This easy vegan pumpkin pasta is made with only eight ingredients—including plant-based cream cheese, which gives it a lovely, creamy consistency. It’s a small batch recipe, which serves two people, and it’s the perfect thing to make when you have a half cup of pumpkin purée left over from baking!
At this point in the fall—after thirty-one days of October—you may be ready for a break from pumpkin themed recipes.
But I’ve got another for you. Hear me out?
If you spend the fall months, as I’ve been known to do, creating batches of orange-hued pumpkin bread or waffles, then you may sometimes find yourself with an opened can of pumpkin purée sitting in your fridge, with just a half cup or so of pumpkin left.
Yes, you could make overnight oats. But what if you’re craving something savory?
This creamy vegan pumpkin pasta is the answer. It’s also a convenient, low-key dinner that features only eight ingredients and is perfect for busy weeknights.
A small batch recipe
If you read this site regularly, then you know that most of my recipes are scaled to serve four people or more.
This is how I cook at home, even though I live on my own. Since I’m a meal prep enthusiast, I’d always rather make the whole batch and freeze or store some than make less.
The Vegan Week
Embrace the joy of eating homemade food every day with the hearty and wholesome recipes in The Vegan Week.
Whether you have three, two, or even just one hour of time to spare, The Vegan Week will show you how to batch cook varied, colorful, and comforting dishes over the weekend.
Once in a while, though, I have a small amount of a certain ingredient that I need to use up. In that case, I make a single serve recipe, or a recipe that serves two.
The scenario that I described above, where I’ve an open can of pumpkin and just a small amount of purée left, is a pretty common occurrence in my home.
My efforts to get creative with that half cup or so of pumpkin purée is how this pumpkin pasta came to be.
Over time, I found the right combination of simple ingredients—ingredients that I almost always have at home—to make it work.
The recipe makes one generous or two medium-sized portions, depending on how hungry you are and what you’d like to serve the pasta with. When I make it, I usually enjoy one portion for dinner and another for lunch the following day, with some toppings and simple veggie sides.
Plant-based cream cheese is the star of this creamy sauce
I’ve been known to rely heavily—almost exclusively, really—on my all-purpose cashew cream for pasta dishes.
It shows up in wintery mushroom pasta, one-pot orzo, skillet lasagna, and more.
Much as I love the cashew cream, it has at least one drawback: some of my readers have cashew or tree nut allergies. So, when I use cashew cream time and time again in my recipes, I’m conscious of the fact that I’m excluding some folks who can’t consume it.
There are also times when I run out of cashews and have to find an alternative for creamy, dairy-free dishes.
That’s actually how this recipe originally came to be. I’d run out of cashews, but I did have a container of Kite Hill cream cheese in my fridge.
I’ve blended vegan cream cheese and water as a substitute for cashew cream before, and I figured it was worth a shot here.
The cream cheese, mixed with the pumpkin purée and just a little bit of tomato paste for umami, worked beautifully.
So, that’s the very simple, three-ingredient pasta sauce that I’m sharing with you today (OK, four ingredients, if you include pasta water).
It gives the pasta a pinkish, orange hue, and a nice, savory flavor.
How to make 8 ingredient creamy vegan pumpkin pasta
The process of making the pumpkin pasta is truly simple—you won’t even need to chop an onion! Here are the steps.
Step 1: Boil your pasta
Bring a pot of salted water to a boil and add your pasta.
Any pasta shape will work here. I usually use a short or medium shape, but you can also use spaghetti, long fusilli, mafaldine, or another long noodle.
Likewise, you can use a type of pasta that suits your dietary preferences and health priorities. Gluten-free pasta will be fine, as will whole grain or bean-based pasta.
Before you drain the pasta, set aside a cup of the pasta cooking water. That’ll become part of the sauce.
Step 2: Blend the sauce
When I make the sauce, I use my blender or a food processor for speed and efficiency.
If you don’t feel like dirtying an appliance, which I can definitely understand, then you can whisk the sauce in a bowl instead.
If you do this, though, I recommend doing it in a particular order, so that you don’t get any lumps or flecks of cream cheese in the sauce.
Place the cream cheese in the bowl first. Add the hot pasta water, tablespoon by tablespoon, whisking as you go.
When you have a smooth liquid, you can stir in the pumpkin and tomato paste. Keep whisking until you have a smooth sauce.
Step 3: Sauté a little garlic
Heat a teaspoon of olive oil in a large, rimmed skillet or a medium sized pot over medium low heat. Add a clove or two (or as many as you want!) of minced garlic to the cooking vessel.
Swish the garlic around in the hot oil for about thirty seconds, or until it’s nice and fragrant, but not burning.
Step 4: Add the pasta and sauce
Next, you’ll add the creamy pumpkin sauce and the pasta to the skillet or pot. Stir and heat the ingredients through.
If the pasta needs to be a little looser, add a tablespoon or two of extra pasta water. Then, taste the pasta. Adjust salt as needed, and also add a squeeze (about a tablespoon) of lemon juice.
