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’s usually made with meat, some type of cheese or cream (or both) and eggs.
So, is it very tricky to veganise carbonara? Not at all!
There is one simple solution: Tofu!
Here’s what you’ll find in our easy vegan carbonara:
- Spaghetti is traditional, but you can also use other pastas such as fettuccine or linguine. Whole wheat or gluten free spaghetti works too.
- Smoked tofu is our favourite way to make the yummy vegan bacon bits which are fried in olive oil. If you already have some vegan bacon, you can use that instead of the smoked tofu.
- Dried herbs bring a nice flavourful touch.
- Garlic might not be a traditional ingredient in an authentic Italian carbonara, but we find it a very tasty addition to boost the flavour.
- Soy sauce seasons the smoky tofu and brings umami.
- Silken tofu is the base to the silky & creamy sauce.
- Nutritional yeast brings some cheesiness to the sauce.
- Lemon juice adds a bit of tanginess.
- And an optional pinch of turmeric gives the yellow hue that you expect from a carbonara.
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.
Firm 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!
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!
And silken tofu does a brilliant job in the sauce. 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 love it in our Easy Vegan Tiramisu!
Silken tofu can be bought in carton packs, and then it has a great shelf life without refrigeration. It’s one of the vegan pantry staples we always have on hand.
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.
Step by step
This vegan tofu carbonara recipe is really simple and comes together in a few easy steps. You'll find the recipe card below, but here is a visual overview of how to make it:
Step 1 - 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!
Step 2 - For the sauce, start by frying the smoked tofu cubes in some olive oil.
Step 3 - When the tofu cubes get golden, add some dried herbs and finely chopped garlic,
Step 4 - After a minute we add a splash of soy sauce.
Step 5 - Next we add the blended silken tofu, along with a bit of tangy lemon juice, some nutritional yeast and a pinch of turmeric for colour.
Step 6 - At this point, the spaghetti should be just about done as well. Drain it and make sure to reserve some of the starchy pasta cooking water. 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.
Variations and substitutions
Here’s some ideas for how you can make this vegan carbonara your own:
Instead of smoked tofu, you can make our yummy vegan bacon from plain tofu, or use a shop bought plant-based bacon.
Add some veggies! For some tasty greens you can add broccoli or peas - you can even add them into the pasta whilst it cooks or steam them on top. Fried onions or mushrooms are yummy too.
Some fresh herbs or dried tomatoes is also a nice bonus.
For a bit of warm heat add a spoonful of dijon mustard to the sauce.
Use some kala namak (also known as black salt) for some ‘eggy’ taste. Sprinkle a little over the sauce at the end for the strongest flavour.
Plate up with some green salad on the side, freshly ground black pepper on top, and a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil or chili oil if you will.
We also love it with a good sprinkling of our vegan parmesan cheese.
Vegan Spaghetti Carbonara
- 300 g (10.5 oz) spaghetti
- 120 ml (½ cup) pasta cooking water (reserved when draining the pasta)
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 150 g (5 oz) smoked tofu diced
- ½ tsp salt (only if smoked tofu is unsalted)
- ¼ tsp black pepper
- 1 tsp mixed herbs
- 3 cloves garlic finely chopped or minced
- 1 tbsp soy sauce
- 300 g (10.5 oz) silken tofu blended completely smooth
- 4 tbsp nutritional yeast
- 1 tbsp lemon juice or cider vinegar
- ¼ 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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