Loaded Creamy Vegan Pesto Pasta

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Tender orecchiette is drenched in creamy dairy-free pesto sauce and tossed with juicy cherry tomatoes, chickpeas, Kalamata olives and peppery arugula to make this luscious (and easy to whip up!) pasta dinner.

This is what I had in mind when I shared last week’s pesto recipe. Okay, well not exactly. I had something like this in mind, as in, I wanted to create a vegan pesto pasta recipe, but I had a million different ideas as to what direction I’d take it.

Maybe classic pesto pasta with just pasta and sauce? Good but not exactly a recipe. Maybe pesto pasta salad? Okay, but I really wanted a meal. And I actually attempted a one-pot creamy vegan pesto pasta recipe before realizing I just don’t like one pot pasta.

So I ended up with this, which is a two-pot recipe, but really, it’s barely more work than a one-pot recipe and well worth the extra pot.

This one uses coconut milk as the base. It’s rich, creamy, and unlike nut-based sauces, doesn’t require a food processor or blender. (<-- See! Easy.)

Start by making a roux with some flour and olive oil. This is your thickener. Let it cook for a few minutes, then add a mix of coconut milk and another non-dairy milk, like soy or almond. Whisk until smooth and let it simmer for a few minutes.

Once the sauce has a chance to simmer and thicken up, add the pesto, cherry tomatoes, and pasta. You’ll be starting with al dente pasta. This allows you to simmer it in the sauce for a minute, during which time it’ll finish cooking and help the sauce thicken up even more.

Arugula, Kalamata olives, and chickpeas go in at the end. Just stir them into the hot pasta until the greens wilt a bit.

Tips for Making the Best Creamy Vegan Pesto Pasta

  • Feel free to substitute your favorite small pasta shape. I really like how this turned out with orecchiette, but shells, bow-ties and penne would all be delicious in this.
  • For those looking to reduce the fat content, you can replace the full-fat coconut milk with light coconut milk or another cup of other non-dairy milk, but it won’t be nearly as rich and creamy.
  • I used my homemade pesto for this, but if you’re looking for a vegan store-bought variety, try Amore brand.

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5 from 5 votes Print

Loaded Creamy Vegan Pesto Pasta

Tender orecchiette is drenched in creamy dairy-free pesto sauce and tossed with juicy cherry tomatoes, chickpeas, Kalamata olives and peppery arugula to make this luscious (and easy to whip up!) pasta dinner.

CourseEntree CuisineAmerican, Italian Prep Time 10 minutes Cook Time 15 minutes Total Time 25 minutes Servings 4 Calories 567 kcal Author Alissa Saenz


  • 6ouncesdried orecchiette pasta
  • 1 tablespoonolive oil,plus a dash
  • 1 cupfull-fat coconut milk (from a can)
  • 1 cupunflavored and unsweetened non-dairy milk of choice(such as soy or almond milk)
  • 2 tablespoonswhole wheat flour(all-purpose works too)
  • ½cup vegan pesto
  • 1 ½cups cherry tomatoes,halved
  • 1cupcooked (or canned) chickpeas
  • ½cupKalamata olives,halved
  • 1 cupfresh arugula,packed
  • 1-2tablespoonslemon juice,optional (see note), to taste
  • Red pepper flakes, to taste
  • Salt and pepper to taste


  1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the pasta and cook according to the package directions, until al dente (do not overcook).

  2. Drain the pasta into a colander, return it to the pot, and toss with a dash of olive oil to prevent sticking.

  3. Coat the bottom of a large pot with 1 ½ tablespoons of olive oil and place it over medium heat. 

  4. When the oil is hot, whisk in the flour. Cook for 3-4 minutes, until the mixture darkens a bit and begins to smell nutty.

  5. Whisk in the coconut milk and other non-dairy milk. Raise the heat and bring the mixture to a boil.

  6. Lower the heat and allow the mixture to simmer, whisking frequently, for about 7 minutes, until it thickens up a bit. 

  7. Stir in the pesto, cherry tomatoes and cooked pasta. Allow the sauce to continue simmering for about 1 minute. It should thicken up a bit more and coat the pasta.

  8. Remove the pot from heat and immediately stir in the chickpeas, olives and arugula. Stir just until the arugula begins to wilt.

  9. Taste-test and season with lemon juice, red pepper flakes, and salt and pepper to taste.

  10. Divide onto plates and serve.

Recipe Notes

You might not need the lemon juice if you use my pesto recipe (since it already has lemon in it!).

Nutrition FactsLoaded Creamy Vegan Pesto PastaAmount Per ServingCalories 567Calories from Fat 347% Daily Value*Fat 38.5g59%Saturated Fat 15.9g80%Sodium 566mg24%Potassium 610mg17%Carbohydrates 49.2g16%Fiber 6.3g25%Sugar 4.3g5%Protein 12g24%Calcium 150mg15%Iron 4.7mg26%* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.« Chocolate Peanut Butter Chia SmoothieSesame Soba Noodles with Roasted Veggies & Baked Tofu »

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This looks like it’ll hit just the spot. I love having a roux in my pasta, and this looks pretty healthy.


  • Delicious


    • Just what I’ve been looking for! I will be trying this soon.


      • I have been making this recipe many times for the past months. I love it!
        This time though I have made a little bit too much and I wanted to ask you (in case you know):
        Do you think this dish can be frozen and stored in the freezer?

        (imagine the amount I have made haha!)

        thank you for your blog!


        • Hi, I’m Alissa! I’m a former attorney turned professional food blogger. I love creating vegan recipes with bold flavors!

          More about me →

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