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.
This post may contain affiliate links. See our disclosure policy for details.
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 penne. That way you can call it vegan penne alla vodka!
Honestly, with this recipe, that might be where the tradition ends because 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. The secret? Ahem, drumroll please, sunflower seed cream!
Wait, what the heck is sunflower seed cream?
Well, have you heard of cashew cream? Cashew cream is soaked raw cashews blended with water.
Sunflower seed cream is raw sunflower seeds blended with water! Raw 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 recipe. And it really does 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. I actually really love using fusilli noodles as they seem to grab more of the sauce.
Anyway, this vegan vodka 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?
Luckily, most distilled spirits are vegan, but if you’d like to double check I always recommend the site Barnivore. It's 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 dairy-free vodka sauce only takes 20 minutes? And you can cook your pasta in another pot at the same time and have dinner on the table quickly.
Ready to dive into this sauce?
Ingredients and Substitutions
- 2 Medium Shallots and Around 4 cloves garlic (measure with your heart). These are an important aromatic in vegan vodka sauce. Make sure you mince them very finely so they melt into the sauce. If you can't find shallots, grab a small yellow onion and finely mince that.
- 6-Ounce Can Tomato Paste. This recipe uses both canned peeled tomatoes AND tomato paste for a full body tomato flavor.
- ½ Cup Vodka. As mentioned above, most distilled spirits are vegan. It doesn’t matter which vodka you use here. If you’ve never cooked with alcohol before, don’t worry. The alcohol cooks off and you’re left with a delicious flavorful and cohesive vegan vodka sauce.
- 28-Ounce Can Whole Peeled Tomatoes. The best canned tomatoes are Cento San Marzano whole peeled tomatoes. I recommend blending the tomatoes before adding them to the skillet. To skip that step, use tomato puree, but it may be thin so you might cook it down a bit. If you want a chunky vegan vodka sauce, I recommend crushed or petite diced tomatoes.
- ⅔ Cup Raw Sunflower Seeds + 1 and ¼ Cups Water to Make Sunflower Seed Cream.This takes the place of heavy cream. Raw sunflower seeds are great because you can usually get away with not soaking them before blending them. If you know your blender isn't great, then soak them in just-boiled water for 10-15 minutes.
- Sea Salt, to taste.
- 1 Small Lemon. A squeeze of fresh lemon at the end is delightful, but optional.
Did you know I have books? Visit my shop page to see the various e-books I have available. My best seller is Plant-Based Jewish Recipes, and I’m in the middle of a second volume of that as well as a new book in the works that focuses on one of my favorite gluten-free vegan proteins.
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 seed cream sauce with the tomatoes, shallots, and garlic will still be delicious.
Raw Sunflower Seeds
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.
How to Make Vegan Vodka Sauce
- Make your sunflower seed cream (or cashew cream) by blending together the seeds and the water until completely smooth (I usually blend for 1-2 minutes) and set it aside. (For more dairy-free vodka sauce options, check the notes section in the bottom portion of the recipe card.
- Start your pasta water in one pot. You can salt your pasta water if you prefer. To do this properly (I just learned), bring your water to a boil, add the salt and stir, then let it dissolve and return it to a boil before adding the pasta.
- Add very finely chopped shallots to a large nonstick skillet over medium high heat. Cook for about 3 minutes or until translucent, adding a tablespoon of water at a time to keep them from sticking OR you can cook with oil. I usually cook without oil unless I'm using my hot plate for filming.
- While the shallots cook, blend up your canned tomatoes.
- Add the garlic to the pan and cook for a minute more.
- Now add the tomato paste and cook 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 your vegan vodka sauce 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 cup. Set aside.
- After the sauce has cooked down (reduced to about half its volume), add the sunflower seed 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 on top 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. Or use store-bought vegan Parmesan cheese
- 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.
- Store leftover vegan vodka sauce in a jar or airtight container in the fridge for up to 5 days. Sauce that has thickened too much can be loosened with a splash of water and a reheat in a sauce pan. You can also freeze cooled sauce in a freezer safe container for up to 3 months.
Frequently Asked Questions
Well since this is a recipe for vegan vodka sauce, I'd certainly hope we'd be substituting the heavy cream for something vegan. As you might have guess, regular carton non-dairy milk is too thin to make a rich and creamy sauce. My favorite option is the sunflower seed cream I included in the recipe below. Cashew cream also works quite well. If neither of those options are suitable, you can try full fat canned coconut milk or unsweetened unflavored non-dairy creamer (like an oat milk creamer). You can also make your own homemade oat milk or nut milk, and use less water to make a thicker substance perfect for our sauce.
So a vodka sauce has a very high amount of acid from the tomatoes, and then a fat (i.e. the vegan cream sauce options outlined above) is introduced. Vodka helps make the sauce cohesive and velvety. Wine would also do this but it does impart some of its own flavor. The vodka imparts little to no flavor.
No, the alcohol cooks off. The longer you simmer the sauce, the lower the alcohol becomes. But I couldn't taste it even after only 8 minutes of simmering at medium low heat.
No, you can omit it. Your sauce may loose a little cohesion, but it will still be a delicious sauce.
This sauce will keep for 5-6 days in the fridge in an airtight container like a mason jar with a properly fitting lid. You may also freeze the cooled sauce in a freezer safe container for up to 3 months.
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:
- Vegan Creamy Pasta
- Vegan Garlic Noodles
- Chickpea Florentine (one pot)
- Tahini Pasta with Broccolini
- Pasta Puttanesca (one pot)
- Vegan Ziti Bake
- Creamy Mushroom Pasta (one pot)
- Veggie Lo Mein
- Vegan Goulash (American/Chili Mac Style)
- Vegan Hamburger Helper