Al dente spaghetti with smoky soy curl pancetta and a luscious eggy sauce makes this vegan carbonara unforgettable. This vegan twist on an Italian classic is one you don’t want to miss!
This recipe was originally published in December 2020. It has been updated for content and photos.
A traditional carbonara dish is made using Italian bacon (aka pancetta), and a sauce made primarily of eggs and Parmesan cheese. Not vegan friendly, but boy, was this one fun to veganize!
The flavours and textures of this vegan carbonara are spot on! The soy curls make the perfect meat replacement in this dish. (Just like they do in my vegan hamburger helper).
⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ This was SOOO good! I have made hundreds of soy curl recipes but this was brilliant and now my favorite. I used whole wheat fusilli and a whole box of silken/firm tofu, which worked great. Served with roasted artichokes on the side. Thanks you for this tasty recipe–husband and I both loved! – JennyL
Why you’ll love it!
- Soy curls do an incredible job of mimicking the pancetta flavours in this vegan carbonara. They are smoky, salty, and SO SO good.
- Even though this dish is pure comfort food, it’s actually nutrient-dense too. Soy curls and tofu add tons of protein to this dish.
- The eggy sauce is creamy and satisfying, incredibly flavourful, and so easy to make.
- My vegan carbonara recipe is nut-free and oil-free, keeping the fat content low and making it suitable for a WFPB (whole food plant-based) diet. But it’s so rich and luscious that you’d never guess it’s low in fat!
Here’s everything you’ll need to make my vegan carbonara recipe.
- Soy curls: I use Butler foods soy curls. You can purchase them at a local health food store, directly from Butler’s website, or on Amazon. They are a fantastic gluten-free and vegan protein made using whole soybeans with no chemical pesticides.
- Soy sauce: For salty and savoury flavour. Use Tamari for gluten-free.
- Maple syrup: For subtle sweetness. Use date syrup or another liquid sweetener if preferred.
- Spices: Black pepper and smoked paprika add great flavour to the soy curls.
- Pasta: Use any variety, but a traditional carbonara will call for spaghetti.
- Tofu: Makes up the bulk of the vegan carbonara sauce.
- Soy milk: To add creaminess to the sauce.
- Nutritional yeast: For cheesy, savoury flavour to the vegan carbonara sauce.
- Vinegar: Apple cider vinegar adds a subtle tanginess to the sauce.
- Spices: Onion powder, turmeric, and black salt adds savouriness and eggy flavor to the carbonara sauce. You may also add some garlic powder if you’d like.
(This is a summary with step-by-step photos, full recipe measurements and instructions are in the recipe card below.)
Start by breaking your soy curls into smaller pieces and place them in a bowl.
Combine the “pancetta” marinade ingredients in a small bowl. (photo 1)
Pour the mixture over your curls and mix until evenly coated. (photo 2)
Fill a large pot of water and cook the spaghetti according to package directions for ‘al dente’ pasta. Once cooked, RESERVE 1 cup of the starchy water and then drain the pasta and set it aside.
Meanwhile, add all the sauce ingredients to a blender. (photo 3)
Blend until completely smooth. (photo 4)
Heat a deep skillet and once hot, dry sauté the curls over medium heat until golden brown. (photo 5)
Add the spaghetti and carbonara sauce to the same pan and mix well. (photo 6)
Garnish your vegan spaghetti carbonara with more black pepper, (classic versions use a fair bit of black pepper) fresh parsley and/or vegan Parmesan cheese.
Substitutions + Variations
- For gluten-free, use your favourite gluten-free pasta and use Tamari instead of soy sauce.
- To make it extra smoky, add 2 teaspoons of liquid smoke to the pancetta marinade.
- Classic carbonara dishes use spaghetti, but you may use other pasta shapes if you’d like.
- For soy-free: Replace the soy curls with these smoky mushrooms. Or use canned or cooked chickpeas. For the tofu, you may use ⅓ cup of cashews, but note this will increase the calories and fat. The soy sauce can be replaced with coconut aminos with similar results. And the soy milk can be subbed with oat milk, almond milk, or another plant-based milk.
- The black salt aka Kala Namak is a vital ingredient in this dish. It’s what gives the sauce its eggy flavour. Do not skip it if possible. If you don’t have, or cannot find black salt, you may use sea salt with slightly different results.
Your vegan carbonara tastes best when freshly made. As it cools, the pasta will continue to absorb the sauce. However, you may store leftovers in a sealed container in your fridge for 3-4 days.
I do not recommend freezing as it will affect the overall texture.
To reheat your vegan carbonara, add some liquid like broth or plant milk to a pan with the pasta to loosen the dish and return some moisture.
- Salt your pasta water! Be sure to add enough salt to your pot of water for the best results. Here’s a handy guide to help if needed.
- Do not overcook your pasta. Follow the directions for ‘al dente’ pasta. If your package does not include directions for ‘al dente’ then undercook your pasta by 1-3 minutes. ‘Al dente’ means that the pasta is still firm once cooked, and not mushy. This gives you optimal texture.
- Reserve some pasta water for ‘swooshing’ in your blender when draining your noodles. If you forget, use some broth, or fresh water with a little salt, so as not to dilute your carbonara sauce too much, but the starchy water works best.
- Serve your vegan carbonara immediately, as the pasta will absorb the sauce as it cools.
More vegan pasta dishes
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For the Vegan Pancetta
For the Vegan Egg Sauce
For the Pasta
- 410 grams (14.5 oz) spaghetti or spaghettini gluten-free if preferred
- vegan Parmesan cheese
- black pepper, fresh parsley, fresh basil, and/or red pepper flakes
- Break up the soy curls with your hands into small pieces, and place them in a medium bowl. (They don't need to be evenly sized).
- In a small bowl, stir together the pancetta marinade: tamari, maple syrup, smoked paprika, and black pepper. Pour the mixture over the soy curls pieces, stir until evenly coated, and set aside for 5 minutes. Then stir again to get the soy curls to soak up all the marinade.
- Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and cook your pasta according to package directions for 'al dente' pasta.
- Meanwhile, heat a deep skillet on your stovetop, and once hot, add the soy curls to the pan. Dry sauté for about 5 minutes, stirring often, until golden brown, without burning them. Then turn off the heat and set it aside. (If you want to garnish the plates with soy curls later, reserve and set aside a handful of pieces.)
- Add all the sauce ingredients to your blender and process until smooth. Set aside.
- When the pasta is cooked, RESERVE 1 cup of the cooking water before draining. Add the cooked spaghetti to the skillet and pour the carbonara sauce on top. Then add the cup of pasta water to your empty blender, give it a good swirl, or reblend for a few seconds to collect the extra sauce and seasoning on the sides of your blender. Pour this into the skillet and mix well.
- Serve with black pepper, fresh herbs, and/or vegan parmesan cheese.