This easy vegan vodka sauce is simple to make in one pot with creamy oat milk and no raw cashews or coconut! Make this vegan alla vodka with smoky sun-dried tomato “pancetta” sauce for a dinner party, date night, a friend in need of a cozy meal, or make ahead for the perfect winter meal prep. Thank you to our friends at Elmhurst® for sponsoring this blog post!
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Ever since the first time I tried it, I have loved ordering penne alla vodka pasta at Italian restaurants. It was my perfect kind of creamy tomato sauce – rich with minced garlic and cheesy parmesan flavor, specks of smokiness from the pancetta, and a decadent tomato creaminess throughout the whole thing. Something about it just felt so elevated, so decadent, such a luxurious treat!
In fact, I remember vodka pasta as something I thought was SO very fancy as a teenager. My biggest memory of this perfect pasta is leaving my winter formal dance early with my date and good friend Patrick so we could go to a restaurant in our fancy clothes and have vodka pasta sauce.
With the current internet popularity of model Gigi Hadid’s penne vodka pasta dish, I was inspired to make our own nut-free, vegan penne alla vodka and to share it with all of you!
Why You’ll Love Vegan Vodka Sauce Pasta:
- It’s easy to make. We love to use Elmhurst’s unsweetened oat creamer to make this creamy vegan vodka sauce. More on why it’s the best choice a little later in this post, but Elmhurst’s oat creamer makes for the easiest method and best flavor of any vegan vodka sauce we’ve found on the internet!
- You can make it ahead. Make this vegan pasta alla vodka sauce up to 5 days ahead, and the pasta up to 3 days ahead for easy preparation at family dinners, potlucks, or dinner parties with friends!
- The flavor will take you back. I had high hopes and high expectations for this recipe, given how much I loved vodka pasta as a teenager. And friends, we really made it happen! If you loved this dish as much as I did, you’ve got to try this recipe!
Ingredients in Vegan Vodka Sauce (no cashews)
You’ll need 11 ingredients (+ common spices / herbs) to make this vegan penne vodka:
- Pasta – We like using rigatoni or penne pasta, cooked and drained.
- Sun-dried tomatoes – Get the kind that comes in a jar in oil. These will be marinated and fried up to become like a smoky plant-based pancetta.
- Soy sauce and liquid smoke – These will be used in the vegan pancetta marinade to create that smoky/salty flavor!
- Shallots – Minced. For this sauce, I prefer the flavor of shallots over yellow onion.
- Garlic cloves – Finely chopped. Feel free to adjust the amount based on your taste. We love garlic in this house!
- Vodka – We used Smirnoff. Vodka adds some heat and a really pleasing but not overwhelming flavor to the sauce. But don’t worry – it’s still kid-friendly, as the alcohol cooks out while simmering.
- Canned crushed tomatoes – Canned crushed tomatoes are best here and create a very different texture than diced tomatoes.
- Elmhurst® Unsweetened Oat Creamer – This ingredient is KEY. We’ll talk more on this below, but you want to make sure you’re using a vegan cream that is both unsweetened AND plain. Elmhurst® makes this so easy with their unsweetened oat creamer!
- White miso paste – This will add a fermented parmesan-type flavor to our sauce that is out of this world!
- Nutritional yeast – Combined with the miso paste, the nutty undertones here will round out that parmesan flavor and also act as a slight thickener
- Spices: onion powder, ground black pepper, ground red pepper flakes, sea salt
- Herbs: Fresh oregano and Italian parsley for garnish!
The Best Vegan Heavy Cream for Pasta
If you want to create the best tasting vegan vodka cream sauce, the key ingredient you want to pay attention to is which dairy-free cream you’re using. There are a lot of options out there, but not all of them are suitable for this particular dish.
The plant-based cream you use in a recipe can make or break your dish. I see this all too often – I experienced it in my early years learning to cook plant-based, I’ve tasted it in friends’ creamy sauce recipes, and I’ve even seen it at restaurants that would have otherwise spectacular vegan pasta dishes…if they only used the right heavy cream substitute.
In all of these instances, I always recommend they check out Elmhurst’s unsweetened oat creamer, and I’m going to suggest the same thing to you today. Elmhurst’s oat creamer is superior to any other plant-based milk we’ve worked with for cooking and baking applications in particular.
We recommend using Elmhurst’s unsweetened oat creamer above any other option because:
- There’s no added sweetness (which would give a savory sauce an unpleasant taste)
- Only 3 simple ingredients – water, oats, and hemp cream. No added gums or emulsifiers that will interfere with the chemistry of cooking or potentially over-thicken the sauce or make it tacky.
- It can be used as a direct 1:1 replacement for heavy cream in all savory dishes, unlike other creams that can have weird additives that may need other ingredients / amounts tweaked to get the same flavor effect (and even then, in our experience, it still may not taste right)
- There’s no separation under heat. Your sauces and soups stay together and don’t “break” like with some other plant milks
- Elmhurst’s entire line of milks come in shelf-stable packaging. This has been a huge game-changer for us when it comes to avoiding food waste! We can buy in bulk (which saves us $$!) and leave them in the pantry until ready to use.
