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Creamy coconut milk pasta sauce is so easy to make and takes a simple pasta dish to the next level. It’s velvety and flavorful, effortlessly transforming any pasta dish into a satisfying and comforting meal.
If you’re looking for an easy pasta recipe and want something more flavorful than a jar of marinara sauce—this recipe is for you! Coconut milk pasta sauce is so creamy and delicious! It’s fancy enough to serve for a dinner date yet easy enough to enjoy on busy weeknights.
I do enjoy store-bought pasta sauce on occasion, but there’s nothing like the satisfaction of crafting your own at home. Some of my other favorite homemade pasta recipes are hidden veggie pasta sauce, French onion pasta, and beet sauce pasta.
Why you’ll love it
- Creamy Indulgence: This coconut milk pasta sauce brings a velvety and luscious texture to your pasta!
- Customizable: Whether draped over a bowl of linguine or coating your favorite noodles, this sauce effortlessly elevates the taste of any pasta dish.
- Quick and Easy: Ready in just 30 minutes, this recipe is a lifesaver for busy days. It’s easy to have a flavorful meal without sacrificing precious time.
Ingredients and substitutions
Ready for a simple sauce made with simple ingredients? This creamy tomato pasta sauce uses mostly pantry staples so you can whip this up anytime!
- Yellow Onion: Opt for a medium-sized yellow onion. A white onion also works well.
- Garlic: If you’re a garlic lover, feel free to add extra cloves!
- Coconut Milk: Choose either full-fat or light coconut milk based on your preference. Make sure it’s canned coconut milk which tends to be thicker and creamier than the carton. If you can’t find canned, or would prefer a lower fat option, any plain, unsweetened non-dairy milk will work.
- Tomato Sauce or Tomato Puree: Opt for canned tomato sauce or tomato puree to form the tomato base. Tomato sauce is already seasoned so if you use tomato puree, you may want to add dried oregano, dried basil, or Italian seasoning.
- Diced Tomatoes: Include a can of diced tomatoes with their juices for added texture.
- Nutritional Yeast: If desired, add nutritional yeast for a subtle cheesy flavor. If you can’t find nutritional yeast, you can try these nutritional yeast alternatives or simply omit.
- Whole Wheat Pasta: Choose your preferred whole wheat pasta to complement the sauce for a wholesome and hearty base for your meal. Use gluten-free pasta if needed. My favorite pasta is rotini or penne pasta, but any pasta shape works!
- Cornstarch: Consider adding cornstarch if you prefer a thicker consistency in your sauce. This step is optional and can be adjusted based on personal preference.
- Fresh Basil: Incorporate fresh basil leaves for a burst of flavor in the finished dish.
- Red Chili Flakes: If you enjoy a bit of heat, sprinkle some red chili flakes on top before serving.
How to make coconut milk pasta sauce
Here’s the step-by-step process for making this simple coconut milk pasta sauce:
Step 1: Cook the pasta following the instructions on the package, then drain and set it aside.
Step 2: Meanwhile, in a large pan over medium heat, dry sauté the diced onion and minced garlic until they become fragrant.
Step 3: Combine coconut milk, tomato sauce, diced tomatoes, nutritional yeast, salt, and black pepper in the pan, stirring well. Let the sauce simmer for 5-7 minutes, occasionally stirring.
Step 4: For a thicker consistency, gradually add cornstarch, stirring between each addition, and simmer until the desired thickness is achieved.
Step 5: Once satisfied, remove the sauce from heat, mix in the fresh basil, and toss the cooked pasta until it’s thoroughly coated. Serve the dish warm, and if you enjoy some heat, sprinkle red pepper flakes to taste.
If you happen to have leftovers of this delicious coconut milk pasta dish, here are some tips for storing and reheating:
Refrigeration: Store any leftover pasta and sauce in an airtight container in the refrigerator.
Reheating: When ready to enjoy your leftovers, gently reheat the pasta and sauce on the stove over low to medium heat. Stir occasionally to recombine any separated liquids.
