Delicious and fun, this Vegan Rasta Pasta recipe is inspired by an original Jamaican dish and is an easy, quick meal to make on weeknights or when you’re short on time. Featuring vegan chicken and surrounded by fettuccine, bell peppers, green onions, homemade jerk seasoning, and vegan parmesan cheese to create a flavorful meal you’ll be proud to serve.
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Hey Internet, I’m starting to become really obsessed with these 30 minute one-pot pasta meals, and why not? They’re quick, easy, delicious, and they make cleanup a breeze!
I have a variety of other 30 minute one-pot pasta meals already like vegan mushroom pasta, vegan pasta puttanesca, vegan hamburger helper, vegan chickpea florentine, vegan macaroni salad, and vegan ranch pasta salad.
This vegan rasta pasta is something that I found while searching for Caribbean recipes (because cravings) and I wanted to try it out. I was out of rice, so it seemed like a perfect time to try another pasta dish.
Rasta pasta is sometimes made with meat, though I’ve seen renditions with chicken or shrimp. I decided to add vegan chicken to this meal to make it a little more hearty, and it certainly provides a great texture! See the substitutions section for different ideas.
While researching this dish, I learned a lot about Rastafarian and Jamaican culture. Some folks believe this is a Rastafari dish and some folks believe it is only inspired by Rastafarian culture and colors.
If you’re interested in some of the information I gleaned, please read the short sections I included below—and I urge you of course to do your own research as well.
Why This Recipe Works
This smoky, sweet, savory vegan rasta pasta is flavored with a homemade jerk seasoning (though you’re welcome to purchase a blend from the store).
Jerk seasoning is a blend of various spices including dried thyme, allspice, nutmeg, granulated onion, cayenne pepper (dried and powdered scotch bonnet peppers would be more traditional and authentic though they can be hard to source), and some brown sugar… This blend is spicy, a bit sweet, and just has a great flavor.
I prefer to make my own spice blends so I can customize it to my own preferences. I go for a bit less heat but a bit more smoky so I often add a pinch of smoked paprika. But the beauty of the blend is you can make it your own!
Pasta made in one pot can seem intimidating, but there’s two helpful things you can do to mitigate potential issues: 1) follow the recipe as written because I’ve calculated the liquid to pasta ratio for you so it turns out well, and 2) prep all your ingredients beforehand as this recipe comes together quite quickly and you don’t want to burn or overcook something while you’re preparing the next ingredients.
Of course if you prefer you’re welcome to cook the veggies and pasta in separated pots and combine them after draining the pasta. But I prefer cooking it in one pot because I’m able to pack in more flavor (using broth instead of water) and for simplicity’s sake!
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One other useful thing is to make sure you’re using a good nonstick pot. I find that thin or lightweight pots are poor conductors of heat and will make it harder for your pasta to cook evenly in relatively small amounts of liquid.
I love my All Clad Nonstick Pot for this recipe. I also occasionally use my Le Creuset Enameled Cast Iron Dutch Oven for this recipe, though I find that with these pots you need a decent amount of cooking oil to keep things from sticking.
Finally, once you’ve cooked this according to the recipe once, you might not want to change it up at all (I do think it’s quite delicious and my husband agrees!) but of course you’re welcome to change up some of the ingredients to fit your preferences. I’ll indicate in the next section where you can swap out ingredients to customize this vegan rasta pasta recipe.
Ingredients and Substitutions
- 3 cups soy curls: My favorite vegan chicken replacement for pasta dishes is soy curls. If using soy curls, try to avoid the small crumbles at the bottom of the bag for this dish. The small crumbles I save and use whenever I make soup, chili, or like a TVP vegan meat sauce. If you prefer not to use soy curls you could use chickpeas, baked or air fried crispy tofu, my seitan chicken, or a store-bought vegan chicken product like Gardein or Daring.
- 2 ½ cups vegan chicken broth or vegetable broth or water (see below): For rehydrating the soy curls (ONLY if using soy curls).
- 3 cups vegan chicken broth: This is for the pasta. Again, I like using flavorful broth like Better Than Bouillon No Chicken Base mixed with hot water instead of just plain water for the pasta to give it more flavor. Feel free to use vegetable broth or a prepared vegetarian chicken broth like Imagine.
- 3 tablespoons (to taste) jerk seasoning: You can buy a pre-made jerk seasoning if you’d like or you can make your own. I usually prefer to make my own so I can customize the spice, sweetness, and smokiness. Here’s a recipe for jerk seasoning I usually (mostly) follow and make some adjustments of course (I skip the bouillon powder since we have bouillon already in this recipe).
