This vegan vodka sauce recipe is made with simple ingredients and comes together with very little effort. It creates an ultra-creamy and flavor-packed sauce, perfect for topping onto your favorite pasta.
To keep this recipe vegan and dairy free, just use vegan cream, cashew cream or coconut milk. With these options you can easily customize the sauce to any taste preference or allergy.
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Is Vodka Sauce Vegan?
Vodka sauce is typically made with a few key ingredients including tomatoes, vodka and heavy cream. This means that traditional vodka sauce is not vegan (due to the cream).
Luckily, there are lots of ways to create a super easy, vegan vodka cream sauce and this recipe offers three vegan methods to add that creaminess. I provide these options because not everyone can access specialty ingredients like vegan half and half cream (I can only find it sometimes, at select stores).
Vodka sauce is the key ingredient in penne alla vodka which is a pasta dish where vodka sauce is used to coat cooked penne pasta. When cooking at home you can choose any type of pasta you prefer!
Ingredients to Make Creamy Vegan Vodka Sauce
The ingredients to make vegan vodka sauce are fairly simple but come together to create a truly decadent sauce! For this recipe you’ll need:
- Canned tomato: Traditional vodka sauce recipes are completely smooth but I prefer a few tomato chunks for texture. To do this, I use one can of crushed (pureed) tomatoes and one can of diced tomatoes, but you can use two cans of crushed tomato if you prefer!
- Vodka: You can’t really make vodka sauce without the star ingredient (although I’ve seen some recipes that don’t include vodka)! Adding the right amount of vodka is important since it enhances the flavors of the tomatoes and cream but can make the sauce bitter if you use too much.
- Vegan butter: Heavy cream is an essential ingredient in traditional vodka sauce recipes. While we use some tasty, creamy vegan substitutions, they all contain less fat compared to dairy-based cream. To enhance flavor and more closely resemble traditional recipes, we’ll add some delicious richness with a vegan butter substitute (margarine works as does olive oil).
- Onion and garlic: Fresh onion and garlic add a delicious, pungent flavor to the sauce.
- Dry oregano and basil: To add depth of flavor, a couple classically Italian herbs go a long way. If you have fresh oregano or basil on hand, feel free to use that instead!
- Nutritional yeast: One of my favorite vegan kitchen staple ingredients, nutritional yeast adds a delicious, cheesy flavor to the sauce (along with plenty of nutrition too!).
- Salt and pepper: Balance the flavors in the sauce to your liking with salt and pepper. Salt enhances other flavors in the sauce so don’t skip out (I use iodized sea salt to meet my intake needs for iodine!).
- Vegan cream substitute: I provide three options to get this sauce nice and creamy. Pick ONE and use ½ cup of it! I love the flavor and ease of using a vegan cream (vegan half and half); just select one that isn’t flavored and doesn’t have sugar in it (vegan coffee creamer likely won’t work). Since vegan cream is hard to find consistently, you could also use coconut milk or cashew cream (see below for directions on how to make).
How to Make Dairy Free Vodka Sauce
This vegan vodka sauce recipe is quite easy to make. The most important consideration is that it requires some time to simmer, simmer and simmer some more!
Its simple flavors need time to come together, so try to not rush this part. I know it’ll smell delicious and you’ll want to dive in, but try to hold off for the whole cook time!
Step 1: Prep the Ingredients
Start by gathering all the ingredients. Finely dice the onion and mince the garlic. Get a large sauce pot out on the stove and ready to use!
Step 2: Cook the Onion and Garlic
Melt the vegan butter over medium heat. Once liquified, add the onion and cook for about 5 minutes, until starting to soften.
Next, add the minced garlic and cook for another 2-3 minutes, until fragrant.
Step 3: Add Remaining Ingredients (Except Cream) and Simmer
Pour the canned tomatoes first, then vodka into the pot. Do not add the vodka first since the high heat and minimal content within the pot can lead to poor results. Add the tomatoes first and then gently mix in vodka, allowing these ingredients to become well combined.
The ingredients will sizzle when you add them. Stir to combine and make sure to scrape up any onion or garlic that stuck to the bottom of the pot. Then toss in the dry oregano and basil, nutritional yeast, salt and pepper. Stir to combine.
Place the lid on the pot and turn the heat down to low. Simmer the sauce with a lid on for at least 30 minutes (up to an hour, stirring occasionally). Use this time to cook the pasta or prep any side dishes you’d like!
