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Vegan Alfredo Sauce

Vegan Alfredo Sauce

This rich, creamy vegan alfredo sauce is made with cashews and coconut milk, and no nutritional yeast. It even reheats beautifully, and has become a new staple in my house!

This rich, creamy vegan alfredo sauce is made with cashews and coconut milk, and no nutritional yeast. It even reheats beautifully.

Why vegan?

Ever since having children, I’ve been pretty conscious of the food I buy and serve—even before my son’s celiac disease made gluten free food a necessity. We are not a vegan family, but I don’t serve a ton of meat, and it certainly isn’t every night. I buy consciously raised (if you’re vegan, you don’t think meat can ever be “ethically raised,” which I understand and respect) meat, and try to minimize how much I buy and serve in general.

A number of months ago, though, we discovered what we believe is a dairy allergy in my oldest child. She loooooves cheese and all things dairy, so this has been quite a shift. The whole family isn’t dairy free, but I believe in serving one meal to everyone in the family for so many reasons. And I want whatever I give my daughter to be as delicious as what everyone else is eating as well.

This rich, creamy vegan alfredo sauce is made with cashews and coconut milk, and no nutritional yeast. It even reheats beautifully.

My other daughter is a big-time animal lover (as am I), and we both fully anticipate going vegan at some point in the future. We already won’t eat pork of any kind, since we currently have a favorite pig on a nearby rescue farm. Don’t ask.

All this means that I’ve been making a lot more sometimes vegan, often dairy-free food, and trying to perfect vegan alternatives to my daughter’s favorite foods. This vegan alfredo sauce is definitely a big step in the right direction! So many dairy-free and vegan versions of creamy sauces, like vegan mac and “cheese,” taste entirely like something else. One vegan mac and cheese recipe that I made for my daughter was declared “fine, but it tastes like soup.”

This genius recipe tastes like actual alfredo sauce, for real. It’s from my friend Alisa’s new book, Eat Dairy Free: Your Essential Cookbook for Everyday Meals, Snacks, and Sweets. That’s an affiliate link and if you click I’ll be compensated with a few pennies at no extra cost to you, but of course feel free to shop at your local bookstore. Just be sure to check out this amazing book!

Alisa’s blog, Godairyfree, is one I’ve referred to so many times on this blog, as I have long considered her to be the quintessential source for all things dairy-free. If I’m not sure if a particular brand is reliable, or if something is going to taste good, I turn to Alisa.

This new book is packed with 100 amazing dairy free recipes, each with fully-tested options for gluten-free, egg-free, peanut-free, and soy-free. About 90% of the book is tree nut-free, and about 3/4 is either vegan or has a vegan option. Alisa isn’t gluten free, but her husband eats gluten free and she’s always catered to gluten free needs.

This recipe, as written in the cookbook, is for Easy Chicken Alfredo (page 184!), and the “Vegan Option” at the bottom of the page is what I followed for making this recipe, in fact, vegan. I’ve included her original chicken-containing instructions below, though, if you’d like to go that way.

This rich, creamy vegan alfredo sauce is made with cashews and coconut milk, and no nutritional yeast. It even reheats beautifully.

Ingredients and substitutions

Coconut-free: Since there is only 1/4 cup coconut milk, this recipe doesn’t taste like coconuts to me at all. But if you really don’t care for anything made from coconuts, you can try using almond milk. I’d reduce it on the stovetop a bit, though, so it’s thicker and more the consistency of coconut milk.

Nut-free: The cashews in this recipe do a wonderful job of creating creaminess and thickness without adding much flavor of their own. I can’t think of a substitute that isn’t itself another nut, like blanched almonds. Perhaps sunflower seeds would work?

Mushrooms: You can simply leave the mushrooms out. If you do, I’d add about 1 tablespoon of my gum-free gluten free flour blend to the sauce since it helps to thicken the mixture.

If you’re not vegan and only want this recipe for its dairy-free-ness, Alisa’s original recipe is actually for chicken alfredo. Just substitute 1 pound of boneless, skinless chicken breast, cut into 1-inch cubes for the mushrooms and cook the chicken in the oil in the hot skillet for about 5 minutes, searing on all sides before proceeding with the recipe as written.

