Picture of oil free creamy vegan pesto pasta. 5 easy ways to add protein to your vegan pasta. Veg Out With Maria

5 Easy Ways to Add Protein to Your Vegan Pasta

This is a low-fat creamy vegan pesto sauce using silken tofu and frozen peas for a boost of healthy plant-based protein. The cannellini beans, mushrooms and nutritional yeast pack in additional plant protein. This recipe will make more sauce than you will need for the pasta, so enjoy the leftovers as a sandwich spread or use as a dip for veggies.
Picture of oil-free creamy pesto pasta with sun-dried tomatoes, cannellini beans, mushrooms in pasta bowl on white wash table. Vegan protein pasta

Pasta can sometimes have a bad rap for being an “unhealthy high carb” food. But, pasta can actually be a healthy high fiber high protein addition to your vegan diet.

Here are 5 easy ways to add protein to your vegan pasta to make it a nutritious and satisfying meal.

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1. Start With the Right Pasta

Setting up a good base using a high fiber high protein pasta is a great start. This provides a more “complex” carbohydrate source which takes longer to digest and doesn’t spike your blood sugar as much as refined pasta/noodles.

Complex carbs also provide more vitamins, minerals and fiber. You can use pasta made with whole wheat, vegetable based pastas with super greens and other veggies or a gluten free option using buckwheat (soba noodles).

Speaking of gluten free, pastas made from chickpeas, lentils, black beans or even edamame can contain 10 to over 20 g protein and 6-13 g fiber per 2 oz serving!

Personally, I like using Banza chickpea pasta.* I used the shells for the creamy pesto pasta, but you could also use the penne.

2. Choose Your Sauce

The fun part! The right sauce really makes your pasta dish, so choose what you have a craving for.

If you want to use a tomato based sauce, you can keep it simple and use roasted diced tomatoes, onions and add basil and fresh crushed garlic. To make it more creamy just add about 1/2 cup raw cashews (soaked and blended) or coconut milk.

A great low fat option if you’re craving a creamy rich sauce is using silken tofu as your base. This is what I used to make the creamy pesto sauce and it also works great for making a healthy alfredo-style sauce.

Silken tofu gives your sauce an awesome creamy texture without the added fat and also provides great plant protein.

Another great low fat high protein option is to use a combo of blended cannellini beans and nutritional yeast. You can add vegetable broth, additional herbs, spices and lemon juice to make it more tangy and flavorful.

3. Add Some High Protein Veggies

That’s right, vegetables have protein! Of course they don’t contain high amounts of protein, but some are higher than others.

The following are a few examples of high protein vegetables:

High Protein Vegetables. Veg Out With Maria

4. Power Up with Plant-Based Protein

There are many plant-based protein options you can use to make your vegan pasta a satisfying and filling dish.

Baked or air-fried (my favorite) tofu or tempeh are great options. Both really soak up the flavor of any marinade you choose. Other soy based options are shelled edamame, soy crumbles or textured vegetable protein (TVP)*.

My recommendation whenever buying soy is to make sure it’s organic or has the non-GMO project verification to ensure it’s not genetically modified.

Some non-soy plant-based protein options are seitan (made from wheat gluten), beans (cannellini beans are great) and lentils.

You probably wouldn’t think pasta and lentils go together, but you can make a delicious lentil bolognese that is packed with nutrition and flavor.

5. Top with Nutritional Yeast

I enjoy sprinkling nutritional yeast on top of my pasta to give it a nutty cheesy flavor. Besides adding flavor, nutritional yeast is a good source of zinc and fiber and is usually fortified with B-12 and folate.

Nutritional yeast is actually considered a complete protein containing all 9 essential amino acids. Just 2 Tbsp contains around 5 grams of protein.

So, top off your vegan pasta with some nutritional yeast for a final protein finish!

Picture of oil-free creamy pesto pasta with sun-dried tomatoes, cannellini beans, mushrooms in pasta bowl on white wash table. Vegan protein pasta

Oil-Free Vegan Creamy Pesto Protein Pasta

Maria Tointon, RDN, LDN
This is a low-fat creamy vegan pesto sauce using silken tofu and frozen peas for a boost of healthy plant-based protein. The cannellini beans, mushrooms and nutritional yeast pack in additional plant protein. This recipe will make more sauce than you will need for the pasta, so enjoy the leftovers as a sandwich spread or use as a dip for veggies.
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Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 15 minutes
Total Time 30 minutes
Servings 4 people
Calories 383 kcal

Equipment

  • 1 food processor
  • 1 colander
  • 1 non-stick sauté pan
  • 1 strainer

Ingredients
 
 

  • 2 cups frozen peas
  • 1.5 cups silken tofu (12 oz)
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 4 Tbsp lemon juice
  • 3 cloves garlic pressed or minced
  • 2.5 cups fresh basil leaves firmly packed
  • 1/4 cup nutritional yeast
  • 1.5 cups cannellini beans cooked (15 oz can)
  • 8 oz chickpea pasta uncooked shells or penne
  • 8 each baby bella mushrooms sliced
  • 1/4 cup sun-dried tomatoes dried, soaked
  • crushed red pepper to taste
  • salt to taste
  • pepper to taste

Instructions
 

  • Remove peas from freezer and thaw in a bowl. Add water to cover and let stand for several minutes until peas are soft. Then drain in strainer.
  • In a food processor combine silken tofu, peas, water, lemon juice, garlic, nutritional yeast, salt and pepper. Blend until well mixed.
  • Add basil leaves to food processor and blend until incorporated into the the pesto mixture, but isn't completely smooth. Adjust for taste, adding in more garlic, lemon, salt, pepper as needed. Pesto sauce can be kept in the refrigerator for 3 days.
  • Bring a large pot of water to boil and cook the pasta according to package directions.
  • Heat a non-stick pan over medium-high heat. Take the mushrooms and wipe off excess dirt using a paper towel. Slice into smaller sized pieces (don't cut too thin) and add to the pan. Cook for around 5 minutes until the mushroom liquid has evaporated.
  • Rinse and drain one can of cannellini beans. Add to the mushrooms and cook for another 1-2 minutes and then transfer ingredients to a large bowl.
  • Pour cooked pasta in colander. Rinse briefly with cool water to stop the pasta from cooking. Drain.
  • Add pasta to the bowl with the mushrooms and beans. Add the sun-dried tomatoes and enough pesto sauce to the bowl to fully cover your pasta. Toss to combine and add more sauce as needed.
  • Sprinkle with crushed red pepper flakes and more salt and pepper if needed.
  • Divide pasta mixture between 4 bowls. You can top with nutritional yeast or use your favorite vegan parmesan. Enjoy!

Nutrition

Calories: 383kcalCarbohydrates: 62gProtein: 29gFat: 7gSaturated Fat: 0.4gPolyunsaturated Fat: 2gMonounsaturated Fat: 1gSodium: 222mgPotassium: 705mgFiber: 17gSugar: 13gVitamin A: 1407IUVitamin C: 41mgCalcium: 166mgIron: 10mg
Keyword oil-free pasta, vegan creamy pesto, vegan protein pasta, high protein pasta, plant protein
Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!

Pasta Equals Happiness

Who says pasta can’t be a healthy high protein, nutrient dense vegan dish that also tastes good and leaves you satisfied?!

As you can see, there are many ways to add plant-based protein to your pasta. Try out some of these tips next time you have a pasta craving.

If you’d like more tips on how to get started on a plant-based diet check out my starter guide + 5 day meal plan HERE.

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