Vegan Penne alla Vodka

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This vegan Penne alla Vodka is a lightened up version of an Italian classic that’s made dairy-free with coconut cream. It’s rich, creamy and makes for the perfect 30-minute meal that the whole family will love!

I love my pasta! More specifically I love pasta with creamy sauces like vodka sauce. That said, I don’t usually eat a ton of dairy, so I wanted to take a stab at creating a vegan penne alla vodka!

After a few tries I think I perfected this recipe! It’s rich and creamy thanks to the coconut cream, but it still has that distinct vodka sauce flavor that I love! And trust me, you cant even taste the coconut in this sauce. It pairs well with the acidity from the tomatoes. This dish is not only delicious, but it comes together in about 30 minutes making it the perfect recipe for busy weeknights or an easy homemade date night meal. I can’t wait for you to try it!

Penne all vodka in a white bowl garnished with fresh basil and a dairy-free parmesan.

Why You’ll Love This Recipe

  • 30-minute meal – This dish comes together in about 30 minutes with simple ingredients, making it ideal for busy weeknights.
  • Dairy-free – Classic vodka sauce is usually made with heavy cream or some sort of dairy, but this recipe is made with coconut cream instead.
  • Flavorful – The mix of garlic, onions, herbs, vodka and tomatoes creates a rich, savory taste.
  • Flexible – You can easily modify this recipe to fit your diet. Want to use gluten-free pasta? Go for it! Want to add protein? That’d be delicious!
Ingredients measured out to make Penne alla Vodka: penne, olive oil, vodka, onion, garlic, salt, pepper, red pepper flakes, parmesan, crushed tomatoes, coconut cream and basil.

Ingredients Needed

You only need a handful of ingredients to whip up this flavorful pasta dish! Here’s all you need:

  • dry penne pasta – the star of the show! We’re using a full one pound box of penne for this dish. Even though this dish is called penne alla vodka, feel free to use your favorite type of noodle. I would just recommend using a pasta shape that holds sauce well like ziti, rigatoni, orecchiette or bowtie pasta. If you need this dish to be gluten-free swap the regular penne pasta with your favorite gluten-free pasta.
  • olive oil – for sautéing the garlic and onions.
  • onion and garlic – two essentials that add a ton of flavor to the sauce.
  • crushed tomatoes – forms the tomato base of the vodka sauce. I recommend grabbing no salt added tomatoes so you can control the amount of sodium in the sauce.
  • vodka – a key ingredient in the sauce, contributing to its unique flavor. If you don’t have vodka on hand you can use vermouth instead.
  • red pepper flakes – for a hint of heat, adding a subtle kick to the sauce. Feel free to skip this if you’re not a fan of spice or if you’re serving this to kiddos.
  • salt and pepper – basic seasonings to enhance the overall flavor.
  • coconut cream – gives the sauce its creamy, rich texture while keeping it dairy-free. If you don’t need this dish to be vegan you can use heavy cream instead.
  • fresh basil – chopped, adding a fresh, herby brightness to the dish.
  • vegan parmesan – to sprinkle on top, adding a cheesy, nutty finish without the dairy. I recommend Follow Your Heart Dairy Free Parmesan Cheese or you can make my vegan hemp parmesan instead. If you don’t need this dish to be vegan you can use regular shredded parmesan.

How to Make Vegan Penne alla Vodka

Step 1: Cook the penne pasta according to the package instructions until al dente, then drain and set aside. While the pasta is cooking heat the olive oil in a skillet, then sauté garlic and onions until translucent and fragrant.

Two photos showing garlic and onions in a pot of olive oil, before and after being browned.

Step 2: Add the crushed tomatoes to the skillet, season with salt, pepper and red pepper flakes, then simmer for a few minutes. Pour in the vodka, and continue to simmer on low for 15-20 minutes to let the sauce reduce and thicken.

Photo of crushed tomatoes into the pot with sautéd onions and garlic. Photo of vodka being added to the tomato sauce.

Step 3: Once the sauce has reduced, stir in the coconut cream. Add the cooked pasta to the sauce, mixing well so all the pasta is coated in the sauce. Garnish with chopped fresh basil and dairy-free parmesan before serving. Enjoy!

Wooden spoon stirring coconut cream into the tomato sauce. Second photo is of penne pasta stirred into the tomato sauce.

Recipe Tips

  • For the best results cook the pasta until just al dente, so it still has a nice chewiness to it and isn’t mushy.
  • Allow the sauce to simmer sufficiently after adding the vodka. Not only does it ensure that the alcohol cooks off, but it also allows the flavors to meld together and the sauce to thicken and reduce.
Penne all vodka in two white bowls garnished with fresh basil and a dairy-free parmesan.

What to Serve With This Penne alla Vodka

This pasta dish is hearty and filling on its own, but it pairs wonderfully with a variety of sides to make a well-rounded meal. Here are some suggestions:

Penne all vodka in a large pot garnished with fresh basil and a dairy-free parmesan.