Substitution Options for Creamy Vegan Vodka Pasta Sauce
If you don’t have or can’t tolerate one of the above ingredients, here are our best substitution tips. Remember: substituting any of the ingredients may lead to a difference in the final product that is not always a positive one. Let us know in the comments if you try any subs and how they work out for you!
For the pasta: Feel free to use any type of pasta shape you like, but short pasta usually works best. Ziti and bowtie pasta work well, and gluten-free pasta will work too. Just make sure you cook the pasta according to the package directions for al dente.
For the sun-dried tomatoes: If you want to make a quicker dish without the pancetta, simply skip the sun-dried tomatoes all together and start by sauteeing the shallot and garlic in 2 Tbsp olive oil. Alternatively, you can use your favorite diced vegan ham or bacon, but start with the sauteeing step and use a little oil for optimum crispness.
For the shallots: Yellow or white onion will also work here! I’d stay away from red onion as it may add an overpowering flavor to the sauce.
For the canned crushed tomatoes: You can use whole peeled canned tomatoes that you crush really well between your fingers. If using diced tomatoes, the sauce will be thinner and may need to simmer longer. An immersion blender can help if you go the diced tomato route!
How to Make Vodka Sauce without Vodka:
To make this pasta sauce without vodka, you can sub the same amount of water + 1-2 tsp apple cider vinegar or lemon juice + 1 tsp vegan chicken bouillon powder. The flavor will be different, but the vinegar / lemon juice will help bring out the acidity of the tomatoes which gives a similar effect.
How to Make Vodka Sauce (Vegan)
This dairy-free vodka sauce is made in under an hour (and the vast majority of that is simmer / cook time).
Step 1: Marinate the sun-dried tomatoes.
Roughly chop the sun-dried tomatoes and add them to a small bowl. Add the rest of the pancetta ingredients, saving the hot water for last. Cover and let this sit while you get your pasta cooking and chop the shallots and garlic.
Step 2: Prepare the vegan vodka cream sauce.
In a deep 12-inch skillet or pot over medium low heat, add the sun-dried tomatoes along with the marinating liquid and cover. Cook for 5 minutes.
Then remove the cover and cook until crispy, stirring occasionally, 8-12 minutes until the sun-dried tomatoes are slightly crisp and the liquid is mostly absorbed. Be careful not to burn them. It helps to spread them flat in the pan so they cook evenly.
Add the shallot, garlic and red-pepper flakes and cook, stirring occasionally, until onion is translucent, about 2-3 minutes.
Once simmering, remove cover and simmer until the sauce begins to thicken, about 10 minutes.
Step 3: Bring it all together.
Remove from heat and stir in the cooked pasta; toss to coat. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
How to Thicken Vodka Sauce
The simplest way to thicken any sauce is to simmer it for longer. Remember to keep this at a low heat and be careful not to let the sauce come to a boil after the vegan cream is added which can negatively affect the texture. This is more prevalent with dairy cream but can happen with non-dairy cream too…less so if you use the Elmhurst unsweetened oat creamer we suggested!
Also, if you used canned diced tomatoes for the sauce, it may appear thinner (depending on the brand and how much water they add to the can). You can amend this by simmering longer (which will thicken the sauce but still leave you with a more rustic chunky texture). Or you can also use an immersion blender on the diced tomatoes which will thicken and create a creamier texture.
This vegan vodka sauce can be made up to 5 days in advance and stored in an airtight container in the fridge. You can also cook the pasta up to 3 days ahead and store in the fridge in an air-tight container.
To serve: Bring the sauce to a low simmer on medium-low heat, stirring occasionally. Once the sauce is warmed through (about 8-10 minutes), stir in the cooked pasta. Let the pasta warm in the sauce until ready to serve (about 2-5 minutes).
What to Serve with Penne alla Vodka
When ready to serve, divide the pasta among bowls and serve hot topped with a sprinkle of vegan parmesan, freshly cracked black pepper, and fresh oregano and parsley!
Vodka Sauce Dinner Ideas
Vegan vodka pasta is great served all on its own! Or try it with these side options for a full-fledged family dinner.
- Serve alongside our vegan Italian chicken cutlets. Or, if you’re looking for a non-breaded protein option, try our Balsamic Tomato Tofu Cutlets!
- Pair it with a simple green salad with Italian dressing or a vegan Caesar. This is a great option to lighten things up when serving this for lunch!
- If you’re looking for a major carb-load for a day or night of activities, add a hefty serving of vegan garlic bread to the equation!
How to Store This Easy Vegan Vodka Sauce Recipe
Store leftover vodka pasta in an air-tight container in the fridge for up to 5 days. Some people like to store the pasta separately if possible, but I often forget and find it’s fine to store leftovers together in one container. The pasta does break down a bit, but not enough to bother us.
As the leftovers sit, they actually become a ton more flavorful. This is one one of my favorite leftover pasta dishes because of that!
