Creamy, bright, and delicious, this Vegan Vodka Sauce comes together in just 20 minutes with simple ingredients. It’s packed with flavor, incredibly easy to make, and is sure to become your go-to dinner with the pasta of your choice.
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Hey Internet, it’s been a few minutes since I gave ya a pasta dish, and I think by now you know how I feel about pasta. In fact, I’m developing something special for those of you who love quick pasta dinners as much as I do… but enough about that for now.
This vegan vodka sauce is a fantastic lunch or dinner with just about any pasta, though the traditional choice may be vodka. That way you can call it vegan penne alla vodka!
Honestly, with this recipe, that might be where the tradition ends because though I used penne, this sauce recipe is far from traditional.
Instead of heavy cream, cheese, and butter or oil, I’ve kept this dish healthy but rich and full of flavor with, drumroll please, sunflower cream!
Wait, what the heck is sunflower cream?
Well, have you heard of cashew cream? Cashew cream is soaked cashews blended with water.
Sunflower cream is sunflower seed blended with water! When blended with an equal amount of water, sunflower seeds make a super creamy and thick sauce that’s even better than heavy cream.
This sauce gets mixed into our already flavorful vegan vodka sauce to make an incredible and tasty sauce situation, perfect for the pasta of your choice.
Speaking of which, that’s right, any pasta will work with this. One of the times we tested this we used a fat rigatoni noodle which did seem to grab more of the sauce.
Anyway, this sauce is built on delicious flavors like shallot and garlic, and of course tomatoes. I have a great suggestion for flavorful tomatoes any time of year, a bit further down in this article.
And who could forget the vodka? Before I tried this dish I found it hard to believe that cooked down alcohol could really add that much flavor, but it does.
Luckily, most distilled spirits are vegan, but if you’d like to double check I always recommend the site Barnivore, a great resource for checking what alcohols are vegan. I check there for my wine recommendations all the time.
Oh, and did I mention this sauce only takes 20 minutes? And you can cook your pasta in another pot at the same time and have dinner on the table quite quickly.
Ready to dive into this sauce?
What You’ll Need
About Those Tomatoes
Let’s start with tomatoes. For this recipe I used a combination of canned tomatoes and tomato paste.
Why? Some recipes seem to use one or the other.
I loved the pure and sweet concentration of tomato paste, but it’s almost too much for this recipe.
It’s perfectly balanced by my FAVORITE canned tomatoes. These little guys are even better than fresh tomatoes, though I will say if you grow your own tomatoes, those are probably the best.
I *grumble grumble* don’t have a garden yet as I live in an apartment. FOR NOW… *goes back to day dreaming on Zillow.*
Anyway, the best canned tomatoes (in my and it seems a lot of other people’s opinion) are Cento San Marzano whole peeled tomatoes. If you can find these in store they are cheaper. I’ve gotten them at Trader Joe’s, local grocery stores, and regional chain stores, so hopefully you can find them too.
However, any canned tomatoes, and any variety of such will work. If you want a smooth, velvety sauce like this one, I recommend blending your tomatoes before adding them to the skillet.
To skip that step you could purchase tomato puree, but it may be a little thin so you might want to cook it down a bit more.
If you want a chunky vegan vodka sauce, I recommend getting crushed or petite diced tomatoes.
And back to the tomato paste for a second, I used a whole 6 oz can of tomato paste because it really bothers me to have leftover tomato paste and I also love it in this recipe. Just another quirk about me, haha.
Okay there’s other ingredients besides tomatoes here! But not too many.
I mentioned above that this sauce starts with shallots and garlic. If you’ve never had shallots I highly recommend you try them.
They’re small, and they can be challenging to cut (sometimes the skin grows between the two halves of the bulb, and sometimes they can be more irritating to the eyes than regular onions), but they are 10000000% worth it!
Shallots are so much more flavorful than onion, but if you’d like to use onion here (it is cheaper, after all), you totally can.
Make sure to mince your shallots or onion so that they melt into the sauce nicely. Same with your garlic!
Oh, and for garlic: as usual, the number of cloves I suggest in the recipe is just a base suggestion. Use less or more according to your own palette. Mr. Zardyplants and I thought 4 was the right amount for us.
Next up, we should talk about the vodka. As mentioned above, most distilled spirits are vegan.
It doesn’t matter which vodka you use here, but I will say that if you use the cheapest vodka there is, the flavor might not be as good as if you used a mid-range vodka.
I took a road in the middle, as I don’t drink vodka so I don’t really honestly know what a good vodka is except which I’ve read from others.
