This Vegan Carbonara recipe is healthy, gluten-free, oil-free and nut-free! This easy and delicious dinner is also super high in protein! The creamy sauce is made with silken tofu and nutritional yeast served with peas and crispy tofu ‘bacon’.Jump to Recipe
This recipe is inspired by a dish that was on the menu at a restaurant I used to work at: ‘Coppa Club’. This used to be my favourite dish on the menu before being gluten-free and plant-based.
Carbonara is an Italian dish traditionally made with egg, hard cheese and bacon. Perfect for vegans (please note the sarcasm!).
For the vegan version, I replaced the egg with silken tofu, swapped the cheese for nutritional yeast and instead of bacon I marinated and baked some smoked tofu. Now, I’m not sure if my memory has gone but this tasted nearly exactly like the real deal.
The Carbonara at Coppa Club had peas in it, I’m not too sure if this would be accepted by Italians, but it just adds some freshness (and extra protein!).
A side note about tofu
Tofu is made from curdled soybeans. It may not sound (or look) very appetising, but it a very popular food in the plant-based community. It can be an intimidating ingredient at first, but once you cook with it a couple of times you will be a pro.
The most important thing when cooking with tofu is knowing which ‘type’ you need. Some of the most common types are silken, firm and extra firm.
Silken tofu is the softest of the bunch and is mostly used in sauces, smoothies and in baking. (You can usually find silken tofu in the same aisle as the canned food in your grocery store. It won’t be in the cold section with the other tofu.)
Firm and extra-firm tofu are more commonly used as a meat substitute by chopping it up and baking or frying it. You can also crumble it up and make tofu scramble! A lot of firm tofu that you buy in shops still have some liquid that needs to be pressed out. If you buy this kind you can place it between paper towels on a chopping board, place a heavy pot on top and leave for 10 minutes. I always buy tofu that has already been pressed. This saves a lot of time and effort. (Firm tofu can be found in the refrigerated vegan section in most shops!)
Tofu is low in calories and high in protein. It is also packed with minerals and nutrients such as calcium, manganese, selenium, magnesium and iron!
This recipe perfectly portrays my obsession with tofu. This is the first pasta sauce I ever made with silken tofu and I honestly impressed myself. If you have yet to try silken tofu as a pasta sauce: MAKE THIS RECIPE!
How to make Vegan Carbonara
For the tofu bacon, you can use firm or extra firm tofu. If you have access to smoked tofu, I highly recommend it but plain tofu works well too. You will need to marinate your tofu in soya sauce, syrup, tomato paste, apple cider vinegar, smoked paprika, onion- and garlic granules. Mix the sauce ingredients together, slice the tofu into thin strips and then place together in a bowl for around ten minutes. Place the ‘bacon’ on a baking tray and bake until crispy!
Whilst the bacon is cooking, start cooking your pasta according to the package instructions. When the pasta is nearly done cooking I add frozen peas. Drain the pasta and peas (save a quarter cup of the water) and place back into the pot.
For the creamy and cheesy sauce, you will need silken tofu, nutritional yeast and lemon juice (or apple cider vinegar). You can also add some turmeric to add some colour and antioxidants! If you have one of the following ingredients you could add that too to spice things up:
- miso paste
- mixed herbs
- yellow mustard
Add these ingredients to a blender along with the reserved pasta water. Once smooth pour over the pasta and cook for a couple of minutes. I like to add some spinach or kale!
Serve immediately topped with the crispy tofu bacon, cracked black pepper and salt.
If you make this recipe, please leave your feedback in the comments or tag me on Instagram (@kitseats) I would love to hear from you!
For the Tofu Bacon
- 1 block Smoked tofu or regular firm / extra firm tofu
- 1/4 cup Gluten-free Soy Sauce
- 1 tbsp Tomato Paste
- 1 tbsp Maple Syrup
- 1 tsp Apple Cider Vinegar or white / balsamic vinegar
- 1/4 tsp Garlic Powder
- 1/4 tsp Onion Powder
- 1/2 tsp Smoked Paprika
For the Carbonara
- 1 box Silken Tofu around 300-350 grams
- 1/4 cup Nutritional Yeast
- 1 tbsp Apple Cider Vinegar
- 1/4 cup Reserved Pasta Water
- 1/2 tsp Turmeric optional
- 1/2 tsp Black Pepper
- 1 tsp Miso Paste, dried herbs or yellow mustard optional for extra flavour
- 4 servings Spaghetti or any pasta shape or zoodles!
- 100 grams Frozen Peas
- Spinach or Kale (optional)
- Salt to taste
- To prepare the tofu bacon mix together the sauce ingredients in a bowl. Thinly slice the tofu into "rashers" and place in the bowl with the marinade. Make sure it is all coated and set aside to soak for around 10 minutes.
- Once soaked, lay the "bacon" on a baking tray lined with grease-proof paper or oil spray. Bake for 10 minutes at 200°C. After 10 minutes remove from the oven, flip the tofu and pour over the remaining sauce. Bake for another 10 minutes or until crispy.
- Whilst the bacon is cooking, prepare the pasta according to the package instructions. When the pasta is nearly finished add in the peas and spinach or kale to the pot for the last few minutes.
- Drain the pasta and save 1/4 of a cup of the pasta water, then place the pasta and veg back in the pot.
- Add the silken tofu, nutritional yeast, vinegar and pasta water to a blender and blend until smooth. Add in turmeric, mustard, miso or herbs if using.
- Pour the sauce over the pasta and veg and turn the stove to medium heat. Mix well and cook until heated throughout. Add lots of black pepper and serve with the crispy tofu bacon and salt if you like.