Dairy Free Vodka Sauce

Smooth, creamy and insanely delicious, this dairy free vodka sauce is the perfect weeknight meal! On the table in just over 30 minutes, this easy dish tastes just as good as the classic version – all without the butter, cream or cheese. Gluten free, vegan and vegetarian.  

A bowl of Dairy Free Vodka Sauce with a fork in the dish.

Ready to take pasta night up a notch?

Then try this dreamy homemade dairy free vodka sauce.

It’s smooth. Creamy. Garlicky. Rich but not in an overwhelming sort of way.

And when tossed with your favorite penne pasta? 

It’s dinnertime perfection.

You can serve it plain as is. Top with a protein of choice. Pair with a side salad and garlic bread.

Making it absolutely fantastic for date night or a regular ol’ weeknight. 

It’s some serious pasta love.

Tomato sauce and cashews in a blender.

How To Make Dairy Free Vodka Sauce

So, let’s talk about how this easy dish goes down.

Soften veggies. First up, we’ll saute an onion in a skillet until tender and then stir in some minced garlic and tomato paste until fragrant.

Cook sauce. Next, we’ll add in plenty of diced tomatoes, some vodka, balsamic vinegar and spices, and let simmer for about 10 minutes until reduced slightly.

Blend with cashews. We’ll carefully transfer the mixture to a blender and then puree with raw cashews for that perfect creamy texture.

Toss with pasta. Finally, the sauce gets tossed with a pasta of choice before serving with plenty of chopped fresh basil.

Vodka sauce poured over pasta in a skillet.

A white bowl filled with Dairy Free Penne alla Vodka.

Tips & Tricks

  1. If you forget to soak your cashews overnight, use the following quick soak method instead. Add the cashews to a heatproof bowl, then cover with boiling water. Let soak for 30 minutes to 1 hour, then proceed with the recipe.
  2. I highly recommend using a high speed blender as the cashews will blend up so smooth and creamy. You can certainly try using a regular blender, just keep in mind it will take longer to smooth out and won’t have quite as perfect of a consistency (I’ve found cashew based sauces can be a bit grainy in texture with a regular blender – they just don’t have enough power).
  3. I gave a range for the amount of pasta so you can adjust based on how sauce-y you want the final dish. Personally I like to use right around 12 to 14 ounces so there’s a good amount of sauce, but you do you!
  4. And finally, you can absolutely make this sauce and not use it for pasta. If going this route, use broth instead of the reserved pasta water for the mixture in the blender. And then just taste and season the sauce with extra salt / pepper as needed once it’s finished blending. 

How To Store

Fridge: Let the pasta cool to room temperature then transfer to an airtight container. It will keep in the refrigerator for up to 4 days.

A white bowl filled with Vegan Penne Vodka with a fork in the dish.

Additional Dairy Free Dinners You Might Enjoy:

Did you make this recipe? Rate and review it down below! I’d love to hear from you.

A bowl of Dairy Free Vodka Sauce with a fork in the dish.

Dairy Free Vodka Sauce

Yield: about 5 to 6 servings
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 30 minutes
Total Time: 35 minutes

Smooth, creamy and insanely delicious, this dairy free vodka sauce is the perfect weeknight meal! On the table in just over 30 minutes, this easy dish tastes just as good as the classic version - all without the butter, cream or cheese.

Ingredients

  • 12 to 16 ounces dry penne pasta (or pasta of choice)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 4 large cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 1 (28-ounce) can fire-roasted diced tomatoes
  • ½ cup vodka
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
  • ¾ teaspoon fine sea salt
  • ¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes, or more to taste
  • ¾ cup raw cashews, soaked overnight*
  • fresh chopped basil, for serving

Instructions

  1. Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Add in the penne and cook until al dente, according to the package directions. Drain, reserving about 1 cup of the pasta water for later, and set aside.
  2. Meanwhile, add the olive oil to a large skillet set over medium heat. When hot, add in the onion and cook for about 5 minutes, until tender. Stir in the garlic and tomato paste and cook for 30 seconds, until fragrant.
  3. Add in the tomatoes (with their juices), the vodka, balsamic vinegar, salt and red pepper flakes. Let the mixture cook, stirring occasionally, for about 8 to 10 minutes, until reduced slightly and the alcohol smell has cooked off (reducing the heat as needed to keep it simmering). Remove from the heat.
  4. Drain and rinse the cashews, then add to a high-speed blender along with the tomato mixture and ¼ cup of the reserved pasta water. Carefully process the mixture for about 1 to 2 minutes, until completely smooth and creamy (being mindful of the hot steam!) - if needed add in more of the reserved pasta water to thin out the sauce to your liking. 
  5. Return the sauce to the pan and toss with the cooked pasta. Taste and season with additional salt / pepper as desired (I usually add about ¼ teaspoon more salt).
  6. Serve topped with plenty of fresh basil!

Notes

*Add the cashews to a small bowl and cover with water. Allow to soak at room temperature for at least 8 hours or overnight. If you forget, a quick soak method is included in the tips & tricks section in the post above.

To keep this gluten free - use a gluten free pasta of choice.

Nutrition Information:
Yield: 6 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 297Total Fat: 12gSaturated Fat: 2gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 9gCholesterol: 0mgSodium: 307mgCarbohydrates: 30gFiber: 3gSugar: 4gProtein: 8g

Nutrition data shown is an estimate provided by an online calculator and is for informational purposes only. It should not be considered a substitute for a medical professional’s advice.