Cacio e pepe is a beloved dish of Roman origins that translates to “cheese and pepper.” Made with just a few deliciously simple ingredients, it is the perfect pantry dinner that tastes complex but couldn’t be easier to make.
Classic cacio e pepe is made using Pecorino cheese, spaghetti or bucatini pasta, sometimes butter, and always a generous sprinkling of black pepper. With both cheese and butter, it’s not exactly a vegan-friendly dish… until now!
This quick and easy vegan recipe uses nutritional yeast, creamy cashew butter, miso paste, and spicy black pepper to mimic the traditional dish.
The Best Pasta for Cacio e Pepe
Cacio e pepe is typically made with a long noodle, like spaghetti or bucatini. Bucatini is thicker than spaghetti and hollow on the inside, similar to a long, narrow tube. This unique shape is ideal for cacio e pepe, since the creamy, savory sauce will envelop the inside and outside of the pasta.
What Is Nutritional Yeast?
If nutritional yeast isn’t in your pantry, it should be. The deactivated yeast flakes are popular in vegan diets for their savory flavor that tastes a lot like cheese in dairy-free dishes.
Nutritional yeast is the secret to the cheesy flavor in this vegan dish. Typically found in the health food or spice aisle, nutritional yeast not only tastes great but also has high amounts of B vitamins, which can be challenging to get in a vegan diet.
The Essential Ingredients
You’ll just need a few more ingredients in addition to nutritional yeast to make this vegan cacio e pepe:
- Cashew butter is a light nut butter that, unlike peanut or almond butter, has a mild, creamy taste (especially if it’s raw and untoasted). It’s the key to a creamy vegan cacio e pepe. Cashew butter can be found among your favorite nut butters at the grocery store—be sure to buy unsweetened cashew butter for the best flavor. I like Once Again brand.
- Miso paste is an umami-rich ingredient that gives a salty, savory flavor to any dish. It can typically be found with the tofu products or with the Asian sauces and ingredients. I like using white miso for its milder flavor when compared to red or brown miso, but any type will do for this recipe.
- Black pepper is the key to cacio e pepe's signature flavor. I lightly toast the pepper to make it even more flavorful. Don’t rely on pre-ground pepper—use fresh ground pepper, preferably coarsely ground.
- Pasta water is the secret to creamy pasta that sticks to your noodles. Pasta water can’t be replaced with plain water because it has residual, leftover starches from cooking pasta which helps to thicken sauces to perfection. The salted, starchy water also helps to season the dish.
Satisfying Vegan Pasta Recipes
Vegan Cacio e Pepe
Cashew butter is the star of this dish. If you can’t find unsweetened cashew butter, try using tahini or raw, unsweetened almond butter instead.
12 ounces bucatini pasta
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt, plus more to taste
1 teaspoon fresh, coarsely ground black pepper, plus more to taste
1/3 cup unsweetened cashew butter (raw and untoasted, if possible)
1/4 cup nutritional yeast
2 teaspoons miso
Cook the pasta:
Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add the pasta and salt. Cook until al dente (according to the package directions).
Reserve 1 1/2 cups of pasta water and drain the pasta in a colander.
Toast the black pepper:
Meanwhile, add the coarsely ground pepper to a large, deep skillet over medium-low heat and toast until fragrant, about a minute. Transfer the pepper to a medium bowl. You’ll add the pasta back to this skillet, so make sure it is large enough.
To avoid a potential coughing fit, turn on the exhaust fan above your stove before toasting the pepper.
Make the sauce:
Add the cashew butter, nutritional yeast, and miso to the bowl with the pepper. While whisking, slowly pour in 1 cup of the reserved, hot pasta water into the cashew butter mixture. Whisk until creamy and well combined.
At first it may seem like your sauce is too loose. It will thicken as you stir it into the pasta.
Combine and serve:
Add the drained pasta and sauce to the skillet over medium-low heat. Stir and toss constantly until the sauce thickens—this may take a few minutes. If this sauce becomes too thick, add more pasta water, a small splash at a time.
Season with salt to taste and garnish with more pepper. Serve immediately.
Vegan cacio e pepe is best served fresh. Any leftovers can be stored in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 3 days. To reheat, add a splash of water or nondairy milk and place in a skillet over medium heat and cook until warmed through.
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|Nutrition Facts (per serving)|
|Servings: 3 to 4|
|Amount per serving|
|% Daily Value*|
|Total Fat 12g||16%|
|Saturated Fat 2g||12%|
|Total Carbohydrate 36g||13%|
|Dietary Fiber 4g||15%|
|Total Sugars 3g|
|Vitamin C 0mg||0%|
|*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.|