9 Easy Plant-Based Pasta Sauces

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.

Vertical image of a wooden bowl filled with a chunky tomato mixture next to fettuccine and fresh herbs.

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.

For many of these recipes, a good food processor or a high-powered blender will greatly assist you in making them, to blend them to perfection.

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!

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!

Horizontal image of slices of ripe tomatoes topped with a green herb sauce.
Photo credit: Shanna Mallon

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?

Nutritional yeast!

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?

Vertical image of a hand holding a spoon dipped in a thick yellow mixture in a jar in front of a wooden cutting board with a bowl on a blue towel.
Photo credit: Fanny Slater

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!

Vertical image of a plateful of rigatoni topped with alfredo, next to a pot of alfredo and bowls of additional ingredients.
Photo credit: Raquel Smith

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.

Vertical top-down image of a plate of tortellini with an herb sauce and olives.
Photo credit: Raquel Smith

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.

Vertical closeup image of a jar of pesto on a white surface.
Photo credit: Raquel Smith

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!

Horizontal image of a white bowl with a red sauce next to slices of garlic bread on a parchment paper lined baking sheet.
Photo credit: Fanny Slater

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.

Vertical image of a wooden bowl filled with a pile of cooked thinly sliced vegetables covered in a vibrant green sauce and fresh herb garnish next to a blue towel, wooden spoons, lemon slices, and a bowl filled with sauce.
Photo credit: Fanny Slater

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.

Horizontal image of pumpkin seed pesto with zucchini noodles in a bowl.
Photo credit: Shanna Mallon

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.

Horizontal image of a white shallow bowl of cooked spaghetti topped with marinara, on a brown wood table with tomatoes on the vine, a piece of baguette, a jar of sauce, and sprigs of basil and oregano, with a piece of burlap in the background.
Photo credit: Meghan Yager

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!

Horizontal image of a wooden bowl filled with a chunky tomato mixture next to fettuccine and fresh herbs.

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!

Roasted vegetables, pizza, sandwiches, and soups will all be given big boosts of flavor when topped with any of these savory mixtures.

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:

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.

20 thoughts on “9 Easy Plant-Based Pasta Sauces”

  1. Some great ideas, especially the cashew sauce. I tried something similar before in a vegan restaurant where they used cashew nuts for a stroganoff sauce. I think it would also work well with stir fried noodles and perhaps adapt it too for a pasta sauce with some soya milk in to make it creamier.

  2. These recipes look great! The roasted tomato sauce looks really cheap and easy to make – I thin k I’ll be trying that out at the weekend. It looks much nicer than anything that comes out of a jar – and at a fraction of the cost too!

  3. I think the simple tomato sauce is always my favorite, but I’m a tomato fanatic. I wonder if you could use the nutritional yeast in the pesto instead of the parm or pecans though. I’ve never found a vegan pesto that uses nuts that I liked, so that might be a good alternative.

  4. I just couldn’t help myself here, the page has been bookmarked for future reference and i think the first test to undertake will be making the Vegan Cashew Cheezy Sauce, it just looks ‘tempting’ if am allowed to say so 🙂

  5. I am very excited to try these recipes! Recently, I have been out on a plant-based diet and I must admit, it has been very difficult, Especially over the holidays! Family members left and right kept trying to get me to cheat on my diet until I finally caved and had ham. I grew up eating meat. My grandmother for example made fried chicken every morning for breakfast. I’m struggling to get back on track but I am very determined because when I stuck to the diet, I felt great!

    • Wait, despite you being on a plant-based diet, having ‘cheat days’ is not allowed?…or its of a stricter kind..?, i find it quite hard to follow through strict diets, rules, regulations, no matter how eager i am to keep at it {my best}…i always come short of my expectations or expectations of others..live life is what i say and live it freely 😉

  6. Are the pecans supposed to supplement the Parmesan in the pesto recipe? If not I have a hard time figuring out why one would use a cashew? Anywho, it IS a great recipe & has plenty began options. Why not use an avocado to thicken the brew? =)

  7. Yummm. Oven-roasted tomato sauce would be a great alternative to the store-bought bottled tomato sauce I normally buy. I’m sure there’s going to be much more depth of flavors then the ones from the store. I usually cheap-out by using the store bought sauce then throw in some fresh large plum tomatoes and some grilled onions to freshen up the dull commercial sauce. I’ve never tried cashew sauce before. This will be a first. I’m not sure how it would taste.