Watch this quick 1-minute video of vegan alfredo sauce

Just push play ▶️ below and see just how easy this sauce is.

Thank you, Alisa, for this amazing book and for the work you do to make dairy-free food accessible and enjoyable. You’re a true gem!

This rich, creamy vegan alfredo sauce is made with cashews and coconut milk, and no nutritional yeast. It even reheats beautifully.
Prep time: Cook time: Yield: 4 servings

Ingredients

8 ounces dry gluten free spaghetti or fettuccine (I actually used wide, flat rice noodles from A Taste of Thai)

3/4 cup (90 g) raw cashews

1 cup (8 fluid ounces) vegetable stock

1/4 cup (2 fluid ounces) full-fat coconut milk

2 garlic cloves, crushed, peeled and chopped

10 ounces baby bella mushrooms, cleaned and sliced thickly

1 tablespoon (9 g) gum-free gluten free flour blend (or you can use sweet white rice flour or even cornstarch)

1/8 teaspoon + 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt, divided

Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

1 tablespoon (14 g) extra virgin olive oil (I actually used avocado oil)

Water, as needed

Chopped fresh parsley, for garnish (optional)

Directions

  • Cook the pasta according to the package directions while preparing the rest of the meal. Place the cashews in a spice grinder or food processor and grind until powdered, 30 to 60 seconds. Be careful not to grind into nut butter. Place the stock, coconut milk, ground cashews and chopped garlic in a blender and blend until smooth and creamy (about 2 minutes). Strain the sauce through a fine-mesh sieve to remove any remaining pieces of solid cashew, and set it aside.

  • In a medium-size bowl, toss the sliced mushrooms with the flour and 1/8 teaspoon salt, plus about 1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper until the mushrooms are coated completely. Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat until it ripples, and add the coated mushrooms. Stir to combine, cover the pan and allow the mushrooms to cook until softened, about 3 minutes. Uncover the pan and stir the mushrooms to release any brown bits from the bottom of the pan. Add the sauce, the remaining 3/4 teaspoon salt, and some freshly ground black pepper to the pan, and stir to combine. Simmer the mixture, stirring occasionally, until it’s as thick as you’d like it to be. If it thickens too much, whisk in water, 1 tablespoon at a time, to reach your desired consistency. Add the cooked noodles to the pan, and toss gently to coat with tongs.

  • Divide the mixture among 4 dishes, and garnish with the optional fresh parsley and freshly ground black pepper to taste. Store leftovers in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 1 day.

  • This recipe is adapted with permission from Eat Dairy Free: Your Essential Cookbook for Everyday Meals, Snacks, and Sweets (affiliate link) by Alisa Fleming (BenBella Books, 2018).

Love,
Nicole

  • Christina badina
    January 17, 2018 at 9:55 PM

    I am so going to try this soon!

  • April Trenge
    January 16, 2018 at 1:49 PM

    can I leave the garlic out, am allergic. Can I use chicken stock instead of vegetable?

    • Nicole Hunn
      January 16, 2018 at 3:26 PM

      Hi, April, if you leave out the garlic, you will basically have a largely flavorless cream sauce. I’m afraid I just don’t think this recipe would work without garlic. Sorry!

  • Pam
    January 14, 2018 at 6:30 PM

    I hate the taste of coconut, but this looks so good. Can you taste the coconut?

    • Nicole Hunn
      January 14, 2018 at 7:23 PM

      It doesn’t taste like coconut to me, Pam. I think the garlic does a very good job of making this taste appropriately savory.

  • Nikki Brown
    January 14, 2018 at 8:41 AM

    Cheese was the most difficult food for me to give up. I craved it! But, surprisingly, last year about this time, for 2 weeks I ate no “added sugar” and at the end of that time, my desire for cheese just disappeared. I found that I was really not interested in it at all. In fact, I still don’t want it , and even thinking about it makes me think “YUCK!” Not sure why, but, hey, I’ll take it! Haven’t tried any of the vegan cheese sauces yet, either. But am definitely going to make this one. I have seen recipes that use Yukon potatoes for the creaminess…

    • Nicole Hunn
      January 14, 2018 at 10:09 AM

      Alisa from Go Dairy Free (and the author of “Eat Dairy Free”) talks a TON about how cheese is addictive, and I think you and both know exactly what she means! She herself has a conditioned taste aversion to cheese, and evaluates all dairy substitutes just as foods, and not in comparison to how well they mimic the taste of true dairy. I’ve been very hard at work for months now, actually, on a dairy-free mac and cheese sauce, and you definitely need potatoes, but not too many or it just tastes like potato soup! I promise to report back when I’ve arrived at something that I’m satisfied with! I’m afraid it will never ever taste exactly like the “real” thing, but I’m bound and determined to get really, really close!

