This creamy tahini pasta with lemon, garlic, and kale is topped with optional crispy savory tofu and red pepper flakes for a spicy kick. This vegan-friendly pasta takes less than 30 minutes to make and is incredibly creamy, slurpable, hearty, and healthy.
Why You’ll Love This Lemon Tahini Pasta Recipe
This pasta is seriously SO easy. I love how versatile tahini is and it makes the best creamy sauce in this recipe (just like my Cashew Cream Pasta!). Because the tahini is the base of the sauce, this pasta is dairy-free and vegan. It’s lemony and fresh, yet hearty just like my Lemon Herb Vegan Couscous Salad!
- Tons of Flavor – This pasta has an earthy nutty flavor with hints of garlic, lemon, and pepper.
- Customizable – I love using fettuccine as the pasta in this dish because the noodles hold on to the cream sauce very well and they offer a nice chewy bite when prepared al dente. But this recipe is completely customizable, use what you have on hand!
- Easy Weeknight Dinner -This tahini pasta is so so so good with my crispy, flavorful baked tofu recipe on top which makes it a complete meal perfect for weeknights!
- 30 Minutes to Make – only 30 minutes to make the tahini pasta sauce and the pasta!
This pasta has a lemony tahini sauce and is great for an easy weeknight dinner but when you dress it up with kale and crispy tofu, it becomes special enough for a date night! If you’re looking for more vegan weeknight dinner ideas, check out this post which has 50+ easy tofu recipes!
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The Vegan Tahini Pasta Ingredients
This vegan tahini pasta is full of flavorful ingredients like lemon, nutritional yeast, onions, and lots of garlic (the more the merrier in my opinion!). The tahini pasta sauce is completely dairy-free and healthy, yet it’s still insanely creamy and comforting.
To make this recipe, you’ll need to gather the following simple ingredients:
- Fettuccine – This type of pasta is ideal for our creamy sauce, it holds onto it well and provides a nice, firm texture when cooked al dente. If you’re gluten-free, you can use brown rice, lentil, or chickpea pasta.
- Tahini – Tahini gives the pasta that lusciously creamy and nutty flavor. Always go for a high-quality tahini for the best taste and texture.
- Olive Oil – Olive oil helps sauté the onions and garlic, and it also adds a lovely flavor to the dish.
- Lemon – Fresh lemon juice and lemon zest add a delightful tanginess that balances out the richness of the tahini paste.
- Maple Syrup – Just a touch of maple syrup adds the perfect amount of sweetness and depth to the tahini sauce.
- Onions & Garlic – These two aromatic ingredients form the flavor base of the sauce. They’re sautéed until fragrant and then mixed in with the rest of the sauce ingredients.
- Salt & Pepper – Essential seasonings to enhance the overall taste of the dish.
- Nutritional Yeast – A vegan favorite, nutritional yeast lends a cheesy flavor to our dairy-free pasta dish.
- Kale – Adding kale not only boosts the nutritional profile of our pasta but also gives it a lovely pop of color.
- Crispy Baked Tofu – An optional but highly recommended addition. The tofu adds a more flavor, texture and of course, serves as a great protein source.
You can customize this tahini pasta recipe according to your dietary needs and taste preferences. Here are some alternatives you can try out:
- The Pasta: If you’re gluten-intolerant or following a low-carb diet, you could use gluten-free pasta, spaghetti squash, or spiralized vegetables like zucchini or sweet potato (see more ideas in the section below!).
- Tahini: If you don’t have tahini on hand or are allergic to sesame seeds, other nut butters like almond butter or cashew butter could work as a creamy and nutty alternative. I don’t recommend using peanut butter as it has a very distinct flavor. If you only have peanut butter, check out this recipe for peanut butter noodles.
- Olive Oil: You can substitute olive oil with other oils like avocado oil or grapeseed oil. For an oil-free version, try using vegetable broth or even water to sauté your onions and garlic.
- Maple Syrup: If you don’t have maple syrup, you could use agave syrup or a bit of brown sugar instead.
- Lemon Juice: In case you run out of lemons, you could use a touch of apple cider vinegar or white wine vinegar to add the tanginess.
- Nutritional Yeast: If you don’t have nutritional yeast, you can use a vegan parmesan substitute or simply omit it. The pasta will still be delicious!
- Kale: Feel free to use other leafy greens like spinach, Swiss chard, or collard greens instead of kale.
- Tofu: Tempeh, chickpeas, vegan sausages, seitan, or roasted veggies can be used as tofu substitutes.
