As a kid with an insatiable appetite, I would — without fail — order the chicken alfredo at every opportunity. Simultaneously, I suffered debilitating stomach aches. After a doctor suggested I could be lactose intolerant, I stopped eating dairy and felt immensely better. Did that stop me from enjoying my favorite dish? Absolutely not! Enter: my tried-and-true vegan chicken alfredo recipe. I’ve been making a variation of this recipe for almost a decade. Here’s why it’s perfect:
- A blend of cashews and cauliflower create a rich sauce that’s light and airy, not heavy
- Blackened vegan chicken cutlets add heartiness and more layers of texture and flavor
- The squiggles in fusilli col buco capture the sauce perfectly (although fettuccine works too)
What Is Vegan Alfredo Sauce Made Of?
Vegan alfredo sauce is made of a blend of cooked cauliflower and raw cashews, resulting in a light, creamy sauce without any dairy. Here’s what you’ll need:
Cauliflower: This versatile veggie acts as a blank canvas for the base of the sauce. To make it easy, buy frozen steamable bags that you can just pop in the microwave.
Cashews: They add richness and creaminess to the sauce. Make sure to get raw, unsalted cashews.
Almond milk: Any unsweetened, unflavored plant milk will work.
Extra-virgin olive oil: Adds another layer of richness to the sauce.
White miso: This umami ingredient adds saltiness and that pungent quality reminiscent of parmesan cheese.
Ground nutmeg: Just a tiny pinch adds a flavor that compliments the creamy white sauce.
Salt and pepper: To taste.
How To Make Vegan Chicken Alfredo
There are three main steps to this recipe: blackening the chicken, blending the sauce, and cooking the pasta. Then all three components come together in perfect harmony!
First, blacken your chicken cutlets. Heat a large cast iron skillet (or whatever nonstick skillet you have — I just love cast iron) over medium high heat. Once hot, add 1 tablespoon of avocado oil. Add your vegan chicken cutlets and sear for about 3 minutes on each side, until deeply browned but not burnt. Slice and set aside, cleaning out the skillet (we’ll use it later).
Next, blend up your sauce. Cook the cauliflower florets and add them to a blender along with the cashews, almond milk, miso, salt, and olive oil. Blend on high until very very smooth. Any chunks or grittiness will ruin the creamy effect of the pasta dish. Transfer it back to the skillet and simmer over medium heat.
Cook your pasta to al dente. For fusillo col buco, this is 12 minutes. Follow the package instructions. Once cooked, reserve 1 cup of pasta cooking water and drain the pasta. Add it to the skillet with the sauce and toss everything to combine. Add some pasta water if needed to thin it out.
Serve the pasta, topping each portion with a chicken cutlet, fresh parsley, and grated parmesan.
Recipe Variations and Substitutions
Here are a few ways I like to switch up this recipe:
Add roasted garlic to the sauce. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Cut a whole head of garlic in half (like a hamburger) and drizzle each half with salt and olive oil. Wrap in foil and roast for 1 hour. Let it cool, squeeze out the roasted garlic cloves, and add them to the blender with the rest of the sauce ingredients.
Add peas or broccoli to the pasta. When tossing the pasta with the sauce, add in steamed broccoli or peas for added veggies and a pop of green color.
For a nut-free alfredo sauce: If you’re nut-free, skip the cashews and add 12 oz of silken tofu. Use unsweetened soy milk instead of almond milk, and reduce the quantity to 2 cups. Read the ingredients lists to ensure the vegan chicken and parmesan you use don’t contain nuts, either.
Try these vegan chicken recipes next:
- Vegan Marry Me Chicken With Sun-dried Tomato Cream Sauce
- Date-Sweetened Vegan Teriyaki Chicken
- Vegan Chicken Salad With Toasted Pecans and Grapes
- Takeout-Inspired Saucy Vegan Orange Chicken
- Comforting Vegan Chicken Noodle Soup
Vegan Chicken Alfredo
- High-speed blender
- 4 vegan chicken cutlets (see note)
- 1 12-oz package frozen cauliflower florets or cauliflower rice
- 3/4 cup raw, unsalted cashews
- 2 1/2 cups unsweetened, unflavored almond milk
- 2 tbsp white miso
- 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 tsp sea salt
- 1/8 tsp ground nutmeg
- 1/2 tsp ` freshly cracked black pepper
- 1 lb pasta (fusilli col buco or fettuccine recommended)
- 1/4 cup grated vegan parmesan (for garnish)
- chopped fresh parsley (for garnish)
- Heat a large cast iron skillet (or other nonstick skillet) over medium high heat. Once hot, add a tablespoon of avocado oil and sear the chicken for 3 minutes on each side, until nicely browned. Slice each cutlet into 1/2 inch slices and set aside. Clean out the skillet and set aside — we'll use it later.
- Bring a large pot of heavily salted water to a boil
- Meanwhile, cook the cauliflower according to package directions. (I use frozen cauliflower that steams in the microwave).
- Add the cooked cauliflower, raw cashews, almond milk, miso, olive oil, and salt to a high-speed blender. Blend on high for 1 minute, or until the sauce is completely smooth.
- Transfer the sauce to the cleaned out skillet and heat over medium heat until simmering. Add the nutmeg and black pepper.
- While the sauce is simmering, drop in your pasta and cook to al dente according to package directions.
- Once the pasta is al dente, reserve 1 cup of the pasta cooking water and drain. Add the hot pasta to the simmering alfredo sauce and toss well to coat, adding pasta water if the sauce gets too thick.
- Remove from heat and serve, topping each portion with a sliced chicken cutlet, and garnish with vegan parmesan and chopped fresh parsley.