  8. I already have a vegan wild garlic pesto recipe which I love, but I had not ever considered using raw kale leaves in a pesto before. That first recipe, Pecan Kale Pesto Sauce, looks great and will mean I can have something in the autumn and winter when my wild garlic is not available (I have usually eaten all the frozen wild garlic pesto by the middle of the summer!)

    I have a similar cashew nut recipe but I add raw garlic and sweet white miso to it as well. I find it hard not eat just eat it off the teaspoon before it has ever made it to the pasta! I also sometimes add dill tops to change the flavour completely.

  9. These are great sauces! They are simple too, but seem like they will be flavorful. I have water to do a fresh tomatoes sauce instead of using tomatoes paste out of the can. This sauce is simple to do. The kale sauce is a new concept for me, but I like it. I love pecans and I want to see how it tastes.
    I am a vegan and this is a treat to find vegan sauces. I don’t mind the work, because they are great alternatives to processed sauces.

  10. All these recipes look interesting, I love the oven roasted tomato sauce. I have tried it and it was lovely. I love all things tomato so this is the perfect recipe for me. I find the other recipe’s on this page interesting also. I like the sound of them and I think I will bookmark this page and try them all.

  11. These look good! The oven roasted tomatoes one is similar to a recipe I’ve got — cherry tomatoes (or grape tomatoes) and garlic roasted sauce. Pretty much the same, except there is also some balsamic vinegar going in and a few chili flakes. It’s roasted up to the moment that the skin of the small tomatoes crack. Delicious! I never actually thought to make it with normal tomatoes, thanks for the idea!

  12. I love the idea of using kale and pecans in this way. It sounds like an interesting alternative, and my family loves pesto, so it would be perfect. I also love the oven roasted tomato sauce. Roma tomatoes are my favorite, and are almost all I buy, so I will be able to try this one out soon. I also like @JoanMcWench’s idea of adding in some avocado, another favorite of mine.

  13. These look really tasty. It is nice to know that you can make these sauces from plant based foods. I must admit I never thought about these. I know about the tomato as I have made something similar before, but I will have to try the others out. It is always nice to be inspired by some new food combinations.

  14. Oh God this looks so good. The cashew sauce looks like a cashew butter. I’ve had some from the store that was really good. Really easy recipe. The first one too, the pesto is great. It’s always good to find more sauces and add-ons. I like to do vegan noodles such as cucumber, zucchini, yellow squash, and so forth. It’s addictive cause you feel like you are eating pasta but you are actually just having a salad with sauce.

  15. I really need to start eating healthier. It gets me down thinking about it because I haven’t been doing it. I lack the motivation. But when I find things that are easy to make and look good too, it really motivates me to eat healthier.

  16. The roasted tomato one is utterly delicious. I used the last of the small sweet tomatoes from my greenhouse and the flavour was just marvellous. I’ve made my own pesto for years – ever since I learned I could make it as well and more cheaply than I could buy it, and now I’ll be making this regularly too.

  17. I’m always happy to find a new. healthy pasta sauces for some variety. And as others have said, that cashew sauce could also be added to a stir fry or in a form of stroganoff (yum!).

    And having just read your post on the health benefits of pecans (and other nuts), I’d better try that pesto recipe!

    But what is the yeast added to the first two sauces for?

  18. Amazing! It’s always difficult to find delicious healthy recipes for creamy items like sauces and salad dressings. It seems like all of the mainstream choices available at the supermarket are packed with unhealthy additives and preservatives. It’s always nice to find some healthy alternatives. Can’t wait to try the Vegan Cashew Cheezy Sauce!!

  19. I really love making sauces, especially when these are made up with avocado and perejil, that definitely is one of the best combinations ever, hwoever, I will copy this down just to take it into account. Thank you for sharing it.


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