Premade plant-based pasta sauces can be difficult to find, and the jarred varieties you can get at the store might not be as fresh and flavorful as you would like them to be.
But the solution is simple: learn how to make your own!
Don’t know where to start for your next dinner plan? If you need a little – or big – boost of inspiration to nudge you in the right direction, look no further than this roundup of nine delicious, quick, and easy recipes for vegan sauces to toss with your favorite pasta.
We share our favorite fresh and wholesome recipes, a carefully curated collection of plant-based options for you to enjoy at home.
You can use any of these recipes to top store-bought pasta out of the box for a speedy supper, or make homemade pasta if you have more time to create an entirely handcrafted meal.
A quick and healthy dinner will soon be served, with help from our tasty plant-based pasta sauces!
9 Easy Plant-Based Pasta Sauces
1. Basil Walnut Pesto
There’s something so easy, yet so special, about made-from-scratch pesto!
Whether it’s the magical aromas of summer-fresh herbs, or the rustically chunky and buttery texture from the nuts, or the unforgettable bite and zing from raw garlic, we will always love making it throughout the entire summer season!
Basil Walnut Pesto – Get the Recipe Now
In this version, we combine walnuts, basil, olive oil, salt, garlic, and red pepper flakes in the food processor. And that’s it. Simple and vegan!
We love it mixed into pasta, but we’ve also used it as a finishing herbaceous garnish to top slices of the ripest, juiciest tomatoes.
2. Cheezy Cashew
Rich, velvety, and indulgent, you’ll be surprised by how much cheesy flavor is packed in this vegan creation!
Do you want to know our secret ingredient?
This umami-rich ingredient is comparable in taste to parmesan or cheddar cheese, with its salty and nutty flavors. How could we pass up the chance to use it in a sauce?
Cashew Cheezy Sauce – Get the Recipe Now
Soaked cashews create a thick and creamy base. When combined with the nutritional yeast, along with a few assorted spices like mustard powder and smoked paprika, and some plant-based milk, there’s no stopping this gorgeously yellow-hued beauty from becoming your favorite vegan accompaniment to a pot of pasta.
You may even trick your family members, if you’re trying to incorporate healthier ingredients in their diets without them knowing!
3. Creamy Alfredo
If you are dreaming of a go-to creamy alfredo sauce with no animal-based ingredients, you can finally satiate the craving with our recipe.
Did you never realize before that alfredo was possible to make without all the heavy cream? You will fall in love with this homemade version!
Creamy Alfredo Sauce – Get the Recipe Now
We turn to cashew cream yet again to create a luxuriously rich base. The light color and smooth texture will fool you into thinking it’s a traditional alfredo, with no substiutions made!
We keep the flavors simple and straightforward by lightly browning garlic in just a little vegan butter, and finish it with some nutritional yeast and salt.
You also might be interested in how we like to serve this saucy sensation – we prefer to toss it with al dente penne pasta and sauteed radicchio.
4. Hazelnut Pesto
A fresh pesto recipe can be made in so many ways, simply by making a few changes to the main ingredients you would typically use.
You can play with the fresh herbs you use, change the cheese, or mix up the nuts.
Hazelnut Pesto – Get the Recipe Now
For this fun and nutty version, we’re using toasted hazelnuts instead of pine nuts!
We like keeping things a little chunky for this version, so don’t pulse them too much if you also enjoy some fun texture.
To complete this recipe, we like to toss this herby mix with tortellini, olives, sun-dried tomatoes, and Kalamata olives – to keep things plant-based, choose a vegan tortellini, ravioli, or other pasta option.
5. Healthy Classic Pesto
If you are now a cashew cream convert through and through, our healthy herb-based recipe will give you yet another opportunity to use this nifty vegan base for another delicious idea.
We’re swapping out the pine nuts and cheese in a classic pesto with cashew cream here to make a very healthy and wholesome version.
Healthy Classic Pesto – Get the Recipe Now
And because the cashew cream is so rich, you won’t need as much oil compared to what you’d use in traditional recipes.
You’ll recognize all the other ingredients, so don’t worry if you think it may be too off the beaten path from the classic!
There’s no denying that you’ll still get to enjoy all the floral flavors of fresh basil leaves, as well as a mighty garlic punch.
And as soon as you season it to taste with freshly cracked salt and pepper, you’ll have no issues making the switch from a classic favorite to this vegan alternative.
6. Oven-Roasted Tomato
Fresh and plump tomatoes transform into juicy, concentrated flavor bombs with slightly charred skins when they are roasted in the oven.
