Meet Alex Caspero
Alex Caspero is a Registered Dietitian, New York Times Bestselling Plant-Based Chef and mom of two. She aims to cut through the nutrition noise by providing real-life, nourishing tips for body and mind. Learn more about Alex.
Is pasta vegan? Good question! If you are wondering whether pasta considered vegan, here’s what to know when choosing one for plant-based pasta recipes.
Most pasta is made using primarily plant-derived ingredients, though there is a chance that certain types of pasta are not vegan. After all, you’re probably well aware of how frequently milk and egg ingredients are added to packaged products, oftentimes leaving you wondering what the point was.
Naturally, many people adopting a plant-based diet wonder whether their favorite pasta is vegan. The good news is it’s easy to make pasta vegan, like in my favorite vegan pasta dish, my Easy 20 Minute Vegan Pasta.
But while I wish the answer to all the pasta was a simple yes or no, it’s one of those “it depends” questions.
Fortunately, it’s pretty easy to tell the difference between vegan and non-vegan pasta. And once you determine that you’ve chosen a vegan pasta, you can experiment with all sorts of yummy vegan pastas — like Vegan Tomato Basil Pasta or Vegan Rigatoni with Peppers and Sausage.
While most dried pastas are vegan, the only way to truly know is by reading the ingredient list on the packaging. Flour and semolina are the main ingredients in dried wheat pasta. Dried pasta is made on a large scale using high temperatures.
On the other hand, you’re more likely to find eggs and potentially dairy in fresh pasta. Fresh pasta needs eggs as a finding agent. Find these in the refrigerated section of the grocery store.
To make pasta from scratch, you need flour, salt, water, and eggs. The salt and flour are first mixed together, and then the eggs are added to a hole in the middle of the dry mixture. These are all then gently mixed together to combine, and kneaded into a dough. From there, the pasta dough is cut into the desired shape and cooked in boiling water to solidify.
Stuffed prepared pasta, like ravioli and manicotti, traditionally also contain dairy ingredients for their fillings, like milk and ricotta cheese.
However, some fresh pasta that would typically use eggs may use vegetable oil instead, which would make them vegan.
Furthermore, when you’re eating out, you may want to ask the waiter to confirm whether the pasta on the menu is vegan. Much of the time, the riskiest non-vegan culprit will be the butter or cheese sauce piled on top of the pasta. However, some restaurants make their own pasta in-house, which likely contains eggs.
So, the answer to whether pasta is vegan lies in looking at the ingredient list. Generally, dried pasta is vegan while fresh pasta is less likely to be.
Pasta is a wonderfully satisfying meal that you can make in countless ways. Note that there are several types of pasta, each of which has varying nutritional composition. The main ones I want to cover are whole wheat, refined wheat or white, and legume-based pasta.
All grain-based pasta is made from durum wheat flour, which contains the parts of a grain seed called the brain, the germ, and the endosperm.
Make whole wheat flour by combining all three of these parts together. On the other hand, refined wheat pasta and white flours have been processed to remove the bran and germ from the grain seed, and only retain the endosperm.
As a result, refined wheat and white pasta have significantly less fiber and fewer nutrients (unless fortified), but a finer, smoother texture and a longer shelf-life.
In order for pasta to bear the whole wheat title, it has to contain at least 51% whole wheat flour. If you find a pasta that just says “wheat”, it may not contain much whole wheat flour. The only way to tell is by looking at the ingredients.
Lastly, there are a number of legume-based pasta products available today. Beans, peans, and/or lentils are used in place of wheat. For instance, I like to use edamame spaghetti noodles, red lentil rigatoni, chickpea rotini, and green pea penne pasta sometimes. Legumes are rich in fiber, protein, and iron, not to mention flavor.
If your household enjoys pasta like mine, try to mix in a variety of types of pasta and find what you like best. While whole wheat and legume pasta have the most to offer nutritionally, particularly when it comes to fiber, that doesn’t mean you can’t incorporate white pasta sometimes, too. A pasta dish is more than just the pasta itself — you can add an abundance of healthy ingredients to the final product.
If you’re wondering whether pasta is vegan, you’re probably curious if pasta sauce is vegan as well.
Again, this depends on what’s in the sauce. There are plenty of tomato-based or marinara sauces that only contain plant-based ingredients. But there are also plenty that contain multiple varieties of cheese or even meat.
The same goes for other types of pasta sauces, like alfredo and pesto. Alfredo is traditionally a heavy cream base, but there are vegan brands making alternatives with ingredients like cashews. Pesto typically has milk and cheese in it, but again, there are some vegan varieties. You can also make your own vegan Pumpkin Seed Pesto using no animal ingredients at all.
Most dried pasta brands are animal-free. Not every brand’s line makes exclusively vegan pasta, but these brands contain very few egg-based pastas. My favorite vegan-friendly brands are:
I’m Italian, so naturally, I have a deep appreciation for all the pasta, particularly homemade and stuffed pasta.
For most vegetarian pasta recipes, all you have to do is substitute plant-based cheese in its place to make the recipe completely plant-based. For things like lasagna and manicotti, I like to make a mixture of crumbled firm tofu, thawed frozen spinach, nutritional yeast, salt, and pepper to take the place of ricotta cheese. Kite Hill also makes fantastic almond-based ricotta, though it’s fairly expensive.
Otherwise, I love using dried pasta and creating some family favorites. Here are some of my favorite vegan pasta recipes!
Find even more ideas in my collection of 20 Easy Vegan Pasta Recipes.
The Ultimate Plant-Based Protein Cookbook + Course
(Includes 40+ recipes!)
FREE 7-DAY COURSE + COOKBOOK