For a creamy, dairy-free, vodka sauce with the flavor of fall, try my pumpkin pasta sauce, made easy in the Instant Pot. This highly flavored vegan vodka sauce is made with cashews, cauliflower, fire-roasted tomatoes, pumpkin puree, and of course, a little bit of vodka to make it authentic! Serve on top of pasta, roasted veggies, or potatoes for a delicious seasonal vegan main course everyone can enjoy!
I really missed creamy tangy vodka sauce after going vegan. Vegan cream is nothing that is readily available where I live, and any experimental vodka sauce I made with plant milk or even coconut milk turned out thin and unappetizing.
That’s when I decided to replace the dairy cream with cashews and cauliflower. Both make for a creamy satisfying plant-based sauce! You can try this combination in my Creamy Vegan Alfredo Sauce, Vegan Vodka Sauce AND in my Pumpkin Mousse! Really!
Reasons you’ll love this pumpkin vegan vodka sauce
- delicious creamy texture
- warming flavors of fall
- made easy in the Instant Pot and your High-Speed Blender
- can be gluten-free – read your labels
- the perfect pumpkin pasta sauce
- perfect with roasted veggies too
- Check out this post with all the vegan pumpkin recipes – both sweet and savory – from Veggie Fun Kitchen!
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Ingredients needed to make Vegan Pumpkin Vodka Sauce
(It might seem like a lot of ingredients. Don’t worry, this recipe makes the most delicious creamy pumpkin pasta vodka sauce.)
- extra virgin olive oil
- white or yellow onion
- chopped garlic
- canned pumpkin puree (or use homemade pumpkin puree)
- fire roasted tomatoes
- raw cashews
- water for soaking and water for cooking
- nutritional yeast
- tomato paste
- balsamic vinegar
- sumac (see below for info and substitutions)
- Italian seasoning
- cayenne pepper
- fresh basil to garnish your dish
- you’ll also need an Instant Pot or other pressure cooker
- high speed blender
A special note about some of the ingredients
Raw cashews (and a safety warning)
This recipe was developed using raw unsalted cashews. Because the cashews cook in the Instant Pot, they require no pre-soaking. If you use roasted salted cashews, you might need to soak them ahead of time to get the best results. And then triple rinse to remove the salt.
Make sure you inform anyone you serve this sauce that it contains cashews. Nuts are not commonly found in pasta sauce and can be a serious health threat.
If you’ve never tried sumac before, you are in for a real treat. Sumac has a tangy, citrusy, slightly sweet/acidic flavor that lends a real depth of flavor to dishes. I like to add a generous pinch to more bland soups and salad dressings.
Sumac is a component of za’atar seasoning and is used in Middle Eastern cooking. I first became familiar with sumac when trying (and failing) to replicate za’atar – which has a unique and special flavor profile.
Bright red sumac berries are grown on a lovely bushy sumac plant whose berries are coarsely ground to produce the spice.
I almost didn’t include sumac as an ingredient in this pumpkin vodka sauce recipe because sumac is not a typical spice found in American spice racks. Sumac is an up-and-coming seasoning and one I think you will enjoy once you explore.
What can I substitute for sumac?
If you really don’t want to use sumac then you can use lemon pepper instead – which people often fight me on! So if you can’t deal with the lemon pepper either, then add in a little bit of lemon juice to taste after the sauce has been made. You just need a little tang for depth of flavor.
First of all, I don’t know for a fact that the vodka will fully cook out of this recipe. If that is a concern for you then don’t make vodka sauce. And you must disclose to anyone you serve this vodka pumpkin sauce that it contains vodka (along with disclosing about the cashews)!
If you are vegan you might want to check on Barnivore to see if your vodka is vegan-compliant.
Can I leave out the vodka?
Well…it’s vodka sauce. While vodka doesn’t really have much flavor on its own, it does add a depth of…oomph to this rich pumpkin sauce recipe – or perhaps that’s just my imagination haha!
At any rate, if you decide not to use vodka, substitute it with water or vegetable broth. It’s important to have the correct liquid-to-solid food ratio in the Instant Pot for coming to pressure.
How to make vegan vodka sauce with pumpkin in the Instant Pot
Cutting and chopping are included in the prep time. Once you finish that, it’s pretty easy to make this delicious vegan vodka sauce.
Step 1: Saute the onion and garlic
Chop the onion and garlic cloves and get ready to saute. Set the Instant Pot to the saute mode. If you are using a different type of pressure cooker without a saute function then you are going to need to start to soften the onions on the stovetop.
You just want to start to soften the onions – not fully cook them. The Instant Pot will do the rest. After sauteing the onions for a couple of minutes, add the garlic and saute for another minute.
You can also use veggie broth if you want to go oil-free. Just be careful to watch the bottom of your pan so that it doesn’t dry out and burn. If the bottom of your pot burns, it will not come to pressure.
Step 2: Add in the rest of the ingredients
I start out by adding the water and vodka first. In case I have a little burn on the bottom of the pot, I deglaze with the liquid, stirring the bottom of my pan with a wooden spoon.
I prefer using a wooden spoon when I’m stirring the bottom of any pot or pan. It’s just a good habit to get into so that you don’t scratch any non-stick surfaces with a metal spoon. Plus, a wooden handle will not conduct heat and burn you. Ouch!