I’m using fettuccine in this recipe, but you could use any pasta that you love. Brown rice pasta, lentil pasta, quinoa pasta or chickpea pasta are all great options to make this recipe gluten-free. The trick is to make sure you prepare it al dente because we’ll be finishing cooking the pasta in the sauce.
⭐️ I personally prefer a longer, thick pasta for this dish because it adds a needed textural component. So you have the creaminess from the tahini sauce, the crispiness from the tofu, and a perfect soft chewiness from the thicker pasta. ⭐️
where to find tahini
The star of our tahini sauce is of course…tahini! Tahini is a paste made from ground sesame seeds. It’s important to use a high-quality tahini. I love the one by the brand Ziyad. I’m able to find this brand at my local grocery store in the international aisle.
If you’re not able to find tahini at your local grocery stores, you can order it online fairly easily! I’ve also used Trader Joe’s in-house tahini before and it is also pretty good.
If you’d like to make it yourself, you can try this recipe!
How to Make the Creamy Tahini Pasta
STEP 1: Prepare your pasta according to the box’s instructions in a large pot of water. While straining the pasta, be sure to reserve about 2 cups of the pasta water.
STEP 2: Heat large stockpot or dutch oven over medium heat. Add the olive oil, chopped onions, and garlic.
STEP 3: Sauté the veggies until the onions are mostly translucent, then add the chopped kale. Give the kale a stir then add the salt, pepper, nutritional yeast, tahini paste, maple syrup, and lemon. Stir until the tahini coats all the kale.
STEP 4: Pour in a cup of pasta water to deglaze the pot and loosen the tahini.
STEP 5: Lower the temperature to low, and add in the cooked pasta. Stir to coat. Add more pasta water as needed to reach your desired sauce consistency. Top with fresh herbs if you’d like!
This creamy tahini pasta is versatile and can be served with an assortment of side dishes to make a well-rounded meal. I personally love sprinkling mine with some red pepper flakes and fresh basil! But here are a few more ways you can serve it:
- With a fresh green salad: A salad made with mixed greens, arugula, cherry tomatoes, and a simple vinaigrette can provide a refreshing contrast to the creamy pasta.
- Paired with garlic bread: You can make a vegan version using a good quality vegan butter or olive oil. It’s perfect for scooping up any leftover tahini sauce!
- Alongside roasted vegetables: Try roasting your favorite vegetables like Brussels sprouts, bell peppers, asparagus, or cauliflower for a healthy and flavorful side.
- With a bowl of soup: A light vegetable soup or a hearty lentil soup can make this pasta dish into a satisfying meal.
To store the tahini pasta, place it in an airtight container and refrigerate for up to five days. The tofu can be stored with the pasta or separately.
To reheat, you can add the pasta to a microwave-safe dish and heat until warm, or reheat leftovers on the stove. If the lemon tahini sauce has thickened too much, add a little bit of water loosen it up.
- Al dente pasta: Remember to cook your pasta al dente, which means it’s cooked so it is still firm when bitten. This will help it to hold up when tossed with the sauce and not become too soft.
- Add pasta water gradually: When making the sauce, add the pasta water slowly to achieve your desired consistency. The starchy pasta water helps to create a silky, rich sauce.
- Adjust seasonings: Don’t forget to taste and adjust the seasonings at the end. You might find you want a little more fresh lemon juice, nutritional yeast, or salt.
- Prep your toppings in advance: If you’re using additional protein toppings like tempeh, chickpeas, or vegan sausage, prepare these in advance to make the final assembly quick and easy.
This vegan pasta is fabulous served with fresh herbs like basil or parsley, nutritional yeast, an extra squeeze of lemon, and with crispy tofu. It would also be delicious with this spinach arugula side salad.
This recipe uses 1/2 a pound of pasta and makes about 4 good sized portions.
This pasta stores very well in the fridge for up to 5 days. Store the pasta in an airtight container. I love making this and using it as a meal prep!
If your sauce looks too thin, try heating the pasta for a few minutes. As you cook the pasta, it should absorb some of the liquid from the sauce and thicken. You could also add an another tablespoon of tahini paste to taste.
Want to learn more about how to cook tofu and ways to use it?
I have a complete tofu beginner’s guide I’ve put together and a free e-book for you!
want more vegan pasta recipes? Check out these!
- The Best Vegan Chicken Parm
- Vegan Chicken Parm Stuffed Shells
- Creamy Vegan Baked Mac & Cheese
- Creamy Sun-Dried Tomato Pesto Pasta
- Vegan Butternut Squash Ravioli
- One Pot Lemony Zucchini Mushroom Pasta
- Creamy Vegan Coconut Milk Pasta
- One Pot Vegetable Pasta with Creamy Tomato Sauce
- Vegan Baked Ziti
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