This Creamy Cajun Pasta is an easy weeknight meal, with all the spicy Cajun flavor you love. Once you taste it, it’s hard to believe that the sauce is dairy-free!
Why You’ll Love It
- It’s super flavorful. I can’t believe how much flavor you can pack into a simple pasta dish. You can use a prepared Cajun seasoning if you want to (in that case, use less salt!) but all you need is 5 basic spices to create your own at home.
- Easy ingredients. All you need is a handful of simple ingredients to make this sauce: a can of diced tomatoes with green chilies and cashews make the cream sauce come together. No specialty vegan ingredients, like nutritional yeast, are required.
- It’s customizable. You get to control how spicy this dish is. The first time I made it, I used too much cayenne pepper and my nose was running throughout dinner. But, if that’s what you like, feel free to increase the spice!
- It’s veggie-packed. When I make a pasta dish, I like to make sure that at least half of my plate is filled with veggies, so this one includes bell peppers, onions, mushrooms, and the diced tomatoes. You can take it a step further by replacing half the pasta with shredded cabbage, as I do in my Peanut Noodles or Vegan Pad Thai recipes.
This is such a fun twist for pasta night! I hope you’ll love the flavor as much as I do.
How to Make It
- Cook the pasta. Bring a pot of salted water to a boil (I add a tablespoon of salt to the water) and cook the pasta according to the directions on the package.
- Saute the veggies. In a separate skillet, saute the onion, bell peppers, and mushrooms. Keep this on medium-low heat, so you’ll have time to stir together the Cajun spice blend, without worrying about the veggies burning.
- Stir together the spices. In a small bowl, add in the garlic powder, onion powder, dried oregano, paprika, and cayenne pepper. Stir well, until it looks evenly mixed. You’ll add this to the veggies when they are tender.
- Make the sauce. Open a can of diced tomatoes and green chilies, then drain the juices from that can into a blender. Add in the water, cashews, and salt, and blend until smooth.
- Mix it all together. Drain the pasta and set it aside briefly when it’s done. Add the spice blend to the veggies and stir well to coat them, then add in the diced tomatoes, cooked pasta, and the cream sauce. Stir well, and adjust any seasoning to taste, adding more salt or cayenne pepper, as needed.
- Enjoy! Serve warm right away, with some chopped green onions or fresh cilantro on top.
This dish has plenty of protein when you use a chickpea pasta (I like Banza brand) but you can also add any other protein you like.
A true Cajun pasta would probably have shrimp or sliced sauce added in, so feel free to make it your own, however you see fit.
- How to replace the cashews: If you have a cashew allergy, I imagine using hemp hearts would be a good nut-free substitute. Or, you could use a couple tablespoons of heavy whipping cream, if you don’t need a dairy-free dish. (In that case, omit the water & blending step of this recipe.)
- How to replace the mushrooms: I know not everyone is a fan of mushrooms, even if they may help prevent mild cognitive impairment. You can swap them for thinly sliced zucchini, if you like, or try adding in some shredded cabbage, which I think blends into this sauce nicely.
- How to replace the diced tomatoes: If you can’t find diced tomatoes with green chilies, you can use regular diced tomatoes or crushed tomatoes, or try adding in a couple tablespoons of tomato paste, instead. The tomato flavor really brings this sauce to life, but if you need to avoid them for some reason, you could also add in a squeeze of lemon or lime juice for an alternative acid flavor.
I’d love to hear about anything else you try with this recipe, too! It’s very flexible, so feel free to use what you have on hand.
Creamy Cajun Pasta
- 8 ounces penne pasta (gluten-free, if needed)
- 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil (12 grams)
- 1/2 red onion , chopped (140 grams)
- 2 bell peppers (I use red & green; 128 grams each)
- 4 ounces cremini mushrooms , chopped (117 grams)
- 1 (14.5 oz) can diced tomatoes with green chilies , reserve juices for sauce
- salt & pepper
- 1/2 cup raw cashews (65 grams)
Cajun Spice Blend
- 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1/2 teaspoon onion powder
- 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1/4 teaspoon smoked paprika (or regular paprika)
- Pinch of cayenne pepper
- Bring a pot of water to a boil (I add 1 tablespoon of salt to the water), then cook the pasta according to the directions on the package. When it's done cooking, drain and set aside.
- While the pasta is cooking, heat the olive oil in a separate large skillet. Saute the onion, peppers, and mushrooms until they start to soften, about 5 to 8 minutes. Season the veggies with a 1/2 teaspoon of salt as you stir, and keep this on medium-low heat, so you can stir together the spice blend as the veggies cook.
- In a small bowl, stir together the Cajun spice blend. Start with just a pinch of Cayenne pepper, because you can always add more later, but you can't undo spice! An 1/8 teaspoon of cayenne pepper makes this dish quite spicy, so I recommend starting with less than that.
- To make the creamy sauce, drain the juices from the can of diced tomatoes directly into your blender. To this, add in the cashews, a 1/4 cup of water, and a 1/2 teaspoon of salt. Blend until very smooth, with no visible cashew pieces remaining.
- Once the veggies are tender, add in the spice blend and stir briefly. Then, add in the diced tomatoes, creamy sauce, and the pasta, and toss well.
- Taste the pasta, and adjust any seasoning, as needed. You can add more salt to boost the flavor, some freshly ground black pepper, and another pinch of cayenne pepper, if you like things spicier, or a little more smoked paprika, for more of a smoky flavor. Serve warm, with any extra garnishes you like. (I added chopped green onions and cilantro.) Leftovers can be stored in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 3 days.
If you try this Cajun Pasta, please leave a comment below letting me know how you like it. And if you make any other modifications, I’d love to hear about those, too. I really appreciate your feedback!
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