This vegan white pasta sauce has it all: it is silky, creamy, garlicky, savory, delicious, and versatile. And it's made with good-for-you beans. Serve it warm over a ribbon pasta like fettuccine, pappardelle or linguine.
When it comes to vegan white pasta sauces, I've tried them all. I love this vegan alfredo sauce, and I've tried a version with cauliflower. The cashew sauce, although delicious, is not an everyday indulgence because it is higher in fat than most sauces I would cook (although it has nowhere near the amount of calories in an authentic cream-and-butter-and-cheese alfredo). The cauliflower version, well, isn't bad, but honestly, I can never get past the cauliflower smell which doesn't quite go away. And I sometimes make a healthy, protein-rich chickpea sauce like this one for pasta gratin, but delicious though it is, it seems to dry up on me rather quickly which means it is best consumed the day it's made.
This version of a vegan white pasta sauce I have for you today is a clear winner on every front. It's really healthy, for one, because it's made with white beans: great northern beans, to be exact. All it needs, besides the beans, are six ingredients that I am willing to bet are already in your pantry.
The payoff is spectacular: this is a rich, luscious sauce, so there's no deprivation here. Not an ounce of. The sauce coats the pasta silkily and wraps your tastebuds in the warmth of garlic and oregano. I can eat it by the bowlful, just as it is, and not feel a bit guilty: it's just beans, guys, and food doesn't get any more nutritious than beans.
I added some cashews to the sauce and they not only help add some richness, but they also do a magnificent job of keeping the sauce from drying out over time: something bean-puree sauces often tend to do. I brown-bagged the pasta to lunch the day after I made it, and the sauce was still velvety and smooth and quite perfect.
Great northern beans have a nutty, delicious flavor which makes them perfect for this sauce, but you can use another white bean, like cannellini, navy or lima. You can cook the beans from scratch, which I prefer to do, or you can use canned, but white beans do not usually take as long to cook as some other types of legumes, so start with the dry beans if you can for the purest flavor.
You can make this sauce cheesy, if you wish, by adding some nutritional yeast -- perfect if you're subbing this for an alfredo sauce. I didn't add any this time because it was already so good, I didn't want to gild the lily. If you do add nutritional yeast, add no more than a couple of tablespoons because you don't want to overwhelm the savory, garlicky flavor.
I was a little nervous serving this to Jay because, like every child, he has an inner radar that uncannily tells him when a food is healthy and therefore not edible. This time, I had that radar fooled. He ate it up, beans and all, and licked up every last bit of the sauce of his plate. 🙂
More tasty vegan pasta sauces:
- Vegan Basil Pesto
- The Best Vegan Marinara Sauce
- Pasta with No-cook Tomato Sauce
- Carrot Top Pesto
- Vegan Golden Beet Pesto
The best vegan white pasta sauce
- 1 cup dried great northern beans (soaked overnight and cooked until tender. If using canned, substitute with two 15 oz cans, drained).
- 6-8 cloves garlic (crushed and sliced)
- 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- ¼ cup raw cashews (soaked for at least 30 minutes)
- Salt to taste
- 1 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil
- 1 lemon (juiced and zested)
- Heat the oil in a large saucepan. Add the garlic and stir-fry until it begins to turn blonde.
- Add the red pepper flakes and oregano and stir-fry for a minute.
- Add the beans and salt to taste. Let the mixture come to a boil. Add a cup of water if too dry. Lower heat to a simmer and let the beans cook with the garlic and oregano for about 10 minutes.
- Remove the beans to a blender, add the cashews, and blend into a very smooth, creamy sauce. You can add water as needed, but add a little at a time to get just the consistency you want.
- Add the sauce back to the saucepan and bring to a boil. Keep stirring the sauce to ensure it doesn't stick to the bottom -- don't use more than medium heat. Add water if the sauce gets too thick. When the sauce begins to boil, turn off the heat and add the lemon juice and zest and stir in. Check salt and serve hot with pasta.
- Add some baby spinach to the sauce just before it's ready, and bring to a boil. Let the spinach cook about a minute until wilted. Serve.
- Stir in a couple of tablespoons of nutritional yeast after turning of the heat, for a cheesier flavor.
- I like to serve this on top of pasta with some minced parsley.
Excellent! Used 1 can of beans and cut the recipe in half and it was outstanding!!!
So happy to hear!
It was really tasty and no one suspected it was made with beans!
I made too much sauce. Do you think the sauce would freeze well.
Hello, I've been looking for a recipe like this for a while and almost all of them call for cashews (I'm allergic)... do you know of a good substitute for the cashews?
I didn’t use the cashews and it tasted great!
Hemp hearts are a great substitute to make a cream sauce too! It adds extra protein but I’m not sure if it reduces the chances of the sauce “drying out” as described in this recipe but I’d love to find out!
