This vegan lemon pasta is easy enough for a weeknight yet elegant enough for a dinner party. It's creamy, garlicky, and bright with lemon juice and zest! Ready in 30 minutes!
This recipe was originally published July 2019 and has been updated with new photos and slight recipe adjustment. I hope you enjoy it as much as we do!
If you enjoy the creaminess of mac and cheese and the fresh zing of lemon, you're going to LOVE this vegan lemon pasta! And it only requires 6 ingredients and 30 minutes to prepare.
Serve with chopped fresh parsley or basil and a sprinkle of Vegan Parm (OR see the grated cashew trick below). And to make it even more filling, cannellini beans are perfectly at home in this vegan lemon sauce.
Round out the meal with a side salad or steamed broccoli or asparagus, and you're all set!
- Pasta - any type of pasta you like, regular, whole-grain, or gluten-free.
- Raw Cashews - cashews create an ultra creamy sauce, but raw sunflower seeds are an option for a cashew-free recipe.
- Lemons - you'll need ⅓ cup fresh juice and the zest of one lemon; in case your lemons aren't very juicy it's best to have two on hand.
- Arrowroot Starch - along with the starch in the cashews, this thickens our creamy lemon sauce; corn starch is a possible substitute (reduce amount to 1 tablespoon).
- Oil - olive oil or another neutral cooking oil; feel free to omit if you follow an oil-free diet.
- Garlic - adds nice savoriness and balances the fresh lemon.
See recipe card below for quantities.
How to Make Vegan Lemon Pasta
- Sauté the garlic for 2 to 3 minutes, stirring frequently. You can do this in a tablespoon of olive oil, or if you follow an oil-free diet use a splash of water or vegetable broth.
- Zest 1 lemon and blend the sauce. Combine the garlic, zest of one lemon, water, raw cashews, arrowroot starch, and salt in a high speed blender.
Tip: If you don’t own a high speed blender, a scant ½ cup raw cashew butter may be substituted for the whole cashews. Or soak the raw cashews in hot water for about 1 hour first (or overnight) to help with blending.
- Cook your pasta of choice. Drain in a colander and set aside.
- Pour the blended sauce into the pasta pot. Whisking constantly, cook over medium heat until thickened, 4 to 5 minutes. Whisk in ⅓ cup fresh lemon juice.
- Add the cooked and drained pasta to the pot, stir to combine, and serve. Garnish with vegan parmesan cheese and fresh herbs, if desired.
What to Serve With Vegan Lemon Pasta
- Salad - a side salad dressed with our oil-free Italian dressing is perfect. Or use your favorite Italian vinaigrette. Herb-forward avocado green goddess is also a great pairing.
- Veggies - this pasta is a blank slate perfect for accommodating your favorite vegetable. Or serve roasted or steamed veggies on the side. Broccoli and asparagus are especially nice with the creamy lemon sauce.
- Cashews - I often use raw sunflower seeds to replace the cashews in my other cheesy and creamy recipes. And though I haven't tested them yet in this particular sauce, a reader (thanks, Nina!) reported that she successfully used a combination of raw sunflower seeds and garbanzo beans to make a lighter sauce.
- Gluten-Free - your choice of pasta makes this dish gluten-free; brown rice pasta is one of our favorites.
- Oil-Free - simply omit the oil used to saute the garlic and use as much water or broth as you need to keep it from browning.
- Arrowroot Starch - I chose arrowroot for this recipe because it tends to handle acidity better than corn starch. But in a pinch I'm sure a bit of corn starch or tapioca starch could work. Use less, though, about 1 tablespoon.
A high speed blender comes in handy for quick, creamy sauces like this, but if you don't have one a standard blender will also work. See the substitutions above for tips.
I've been using my Vitamix for about 10 years now. They really are a great investment.
A microplane zester is useful for zesting the lemon. You'll also need a small sauté pan for the garlic, a large pot for the pasta, and a colander.
