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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.
️🌟 This is a quick overview with step-by-step photos. For the complete ingredient amounts and instructions, scroll down to the recipe card below.
How to make Vegan Carbonara
The steps to make this Vegan Carbonara are easy! First, you'll need to make the flavor-packed Tofu Bacon. Here's how to do it:
- Drain and press the tofu, then cut into ¼" cubes. Whisk the marinade ingredients then add the tofu and marinate for 10-15 minutes.
- Heat a non-stick pan over medium heat. Once hot, add the tofu and cook until browned and crispy on all sides. Remove from heat and place in a bowl.
- Whisk the Carbonara Sauce ingredients and boil your pasta until just shy of al dente. When there are 5 minutes left to the pasta cooking time, start cooking the sauce.
- Heat the same skillet over medium heat, then add the oil and wait until it shimmers. Add the shallots and sauté until translucent.
- Now add the garlic and sauté until fragrant.
- Add the sauce and cook until it thickens slightly. When the pasta is done, reserve ½ cup of pasta water and drain. Add pasta to the skillet and stir to coat. Now add ¼ cup of the pasta water and cook down until creamy and the noodles are coated. Toss in the tofu bacon. Remove from heat, then sprinkle with remaining black salt and stir to combine.
Vegan Carbonara Success Tips
Here are my top tips to help you create the most delicious carbonara sauce ever!
- The carbonara sauce consistency should be creamy and silky, but not overly thick. If you want it thicker, you can cook it down for 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.
This Vegan Carbonara is perfect as is, but if you want to add a little something extra, here are some tasty topping ideas.
- Fresh-Cut Parsley
- Crushed Red Pepper
- Vegan Parmesan Cheese
- Fresh-Ground Pepper
Alternative to Tofu Bacon
For 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!
Carbonara is a filling meal on its own, but it goes well with a side of roasted asparagus, peas, crusty bread, or a small salad. It pairs nicely with a glass of pinot grigio, too!
YES! Just make sure to use tamari instead of soy sauce and use gluten-free pasta. Jovial brand pasta is my current favorite. It holds up nicely and it's the closest consistency to wheat pasta.
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!
Don't worry about the black salt going to waste. It lasts a long time and you can use it in so many recipes where you want that 'eggy flavor'. I use black salt for many egg-free recipes such as my Vegan Eggs Benedict, this Tofu Scramble, and Vegan Quiche. It works beautifully!
Did you make this recipe? Let me know what you think by leaving a star ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ rating and sharing your feedback in the comment section below. It would really make my day!
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- 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!
- Tofu: wrap a block of tofu in a dish towel and place it on a rimmed plate. Add a cast iron skillet on top (or something equally heavy) and let it drain for 20-30 minutes. Pat dry to remove excess moisture on the surface. You can also use a Tofu Press to make it even easier or you can use Pre-Pressed Tofu. *Prep time doesn't include pressing the tofu.
- I prefer to press the whole block of tofu and save the rest for a different recipe or make extra tofu bacon. It lasts in the fridge for 4-5 days and I use it for salads, casseroles, tacos, wraps, or straight-up snacking. It's delicious! If you do this too, just double the marinade.
- I highly recommend a Non-Stick Skillet for the tofu bacon or a well-seasoned Cast Iron Pan. The tofu sticks easily to the pan and can burn. If you use a stainless-steel pan, just make sure the pan is well heated and oiled before beginning. Watch carefully and stir often.
- Instead of frying, you can bake the tofu cubes at 400 F (200 C) for 20-30 minutes until browned and slightly crispy. Line a large baking pan with parchment paper and spray with oil. Move the crumbles around every 7-10 minutes for even browning.
- Black Salt: it adds a subtle 'eggy' flavor to the dish. I highly recommend trying it at least once. If you're not into 'eggy' flavor, you can just use regular salt instead. It will still be delicious!
- Nutritional information: it includes all of the marinade ingredient amounts. However, a lot of the marinade will be left behind, which will make the values lower.