What a perfect main ingredient to make a robust pasta sauce!
Oven-Roasted Tomato Sauce – Get the Recipe Now
Chopped fresh basil and oregano are the best herbs to accompany the roasted tomatoes. After everything is given a brief whirl in the food processor, you will be left with a thick and chunky condiment.
We love biting into all those luscious pieces of tomatoes!
But if you prefer a looser base, process for a longer amount of time to really pulverize the chunks.
If you or your guests are following a vegan diet, be sure to seek out vegan granulated sugar. We use just a pinch here to mellow out the strong acidity of the tomatoes.
7. Pesto Alfredo
Pesto, or alfredo? Alfredo, or pesto? How can you choose one over the other?!
If you can’t decide, we have a recipe that combines both.
Pesto Alfredo Sauce – Get the Recipe Now
As a lighter and more refreshing spin on alfredo, one that would be perfect as the star of a fresh summer dinner, make this vibrantly green alternative.
Guests will slurp up the cashew-based rendition, featuring basil, parsley, caramelized onions, garlic, and lemon juice.
We enjoy tossing ours with long zucchini strands made with a spiralizer!
8. Pumpkin Seed Pesto
Nope, you don’t need nuts to make pesto!
If you can’t find pine nuts for a traditional condiment – or don’t want to pay the hefty price for them! – or if you are serving someone who is allergic to nuts, we think you’ll love this different rendition.
Pumpkin Seed Pesto – Get the Recipe Now
Replace the pine nuts with pumpkin seeds instead.
We first gently roast the raw seeds with a little coconut oil and salt, just until they have puffed slightly and take on a golden color.
Process the seeds first on their own until they resemble breadcrumbs. After that, you then add olive oil, fresh basil leaves, garlic, and a little lemon juice and water to loosen the mixture before serving with your favorite macaroni.
9. Simple Marinara
A simple marinara is an iconic partner to pasta!
You don’t need to turn to pre-made canned or bottled options at the store, knowing that you can make it from scratch right in your own kitchen.
Simple Marinara Sauce – Get the Recipe Now
And if you need more convincing, this warm and comforting recipe will be ready in just 20 minutes!
Whether you call it gravy, Sunday sauce, or marinara, everyone will agree that it’s absolutely delicious.
We are so happy with our short ingredient list, featuring garlic, red pepper flakes, and fresh herbs.
We also add a little splash of balsamic vinegar as a beautiful finishing touch for some extra tang and richness.
Can I Use These for Anything Other Than Pasta?
But of course! You don’t need to limit your menu to only wheat-based pasta!
As mentioned in option #7 above, if you’re reducing your intake of carbs and want a fresher, unprocessed base for your sauce, there’s an entire zoodle world out there.
Use your spiralizer to turn ordinary produce into fun noodles, creating long strands of noodle-like shapes from different veggies. This appliance will work the best on zucchini and summer squash, beets, kohlrabi, sweet potatoes, and carrots.
You can also roast spaghetti squash and drizzle the soft and steamy strands with your favorite option.
But a noodle shape is not a prerequisite to enjoying all these recipes!
They would also make a delicious counterpart to toasty and crunchy garlic bread – you can pour the sauce into a large bowl and let guests embrace the delicious mess, dipping as they please.
How will you serve your sauce? Do you have a favorite plant-based recipe you think we would enjoy on pasta night? Let’s chat below!
Have we inspired you to explore other plant-based dinner dishes? You’ll find plenty of fun ones among our collection of vegan recipes, but we’ll nudge you to try these first when you’re ready to plan your next meatless meal:
- Sweet and Spicy Vegan Spaghetti Squash Laksa Soup
- Cabbage, Potatoes, and White Beans
- Your Go-To Chickpea Veggie Burger
Photos by Shanna Mallon, Raquel Smith, Fanny Slater, and Meghan Yager, © Ask the Experts, LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. See our TOS for more details. Originally published by Sandy Weismann on January 3, 2015. Last updated on June 9, 2023.
About Nikki Cervone
Nikki Cervone is an ACS Certified Cheese Professional and cheesemonger living in Pittsburgh. Nikki holds an AAS in baking/pastry from Westmoreland County Community College, a BA in Communications from Duquesne University, and an MLA in Gastronomy from Boston University. When she's not nibbling on her favorite cheeses or testing a batch of cupcakes, Nikki enjoys a healthy dose of yoga, wine, hiking, singing in the shower, and chocolate. Lots of chocolate.