- 2 bell peppers: I used red and green bell peppers but you can use whichever colors you like. You can even substitute other quick cooking vegetables like mushrooms, summer squash, broccoli, etc. I will get more into this later, but I like to cook the veggies in the pot then remove them while the pasta cooks (helps retain the texture).
- 3 cloves garlic (a necessary ingredient in vegan rasta pasta!)
- 1 bunch of green onions (when chopping, separate the green parts from the white as the white parts will be added at the beginning and the green parts at the end.)
- 1 pound of pasta: I used penne because that’s what I’ve seen most often, and because my husband and I really like penne. You can use any pasta you like. I feel that short pastas work better for one pot pasta dishes. Use gluten-free pasta if needed, but be wary that those are different from wheat pasta so their cooking times can vary, and they may need more liquid so pay a bit more attention if using that type of pasta.
- ½ to ¾ cup canned coconut milk (full fat): Buy a good canned coconut milk like Nature’s Harvest or Thai Kitchen and you’ll love using it in savory recipes like my vegan cream of mushroom soup. It does not have a strong coconut flavor and it’s not sweet. It makes everything super lush and delicious. If you can’t have coconut, you can substitute thick cashew cream or sunflower seed cream, or a very thick non-dairy milk or creamer (make sure it’s unsweetened and unflavored!). This makes our vegan rasta pasta very creamy.
- ½ cup vegan parmesan: I really love the Violife vegan parmesan block, and I grate it with a microplane to get that grated parmesan cheese I used to love. For me it tastes exactly the same! But feel free to skip, or you can use my homemade vegan parmesan topping, which I’ve used with this recipe and also love!
How to Make Vegan Rasta Pasta
- NOTE: This recipe goes really fast once you start, so I highly recommend preparing all the ingredients beforehand. You don’t want to burn anything while you’re prepping other ingredients! Also, you have to soak your soy curls (if using) for 8-10 minutes anyway, so you might as well chop all your veggies, mince your garlic, measure out your spices, etc. while they soak.
- Start by rehydrating your soy curls in the vegan chicken broth. I usually do 6-10 minutes. The hotter the liquid the faster it soaks (but don’t use boiling water because it messes with the texture.
- Once the soy curls are rehydrated, squeeze the excess liquid from them with your hands (but save this liquid, you can use it as part of your pasta cooking liquid). Add squeezed rehydrated soy curls to a hot nonstick pot that’s been heated over medium high heat. I like to “dry fry” my soy curls for a few minutes first, stir frequently, and when they start to turn lightly golden brown, add a little bit of oil. If oil-free you can add back a little of the broth, then toss the soy curls with half of the jerk seasoning. Once the soy curls are well combined with half that seasoning, take them out of the pan and place on a plate or in a bowl--we’ll add them back at the end so they retain their texture and flavor.
- The next part is a bit of a personal preference: I really don’t like super soft cooked peppers, so I like to saute my peppers by themselves for a few minutes, remove them, and add them back after my pasta is cooked. However, you’re welcome to just saute the peppers and keep going with the recipe. The peppers will get cooked and soft and absorb the flavors of the dish. Your choice.
- But anyway, saute the peppers, still over medium high heat, for 3-4 minutes. You can do this in a little bit of oil, or if you’re oil-free use a splash of broth. If desired, remove your peppers and place in a bowl for later.
- Next, add your garlic and the white parts of the green onion. Stir frequently for about a minute until fragrant.
- Now add the pasta and 3 cups of broth (you can add a splash more later if needed) to the pot and bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium and simmer covered for 7-8 minutes or until the pasta is cooked through.
- If the pasta is not soft enough and all the liquid is gone, you can add ¼ cup more broth or water at a time, let it cook and add more only if needed.
- When the pasta is fully cooked and most of the liquid is absorbed, you can add the coconut milk and remainder of the jerk seasoning and fully stir it.
- Add back in your cooked soy curls as well as the peppers if you removed them earlier. Then add the green parts of your green onion, along with the vegan parmesan (if using).
- Serve up your cooked vegan rasta pasta with an extra sprinkle of vegan parmesan and enjoy immediately!
- Refrigerate leftovers for up to 4 days in an airtight container.
Frequently Asked Questions
You can use chickpeas, baked or air fried crispy tofu, my seitan chicken, or a store-bought vegan chicken product like Gardein or Daring. Or you’re welcome to omit it, since vegan meat is not a necessary ingredient for vegan rasta pasta.
Simply use gluten-free pasta. Remember that those pastas cook differently than wheat pasta, so you may have to watch them more closely.
Use extra broth to saute. That’s it! You may not be able to use store bought vegan cheese if you are strictly oil-free. In that case, use my homemade vegan parmesan topping.