  • Cindy
    January 14, 2018 at 8:13 AM

    This looks great i cant wait to try it. Question about the coconut milk….when I’ve used this is the past, the milk/cream is actually solid. Is that what we Re to measure? I usually find the coconut milk in the Asian food section of the grocery store. Is that right? Thanks again, I do look forward to trying something dairy free that is decadent!

    • Nicole Hunn
      January 14, 2018 at 10:05 AM

      Hi, Cindy, That’s a great question! Full fat canned coconut milk will be largely solid when chilled, and it will have a liquid portion as well. Just shake it up at room temperature and it should integrate. That being said, I’ve also used low fat canned coconut milk, and the So Delicious boxes of coconut milk in this recipe, and both have worked really well. You may just have to simmer the sauce a bit more to thicken it, but this is actually quite a flexible recipe in that regard. Hope that helps!

  • Irene Fraser
    January 12, 2018 at 10:18 AM

    Hi Nicole, I just made this for my family, all quite picky eaters and everyone loved it. I also treated myself to your 1st book, read it cover to cover in bed last night
    You are my new favorite person!

    • Nicole Hunn
      January 12, 2018 at 10:58 AM

      Oh my gosh, Irene, that’s so awesome! You now have something new in your dinner arsenal. That is just the best feeling, isn’t it? Thank you so much for the kind words, and your support!!

  • Pamela McKenna
    January 10, 2018 at 8:01 PM

    Try macadamia nuts. I have used them in hummus instead of chickpeas and I am planning to use them to make a refried bean substitute. Thay are a little expensive.

    • Nicole Hunn
      January 11, 2018 at 7:46 AM

      I wondered about macadamia nuts, Pamela! Thanks for the suggestion. Let us know if you try it, everyone!

  • Mare
    January 10, 2018 at 6:26 PM

    Since I cannot tolerate dairy anymore, either, and all things cheese is my favorite food, I will be glad for anything you throw our way. Since I trust you implicitly, I will have to check out Alisa’s blog for sure!

    Thank you!

    • Nicole Hunn
      January 11, 2018 at 7:48 AM

      No dairy is really tough, Mare! When my son first went gluten free, for over a year he couldn’t tolerate any dairy at all and I always found it way harder than removing gluten. And I still do. My daughter also seems to be allergic to soy, which severely limits things even further. I’ve been working (and working) on a vegan mac and “cheese,” and I’m still at it about 6 months later. So far, nothing has really measured up. I’ll definitely post it when it’s up to par, though!

  • Pearl
    January 10, 2018 at 1:01 PM

    Really useful! Wonder if ordinary peanuts will work ? For people using Fodmaps, cashews and almonds are out.

    • Nicole Hunn
      January 10, 2018 at 3:07 PM

      Hm, Pearl, I’m honestly not sure. Cashews are sort of like the tapioca starch of the nut world—so useful, not very many direct substitutes. The issue with peanuts is that they have a pronounced flavor, so you won’t get that simple creamy sauce. I’d be more inclined to try soaking raw sunflower seeds (cover them in boiling water and let sit for one hour). Let us know if you try something!

    • Alisa Fleming
      January 12, 2018 at 2:44 PM

      As mentioned above, macadamia nuts work well in sauces like this, but are a bit pricey. I’m not a big fan of the pronounced flavor of sunflower seeds in sauces like this, but some people do like this as an option. Peanuts will make it more of a peanut sauce (very bold flavor).

    • Nicole Hunn
      January 12, 2018 at 3:18 PM

      Thanks for weighing in, Alisa! It’s your recipe, so you certainly know best!

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