Hi! I've made vegan alfredo with cooked cauliflower that's been blended well. I add garlic, spices, lemon juice/white wine vinegar, and some corn starch/tapioca flour. I also thin with non-dairy milk as necessary. Hopefully this helps!
I made this without the cashews and it is perfectly fine. I added vegetable stock to simmer the beans and then added some of the pasta water as needed for thinning. I did use nutritional yeast and the lemon is a must. Added freshly ground black pepper and Himalayan salt to taste at the end. I served this sauce over fettuccine with broccoli.
How does this sauce freeze? Interested in having it on hand in the future for an easy dinner!
Hi Christine, it will freeze well, just thaw and add water when you reheat if it gets too thick.
Delish! I used this as an Alfredo sauce for pizza and topped it with sautéed spinach, fresh tomato, and broccoli with a little homemade vegan Parmesan cheese. Will make again!!
I'm looking very forward to making this! If using canned beans do I include the liquid? If using dried, do I use the cooking water? I see to add 1 cup of water if it's too dry but I can't figure out how it will boil with no water initially. Thanks.
Hi Liam, add a cup of water and bring to a boil. The sauce tends to thicken as it stands so fine to add more water or stock as needed!
Thanks for asking. Was my question too
This was fantastic! I am sensitive to spicy and this was just enough, so 10/10 here!
I didn't use the cashew water in the blender, but I wish I did. The sauce was a little thick for what I was hoping for. I know for next time, along with adding the nutritional yeast...
Ate this with butternut squash ravioli.... soooooo good!
Hi Briana, thanks for letting me know and for the feedback. You can definitely thin it out because the cashews make this sauce thicken as it stands.
Hi! I’m not a vegan yet, but am working on transitioning. I can’t wait to try this recipe. I do have a question though: what temp should the cashew soak in?
I know the answer might seem obvious but i just wanted to know because I have seen recipes where the cashew is boiled instead of soaked.
I used lukewarm water and the cashew mixed fine for me!
Currently distancing ourselves. I have pinto beans or garbanzo beans. Which would be a better substitute for the white beans?
Soooo spicy. I added 1/4 tsp of the red pepper flakes. Definitely not able to serve. I see someone else has commented on this so I am guessing there may be some varieties of red pepper flakes that are super hot.
I noticed there is no liquid mentioned in the ingredients, yet is says to bring it to a boil and and add some water if too dry. Yes, definitely needed some water, the beans weren’t going to boil on their own!
I may try making an adjusted version and use some vegetable stock.
Instead of cashews, I would use mushrooms for a nice smoky flavor. We have nut allergies so cashews are out.
My 3 year old said this was “delicious!” And my 10 year old also enjoyed it, although he was suspicious while I was making it, lol. Great healthy recipe- thank you! I just discovered your site yesterday and already spent over an hour browsing and pinning recipes. Great work!!
Aww, that's so nice to hear. Happy your kids loved it! Thanks for letting me know. 🙂
Can we use roasted cashews? What’s the difference?
Roasted cashews won't give the same creamy texture.
Can you suggest a substitute for the cashews? Allergy to nuts. Thanks!
My 14 year old and I found that it was to spicy. I actually cut the recipe in half but still found 1/2 tsp of chili flakes was to much. I am going to try it again but she might not be up for trying it after the burn. Maybe mention that even a little chili can be a bit much. Thank you.
Wow that isn’t spicy at all. You have very sensitive taste buds.
Can you think of a substitute for cashews? I'm allergic.? Thanks!
Try smoked pumpkin or sunflower seeds or fav non dairy milk thickened with arrowroot
Try soaked pumpkin or sunflower seeds or fav non dairy milk thickened with arrowroot
Could I use cashew flour in place of the whole raw cashews? If so, how much do you think?
It should be fine. Use the same amount, and blend with the water, before adding.
I was wondering if I could leave out the cashews? Could I simply add more beans?
Hannah, you can, but the cashews provide the richness and creaminess to the sauce which would be missing.
How much nutritional yeast would you suggest to add?
1/4 cup would be great.
seeing it,water is coming in my mouth. I’m very excited to make this pasta. i’ll make it tonight and serve my family. i hope they will like it.
This was fantastic. Used only half of the lemon. Loved the garlic and texture. We added coli/brocc florets and sauteed mushrooms and will be making this FREQUENLY. Thank you very much for the recipe!
I was looking for something tastier than store-bought marinara to put on my pasta, and this is perfect! I already had all the ingredients too. My sauce came out a little more beige than white - maybe because I used canned beans? But still delicious!
Do you add the cashew soaking water when you blend the cashews with the bean mixture? Sounds like a great Meatless Monday recipe!
