Creamy and garlicky alfredo sauce made from cauliflower (no cashews! no flour!). This healthy cauliflower alfredo is a vegan, plant-based, oil-free sauce for fettuccini alfredo or creamy white shells or macaroni. It's also delicious as a base for a light puréed cauliflower soup.
Guys, this sauce is so good. Simple, versatile, healthy and creamy plant-based alfredo sauce for pasta.
🧄 Ingredient notes
The sauce is made using just 3 ingredients (if you don't count salt and pepper):
- Cauliflower - fresh cauliflower makes up the bulk of this light oil-free alfredo sauce, which keeps it low in calories compared to a sauce made from cashews, which are high in calories and fat. Save time by using pre-cut cauliflower florets.
- Garlic - fresh garlic adds flavor to this minimalist sauce. I have played around with various levels of garlic in this sauce over the years, as well as how it is prepared. I recommend going for a mellow, balanced flavor by adding it to the cauliflower while it is boiling to tame the sharpness and bite. You could also briefly sauté the garlic in a pan until fragrant, then add to blender. If you enjoy a very sharp garlic flavor, add it raw to the blender, but be careful with this option - there's no going back!
- Almond milk - Be sure to use a milk that is unsweetened and unflavored (no vanilla, etc.) for this savory dish.
- Nutmeg - optional, but traditional in béchamel style sauces. Only a pinch is needed.
📋 Substitutions and variations
Here are some suitable substitutions for the ingredients:
- Fresh cauliflower - use 32 ounces (2 pounds or about 8-9 cups) frozen cauliflower florets/pieces instead. There's no need to thaw it before hand, since you are going to boil it.
- Fresh garlic cloves - substitute with minced garlic (2 teaspoons) or garlic powder (1 teaspoon) but fresh is recommended
- Unsweetened almond milk - soy milk, cashew milk, oat milk and coconut milk will also all work here. (or any unsweetened, unflavored plant-based milk of your choice)
Here are some variation ideas to switch up this recipe:
- Spicy - add chili pepper flakes to the finished dish to infuse a little heat. Or, use cajun salt, like Tony Chachere's, instead of sea salt while blending the sauce.
- Cheesy - add 2 tablespoons nutritional yeast to the sauce before blending. Or, sprinkle on top of the finished meal.
- WFPBNO - this sauce is whole food plant based no oil - use whole wheat pasta
- SOS-free - make this SOS-free by omitting the salt
- Nut-free - Use a nut-free plant milk when making the recipe, such as soy or oat.
- Add broccoli - Make this Gigli Pasta with Broccoli and Vegan White Sauce
- Add mushrooms and asparagus - Make this Creamy Vegan Mushroom Gigli Pasta
- Add kale and corn - Make this Conchiglie Creamy Pasta with Kale and Corn
Want a richer sauce? See this richer version of vegan alfredo white sauce using cauliflower and cashews on my website!
First, you'll boil the cauliflower until fork tender in water.
Then, drain the water and add the cauliflower to a blender with the garlic, milk and salt and pepper.
After blending until smooth
You can use an inversion blender for this, but it's best to blend it in a full blender to get the sauce very smooth. My Blendtec on the soup setting makes it ultra-smooth and almost frothy.
Pour this sauce over cooked pasta of your choice (fettuccini, linguini, rigatoni, macaroni, conchiglie shells, gigli or campanelle) and I dare you not to grab a fork and eat it straight out of the pan.
Make it in the Instant Pot (no drain!)
Yes, you can make this in the Instant Pot! In fact, I'm finding that it's a little easier to do it there and there's less dishes to clean, since I use an immersion blender to puree the sauce.
Give it a try, if you have a pressure cooker!
- High speed blender (I use BlendTec)You can also use an immersion blender, food processor or standard blender, but you may have to stop to scrape down the sides and blend much longer to get a smooth sauce.
- Large stockpot for boiling cauliflower
- Strainer or colander
🥡 Make ahead and storage tips
If you're making this ahead of time, I recommend storing the prepared sauce in glass jars separate from any cooked pasta. Then, when you're ready to serve it, combine the pasta and sauce.
These ingredients, stored separately or together will be good for up to 5 days in the refrigerator.
Freeze the sauce for up to 3 months in a glass mason jar with an airtight lid. Leave and inch or two of empty room at the top to allow it to expand in the freezer.