Can you freeze vodka sauce?
To freeze vegan nut free vodka sauce, skip the pasta instructions and make the sauce up until the addition of the Elmhurst® unsweetened oat creamer. Let the sauce cool fully before transferring to a freezer-safe container or bag. Freeze the sauce for up to 3 months.
To Use: Transfer the sauce to the fridge to thaw fully (overnight is best). Once thawed, heat the sauce in a pan on medium-low heat until warmed through. Then, add the Elmhurst unsweetened oat creamer and continue with the recipe from there!
Best Vegan Vodka Sauce FAQ
By now, you may still have questions about how to make the best vegan alla vodka dish! Here are more common questions and their answers.
Some recipes for vegan vodka sauce call for coconut cream or cashews, but we love Elmhurst’s unsweetened oat creamer because it thickens the sauce beautifully and doesn’t add any sweetness or weird coconut taste to the savory tomato sauce.
The original recipe for traditional vodka sauce primarily uses crushed tomatoes, heavy cream, and a splash of vodka, plus herbs and spices. Our vegan version uses Elmhurst’s unsweetened oat creamer in place of the heavy cream.
It may surprise you, but vodka isn’t actually necessary in a vodka sauce. You can achieve the same cohesive effect with some water and a little vinegar or lemon juice.
Smirnoff red, black, and blue vodkas are vegan friendly. Some of their flavored vodkas are questionable.
Most plain, unflavored vodkas are suitable for vegans. Things can get a little more confusing when it comes to flavored vodkas.
Easy Vegan Pasta Recipes
I hope you love this vegan classico vodka sauce as much as we do! Everyone we’ve served it to has become totally entranced by its magic, and I think once you try it, you will too!
When you make vegan spicy vodka sauce, we would LOVE to hear all about your experience, and I know our friends at Elmhurst® would too.
Let us know what you think by leaving a star rating and review below (it’s a huge help in getting more people to find our vegan recipes!) or tag both @theplantpowercouple and @elmhurst1925 on Instagram, so we can join in on the pasta-joy and share your photos with the world!
We cannot wait to hear what you think. Enjoy!
- 1 pound rigatoni or penne pasta, cooked and drained
For the sun-dried tomato pancetta:
- 1/2 cup sun-dried tomatoes (jarred in oil, use a fork to measure / drain some of the oil)
- 1 Tbsp soy sauce
- 1/2 Tbsp oil from sun-dried tomato jar
- 1/2 tsp onion powder
- 1/2 tsp liquid smoke
- 1/4 tsp ground black pepper
- 1/2 cup hot just-boiled water
For the sauce:
- 2 large shallots, minced
- 2-4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
- 1/2 teaspoon red-pepper flakes (omit if you don’t like spicy)
- 1/2 cup vodka
- 1(28-ounce) can crushed tomatoes
- 1-2 tsp salt
- 1/4 tsp ground black pepper
- 1 cup Elmhurst® Unsweetened Oat Creamer
- 2 Tbsp mellow white miso paste
- 2 Tbsp nutritional yeast
- 1 Tbsp chopped fresh oregano
- 2 Tbsp chopped Italian parsley
- Marinate the sun-dried tomatoes: Roughly chop the sun-dried tomatoes and add them to a small bowl. Add the rest of the pancetta ingredients, saving the hot water for last. Cover and let this sit while you get your pasta cooking and chop the shallots and garlic.
- Cook the vegan pancetta: In a deep 12-inch skillet or pot over medium low heat, add the sun-dried tomatoes along with the marinating liquid and cover. Cook for 5 minutes. Then, remove the cover and cook, stirring occasionally, 8-12 minutes until sun-dried tomatoes are slightly crisp and the liquid is mostly absorbed. Be careful not to burn them. It helps to spread them flat in the pan so they cook evenly.
- Add the shallots and garlic: Add the shallot, garlic, and red-pepper flakes and cook, stirring occasionally, until onion is translucent, about 2-3 minutes.
- Add the vodka: Pour in the vodka and cook until reduced by half, about 2 - 3 minutes.
- Add tomatoes: Stir in the diced tomatoes, miso paste, and nutritional yeast. Cover and bring to a low simmer. Once simmering, remove cover and simmer until the sauce begins to thicken, about 10 minutes.
- Add the vegan heavy cream: Season the sauce with salt and pepper and stir in the Elmhurst® unsweetened oat creamer. Cook, stirring occasionally until thickened to your desired texture, about 10-20 minutes.
- Bring it together: Remove from heat and stir in the cooked pasta; toss to coat. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
- To serve: Divide among bowls, top with vegan parmesan or cheesy blend, if desired, and sprinkle with the oregano and parsley.
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 317Total Fat: 4gSaturated Fat: 1gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 3gCholesterol: 0mgSodium: 1187mgCarbohydrates: 50gFiber: 6gSugar: 5gProtein: 11g
Nutrition information is automatically calculated and may not always be accurate.
Watch our Vegan Creamy Tomato Pasta web story.