Vegan Vodka Sauce is ready in just 30 minutes with minimal prep. It's rich, creamy, packed with flavour, and because it's a dairy-free vodka sauce, no heavy cream is required. Toss through freshly cooked pasta for a delicious dinner!
You really can't go wrong when a meal involves piles of pasta, creamy, garlicky, tangy tomato sauce and vodka. It's definitely a win win kind of situation! And even though this Vegan Vodka Sauce recipe is totally dairy-free, it's so incredibly creamy and indulgent.
With an acidic, tomato-base, finished with rich cashew cream, and balance from the vodka which provides slight background heat and sharpness, it is so delicious.
Toss through some penne for a classic vegan Penne alla Vodka or use any other sturdy pasta of choice. It's even great with gnocchi!
Vegan vodka pasta ingredients
Here's what's going on in this Vegan Vodka Sauce Pasta:
And a couple of ingredient specific notes:
- Raw cashews - Because this is a dairy-free vodka sauce we are using a quick and simple cashew cream instead of the usual heavy cream. See the FAQs for nut-free alternatives.
- Vodka - When choosing alcohol for cooking, a good rule of thumb is if you wouldn't drink it, you shouldn't cook with it. Very cheap vodka can taste like paint thinner and could ruin your sauce. I recommend using a mid-range priced vodka.
- Crushed tomatoes - Use the best canned crushed tomatoes you can afford. I highly recommend San Marzano if you can. When it comes to canned tomatoes you really get what you pay for when it comes to flavour.
- Pasta - Although Vegan Vodka Sauce is traditionally served with penne (a.k.a Penne alla Vodka), feel free to use your favourite pasta shape, although keep in mind that it should be a sturdy pasta with plenty of ridges. Use gluten-free pasta to make this recipe gluten-free.
Success tip - If you don't have a high powered blender soak the cashews in boiling water for 15 minutes then drain well, prior to making the cashew cream. This will ensure you get a beautifully silky smooth cream.
What does vodka add to pasta sauce?
In vodka sauce or Penne alla Vodka, the vodka provides background heat and a slight sharpness which really balances the creamy tomato sauce. It also emulsifies the sauce, bonding the olive oil, tomato and cashew cream together to create a cohesive, super creamy, luscious sauce.
In addition it enhances flavour, just like salt does. Known as the “volatility effect”, alcohol "bonds with both fat and water molecules. In this way, alcohol bridges the gap between our aroma receptors (which respond only to molecules that can be dissolved in fat) and food (which consists primarily of water). This is crucial, because most of the great “flavor” in food comes from aromas in the nose rather than tastes in the mouth" (source Fine Cooking by David Joachim and Andrew Schloss)
How to make Vegan Vodka Sauce
Making Vegan Penne alla Vodka is so easy! Here's how it's done:
- Saute the onions and garlic.
- Add the tomatoes and simmer.
- Blend the cashew cream and add it along with the vodka and seasonings.
- Simmer until thick and creamy.
- Cook the pasta until al dente.
- Toss the pasta through the sauce.
Success tip - Pasta water! Yep, the starchy boiling water you cooked the pasta in. Before draining the pasta scoop out a mug full, then when tossing the pasta in the sauce, add a splash of the pasta cooking water. The sauce will become extra glossy and cling to your pasta better!
So let the P-A-R-T-Y begin...Here's to diving headfirst into piles of pasta with creamy, Vegan Vodka Sauce!
Making ahead & storing leftovers
This sauce is just perfect for meal prep and making ahead because it keeps beautifully in the fridge or freezer. Transfer to an airtight container and store for up to 5 days in the fridge or for up to 3 months in the freezer. Leftover pasta (after being mixed with the sauce) will keep for a few days in the fridge too. Note that I don't recommend freezing pasta so freeze the sauce on its own and cook the pasta as needed.
When reheating add an extra 2 teaspoons (10ml) of vodka per cup (240ml) of sauce for the full and fresh vodka flavour effect, and add a few drops of water to thin as necessary.
The good news is that most distilled spirits including vodka, are naturally vegan but the Barnivore website is a great resource for checking which alcoholic beverages are vegan if you aren't sure about a particular brand.
Instead of cashews use ¾ cup (180ml) of any unsweetened vegan culinary cream or creamy canned coconut milk.
More vegan pasta recipes
If you tried this recipe, let me know how you liked it by leaving a comment and rating below! And be sure to join my mailing list for more deliciousness!
Vegan Vodka SauceAuthor:
- ½ cup (70 grams) raw cashews , see recipe notes for sub
- ½ cup (120 ml) water
- 2 tbsp olive oil , or water for oil-free
- 1 medium onion , diced finely
- 4 large cloves garlic , minced
- 1 x 28 oz (796 ml) can crushed tomatoes , the best you can afford. I highly recommend San Marzano if you can.
- ¼ tsp crushed red pepper flakes , add a few more if you like it spicy!
- 1½ teaspoon dried oregano , or dried basil
- ½ cup (120 ml) vodka
- 2 teaspoon fine sea salt , if using table salt reduce as necessary
- ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1 teaspoon white or cane sugar
- 1 lb (453 grams) pasta of choice , I like penne or rigatoni. (Use GF pasta if necessary)
- vegan parmesan
- fresh basil
- First make the cashew cream. Blend the cashews with the water until completely silky smooth. If you don't have a high powered blender soak the cashews in boiling water for 15 minutes before blending. Set aside.
- Place a large saute pan over medium heat and add the olive oil. Once hot add the onions and saute for about 5 minutes until translucent. Add the garlic and cook for one minute more, stirring frequently before adding the canned tomatoes, red pepper flakes and oregano. Bring to a gentle simmer then let it cook for 5 minutes.
- Spoon in the cashew cream, making sure to scrape the blender out well with a spatula, then pour in the vodka and add the salt, pepper and sugar.
- Simmer gently, uncovered, for 10 to 15 minutes, stirring every five minutes or so, or until thick and creamy. The longer you simmer it the thicker it will get.
- While it's simmering away bring a large pan of salted water to a rolling boil and cook the pasta. Be sure to only cook until al dente (just tender with some bite).
- Once the pasta is cooked, scoop out 1 mug (just a regular drinking mug) full of the pasta water and set it aside, before draining the pasta through a sieve or colander.
- Pour the cooked pasta into the vodka sauce and stir to combine, adding a good amount of the reserved pasta water to thin as needed. I usually use about half a mug.
- Serve immediately with plenty of vegan parmesan and some fresh basil if you have it.
Nutritional information is provided for convenience & as a courtesy. The data is a computer generated estimate so should be used as a guide only.