Today we’re rustling up a vegan take on the Italian classic, the Carbonara. This recipe is honestly as close to the pancetta, egg and parmesan version as I could get, and I reckon if you fed it to someone blindfolded, they wouldn’t know the difference. Up for that challenge? Good. Let’s make a 15-minute Vegan Carbonara.
Estimated reading time: 6 minutes
Table of contents
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I had several hearty chuckles to myself whilst making this recipe. I was thinking about the waiter we met whilst in Milan about 18 months ago. My friend, a massive carbonara fiend, asked where we might find a decent carbonara, the waiters reply? “Rome”. So, I just imagined his face if we asked where to get our hands on a vegan version.
I love carbonara. I remember shopping in Marks & Spencer on Oxford Street, after probably, three too many drinks in Soho, for ingredients to make the classic, non-vegan carbonara. We ended up spending £80 on ingredients, but to this day, my pal, yes, the same one mentioned above, asked when I’m next making him a carbonara.
Obviously, this vegan version isn’t REALLY a carbonara. There are no eggs, there’s no parmesan, and there is definitely no pancetta. I can only imagine what obscenities would be yelled at me in rural Italy if I tried to pass this off as such.
Before we dive in, I recently read a book called "Vegan Savvy" by dietician Azmina Govindji, which has sharpened my mind regarding nutrition. From now on, I'll list extra information about why I've chosen certain ingredients for dishes and how they're better for you.
There are also alternatives to make the dish with what you have. I'm about to embark on a whole nutrition course, so that's exciting. Needless to say, I'm not a qualified dietician, and you should speak to one if you need specific health advice.
So, what are the ingredients for this carbonara?
For the classic velvety, creamy sauce that clings to the pasta we’ll use:
- 150g (5.3 ounces) Silken Tofu - Silken Tofu is best for a smooth, silky and creamy sauce that clings to the pasta.
- 150ml (scant ⅔’s of a cup) Unsweetened Soya Milk - The soya milk helps blend the tofu to a much smoother consistency. Most soya milk is fortified with Vitamin B12, and calcium so you'll get an extra boost of nutrients.
- 1 Teaspoon Liquid Smoke - to replace the smokiness of pancetta.
- 1 Teaspoon Dijon Mustard - adds a depth of flavour and additional silkiness to the sauce.
- 2 Tablespoons of Rapeseed Oil - brings the sauce together beautifully, plus a little boost of Omega-3. I use cold-pressed Rapeseed Oil from Lidl. It's super reasonably priced and a must-have in my kitchen.
- 2 Tablespoons of Nutritional Yeast - brings that cheesiness to the dish, plus a boost of Vitamin B-12.
The remaining ingredients are:
- 200g (7 ounces) Pasta - I went for the CLASSIC spaghetti. It's about the only way this recipe is classic. But you can use whichever shape you prefer. I'd stick with long pasta though, linguine or tagliatelle would be fab. Go wholewheat for extra healthy goodness.
- 2 Garlic Cloves - I used the garlic to flavour the oil just before frying the plant bacon,
- A tablespoon of Rapeseed Oil
- 150g (5.3 ounces) Vegan Bacon - I used the Vivera brand and LOVED its smokiness and texture.
If you don't have any soya milk, you can switch this out to pasta cooking water or alternative plant milk. If you're interested in the pro's and con's, healthwise, of these drinks, then read this article from Healthline
The final carbonara here was PRETTY SMOKEY since the plant-based bacon is smokey as hell. I'm down for that, but if you're not, then you may consider ditching the liquid smoke from the sauce.
If you want to go a step further with the dish's parmesan element, then check out the Minimalist Bakers super quick and tasty cashew-based Vegan Parmesan. Sprinkle a generous helping of this over the finished dish just before serving.
If you're avoiding heavily processed foods, which most meat replacements are, then you could use mushrooms or smoked tofu in place of the plant-based bacon.
How To Make Vegan Carbonara
You will not believe how easy this recipe is; all that stress of ending up with scrambled egg that you get with a classic carbonara evaporates.
First up, get a large pot of salted water on for your pasta, and cook the pasta as per packet instructions.
Whilst the pasta is cooking, blend the sauce ingredients until smooth. Be sure to season the sauce generously with salt and pepper.
Now, crush the two garlic cloves, pop in a pan with the tablespoon of rapeseed oil, and gently heat for 4 - 5 minutes until the pan is hot.
Next, add the plant bacon (or tofu or mushrooms) and cook for 5 - 6 minutes. Stir frequently to make sure the "bacon" doesn't get stuck to the pan. Once the bacon is cooked through, remove half of it and set it aside, we'll scatter that over the top in a mo.
Next, stir the sauce to the bacon that remains in the pan, and heat over medium-low heat until hot. By now, the pasta should be cooked, so drain it, and pop that into the pan, and stir to coat in the luscious sauce.
Transfer to serving plate or bowl, crack over a generous cracking of black pepper and top with reserved plant-bacon and serve.
I hope you love this vegan carbonara as much as I do, it's:
- Nut Free
- A carb-fest
- Ready in 15 minutes
- MAD Tasty.
I'd recommend only making as much as you need of this recipe, I've found it doesn't reheat particularly well.
Look out for plant milk that has been fortified with calcium, vitamin B12 and iodine to ensure you're getting the maximum amount of nutritional goodness you need from your plant-based meals.
More Vegan Pasta Recipes
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- 200 g Spaghetti or linguine, or tagliatelle
- 2 cloves of Garlic
- 1 tbsp Rapeseed Oil
- 150 g Vegan Bacon or mushrooms or tofu
- 150 g Silken Tofu
- 150 ml Soya Milk or other plant milk, or reserved pasta cooking water
- 1 tsp Liquid Smoke
- 1 tsp Dijon Mustard
- 2 tbsp Rapeseed Oil or extra virgin olive oil
- 2 tbsp Nutritional Yeast
- Cook pasta is a large pot of salted water as per packet instructions.
- While the pasta is cooking blitz together the sauce ingredients in a blender until you have a silky smooth sauce, season the sauce well and set aside.
- Heat oil in a frying pan over medium heat, crush the garlic cloves and cook for a couple of minutes, until fragrant. Add the Vegan Bacon and cook as per packet instructions (5- 6 minutes).
- Remove half the "bacon" and set aside, cover to keep warm. Remove the garlic cloves and discard.
- Add the sauce to the pan with the remaining plant bacon and cooking for 4 - 5 minutes over medium heat until hot.
- Add the cooked pasta and toss thoroughly to coat in the silky sauce. Transfer to serving plate or bowl, top with remaining vegan bacon. Crack over a generous helping of black pepper and serve.