This Vegan Carbonara is a full-on comfort meal made with savory tofu bacon and a silky sauce that is filled with smoky and cheesy flavors. It'll be a new family favorite!
Spaghetti Carbonara was always a favorite of mine before going vegan. It was so simple, yet SO packed with flavor! I never thought I could veganize it because the primary ingredients consist of meat, cheese, and eggs.
Well, the day has finally come and I made a successful Vegan Carbonara that is now part of my dinner collection. It's filled with smoky, cheesy, and subtle 'eggy' flavors, but without any animal ingredients. Now, I cannot say this recipe exactly replicates a traditional carbonara recipe, but I feel like it captures its essence quite well.
The ingredient list may seem long, but everything is fairly easy to find if you don't have it already. It's pretty easy to prep and the whole dish takes about 40 minutes from start to finish, too.
How to make Vegan Carbonara
(FULL PRINTABLE INSTRUCTIONS IN RECIPE CARD BELOW)
First, you'll need to make the Tofu Bacon
- STEP 1 - Drain and press the tofu, then cut into ¼" cubes.
- STEP 2 - Whisk together the marinade ingredients.
- STEP 3 - Add the tofu cubes and let them marinate for 10-15 minutes or longer.
- STEP 4 - Now heat a Large Non-Stick Pan over medium heat. Add the oil and when it's hot, add the tofu cubes. Cook until browned and slightly crispy on all sides. Remove from heat and place in a bowl. Wipe out the pan.
Next, whisk the Carbonara Sauce ingredients and boil your pasta until just shy of al dente (not pictured)
- STEP 1 - When there are 5 minutes left to the pasta cooking time, start cooking the sauce. Heat the skillet over medium heat, then add the oil and wait until it shimmers. Add the shallots and sauté until translucent. Then add the garlic and sauté until fragrant.
- STEP 2 - Add the sauce and cook until it thickens slightly. Taste for seasoning and add more if needed. When the pasta is done, reserve ½ cup of pasta water and drain.
- STEP 3 - Add pasta to the skillet and stir to coat. Now add ¼ cup of the pasta water and cook down until creamy and noodles are coated (add more pasta water if needed).
- STEP 4 - Fold in the tofu bacon. Remove from heat, then sprinkle with remaining black salt and stir to combine.
- The carbonara sauce consistency should be creamy and silky, but not overly thick. If you want it thicker, you can cook it down a few more minutes or add a cornstarch slurry. Add 1 tablespoon of cornstarch to 1 tablespoon of water. Combine well before adding it to the simmering sauce. Alternatively, you can blend a ¼ cup of silken tofu with the other sauce ingredients.
- If you don't have miso paste, you can add 1-2 teaspoons of tamari to the sauce and 1 teaspoon of dijon mustard instead. It won't replicate the flavor exactly, but it will add a nice umami flavor.
- If you don't have liquid smoke, you can use smoked paprika. However, if you use it in the sauce, it will slightly change the color. It will be delicious though! Alternatively, you can just sprinkle it on after it's plated.
- The type of pasta you use can make all the difference in the way the sauce adheres to it. I like to use bronze cut because the noodles have a subtle rough surface which helps the sauce stick to them.
- Fresh-Cut Parsley
- Crushed Red Pepper
- Vegan Parmesan Cheese
- Fresh-Ground Pepper
What can I serve with it?
Well, this is definitely a filling meal on its own, but it goes well with a side of roasted asparagus, peas, or a small salad. It pairs nicely with a glass of pinot grigio, too!
Alternative to Tofu Bacon:
You can use store-bought Vegan Bacon, Vegan Ham, Tempeh Bacon, or you can brown 8-10 ounces of mushrooms.
If you use the mushroom method, quarter or slice them first. Heat a large pan over medium-high heat. Then add oil and wait until it shimmers. Now add the mushrooms in an even layer in the pan. Let them sit undisturbed for 3-5 minutes and then brown the other side.
Once they are browned, add 1 tablespoon of tamari, 2 teaspoons of smoke, and ground pepper. Remove from heat and follow the remaining instructions of the original recipe.
