A twist on the Italian classic, this vegan Cacio e Pepe recipe is easy to make with simple, healthy ingredients. No cashews, The rich and creamy sauce is made with sunflower seeds so it’s completely nut free! Sprinkled with some crispy chickpeas and a squeeze of lemon for secretly healthy satisfying meal.
What You’ll Need to Make Vegan Cacio e Pepe
Long cut pasta: I used bucatini for this recipe but any long cut pasta such as spaghetti or linguine will work well. The starchy pasta water also plays a big role here in making the sauce thick and creamy.
Sunflower seeds: make sure you buy raw (not toasted) and hulled sunflower seeds. Many creamy vegan sauces are made with cashews, but sunflower seeds are a cheaper, nut free alternative with all the same benefits!
Nutritional yeast: For that delicious cheesy flavor.
Miso paste: The saltiness and umami flavor from the miso enhances the savory cheesy flavor. I like to use light miso or Shiro Miso which is milder in flavor as opposed to red or yellow miso paste.
Olive oil: Adds richness to the sauce.
Black pepper: I like a lot of black pepper in my vegan Cacio e Pepe. Make sure you use freshly ground black pepper for maximum flavor and texture.
Lemon juice: easy to overlook, but a hit of acid at the end really helps bring out the flavor of the other ingredients.
How to Make Vegan Cacio e Pepe
Soak the sunflower seeds: So you can either soak the seeds in boiling water for about an hour or you can boil them in a small saucepan for about 15-20 minutes. This softens the seeds so they are easier to blend into a creamy sauce.
Boil the pasta: You will need pasta water to make the sauce, so start by boiling your pasta shape of choice in generously salted water just a few minutes shy of the package instructions. The pasta will finish cooking once it’s been added to the sauce. Drain the pasta and make sure to save your pasta water! I also recommend tossing the pasta with a bit of olive oil to prevent clumping while you make the sauce.
Make the sauce: drain off your soaked sunflower seeds and add those to the bowl of a high speed blender (such as a Vitamix) along with the nutritional yeast, olive oil, miso paste, and about 2 cups of pasta water. Blend until very smooth, this may take a couple minutes.
Finish it off: Return the sauce to a large pot over medium heat. Bring to a low simmer and add the pasta. Cook for another 2-3 minutes or so or until the pasta has finished cooking through. If at any point the sauce seems grainy or dry, add up to 1/2 cup more of pasta water. Remove from the heat and stir in the lemon juice and black pepper.
Serve: Divide among bowls and top with crispy chickpeas, more black pepper and another squeeze of lemon juice.
Tips and Substitutions
- If you prefer not to dirty another pan making the crispy chickpeas, you can omit them entirely or just stir the drained and rinsed chickpeas in with the sauce when you add the pasta.
- It’s very important that you have a high powered blender for this recipe in order to blend the sunflower seeds completely. If you don’t have one, a food processor may work, but I have not tried it myself.
- To make this recipe gluten free, use your favorite type of gluten free pasta and double check your míos to ensure it doesn’t contain wheat, barley or rye.
More Vegan Pasta Recipes to Try:
- Baked rigatoni bolognese
- Spinach Artichoke pasta with crispy fried shallots
- Toasted lemon pepper orzo with crispy chickpeas
- Cauliflower Mac and cheese