Jamaican Rasta pasta is a simple, flavorful and easy-to-make pasta dish that's perfect for weeknights. This vegan rasta pasta is a meatless version of this popular dish, packed with flavorful ingredient, and is ready in 30 minutes!
This post contains helpful tips and tricks! If you're in a rush, please use the "Jump to Recipe" below!
⭐ Origin Story
Rasta pasta originates in Jamaica, and typically has is made from jerk seasoning, bell peppers, cream, and pasta. The colors of the dish are meant to reflect the colors of the Jamaican flag: yellow pasta, blackened jerk chicken, and green bell peppers and/or cilantro.
Lorraine Washington, "unwittingly" created this dish at the Paradise Yard Restaurant in Negril, in 1985, when she was preparing a meal for some construction workers. The colors of the resulting dish inspired one of the workers to name it Rasta Pasta.
💭 Why you'll love this vegan rasta pasta recipe
Rasta pasta is a delicious, easy-to-make dish that is perfect for any occasion. If you're still wondering why it is loved by so many, here are the reasons why:
- It's packed with flavor. Rasta pasta is full of flavor thanks to the combination of herbs and spices used in the recipe. The dish is also very versatile, so you can add or remove ingredients to suit your taste.
- It's quick and easy to make. This dish only takes 30 minutes to make, which makes it a perfect weeknight meal!
- Vegan / vegetarian version of a classic. Typically, Rasta Pasta has blackened chicken as a key ingredient. This version is a meat-free vegan rasta pasta (that can be made vegetarian by using equivalent dairy products).
📋 Ingredients and notes
To make this vegan Jamaican rasta pasta recipe you’ll need penne pasta, vegetable oil, green onions, colorful bell peppers (mix of red, yellow and green), minced garlic, coconut milk or cream, jerk seasoning, vegetable broth, and vegan cheese.
If you consume dairy, you can use heavy cream instead of coconut milk and vegetarian parmesan cheese instead of vegan hard cheese.
Notes and Variations
- Substitute pasta. You're not limited to just penne pasta in this recipe! This recipe works with whatever pasta you have at home (I've tried macaroni, farfalle, rigatoni, fusilli, and bucatini!) The possibilities are endless!
- Add protein. You can easily add any kind of faux meat into this recipe. For instance, vegan chik'n, plant-based crumbles, etc. You can also add mushrooms to give it a more umami flavor.
- Substitute coconut cream. You can substitute coconut milk for coconut cream for a lighter version of this pasta. Alternatively, you can also make a roux with plant butter and some flour and then add full fat coconut milk or soy milk to make this creamy sauce.
- Homemade jerk seasoning: Though this seasoning is available in most grocery stores these days, it's also super easy to make at home. Mix 2 tablespoons of brown sugar, 1 tablespoon each of garlic powder and onion powder, 2 teaspoons of dried thyme, ground allspice, and ground ginger, and 1 teaspoon each of cayenne pepper, ground cinnamon, ground nutmeg, smoked paprika, ground cloves, and ground white pepper.
📖 Make vegan rasta pasta!
Bring a large pot of salted water to boil, and cook the pasta according to the package instructions. Reserve half a cup of the pasta water, then drain the pasta while it's al dente and set aside.
While the pasta is cooking, heat oil in a skillet over medium heat. Once hot, add chopped green onions and minced garlic. Sauté for 30 seconds until fragrant.
Turn down the heat to low-medium, add chopped bell peppers, and sauté for about five to seven minutes until they're cooked through.
Add Jamaican jerk seasoning and coconut cream. Stir until just combined. Add vegetable stock and cook for about 3 minutes.
This creates the creamy base of the vegan rasta pasta. Note that using coconut milk here will create a slightly less thick sauce.
Add the hard cheese, followed immediately by the cooked pasta.
Allow the pasta to cook more with the sauce for about 3 minutes. Add a little pasta water to adjust the sauce to your desired consistency.
Garnish with fresh herbs and more cheese, and serve hot!
👩🏽🍳 Top Tips for the Best Vegan Rasta Pasta
Follow these five tips to make an irresistible bowl of Rasta Pasta!
- Use fresh ingredients. This is key in any dish, but especially important in rasta pasta. The flavors of the dish come from the freshness of the ingredients, so make sure to use the freshest vegetables, and herbs that you can find.
- Cook the pasta al dente. You want your pasta to be cooked al dente so that it still has a bite to it, since you'll finish cooking it in the sauce. Overcooking can lead to a really mushy consistency.
- Season generously. When it comes to cooking rasta pasta, don't hold back on the seasonings! Go ahead and be generous with them so that your dish has a robust flavor.
- Use a good quality jerk seasoning. This makes all the difference to the dish! Look for a brand that is authentic and has a good reputation. I love the Walkerswood brand (made in Jamaica, comes in mild and spicy versions!) or better yet, make your own at home!
- Adjust to your spice tolerance. This dish is generally quite balanced due to the combination of spicy seasoning and cream. It's very easy to adjust the amount of spice to your desired levels!
👩🏽🍳 Troubleshooting FAQs
Rasta Pasta is a Jamaican pasta dish that blends Jamaican and Italian flavors. The dish is popular in Jamaican restaurants, but it can also be found in some Italian restaurants.
Rasta pasta sauce is a unique blend of jerk seasoning and cream. The bell peppers add a hint of sweetness to the sauce as well, while the latter adds a touch of heat.
This vegan rasta pasta is a mildly spiced, well balanced dish! The seasoning provides a bit of heat, but it's countered by the coconut milk or cream. If you have lower spice tolerance, make sure to purchase a "mild" version!
🍴 Serving and storage suggestions
The rasta pasta can be kept fresh in the fridge for 2-3 days if it is sealed in an airtight container. You can reheat by popping it into a microwave for a minute or two, or by adding it back to a skillet, with a small sliver of plant butter.
Please note that reheating the coconut milk or cream can sometimes cause it to break and result in a bit of a grainier texture, so I don't recommend storing or freezing it for too long.
Make sure to check out these other delicious pasta recipes!
- 1 lb pasta, penne rigate
- 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
- ⅓ cup green onions
- 3 bell peppers, large, tricolor (mix of red, yellow, green)
- 2 cloves garlic, (minced)
- ½ cup coconut cream, substitute heavy cream for vegetarian version
- 2 tablespoon jerk seasoning
- ¼ cup vegetable stock
- ⅓ cup vegan parmesan, substitute any other hard cheese
- Bring a large pot of salted water to boil, and cook the pasta according to the package instructions. Reserve half a cup of the pasta water, then drain the pasta while it's al dente and set aside.
- While the pasta is cooking, heat oil in a medium skillet. Once the oil is hot, add chopped green onions and minced garlic. Sauté for about 30 seconds until fragrant.
- Turn down the heat to low-medium, add chopped bell peppers, and sauté for about five to seven minutes until they're cooked through.
- Add Jamaican jerk seasoning and heavy cream (or coconut cream). Stir until just combined. Add vegetable stock and cook for about 3 minutes.
- Add the parmesan cheese, followed immediately by the cooked pasta. Allow the pasta to cook more with the sauce for about 3 minutes. Add a little pasta water to adjust the sauce to your desired consistency.
- Garnish with fresh herbs and more cheese, and serve hot!
- Cook the pasta to al dente since you'll finish cooking it in the rasta pasta sauce. This way, when you're done cooking, the pasta will be the right texture and not too mushy or overcooked.
- Jerk seasoning is not inherently spicy. If you buy jerk seasoning, look for the Walkerwood brand and get the mild version. Or check out the post for making homemade jerk seasoning!