
    Do you think 1/3 cup would do the trick? Thanks for your feedback!

    • Laura

      Hi Elizabeth!
      I think you COULD sub in that amount of tahini, but you may have to add a little more sweetener since tahini can be slightly bitter in large quantity. Also, you might be able to get away with less oil. Maybe start with a 1/4 cup and keep checking and tasting it. Curious to hear how it turns out if you try it! :)

  • Sarah | Well and Full

    Ahh Laura this looks so good! I’m about to soak some sunflower seeds right now, I bet this sauce is going to be amazing with home fries ;)

  • Erica

    I really appreciate your take on the new year – sometimes trying to completely re-do yourself is exhaustive and anxiety inducing. I like the idea of staying true and giving yourself a pat on the back, I don’t do that enough in my life! So thanks for the gentle reminder :)

  • Libby

    This sounds magnificent! Thank you for sharing these treats.
    And reading through the comments, I love the graceful way that you engage with your readers. It’s inspiring.
    I hope your day is beautiful.

  • genevieve @ gratitude & greens

    I love that line about staying true instead of detoxing. There’s no detoxing on my end, haha! I can’t wait to make this special sauce and pour it on everything!

  • Lyndsay

    I’m always looking for ways to sauce it up for our veg/tofu bowls! Yum to dousing it on roasted broccoli ! Looks so delicious and the photos are lovely (despite the darker light these days!?) I bet this would be so good over roasted potatoes too … Xo

    • Laura

      We totally had it over roasted regular and sweet potatoes last night! :D
      xo L

  • Mariela

    Oh my! If this is half as good as the Goji Berry sauce, I am making it tonight. YUM!

    • Laura

      It’s a definitely a different vibe than the goji sauce–but I think I like this one better ;)

  • Vittoria

    I haven’t made this sauce yet (and I will), but I just made your kale and brussels sprouts caesar slaw this week, which has a similar dressing. I started soaking the sunflower seeds before work, then used my food processor when I get home and it worked out great.

    • Laura

      This is so helpful. Thanks Vittoria!

  • Katrina

    Well, landing on the name special sauce sounds good to me! This whole bowl looks magical! And sooooo tasty :)

  • Tyra

    I love this post. It gives one the much needed permission to not be pressures into this New Year, new you, new health craziness but advocates one to simply stay the course, which is so much more realistic. Looking forward to making the recipe this weekend. Keep up the great work!

  • danielle & rooting the sun

    laura, i really enjoy the option of ‘staying true’ and balance over the harshness of the word ‘detox’. it’s always seemed a rather alarming way to embrace the new year. – – also, this sauce is delicious! grinning at the idea of it with tacos. happy 2016 lovely lady. ♥

    • Laura

      Happy new year to you too, miss :)
      xo L

  • katy

    just wondering why you always direct us to amazon when you’re mentioning specific products. these products (in this case vitamix, cholula) ARE available locally, at independently owned stores. i love your blog, but this irks me as the owner for 30 years of a natural foods market that now is up against the big boys. there are many ways to show the products you believe in.

    going to make this divine-sounding sauce tonight for a whole head of roasted cauliflower….in my kitchen which looks a lot like yours! thanks for listening and hope i don’t sound too bitchy.

    • Claire

      Katy, she provides the links to Amazon because she gets a cut if you buy it from her link. Many, many bloggers do this – it’s one way to make some income from their blogs which often start off as a labor of love. If I kept a blog, I would do the same thing.

    • Laura

      Hi Katy,
      Your comment doesn’t sound bitchy at all! I’m always happy to engage thought-provoking questions/topics, especially this one because I come from a small business family as well. When I first started thinking up ways to actually make a living maintaining this site, Amazon associates/affiliate sales was one of the easier and non-invasive ways to go about it. Since that time though, I’ve taken on ad space and well-fitting sponsorships and honestly (without getting into it too much), I HAVE been re-thinking the role Amazon has here in light of all the changes. Linking to them has become more of a bother than anything else and, as you say, there are better ways to showcase these products and ingredients that I love.

      Anyway, I’m grateful for your message. Sometimes I get into habits here without thinking about how my words/images/links read on the other side of the screen, and just the true nature of the actions in general. Blogging is weird that way. This exchange may inspire some action sooner rather than later ;)

      Thanks again (and I hope I can make it to one of your beautiful stores some day),

      • Christine

        The power and kindness of this exchange made me feel incredibly grateful. Thank you, Katy and Laura, for investing and engaging in your respective missions. And thank you, further, for offering your respectful dialogue to thoughtfully remind us of the importance of conscious consumerism.

  • Mary Ann

    Hi Laura and thanks for this recipe. What do you think about replacing the turmeric root with fresh ginger? Too much ‘ sassy’?

    • Laura

      You could leave the turmeric out all together if you want! But I think the ginger would be tasty as well :)

  • Nora

    Such gorgeous light! And the sauce looks divine.