How to Store Leftover Pasta
Store leftovers in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days. Reheat on the stove or in the microwave.
I haven't tried freezing this sauce yet, so if you do please let us know how it turns out!
Quick Vegan Sub for Parmesan
Here's one last tip! While you have your microplane zester out for zesting the lemon, go ahead and grate a few cashews.
Can you believe how much that looks like grated cheese? Since the nuts are small, just be careful not to zest your fingers!
You'll be amazed how much you get from just 2 or 3 cashews. After you grate the cashews, mix in a pinch of sea salt, maybe even a pinch of nutritional yeast, and sprinkle on the pasta before serving.
If you enjoy the flavors of this creamy lemon pasta, don't miss these new favorites:
I hope you enjoy this simple, comforting and Vegan Lemon Pasta. If you try the recipe be sure to comment below to let us know!
More Vegan Pasta Recipes
Creamy Vegan Lemon Pasta
- 6 to 7 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 Tablespoon olive oil, optional - For oil-free sub water or vegetable broth.
- 2 lemons
- 3 ¼ cups water
- ¾ cup raw cashews - See Notes.
- 2 Tablespoons arrowroot starch
- 2 teaspoons fine sea salt
- black pepper
- 16 ounces pasta of choice
- grated cashews (as mentioned in post)
- Homemade Vegan Parm
- Or store-bought vegan Parmesan
- fresh basil or parsley, chopped
- Heat a pot of salted water for cooking the pasta. Cook according to package directions, then drain in a colander.
- Heat a small saute pan over medium-low heat. Add oil or water/broth, and saute the garlic for 2 to 3 minutes, stirring frequently. Reduce heat if necessary so that it doesn't brown. Transfer the garlic to a blender.
- Zest one of the lemons, and add the zest to the blender along with the water, cashews, arrowroot, and salt. Blend until completely smooth.
- Cut and squeeze the lemon(s) to get ⅓ cup fresh lemon juice. Set aside.
- Pour the blended sauce into the pasta pot. Whisking, cook over medium heat until thickened, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat, and whisk in the lemon juice. Add the pasta, and stir to combine.
- Taste for seasoning. Serve with fresh parsley or basil, vegan Parm, and black pepper, if desired.
Estimated Nutrition (per serving)
Nutrition information is an estimate and will vary depending on the exact amounts and specific products and ingredients used. We calculate this information using the online calculator cronometer.com.
A Note About Arrowroot
In the photos above you can see how deliciously creamy the sauce gets as you heat it. This is thanks to both the arrowroot starch and the starch in the cashews.
I really love arrowroot starch for creamy sauces like this. It takes on such a silky texture, making it ideal for this type of vegan sauce.
You can find arrowroot in most well-stocked grocery stores these days or online from sites like Amazon. It's great for thickening soups (vegan cream of mushroom, anyone?) and gravies.
Similar to what I love about my Best Vegan Stovetop Mac and Cheese, this sauce stays very creamy even as it cools. Some vegan cream sauces get dry, even sort of pasty-looking, as they cool, but arrowroot (plus plenty of water) works wonders in this one.
Another perk is that it can withstand acidic ingredients like lemon juice, whereas corn starch doesn't always thicken well in the presence of acids.
This is a go to recipe for an easy, elegant meal.
So glad you enjoy it, Meg!
Made this recipe for the first time tonight and we loved it! To cut down on cost and fat, instead of all cashews, I used 50% chickpeas, 25% sunflower seeds and 25% cashews. Still very creamy and rich! I will definitely make it again and again.
Fantastic idea incorporating chickpeas and seeds! I'll try that next time, too. Glad you all enjoyed it, Nina.
Absolutely loved this dish! I had an old standby vegan lemon pasta but this topped it. I stirred in some chopped fresh spinach just before serving. This is a keeper.
Wonderful, Valerie! Thanks so much for the feedback. 🙂