This vegan vodka sauce is rich, creamy and super easy to make with just nine simple ingredients. Perfect over pasta, you'd never guess this decadent sauce was dairy-free!
When I was in college I waited tables at a place where the servers got a free meal for every shift we worked, and I very quickly became addicted to the penne alla vodka. It was weird to me because I couldn't stand the taste of vodka by itself (still can't!).
But now I know better. I've since learned that vodka is pretty much just alcohol and water, and the alcohol evaporates when you make vodka sauce. So is vodka sauce really just water sauce? Yes...but no.
I also learned that when the alcohol evaporates it interacts with the tomatoes in a way that enhances their flavors and makes them tastier. That's about as scientific as I can get here, but trust me, vodka gives the sauce a wonderful depth of flavor.
With that knowledge in hand I took to creating a dairy-free version of my old favorite, swapping out the typically used butter for olive oil and heavy cream for cashew cream. My vegan vodka sauce turned out way more delicious than any of the free dinners I got back when I was in college!
Ingredients You'll Need
- Cashews. We're using blended up raw cashews as the dairy-free base for our vegan vodka sauce. They must be raw (not roasted) in order for the recipe to work, and we'll be soaking them in water for a few hours so they blend up smoothly.
- Olive oil. Vegan butter could also be used.
- Canned diced tomatoes.
- Canned crushed tomatoes. If you can't find these you could use another can of diced tomatoes and briefly blitz them in the blender.
- Vodka. Use a decent quality vodka here. It doesn't need to be top shelf, but if you use the cheap stuff you'll taste it. I like Smirnoff and Absolut for cooking.
- Salt & pepper.
Assuming you're making vegan pasta alla vodka with this sauce, you'll also want to add some dried pasta to your shopping list. I like to make vegan penne alla vodka, but any variety of pasta works! Vodka sauce also goes great with some fresh basil.
Fresh basil, red pepper flakes, and vegan Parmesan cheese are also great accompaniments, but not strictly required.
How It's Made
The following is a detailed photo tutorial on how to make this dish. Scroll all the way down if you'd like to skip right to the recipe!
- Drian and rinse your soaked cashews, then place them into a blender or food processor with some water.
- Blend until smooth.
Tip: Did you forget to soak your cashews? Try boiling them for 20 minutes instead. And for future reference, keep a stash of frozen soaked cashews on hand, so you never have to worry about forgetting! Just soak then freeze them right in the soaking water. When you're ready to use them, thaw, drain, rinse, and use like normal.
- Heat your olive oil in a large pot, then add diced onion. Cook the onion for a few minutes, stirring it constantly until it starts to soften up.
- Add minced garlic and cook it with the onion briefly. Keep stirring to prevent your garlic from burning.
- Add the crushed tomatoes, diced tomatoes and vodka. Stir everything up and bring the sauce to a simmer.
- Let the sauce continue to simmer until it thickens up a bit and all the alcohol cooks off.
Tip: You'll need to taste-test the sauce to make sure the alcohol has all evaporated. If it's still in there the sauce will taste funny.
- Pour the cashew cream mixture into the sauce, stir it up and let it simmer just a few minutes more.
- Take the pot off of heat and season your vegan vodka sauce with salt and pepper.
- Toss the sauce with your favorite cooked pasta and enjoy! I like to serve mine with some fresh basil, red pepper flakes and a sprinkle of vegan Parmesan cheese.
Tip: This recipe makes a big batch of sauce, because I find most blending devices don't work well with less than a cup of cashews. I don't recommend cutting down on the batch size unless you're using something small like a mini food processor.
Leftovers & Storage
Leftover vegan vodka sauce will keep in an airtight container in the refrigerator for about 4 days, or in the freezer for about 3 months.
If you've already added your sauce to pasta you can store the leftovers in the fridge for about 3 days in a sealed container. You may find the sauce thickens a bit during storage, as the pasta sucks up moisture. Add a splash of water during reheating if needed.
Frequently Asked Questions
The sauce itself is gluten-free. Just be sure to serve it with gluten-free pasta.
Coconut cream could work, though I haven't tried it. You can buy canned coconut cream in the international aisle at the store. If you can't find it, buy canned coconut milk, chill it in the fridge overnight, and just use the solid portion once it separates.
You can absolutely omit the vodka if needed. The flavor of the sauce will be much milder and a bit sweeter. And, obviously, it won't be vodka sauce anymore!
More Creamy Vegan Pasta Recipes
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Vegan Vodka Sauce
This vegan vodka sauce is rich, creamy and super easy to make with just a handful of ingredients. Perfect over pasta, you'd never guess this decadent sauce was dairy-free!
- 1 cup raw cashews, soaked in water 4-8 hours
- 1 cup water
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 medium onion, diced
- 5 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 (28 ounce or 794 gram) can crushed tomatoes
- 1 (28 ounce or 794 gram) can diced tomatoes
- 1 cup vodka
- 1 teaspoon salt, or to taste
- Black pepper, to taste
- Cooked pasta (Note 1)
- Red pepper flakes
- Fresh basil
- Vegan Parmesan cheese
Drain and rinse the cashews, then place them into the bowl of a food processor or the pitcher of blender with 1 cup of water. Blend until smooth, stopping to scrape down the sides of the pitcher or bowl as needed.
Heat the oil in a large pot over medium heat. When the oil is hot, add the onion. Sweat the onion for about 5 minutes, stirring frequently, until soft and translucent.
Add the garlic to the pot and sauté it with the onion for another minute, until very fragrant.
Stir in the crushed tomatoes, diced tomatoes and then the vodka. Bring the mixture to a simmer and reduce the heat to-medium low. Continue simmering the sauce for 20 to 25 minutes, until the sauce thickens a bit and the alcohol has cooked off (Note 2).
Stir the cashew mixture into sauce and bring it back to a simmer, just for a minute, until heated throughout.
Remove the pot from heat and season the sauce with salt and pepper.
Serve over pasta of choice and optionally garnish with red pepper flakes, fresh basil and/or vegan Parmesan cheese.
- This recipe makes about 8 cups of sauce, which is enough to generously dress a pound of pasta.
- The best way to tell when you've reached this point is by taste-testing the sauce.