You’ll love this easy vegan carbonara that’s ready in just 15 minutes. Flavourful smoked tofu pieces and smooth silken tofu are the secret to its delicious creamy sauce.
Spaghetti Carbonara in its traditional form is probably the most un-vegan pasta dish ever. It contains meat, some type of cheese or cream (or both) and egg yolks. So, is it very tricky to veganise the carbonara sauce that tastes authentic? Not at all. There is one simple solution: Tofu.
Different kinds of tofu
At first glance, tofu might not seem like the most obvious choice for such a rich, creamy and meaty dish. But not all tofu is alike. We use two different types of tofu in our vegan spaghetti carbonara to come as close as possible to the real thing, and neither of them is your standard plain tofu block.
Smoked tofu is an absolutely amazing substitute for bacon and ham. Cube it or cut it into thin slices, fry it in some olive oil or vegan ‘butter’, and it works magic!
A lot of high quality smoked tofu comes very plain apart from being smoked, so we like to season it quite generously with salt and pepper, plus a bit of soy sauce. We also like to add some mixed herbs too, especially some rosemary and sage, which enhance the woody smoked aroma.
When smoked tofu is fried golden-brown, it gets super chewy and crisp, just like bacon! If you haven’t discovered smoked tofu as veggie bacon, now is the time!
What about the creamy sauce? This job is reserved for silken tofu. I regret underrating this versatile type of tofu for years after trying it the first time. It was in a restaurant, and it was literally just a bland, wobbly block of silken tofu sitting on top of some vegetables.
However, this is not what you should judge silken tofu by! In fact, it has become my absolute favourite thing to use in place of any type of cream cheese, sour cream and the like. We also use it in our Easy Vegan Tiramisu in place of mascarpone.
Silken tofu can be bought in carton packs, and then it has a great shelf life without refrigeration. We always keep a few packs in our pantry to use whenever we need it. You can simply stir the fragile blocks for a more grainy, curdled texture, but we often blend it up for super smooth and silken, creamy sauces.
As a bonus, it only has about 5 % fat, so much less than any type of cream cheese out there. Just add a bit of lemon juice and you get that nice little tang of fresh cheese as well.
How to cook it
Now that we’re all set, let’s cook! This vegan carbonara recipe is really simple and comes together in a few easy steps.
At the same time we heat up a frying pan for the sauce, we put on a big pan of lightly salted water to boil the spaghetti in. Then by the time they are al dente, the sauce will be ready to mix it in to!
For the sauce, start by frying the smoked tofu cubes in some olive oil. Like we mentioned above, if the tofu isn’t marinated and salty, we season it with a good amount of salt and pepper. When the tofu cubes get golden, add some aromatic herbs and finely chopped garlic, and after a minute a splash of soy sauce.
Without wasting any time, in goes the blended silken tofu, along with a bit of tangy lemon juice and some nutritional yeast for some extra flavour. If you’re a fan of the yellow colour that authentic carbonara has due to the egg yolks, a pinch of turmeric takes care of that. The creamy sauce is basically there!
At this point, the spaghetti should be just about done as well. When you drain it, make sure to reserve some of the starchy pasta cooking water. It acts as a great binder for the sauce.
Stir some of it into the sauce, then add in the spaghetti and mix it all together. You can adjust the creaminess of the sauce by adding a bit more of the starchy water until you reach the desired consistency.
Ready to serve! Plate up with some green salad on the side, a crack of black pepper on top, and a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil or chili oil if you will. Maybe you fancy a bit of vegan sunflower seed parmesan?
STEP 1 – Cook spaghetti (reserve some cooking water for the sauce)
STEP 2 – Fry smoked tofu cubes in olive oil
STEP 3 – Add herbs and garlic
STEP 4 – Add soy sauce
STEP 5 – Add blended silken tofu, nutritional yeast, lemon juice and pasta water
STEP 6 – Add spaghetti and stir in
Hungry for more pasta recipes?
Try our quick and easy Kale and Mushroom Pasta with Ginger
Or have fun making your own Vegan Wild Mushroom Ravioli
Vegan Spaghetti Carbonara
- 300 g spaghetti
- 1/2 cup pasta cooking water (reserved when draining the pasta)
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 150 g smoked tofu diced
- 1/2 tsp salt (only if smoked tofu is unsalted)
- 1/4 tsp black pepper
- 1 tsp mixed herbs
- 3 cloves garlic finely chopped or minced
- 300 g silken tofu blended completely smooth
- 4 tbsp nutritional yeast
- 1 tbsp lemon juice or cider vinegar
- 1/4 tsp turmeric optional
- Put on a pan of lightly salted water to boil the pasta in. Add the spaghetti once boiling, and cook on a rolling boil for 8-10 minutes, until al dente. Reserve the cooking water when draining.
- In the meantime, heat up olive oil in a large frying pan
- Add the cubes of smoked tofu, season with salt and pepper and fry on medium-high heat, until golden brown
- Reduce heat to medium, add the herbs and garlic to the tofu and fry for one more minute
- Add the soy sauce, quickly stir in and proceed. If you are blending the silken tofu only now, add a splash of water to the frying pan to keep the soy sauce from catching.
- Reduce heat, and stir in the blended silken tofu
- Add nutritional yeast, lemon juice and turmeric
- At this point, the spaghetti should be just about done. Don't forget to reserve the cooking water when draining!
- Stir half of the reserved pasta cooking water into the sauce. (If you've already discarded it, just use hot water.) Don't worry if the sauce seems a bit liquid at this point.
- Finally, add in the cooked spaghetti to the sauce and mix them in, until the sauce has thickened and the spaghetti are evenly coated with creamy sauce. Add a bit more starchy pasta water if it feels to dry or sticky at any point.
- Serve topped with some freshly ground black pepper and a drizzle of olive oil.
We hope you enjoy your yummy carbonara!
Paul & Sophie
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