After the sauce is simmered (and smelling amazing) pour in the cream, stir and simmer for another 10 minutes.
Step 4: Serve over Pasta
Toss the vodka sauce with any cooked pasta of your choice. Penne is a classic option, but any pasta should work! If you’re looking for a boost of protein and fibre, try a lentil or bean-based pasta.
This is a delicious recipe on its own, but it’s not balanced since it lacks some protein and vegetables. I like to serve it with a side of salad and some chickpeas! Caesar salad is always my go-to with a delicious pasta, and luckily, the Caesar dressing I make is protein-packed. It pairs perfectly with this pasta!
Adding vegan protein and additional vegetables to this pasta helps create a balanced meal. However, sometimes we just want pasta on its own and that’s okay sometimes too!
Easy Vegan Vodka Sauce Tips and Variations
As noted above (and in the recipe card below), this plant-based vodka sauce recipe contains three options for vegan cream substitutes. I’ve tested all three and they were a huge hit. There isn’t much of a taste difference between them, so use what you have access to, what you prefer and what works with any allergies or other dietary restrictions you may have!
There are two major variations in texture you can choose for this recipe. As it’s written, the sauce is fairly chunky with diced tomatoes as well as the pieces of onion. I like this texture in tomato sauce, but vodka sauce is traditionally smooth or pureed.
If you prefer a smooth texture, feel free to only use pureed tomatoes for the sauce. Another option is to blend the sauce (once it’s done cooking or even before you simmer the sauce).
Feel free to substitute dry herbs for fresh and adjust the amounts of other spices to your taste preferences.
It's also important to keep in mind this recipe makes a large quantity and can be cut in half if needed (select one can of crushed/ pureed tomatoes in this case).
How to Store Leftover Vodka Pasta Sauce
Store leftover sauce in an airtight container in the fridge for up to a week. This recipe also freezes well; just scoop extra sauce into freezer safe containers and freeze for up to 4 months.
To thaw, sit the sauce in your fridge overnight, then place into a pot and heat through. Use a medium-low heat, especially if the sauce is still frozen, and stir often to help the sauce melt.
If you make this recipe, please rate and comment below to help others benefit from your experience!
Creamy Vegan Vodka Sauce (Dairy Free)
- 3 cups crushed tomatoes (tomato puree) (28 oz/ 800 mL can)
- 3 cups diced tomatoes (28 oz/ 800 mL can; or second can of crushed tomatoes)
- ½ cup vodka
- ¼ cup vegan butter (or margarine)
- 1 cup onion , diced
- 3 cloves garlic , minced
- 1 teaspoon dry basil
- ½ teaspoon dry oregano
- ¼ cup nutritional yeast
- 1 teaspoon salt
- ¼ teaspoon black pepper
- ⅔ cups vegan "half and half" cream (OR coconut milk OR cashew cream; see notes below)
- Finely dice onion and mince garlic.1 cup onion, 3 cloves garlic
- Melt vegan butter or margarine in a large sauce pot, over medium heat. Once melted, add the onion and cook for about 5 minutes, until it’s started to soften.¼ cup vegan butter
- Next, add the minced garlic and cook for another 2-3 minutes, until fragrant.
- Pour your tomatoes and vodka into the pot. Stir to combine and scrape any onion or garlic that sticks to the bottom.3 cups crushed tomatoes (tomato puree), 3 cups diced tomatoes, ½ cup vodka
- Toss in dry oregano and dry basil, nutritional yeast, salt and pepper to taste. Stir to combine.1 teaspoon dry basil, ½ teaspoon dry oregano, ¼ cup nutritional yeast, 1 teaspoon salt, ¼ teaspoon black pepper
- Place a lid on pot and turn heat down to low. Simmer the sauce, with the lid on for at least 30 minutes (up to an hour, stirring occasionally).
- After the sauce is simmered pour in vegan "half and half" cream (OR canned coconut milk OR cashew cream). Stir to combine and simmer for another 10 minutes.⅔ cups vegan "half and half" cream
- The sauce is now ready to serve over your favorite cooked pasta! For a full batch of this sauce, it should be enough for two 375–400 gram boxes of pasta (if you also add a can or two of chickpeas into the mix)!
More Vegan Dip and Sauce Recipes
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About Nicole Stevens
Nicole is a vegan Registered Dietitian (RD) and founder of Lettuce Veg Out.
She helps people thrive on a vegan diet with balanced recipes and easy-to-understand nutrition science.