Step 5: Serve
You can serve the pasta exactly as it is, perhaps with a green side veggie that you love.
Some vegetable side ideas include my oven roasted eggplant cubes, miso butter Brussels sprouts, or crispy broccoli Caesar salad.
You can also top the pasta with some of my favorite crispy roasted chickpeas or my cashew parmesan cheese. Both of these toppings will add some extra plant protein.
What type of cream cheese is best for the recipe?
With numerous vegan cream cheese options available in stores lately, you may be wondering which is best for the vegan pumpkin pasta.
I have two personal favorites, both of which will work in the recipe. One is the Kite Hill brand cream cheese, which I mentioned already. It has an almond base.
The other is Tofutti cream cheese, which is tofu-based.
An honorable mention goes to Monty’s original cream cheese, which is made with cashews and is delicious—it’s just a bit tricky to find in stores.
Ultimately, you should use the type of vegan cream cheese that suits your preferences, budget, and dietary considerations.
One of the things that I love about using cream cheese in this recipe is that there are options available to suit various food allergies and dietary preferences—nut-free, soy-free, etc.
Can I use a homemade vegan cream cheese in the recipe?
In a word, yes!
I intend for the pumpkin pasta to be a quick and easy recipe, which means that I opt for the store-bought cream cheese more often than not.
Even so, I’m a big believer in making homemade plant-based basics and vegan cheeses. Cream cheese is a rewarding and versatile ingredient to make from scratch.
I can recommend two homemade cream cheese recipes for this pasta. One is my 5-ingredient tofu cream cheese, which is so nutrient-dense.
The other is my go-to cashew cheese, which has a very rich texture and tangy flavor, thanks to cashews and lemon juice.
Neither of these two options will be quite as silky smooth as store-bought cream cheese, but both will add flavor and richness to the sauce.
To preserve smoothness, you can use the blender or food processor option for blending if you use homemade vegan cream cheese.
Substitutes for pumpkin purée (aka how to make creamy vegan not-pumpkin pasta)
Of course, the whole hook of this recipe is that it’s an opportunity to use up pumpkin purée, in all of its creamy and beta carotene-rich goodness.
But what if the pasta appeals to you in its quickness and convenience, but you don’t have pumpkin at home?
No problem. A half cup of puréed, cooked sweet potato will work every bit as well.
It may be a bit richer in texture than pumpkin, in which case you can thin the sauce with a little extra pasta water.
If you have butternut squash or another cooked winter squash at home, you can also use a half cup of puréed butternut squash, kabocha squash, or acorn squash.
Meal prep and storage
Typically, this is a small batch recipe that I make and enjoy within a day or so.
Yet there’s no reason not to store the pasta, if you like. It will keep in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 4 days.
More flash in the pan pasta recipes
This may actually be the quickest pasta recipe that I’ve shared in this space, but it’s in good company.
If you enjoy flash in the pan pasta suppers as much as I do, here are a few others for you to take a look at:
- 20-minute smoky vegan red pepper pasta
- Cauliflower alfredo sauce and easy pasta
- Creamy vegan mushroom pasta
- Beans and greens pasta
- Easy sausage mushroom marinara pasta
While pumpkin season hangs around though, let’s focus on this savory celebration of the beloved gourd—my new low-stress dinner favorite.
- 4 ounces pasta shape of choice (I especially like medium and short pasta shapes for this recipe)
- 1/2 cup pumpkin purée (120g)
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste (30g)
- 2 tablespoons vegan cream cheese* (30g)
- 1 teaspoon olive oil
- 1-2 cloves garlic, finely minced or grated on a microplane
- 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
- cashew parmesan cheese (optional, for topping)
- Bring a medium pot of salted water to a boil. Add the pasta. Cook the pasta according to pasta maker’s instructions, or until it’s cooked to your liking. Reserve 1 cup / 240ml of the pasta cooking water, then drain the pasta.
- In a blender or food processor, blend together the pumpkin purée, tomato paste, cream cheese, and 1/2 cup of the reserved pasta water. Alternatively, you can whisk these ingredients togehter in a mixing bowl. Begin by adding hot pasta water by the tablespoon to the cream cheese, whisking as you go, so that it becomes a smooth liquid. Then, stir in the remaining sauce ingredients.
- Heat the olive oil in the pot over medium low heat. Add the garlic. Cook the garlic for 30 seconds, stirring constantly, or until the garlic is fragrant and sizzling but not browning. Pour the blended pumpkin mixture into the pot, then add the pasta. Heat and stir for two minutes, or until the pasta is warmed through and saucy. If you’d like to thin the pasta sauce, add a few more splashes of pasta water to the mixture.
- Top with cashew Parmesan cheese, if desired, and serve.
With the winter holidays on the way, many of us will be doing a lot of elaborate cooking and baking.
In the midst of all that, it’s nice to have an easy recipe to keep in your back pocket, and especially a recipe that will help you to use up ingredients that you may have left over from other dishes.
This pasta is it. I hope you’ll enjoy it, too.