How do you make cacio e pepe, without butter, cheese, or cream? Just add joy.

No wait, that’s actually Joi, your new best friend for creamy comfort food. Though these bases are essentially condensed plant milks, I’ve found them most useful for creating quick cream sauces and soups for savory dishes, or heavy cream for desserts.

Turning nut butter into milk is one of my favorite thrifty tricks. When you’re in the middle of a recipe, burners blazing with the dials cranked up to 11, it’s the worst feeling to discover that you’re missing a critical ingredient. I tend to guzzle non-dairy milk by the gallon, despite the fact that it only goes into my coffee, which can lead to a terrible disappointment if I don’t double up at the store.

Typically, it takes just 1 – 2 tablespoons of raw nut butter, be it almond, cashew, or even peanut, blended with 1 cup of water, to fill the gaps. It’s not the most elegant solution; naturally, it separates if it sits around too long, curdles in coffee, and comes with a heavier nut flavor than something specifically formulated for cooking or drinking straight.

Enter: Joi, your new shelf-stable, bulk milk best friend. I’m IN LOVE, full stop, with the cashew version for its rich yet neutral flavor to meld seamlessly with absolutely anything. Don’t believe me? Fine, don’t take my word for you; taste it for yourself! Use the code “BITTERSWEET” for 10% off of their website, or click straight through the link to have it applied automatically.

Once you’ve stocked up, hurry back here to make this easy winner. You could still use my old trick in a pinch, employing raw, pure cashew butter in times of need (and untenable cravings.) The name may translate to “cheese and pepper,” but in common parlance, it means creamy, cheesy pasta sparkling with freshly cracked black pepper. It’s the original mac and cheese from ancient Rome, polished up with modern methods. Who needs the blue box when you can start from scratch with equally gratifying instant results?

Yield: Makes 4 Servings

Instant Cacio e Pepe

Instant Cacio e Pepe

Every bit as easy as boxed mac and cheese but far more delicious, this effortless vegan version of cacio e pepe will instantly satisfy all your creamy, cheesy pasta cravings!


  • 1 Pound Pasta, Cooked 1 Minute Shy of Al Dente
  • 2 Cups Reserved Pasta Water
  • 1/4 Cup Joi Cashew Base or Raw Cashew Butter
  • 1/4 Cup Nutritional Yeast
  • 2 Tablespoons Vegan Butter, Melted
  • 2 Tablespoons Chickpea Miso Paste
  • 2 Tablespoons Lemon Juice
  • 1 Teaspoon Ground Black Pepper
  • 1/4 Teaspoon Ground White Pepper (Optional)
  • Salt, to Taste


  1. You'll want to start by cooking your pasta but leave it slightly under-done, since it will continue to soften in the sauce. Drain, reserving 2 cups of the starchy liquid.In a separate saucepan, whisk together the reserved pasta water with the cashew base or butter, nutritional yeast, vegan butter, miso pasta, lemon juice, and pepper.
  2. Stir vigorously until smooth before turning on the heat to medium-low. When it begins to bubble around the edges, add the pasta back in. Cook gently until the sauce thickens to cling to the noodles richly; 3 - 5 minutes. Season with salt to taste.Serve immediately, with an extra pinch of black pepper over the top if desired.


Long pasta shapes like spaghetti or linguini are most traditional here, but I prefer short shapes like wagon wheels (pictured,) shells, or rotini for better structural integrity. Anything goes, really!

For a nut-free option, use tahini instead of the cashew base or butter.

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Nutrition Information:



Serving Size:


Amount Per Serving: Calories: 448Total Fat: 15gSaturated Fat: 5gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 8gCholesterol: 15mgSodium: 588mgCarbohydrates: 64gFiber: 6gSugar: 2gProtein: 17g

All nutritional information presented within this site are intended for informational purposes only. I am not a certified nutritionist and any nutritional information on should only be used as a general guideline. This information is provided as a courtesy and there is no guarantee that the information will be completely accurate. Even though I try to provide accurate nutritional information to the best of my ability, these figures should still be considered estimations.

6 thoughts on “Cacio-22

  1. That sounds good, Hannah, and as for the blue box, we got some not too long ago and were not impressed by the flavor. It was much better after I added some tasty cheese but why spend the money when you can make something so much better yourself and Annie’s makes a much better version. Happy Friday.


    1. I have a feeling that the only reason the blue box endures is purely out of nostalgia. People grew up with it, so even though it’s terrible, that’s what they learned to love. Hopefully the next generation will have more educated palates!

    1. Yes, absolutely! A mild, white miso would be ideal. I like using chickpea because it’s the most allergen-friendly, since it’s soy-free.

  2. I had this at Mario Batalis Singapore restaurant (what a twat I sound) but it was the best pasta dish I ever did eat.

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