|nutritional information (per serving)|
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|Servings: 4 to 6|
|amount per serving|
|% Daily Value*|
|Saturated Fat 3g||17%|
|dietary fiber 4g||16%|
|total sugar 7g|
|Vitamin C 8 mg||39%|
|Calcium 42 mg||3%|
|iron 5 mg||26%|
|Potassium 602 mg||13%|
|*The % Daily Value (DV) indicates how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories per day is used for general nutritional advice.|
(Nutritional information is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate.)
Vodka sauce is absolutely delicious, especially when it coats a bowl of perfectly al dente pasta. Throw in some fresh basil and serve with a glass of red wine and you have the perfect dinner for any day of the week.
However, most vodka sauce recipes include a large dollop of heavy cream and a generous sprinkling of parmesan. While there's no shame in dairy and cheese, I wanted to create a dairy-free vodka sauce recipe that's just as creamy, easy, and delicious as the real thing.
For the creamiest non-dairy sauce, use cashew cream
To get a really creamy vegan vodka sauce, I made a quick cashew cream using just cashews and water. Often the cashews will need to be soaked overnight, but if you bring them to a boil first, a 15-minute soak is enough to soften them. Since cashew cream has a very mild taste, it is a versatile milk substitute.
Don't forget to salt the pasta water
When preparing this recipe, be sure to generously salt the pasta water. This allows the pasta to soak up some of the salt as it cooks, enhancing the flavor of the dish. But don't be afraid to salt the vodka sauce yourself. Just an extra pinch makes a big difference.
What does vodka add to the vodka sauce?
Don't skimp on vodka! Believe it or not, it serves a greater purpose than you might think. The addition of vodka helps bring spiciness and cohesion of rich flavors to an otherwise sweet and fairly rich sauce, albeit largely overcooked. You don't need anything too fancy, but I'd say if you wouldn't drink it, don't cook with it!
Tips for making the best non-dairy vodka sauce
- Changing the sauce consistency—The sauce looks very thick before adding the pasta water. That's fine and to be expected, since cashew cream isn't nearly as runny as regular cream! If you prefer a thinner sauce, reserve extra pasta water.
- Don't over salt the sauce – Since the pasta water is salted, avoid adding too much salt to the sauce until you reach the desired consistency.
- Perfectly cooked pasta—Be sure to cook the pasta a little al dente. It will finish cooking in the sauce.
- The cashew cream can be prepared up to 5 days in advance if required. Once blended until smooth, transfer to an airtight container and refrigerate until ready to use. It will dissolve when sitting, so stir well before use.
- The vegan vodka sauce can also be prepared up to 5 days in advance. If you do, cook the sauce as instructed without adding any pasta water. Keep refrigerated in an airtight container until ready to serve, then cook the pasta and reheat the sauce with the pasta water and drained pasta.
“Using homemade cashew cream and vegan butter makes for a vegan-friendly version of the classic penne alla vodka. I think most people who try it will have little idea they're eating a dairy-free meal!” – Joan Velush
3/4 Cup raw cashew nuts
3/4 Cup Water
1/4 Cup Extra virgin olive oil
1 Middle yellow onionfinely chopped
1 Pound pastalike penne or rigatoni
4 cloves Garlicchopped
1 prize red pepper flakesOptional
1 (6–ounce) may tomato paste
1/2 Cup vodka
2 tablespoon vegan butter
1 teaspoon fine Saltplus more for the pasta water
2 tablespoon fine chopped fresh basilfor garnish
Gather the ingredients.
Bring a large pot of well-salted water to a boil over medium-high heat.
Place the cashews in a small saucepan and add enough water to cover them by 1 inch. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Remove from the stove and let soak for 15 minutes.
Drain cashews, place in a blender, add 3/4 cup water and blend until smooth and creamy.
Meanwhile, heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until soft and translucent (reduce heat if browned), 5 to 7 minutes.
Add the noodles to the boiling water and cook 1 minute less than the packet instructions say. Reserve 1 1/2 cups pasta water and drain the pasta.
While the pasta is cooking, continue cooking the sauce. Add the garlic and red pepper flakes (if using) to the pan along with the onions. Cook, stirring, until garlic is fragrant, about 30 seconds.
Add the tomato paste and cook, stirring, until deep red and fragrant, about 1 minute.
Stir in the vodka and continue cooking until mostly evaporated.
Stir in cashew cream, 1 cup of the reserved pasta water, butter, and salt. Simmer over low heat, stirring occasionally, until vodka flavor has reduced and sauce is smooth and glossy, 5 to 8 minutes.
Stir in the pasta and continue to cook until covered with sauce and al dente, 1 to 2 minutes more.
Add more pasta water as needed to achieve desired sauce consistency. Serve immediately garnished with basil.
How to store or freeze it
Any leftovers can be stored in an airtight container and kept in the fridge for 5 days. You can also freeze the vegan vodka sauce separately for up to 3 months. Let it thaw in the fridge overnight, then gently heat in a saucepan.
- Spicy vodka sauce– If you prefer your vodka sauce spicy, add an additional 1/2 to 1 teaspoon of red pepper flakes.
- Use other pasta shapes—This sauce recipe also goes well with other pasta shapes such as rigatoni, gnocchi or fusilli.
What is the difference between vodka sauce and alfredo?
Vodka sauce is an Italian-American tomato sauce fortified with vodka and cream. Alfredo sauce is an Italian emulsion made from butter, pasta water and Parmigiano Reggiano. Alfredo sauce is much simpler, has fewer ingredients, and doesn't contain tomatoes, making it a very basic white sauce.
While vodka sauce is most commonly served with penne pasta, alfredo sauce is typically paired with fettuccine.
Can vodka sauce make you drunk?
Absolutely not. The vodka sauce initially contains a modest amount of vodka and is deliberately boiled down to boil off most of the alcohol. This is important not only because nobody wants to get drunk from a pasta dish, but also because the taste of raw alcohol in the sauce is sharp and unpleasant.