Yes you definitely can!
Hi Vaishali., I enjoy reading your vegan recipes, I also noticed you use cashews mostly to replace the dairy.
are too much cashews bad for health specially for heart disease?
Hi Koolmom, The fat in cashews is great for the heart-- cashews, like other nuts, actually help reduce cardiovascular disease. That said, moderation is a good idea because any fat will lead to other issues like weight gain.
Vegans tend to use coconut milk or cashews to replace dairy. I lean toward cashews because as much as I love coconut milk, and I think it goes quite naturally with Indian foods, I have never been able to love the strong flavor of coconut in western dishes and sweets. Cashew is far more neutral tasting, and emulates dairy cream far better, in my opinion.
Thank you for your quick response and detailed information, I agree that moderation is the key 🙂
Have to try the cheesy sauce and white sauce recipes, will keep you posted on the outcome.
Have a wonderful day !
All nuts are actually bad for the heart and so is any form of coconut milk. Dr. Esselstyn is a famous retired heart surgeon and is Whole foods plant based. Read his book How to prevent and reverse heart disease. It has all the information about heart disease along with some recipes. His wife Ann and daughter Jane have a cookbook also...How to prevent and reverse heart disease cookbook. I have both. It has saved my life. I wish I would have followed his program so I could have prevented my major heart attack.
Good luck on reversing your heart disease 🙂
The sauce sounds healthfully decadent! Is there a substitute for cashews? Can it be made nut free?
Made this sauce today and it is wonderful. I placed it on top of high protein pasta. The lemon flavor was a little strong, so next time I'll lessen it a bit... and the red pepper just a touch. I also added some nutritional yeast at the end. I love having an option of a high protein sauce for pasta! Another "go to" recipe for me. Thank you.
Am I missing something? It says to bring to a boil. With what? There is no liquid. I love your recipes!
Hey Nancy, it's in step 3 of the instructions. Cheers!
I'm with Nancy, I don't understand - 1.Fry the garlic, 2. add red pepper flakes & oregano; then step 3 says Add the beans and bring to a boil....
This is a dry mixture. There's nothing to boil at this stage.
If there's not enough cooking liquid from the beans, add a cup of water. It's in step 3.
Slightly confused as well because the (canned) beans are supposed to be drained according to directions. Should I leave the liquid? Thank you for the recipe!
I have a second pan of cut-up veggies (potatoes, sweet and white, Brussels sprouts and carrots) in the oven now - the first was roasted on a sheet pan the other day. This will be added to some cooked pasta with your sauce, IF I still have those white beans hiding on the shelf!
I find it amazing that I actually found this about a week after you posted it; usually I do a search and find something that people have been enjoying since, like, 2004! (Maybe it was fate?)
🙂 🙂 Glad you found it, Nicola.
Can I use small white navy beans for this recipe? I found in the Bulk Barn in Richmond, BC, Canada
Your recipes are great and easy to follow with simple Indian spices.
Yes, navy beans would work just fine!
Interesting! But I don't get we get this type of beans in India or maybe I'm not aware of its Hindi name. Any idea?
Leo is such a darling baby, give him a kissy from my side <3
Hey Namrata, I don't think I ever saw great northern beans in India, but you might find lima beans and they would work very well in this recipe. Otherwise, try with chickpeas-- the sauce will be more beige than white, but will taste great.
Leo says hello (woof!) 🙂
Mary Jo Morris
I made this for dinner tonight. It was the best! Can I say "sublime" without going over the top? Delicious, delicious, delicious. Do you think it will freeze well? I freeze beans regularly without any ill effect. Maybe freeze it before adding the lemon? I also freeze lemon juice, though, come to think a out it.
Kudos -- this was great!
Hi Mary Jo, how lovely you liked the sauce! I haven't tried freezing it, but it should freeze well-- thaw thoroughly before use and then warm, and great idea to add lemon later.
Any way to can this ????? It would be great to make a large batch and can and use when needed. Thank you
Hi Barbara, I think it should freeze well. Thaw thoroughly before use, and warm through. Cheers.
This awesome!! Thanks so much for a vegan version. I used to dread buying it from the store and then didn't know how to make it at home without the milk and cheese and flour!! Your version is SO healthy. Can I ask a question though? Have you tried storing it? I would like to make this in a large batch and store some for a second time the next to be used in a week or two . Do you know if I can do that?
Hi Driti, you can try freezing it-- and thaw thoroughly before use and warm through.
A vegan pasta dish, protein included? You are the most creative vegan cook. Ever. Seriously. must try this weekend.
Thanks, Nandini! 🙂
Very excited for this recipe! I will try to make this week and post back here. I am hoping this will please my 2 year old. Fingers crossed.
Hey Valerie, hope you try!