👨👩👦👦 Serving suggestions
What kind of pasta goes best with Alfredo sauce?
What vegetables go good with alfredo sauce?
- sautéed mushrooms
- steamed green peas
- steamed broccoli
- sweet corn kernels
- chopped kale
- chopped spinach (fresh or frozen)
- red bell peppers (for a bit of color and sweetness)
But, you're certainly not limited to pasta. This sauce can be poured over steamed broccoli for a creamy vegetable side dish. Or, pour it over rice for creamy rice.
Alone, this recipe is a simple puréed cauliflower garlic soup, light and refreshing.
My husband loves it baked with thinly sliced potatoes into an au gratin. I did say it was versatile, didn't I?
We make this several times a month in our house, since it's so incredibly tasty, healthy and simple.
🗺 Cultural influences
Béchamel sauce, or besciamella in Italian, is a white sauce traditionally made of butter, milk and flour. This "mother sauce" is used in many different dishes, like lasagne.
This cauliflower béchamel sauce is a vegan, low calorie alternative that does not require fat to bring the sauce together, but is inspired by traditional white sauce.
Alfredo sauce as we know it in America is very different to how Italians prepare pasta alfredo. According to Vincenzo's Plate, traditional Italian alfredo is pasta made with butter and parmesan cheese and is served when someone is not feeling well.
It's important to understand the cultural background of the foods we all love to eat. Equally important is being willing to expand our palettes with new options, especially if we have a health concern or allergy that dictates a shift in our eating habits.
💜 More recipes you'll love
Love this wfpb alfredo sauce? Try more of my oil-free pasta sauces, dips and condiment recipes.
Vegan No Oil Creamy Cauliflower Alfredo Sauce
- High speed blender I use Blendtec
- 2 pounds cauliflower broken into florets/pieces (1 large cauliflower or 9 cups fresh or frozen)
- 2-3 cloves garlic coarsely chopped (optional - this sauce is delicious without garlic, as well)
- ½ cup almond milk unsweetened, plain (or other plain plant-based milk)
- ½ teaspoon sea salt
- ⅛ teaspoon black pepper
- 1 pinch ground nutmeg optional
- Add cauliflower to stockpot and cover with water. Boil over high heat until fork tender.
- Garlic is optional. This sauce is delicious without it. If you enjoy garlic, feel free to add it, though! If using garlic, here's how to do it: For a strong garlic flavor (my preference), leave the garlic raw and add it straight to the blender with the cooked cauliflower. For a milder garlic flavor, gently sauté garlic in small pan until fragrant. Add tablespoon of water, if garlic starts to stick. Cook only until garlic is fragrant or starting to brown on the edges, do not overcook or burn. Or, you can add the garlic to the boiling cauliflower in the last 5 minutes before you drain it, to cook it up a bit and take the raw taste out.
- Drain cauliflower and add to blender, along with sautéed garlic, almond milk, nutmeg, salt and pepper. Blend for about 60 seconds, or until completely pureed and smooth. Taste and add additional salt and/or pepper, as needed. If the sauce is too thick, add more milk.
- Serve tossed with pasta (fettuccini, linguini, macaroni, rigatoni are all good options). Top pasta with (or serve as a side) steamed broccoli, sweet green peas and/or sautéed mushrooms.
Instant Pot Instructions
- Add cauliflower florets and ½ cup of water to Instant Pot insert. For a mild garlic flavor, add garlic now and steam it along with the cauliflower. For a strong garlic flavor (my preference), add raw garlic just before blending the sauce up (see below). Cover Instant Pot and lock lid and set the vent to "sealing".
- Press "Steam" function and set to 2 minutes.
- When it's done steaming, allow to naturally release pressure for 5 minutes. Then, using a long spoon, turn the vent to "venting". Be careful of the steam!
- Open lid and add almond milk, salt, pepper. Now add raw garlic, for that strong garlic flavor.
- Blend sauce until smooth with an immersion blender. You may need to remove the insert and tilt it to one side to prevent splashes. Or, transfer all ingredients to a blender and blend until smooth. If the sauce is too thick, add more milk.
- Serve tossed with pasta (fettuccini, linguini, macaroni, shells, rigatoni). Top pasta with (or serve as a side) steamed broccoli, sweet green peas and/or sautéed mushrooms.