Alternatively, you can keep the mushrooms in the pan after they have cooked. Lower the heat to medium after they have browned and sauté the shallots and garlic. Add the carbonara sauce and follow the remaining instructions of the original recipe. This will add a slight mushroom flavor to the sauce, but it's still delicious!
Why black salt?
Traditional carbonara is made with eggs which imparts a subtle eggy flavor, so to replicate this, I use Black Salt (Kala Namak). I highly recommend trying it for this recipe, but If you're not into an 'eggy' flavor, you can just use regular salt instead. It will still be delicious! Black salt also works perfectly with Tofu Scramble and Vegan Quiche, too.
Can I make this gluten-free?
YES! Just make sure to use Tamari instead of soy sauce and use gluten-free pasta. This Jovial brand of pasta is my current favorite. It holds up nicely and it's the closest consistency to wheat pasta.
MORE ITALIAN-INSPIRED RECIPES TO ENJOY:
And here are 19 superb Vegan Italian Recipes to choose from. They all look heavenly!
I LOVE TO HEAR FROM YOU
If you make this Vegan Carbonara recipe, I’d love to hear what you think in the comment section below. It would really make my day. You can also follow me on Instagram and share your creation with me. Just tag me @veganhuggs and hashtag #veganhuggs so I don’t miss it.
- 12 ounces spaghetti (or preferred pasta)
- 2 tablespoons olive oil , divided
- 1 small shallot , finely chopped
- 2 cloves garlic , minced
- 2 cups soy milk , unsweetened (or any plant-based milk)
- 1.5 tablespoons lemon juice , freshly squeezed (*see note)
- 1.5 teaspoons apple cider vinegar (sub red wine or white vinegar
- 1.5 teaspoons miso paste , white or yellow
- 3 tablespoons nutritional yeast
- 1.5 teaspoons liquid smoke
- 1.5 tablespoons cornstarch
- ¾ teaspoon fresh ground pepper
- ¾ teaspoon black salt (kala namak) , divided *See note
- In a large bowl, whisk the tamari, vinegar, liquid smoke, smoked paprika, and garlic together. Set aside.
- Cut the pressed tofu into ¼" cubes and add them to the bowl of marinade. Gently toss to coat well. Let the cubes marinate for 10-15 minutes (or longer).
- Heat a Large Non-Stick Pan over medium heat. Now add the oil, and when it's hot, add the cubed tofu (don't pour in the marinade). Cook until browned and slightly crispy on all sides, stirring occasionally. It should take about 7-9 minutes. Lower the heat if needed to prevent burning. Remove from heat and place in a bowl. Wipe out the pan.
- In a large bowl, whisk the soy milk, liquid smoke, cornstarch, nutritional yeast, lemon, vinegar, miso paste, black pepper, ½ teaspoon black salt, and 1 tablespoon of oil until smooth. Set aside.
- Cook the pasta in a large pot of salted boiling water until just shy of al dente (according to package instructions).
- Start cooking the sauce when there are 5-6 minutes left on the pasta cook time. Heat the same large skillet over medium heat. When hot, add the remaining oil and wait until it shimmers. Now add the shallots and sauté until translucent, about 1-2 minutes. Now add the garlic and sauté until fragrant and lightly golden, about 30-60 seconds.
- Whisk the sauce again and add it to the pan. Cook until it thickens slightly for about 2-4 minutes. If the pasta isn't finished, just lower the heat on the sauce or remove it for a minute. Taste for seasoning and add more if needed.
- When the pasta is done, reserve ½ cup of pasta water and drain. Add pasta to the skillet and stir to coat. Add just a ¼ cup of pasta water and cook down until creamy and noodles are coated, about 1-2 minutes (add more pasta water if needed). Fold in the tofu bacon, but reserve some for topping each dish. Remove from heat, then sprinkle the remaining black salt and stir gently to combine. If preferred, add fresh-cut parsley, black pepper, and vegan parmesan. Enjoy!