I used Trader Joe’s Vodka of the Gods and I thought this sauce was great every time I’ve made it. It wasn’t really expensive, but it wasn’t the cheapest thing there either. It will take me a LONG time to go through it (I’ll probably only use it for this recipe!) but it lasts a long time too.
If you’ve never cooked with alcohol before, don’t worry. The alcohol cooks off and you’re left with delicious flavor.
I’m a total lightweight and get buzzed after one glass of wine (since I drink less than once a month) and I felt NOTHING after eating half the pot of pasta with sauce, haha.
Finally, I added a little salt, a squeeze of lemon, and a cream made from sunflower seeds and water to enhance the sauces.
Sunflower seeds are great because you can usually get away with not soaking them before blending them. I use raw sunflower seeds for this.
If you don’t have a great blender, you could always blend up a bit of sunflower seed butter with water instead. You actually don’t even need a blender for that method!
But let’s talk a bit about substitutions for a minute.
What Substitutions Can I Make?
While I highly recommend the Cento San Marzano canned tomatoes, you can absolutely use any kind you like. Fresh, stewed, diced, crushed, or pureed. Any should work.
Tomato paste offers a ton of concentrated tomato flavor so while it’s not mandatory in this recipe I do highly recommend it. You could add regular tomato puree in its place, though, if you’re just working off what you have.
Shallots are a great flavor in this dish, but you could substitute yellow or sweet onions in their place.
It’s kind of the point of a vodka sauce to have vodka in it, but you can omit it if you prefer. The sunflower cream sauce with the tomatoes, shallots, and garlic will still be delicious.
If you want to make your vegan vodka sauce lower in fat, I recommend either blending up half a pack of silken tofu (with nothing, just blend it smooth) or using a thick non-dairy milk.
Tips for Making Vegan Vodka Sauce
- Make your sunflower cream (or cashew cream) and set it aside. If just using non-dairy milk, measure it and set aside (room temperature is best).
- Start your pasta water in one pot. You can salt your pasta water if you prefer.
- Add very finely chopped shallots to a large nonstick skillet over medium high heat. Saute for about 3 minutes or until translucent, adding a tablespoon of water (or oil if you prefer) at a time to keep them from sticking.
- While the shallots cook, blend up your canned tomatoes if desired.
- Add the garlic and saute for a minute more.
- Now add the tomato paste and saute for one minute, stirring constantly.
- Slowly add in the vodka while stirring, then you can add in the blended tomatoes and stir once again, letting everything come to a boil. Cover and let cook down for 10 minutes over low heat.
- Once the pasta is cooked through, drain it but reserve some of the pasta water, around ¼ to ⅓ of a cup. Set aside.
- After the sauce has cooked down (reduced to about half its volume), add the sunflower cream and stir well. Add salt and a bit of fresh lemon to taste, then stir in the cooked pasta. If it’s a bit thick, you can add in the reserved pasta water a tablespoon at a time till it’s the consistency you like.
- Serve with fresh chopped basil--I prefer to chiffonade mine, which is where you roll up a few leaves stacked ontop of each other and slice thinly. You can also add some vegan Parmesan topping if you like--my recipe takes less than 5 minutes to throw together.
- Serve your vegan penne alla vodka (or whatever pasta you used) with vegan garlic bread, a fresh salad like this vegan avocado salad, and a glass of wine or whatever else you like.
More Vegan Pasta Dinners Under 30 Minutes
I probably love pasta more than anything--sorry Mr. Zardyplants, aka Paul.
In the same vein as this dish, I recommend my Vegan Manicotti, but if you’re looking for other flavors, try some of the below options.
Here’s some of my fave pasta dishes on the site right now:
- Chickpea Florentine (one pot)
- Tahini Pasta with Broccolini
- Garlic Noodles
- Pasta Puttanesca (one pot)
- Vegan Ziti Bake
- Creamy Mushroom Pasta (one pot)
- Veggie Lo Mein
- Vegan Goulash (American/Chili Mac Style)
- Vegan Hamburger Helper
As always, I hope you love this recipe--I know I do, and Mr. Zardyplants does too. We both literally licked our bowls each time we made it. The sauce is that good!
This vegan vodka sauce is:
- And perfect for a quick and cozy dinner, but impressive enough to serve guests!
Let me know in the comments below if you make this recipe or tag me @Zardyplants on Instagram so I can see your beautiful recreations! If you tag me on IG, I will share your post in my stories :)
Also, one quick request: if you love how this recipe looks or tastes, please leave me a 5-star rating and a nice comment–ratings help more people find my recipes which helps me keep providing them! Thank you!