Storing Leftovers

  • In the refrigerator: Transfer the cooled pasta to an airtight container and store in the fridge for 4-5 days.
  • In the freezer: I wouldn’t recommend freezing this dish with the pasta, but if you want to make a big batch of vodka sauce for a later use you can easily freeze that. Just allow the sauce to cool completely, then transfer to a freezer-safe container and store in the freezer for up to 3 months. To thaw, place it in the fridge overnight, then reheat over the stovetop and serve over freshly cooked pasta.
  • Reheating: When you’re ready to enjoy the pasta again, reheat it in a skillet over the stovetop. If it seems dry, add a splash of water or plant-based milk to bring back the creaminess of the sauce. Alternatively, you can add the pasta to a bowl with a splash of water and microwave it until warm throughout.

More Pasta Dishes You’ll Love

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4.84 from 6 votes

Vegan Penne alla Vodka

This vegan Penne alla Vodka is a lightened up version of an Italian classic that's made dairy-free with coconut cream. It's rich, creamy and makes for the perfect 30-minute meal that the whole family will love!
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 27 minutes
Total Time: 32 minutes
Servings: 6

Ingredients  

  • 1 lb dry penne pasta
  • 3 Tablespoons olive oil
  • 6 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 small onion, finely diced
  • 1 28 oz can crushed tomatoes
  • ¼ cup vodka
  • teaspoon red pepper flakes, optional
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon pepper
  • cup canned coconut cream
  • ½ cup fresh basil, chopped
  • ¼ cup vegan shredded parmesan

Instructions 

  • Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil, add pasta and cook according to package until al dente. Drain and set aside.
    Penne pasta in a metal colander.
  • Meanwhile, heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add garlic and onions and cook for 6-7 minutes or until onions are translucent, fragrant and start to caramelize.
    Sauteed onion and garlic in a large pot with a wooden spoon.
  • Carefully add crushed tomatoes into the skillet. Bring to a simmer and add salt, pepper and crushed red pepper. Stir to combine and cook for about 2 minutes then pour in the vodka. Simmer on low for 15-20 minutes, uncovered to allow the sauce to reduce and thicken.
    Vodka being poured into the marinara sauce in a large pot.
  • Stir in the coconut cream.
    marinara sauce, vodka, and cream being stirred with a wooden spoon in a large pot.
  • At this point you can add the drained pasta back to the pot and pour in the sauce to combine. Or you can plate the pasta and add sauce on top.
    Penne pasta added to the vodka sauce in a large pot.
  • Sprinkle fresh basil and parmesan over the pasta and toss to mix. Serve immediately, passing additional parmesan and basil if you like.
    Penne all vodka in a large pot garnished with fresh basil and a dairy-free parmesan.

Nutrition

Serving: 1/6 of recipe | Calories: 483kcal | Carbohydrates: 72g | Protein: 10g | Fat: 16g | Saturated Fat: 7g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g | Monounsaturated Fat: 5g | Sodium: 369mg | Potassium: 35mg | Fiber: 3g | Sugar: 4g

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

Additional Info

Course: Lunch/Dinner
Cuisine: Italian
Keyword: vegan penne alla vodka
Did you make this recipe?Mention @eatingbirdfood and tag #eatingbirdfood!

About Brittany

Hey there, I’m Brittany, the creator of Eating Bird Food, cookbook author, health coach and mama of two littles. Here you’ll find quick and easy recipes that make healthy fun and enjoyable for you and your family!

More about Brittany
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Recipe Rating




8 Comments

    1. Hi Jill. Both of these are in the recipe. 1/4 cup of vodka and the coconut cream is added in step 2. 🙂

  1. 4 stars
    Can we just say…. DELISH! Just made this and it was perfect! Just enough and you don’t leave the table feeling super full or bloated. I’m not fully vegan, but do appreciate vegan meals a few times a week. This was truly the perfect recipe for the taste buds and the tummy. Thanks so much for sharing!

    1. Ahh that makes me so happy to hear, Jody!! I’m so glad you enjoyed this recipe. Thanks for taking the time to leave a comment + star rating. I so appreciate it. <3

  2. 5 stars
    i can’t express how much i loved this recipe! my kitchen smelled like a five star italian restaurant and my family loved it. i didn’t have coconut cream, so I used fat free half and half. the sauce was slightly too thin for my taste (because I subbed the cream), so I thickened it up by blending some of the crushed tomatoes. thanks brittany!

    1. Ahh that makes me so happy to hear, Carly! I’m so glad this pasta dish was a hit with your family. Thanks so much for trying it and for coming back to leave a comment + star rating. I really appreciate it. <3

  3. 5 stars
    PERFECT AS IS! ALONG WITH A SECOND OPTIONAL DISH, SIMPLY BY FOLLOWING RECIPE EXACTLY BUT (just for a change) USE ROASTED RED PEPPERS – INSTEAD OF TOMATO – USE ROASTED RED PEPPERS!
    I LOVE IT BOTH WAYS!
    With the roasted red peppers, use either: roasted red peppers (from a jar), or (steaming/cooking them yourself), then CONTINUE WITH BLENDING THIS SAUCE IN THE BLENDER. done

    NOW YOU HAVE A NEW DISH, ROASTED RED PEPPER SAUCE, ALL ELSE THE EXACT SAME!