Next, add in the rest of the ingredients except for the fresh basil. I use fresh basil for my finished product to serve garnished.
Add the cauliflower, cashews, tomato paste, fire-roasted tomatoes, vinegar, nutritional yeast, and seasonings. See above for substitutes for sumac. Lemon pepper should be fine…if you must.
Since I am only using a small amount of tomato paste and don’t want to be wasteful, I portion out the rest into Tablespoon-sized portions and freeze to use another time.
I usually use a bag of already-cut cauliflower florets. If you buy a whole head of cauliflower, just cut it into uniform smaller chunks. That will ensure even cooking and will be easier to blend after it’s cooked.
I use canned pumpkin puree. Make sure to buy the pure pumpkin puree and not pumpkin pie filling. You can also use homemade pumpkin puree, but make sure you are using the right pumpkin for the job.
Pumpkins used to carve jack-o-lanterns make terrible pumpkin puree. Use pumpkins made for cooking. Read more about how to pick the best type of pumpkin for cooking in this article by Southern Living.
Step 3: Pressure cook the Pumpkin Vegan Vodka Sauce
Close the vent and set the Instant Pot for five minutes on high pressure to pressure cook. While the cooking time is only five minutes, it will take about 10 minutes to come to pressure. (That is not included in the prep time but is included in the total time.)
After the Instant Pot has come to pressure and counted down the five minutes, turn it off and carefully do a quick release.
Step 4: Blend the ingredients to make pumpkin pasta sauce
When the cooked ingredients are cooled enough to safely handle, ladle out into a high-capacity blender. This will fill most blenders. You can always work in batches.
Please be careful. The ingredients should be cool enough to work with so that you don’t get burned, but warm enough to serve right away and enjoy.
Blend for a few minutes until everything is nice and smooth. Your sauce will be thick and spoonable – not necessarily pourable.
The ingredients will fill most blenders to the top. Make sure that your blender has a large-capacity container and make sure to keep the lid tightly closed.
You can always blend in batches – though that is a little more hassle than doing it all at once.
As you can see, this pumpkin sauce totally fills the capacity of my blender. It went right to the top. Another few spoonfuls would have been too much!
Of course, the obvious is to serve with your favorite cooked pasta. Garnish with fresh basil and your favorite vegan parmesan cheese. For a whole food plant-based option, try my parmesan cheese with cashews.
It should keep tightly covered in your refrigerator for about five days as long as your cauliflower was quite fresh, to begin with. If the sauce starts to separate then just give it a stir.
For some other delicious Instant Pot recipes from Veggie Fun Kitchen, try:
The printable recipe card for vegan pumpkin vodka sauce in the Instant Pot
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Vegan Pumpkin Vodka Sauce, Instant Pot with Cashews and Cauliflower
- Instant Pot or other pressure cooker
- high-speed blender
- 2 Tablespoons olive oil
- 1½ cup white or yellow onion chopped
- 4 cloves garlic roughly chopped
- 10 ounces cauliflower about 4 cups bite-sized pieces
- 15 ounces pumpkin puree 1 15 ounce can
- 14.5 ounces fire roasted tomatoes
- ¾ cups raw cashews
- 1¼ cup water
- ½ cup vodka
- ¼ cup nutritional yeast
- 2 Tablespoons tomato paste
- 1½ Tablespoon balsamic vinegar
- 1 teaspoon sumac
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1½ teaspoon Italian seasoning
- ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
- fresh basil to garnish your dish
- Rough-cut the onion and garlic cloves into med/small pieces
- Pour the olive oil into the Instant Pot and set to the saute mode. Add the onions and garlic. When they begin to sizzle, stir for three minutes until they begin to soften.
- First, add the water and vodka and stir the bottom of the pot to deglaze any possible burn spots. Next, add the other ingredients except for the fresh basil to the liquid and onion/garlic mixture. Add the cauliflower, cashews, nutritional yeast, pumpkin puree, fire-roasted tomatoes, v, balsamic vinegar, tomato paste, ground sumac, salt, Italian seasonings, and cayenne pepper. Give it a stir.
- Using manual, set the Instant Pot to 5 minutes on high pressure. The Instant Pot will begin to come to pressure and will take up to 10 minutes.
- After the Instant Pot has come to pressure and counted down the five minutes, carefully do a quick pressure release.
- Carefully (it will be hot) ladle the hot cooked ingredients including all of the liquid into a blender. This will reach the maximum capacity of a large blender. If your blender is not large enough to handle all of the cooked ingredients, blend in batches.
- Start the blender on low and work up to high speed. The mixture will be hot so work up slowly with the lid firmly in place to avoid sudden splatters. Blend for about three minutes on high until the vodka sauce is smooth and creamy.
- You MUST disclose to anyone eating this cashew-based vodka sauce that it contains vodka and cashews.
- Sautéing, releasing pressure, and blending is included in prep time. This recipe serves 13 one-half cup servings.
- Adjust the nutritional information to your actual serving size accordingly.
- This will keep in the refrigerator tightly covered for up to five days as long as the cauliflower you used was super fresh.
- You can make this recipe oil-free by sautéing the vegetables in veggie broth. Start with one-half cup. Watch it carefully and add more as necessary to prevent the pan from drying up and burning. If there is any burn at all on the bottom of the pan then it may not properly come to pressure.