Store in an airtight container for 4-5 days. I recommend reheating in a pan, and if the pasta is dry you can add a splash of coconut milk and a little more vegan parmesan cheese.
No! I never claim my recipes are authentic. First of all, they’re vegan, so I’m usually veganizing a non vegan recipe. Additionally, I cannot pretend I’d know the first thing about making authentic food from a culture I did not grow up in. And I certainly do not want to appropriate anyone else’s culture. I love to learn about new places and cultures by making their food, but in a way that fits my lifestyle since I am vegan and I do have a sensitive stomach (can’t take a lot of spice unfortunately). I acknowledge my recipes aren’t authentic but I do still believe that they are delicious and a perfectly valid way of cooking.
Pro Tips for Success
- Prep all your ingredients beforehand, as the cooking goes pretty fast and it’s helpful to have ingredients ready in small bowls on the counter next to the stove. This is a much less stressful way to cook and I’ve found better results when I cook this way.
- Vegan rasta pasta features jerk seasoning, so make sure you like the jerk seasoning you have. I’m never fully satisfied with store bought jerk seasoning blends, so I like to make my own by customizing recipes I find online. Personally I like to use brown sugar, and use less hot pepper because I have a sensitive stomach. I also tend to add a little nutritional yeast for a savory flavor and a little smoked paprika for a smoky flavor. I also leave out any bouillon powder since there’s plenty of bouillon in my recipe already.
- I brown the soy curls ahead of time and remove them while the vegan rasta pasta cooks. This is an optional step, but it adds a lot more texture and bite to the recipe. It doesn’t take much time and it makes a big impact!
- For better vegetable texture, I like to saute my peppers beforehand, then set them aside and add them back to the pot at the end.
- The vegan parmesan cheese (we love the Violife block grated with a microplane) really adds a special extra something to the dish, but it’s still delicious without. If you’re looking for that cheesiness but you can’t find good vegan parmesan around you, try my vegan parmesan topping (internal link).
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What is Rasta Pasta and Where Does it Come From?
Rasta Pasta was inspired by Italian cuisine but made with many Jamaican ingredients to create a unique flavor. A quick search suggested that many chefs claim to have invented this dish, though the most common I could find is internationally celebrated Chef Lorraine Washington.
According to a 2012 article in the Jamaican Gleaner, Washington tells her Rasta Pasta origin story:
"At the Paradise Yard Restaurant in Negril, back in 1985, I was preparing a meal for some construction workers when I placed some ackee on tomato sauce on a bed of home-made fettuccini. The Rasta colours evident in the dish inspired one of the carpenters to name it Rasta Pasta. Another pointed out that the fettuccini was the dreadlocks and so Rasta Pasta was born. They begged me to put it on the menu and there it remained from February 14, 1986 to July 1997."
I’ve been told by some that this dish is not actually Rastafarian but more inspired by their culture. Whatever the case, this dish is quite delicious and I’ve learned a lot by doing the research.
Though the dish I’ve described above is far from this description, there seem to be a few agreed upon ingredients of a common Rasta Pasta: fettuccine, Jamaican seasoning (some use jerk seasoning on the meat in the dish, some use Jamaican curry powder), bell peppers, green onions, and parmesan cheese.
Many versions of this recipe include meat, and while I couldn’t find out for sure if it’s supposed to or not, it seems that it’s more likely a vegetarian dish in origin.
Indeed, I learned that the Rastafarians, the culture this dish is named for, do not eat meat (especially pork) or shellfish (though some do eat fish). What’s even more interesting is that many Rastafarians adopt a diet called ITAL or I-TAL which is plant-based (or from the earth)!
I know that my vegan rasta pasta is far from authentic, but I was definitely inspired by these origins so I wanted to talk about them in this dish. I learned so much about Rastafarian culture while researching this dish, and I always love to learn about cultures other than my own.
More Recipes Like This
I make a lot of 30 minute meals (many of them one-pot) because I too am pressed for time in the evenings. We don’t have kids yet but I do work full time and run a business full-time (I also do freelance writing, oy).
I get it.
So, if you’d like to add a few more quick vegan meals to your arsenal, check out some of the recipes below!
- Vegan Cacio e Pepe
- Vegan Vodka Sauce (with pasta)
- Creamy Vegan Mushroom Pasta (one pot)
- Vegan Pasta Puttanesca (one pot)
- Vegan Coconut Milk Sauce (with pasta)
- Sheet Pan Roasted Vegetable Pasta
- Vegan Aglio e Olio
- Chickpea Florentine Pasta (one pot)
- Avocado Pesto Pasta
- Lemon Tahini Broccolini Pasta