Pasta Texture: Reheated pasta may absorb more of the sauce. If needed, add a splash of coconut milk or vegetable broth while reheating to maintain desired consistency.
- Take the time to sauté the onion and garlic until fragrant. This step enhances the overall aroma and depth of flavor in the sauce.
- When adding cornstarch for thickness, do so gradually and stir well between additions. This helps you achieve the desired consistency without over-thickening.
- Make sure you use canned coconut milk. Coconut milk in a carton is thinner and won’t produce as creamy of a sauce.
This coconut milk sauce pasta is great on its own, but occasionally I like to mix it up with different mix-in’s and sides. Here are my favorites:
- Mix in a variety of veggies. The creamy sauce goes great with bell peppers, broccoli, carrots, and peas or any vegetable you have on hand. It’s really versatile!
- Serve over pasta or try it with spaghetti squash for a healthy twist.
- Make it a complete meal by serving it with a side of these maple glazed brussels sprouts, simple ancient grains salad, or roasted air fryer asparagus.
Yes, you can substitute coconut milk for heavy cream in pasta dishes. Coconut milk adds a unique flavor to the dish, providing a slightly sweet undertone. Coconut milk will impart a subtle coconut flavor to the dish. Full-fat coconut milk will have a stronger flavor so if you don’t like coconut flavors, opt for light coconut milk.
Coconut milk and tomato go great together! This pairing is commonly found in various cuisines, especially in dishes from Southeast Asia and the Indian subcontinent. The acidity of tomatoes and the richness of coconut milk complement each other—the sweetness of coconut milk can help mellow the acidity of tomatoes, creating a harmonious blend of sweet, savory, and slightly tangy notes.
There are a few ways to thicken the sauce.
1. Simmer the sauce over low to medium heat, allowing the coconut milk to reduce. As the liquid evaporates, the sauce will naturally thicken.
2. Mix 1-2 tablespoons of cornstarch with an equal amount of cold water to create a slurry. Stir the slurry into the sauce while it’s simmering. Continue cooking and stirring until the sauce reaches the desired thickness.
3. If you have coconut cream available, adding a small amount can thicken the sauce. Coconut cream has a higher fat content than coconut milk and contributes to a creamier consistency.
Coconut Milk Pasta Sauce
- 1 lb whole wheat pasta of choice
- 1 yellow onion diced
- 3 cloves garlic minced
- 1 13.5-ounce canned coconut milk full fat or light
- 1 15-ounce can tomato sauce or tomato puree*
- 1 15-ounce can diced tomatoes with their juices
- 1 tablespoon nutritional yeast optional
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ⅛ teaspoon black pepper
- 1 tablespoon cornstarch optional
- ½ cup fresh basil lightly packed chopped
- red chili flakes optional, for serving
- Cook pasta according to package instructions. Drain and set aside.1 lb whole wheat pasta
- Meanwhile, prepare the sauce. In a large pan over medium heat, add the onion and minced garlic, dry sauteeing for a few minutes until fragrant.1 yellow onion, 3 cloves garlic
- Pour in the coconut milk, tomato sauce, diced tomatoes, nutritional yeast, salt and black pepper. Stir well to combine.1 13.5-ounce canned coconut milk, 1 15-ounce can tomato sauce, 1 15-ounce can diced tomatoes, 1 tablespoon nutritional yeast, ½ teaspoon salt, ⅛ teaspoon black pepper
- Allow the sauce to simmer for 5-7 minutes, stirring occasionally. If you prefer a thicker sauce, sprinkle the cornstarch in a little at a time, stirring in between, and simmer until desired thickness is reached.1 tablespoon cornstarch
- Once the sauce has reached your desired consistency, remove it from heat and stir in the fresh basil. Toss the cooked pasta in the creamy pasta sauce, ensuring the pasta is well coated. Serve warm. If you like a bit of heat, add red pepper flakes.½ cup fresh basil, red chili flakes