Rich, creamy, and flavorful, this Vegan Carbonara is a super easy but impressive dish. Loaded with vegan bacon, vegan Parmesan, fresh basil, and smothered in a creamy sauce, this dish comes together in less than a half hour so it’s perfect for weeknights OR fancy dinners!
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Hey Internet, do you ever get sick of pasta? I can’t relate. I never get sick of coming up with new ways to enjoy one of my favorite foods.
And I mean, carb is RIGHT IN THE NAME of carbonara, so… it was a no brainer to try and veganize this classic dish.
Carbonara usually contains egg, bacon, and cheese, so we needed to do a little bit of legwork here. A reader actually asked me if I could make a dairy free carbonara recipe at one point. I told them I’d do them one better and create a vegan carbonara recipe. So there.
To make the creamy vegan carbonara sauce, I used sunflower seeds as a base and added a touch of black salt to make it taste slightly eggy.
I used my Portobello bacon for the bacon. Smoky, chewy, and delicious here. chef’s kiss
Are you hungry yet? I’m hungry just thinking about it.
What You’ll Need
- Pasta: Thick noodles are ideal for this dish, but you can really use anything you’d like. If you’re gluten-free, pick up your favorite gluten-free pasta. I personally used bucatini but thick spaghetti or linguine would work well instead.
- Raw sunflower seeds: I like to use raw sunflower seeds wherever cashews might be the obvious choice. For a creamy vegan carbonara sauce, you could use any neutral nut or seed as the base. I chose raw sunflower seeds because they are far cheaper than cashews, don’t have that lightly sweet flavor that cashews have, and are also better for folks who can’t have cashews due to an allergy. You can also just use canned coconut milk or your favorite unsweetened non-dairy milk with some cornstarch (you’ll need to heat it briefly to force it to thicken) instead.
- Pasta water: Pasta water, taken from the pot as it’s cooking (I like to do this just before I drain the pasta), is super starchy and makes for an excellent liquid to use in pasta sauces. I underestimated the power of it until I tried it--gamechanger for sure. If you forget to do this, substitute your favorite unsweetened non-dairy milk or filtered water.
- Nutritional yeast: While traditionally folks might not put cheese right in the sauce, we needed a little flavor to make the vegan carbonara sauce especially delicious. Nutritional yeast is perfect for this, but don’t worry, it’s not a super strong flavor in this dish. If omitted, reduce the amount of liquid added.
- Salt and pepper
- Black salt: Black salt or kala namak is a sulphuric tasting kiln-fired rock salt typically used in Southeast Asia. It has a very pungent and sulphurous taste, making it perfect in egg dishes. I also use it in my plant-based omelette, tofu scramble, vegan quiche, and even in my matzo brei from my Plant Based Jewish Recipes e-Book.
- Vegan bacon: I used my Portobello bacon here and it was super delicious. You could make that, make another vegan bacon that you like, or purchase vegan bacon from the store. Benevolent bacon and lightlife veggie bacon are both decent. Alternatively, you could roast chickpeas with some smoked paprika and salt and call it a day.
- Vegan Parmesan cheese: I grated some Violife vegan Parmesan cheese because I wanted beautiful fine shavings (food photographer problems, lol). You could instead use my homemade vegan Parmesan topping or just use nutritional yeast if you prefer.
How to Make Vegan Carbonara
- If you’re making the Portobello bacon, I’d recommend getting that in the oven before starting your pasta.
- Boil a large pot of water (salt it if you wish) and cook your pasta according to the package instructions. Drain the pasta when it’s cooked but DO NOT FORGET TO RESERVE SOME OF THE PASTA WATER for the vegan carbonara sauce. It’s starchy so it will make the sauce super velvety and stick more easily to the pasta. I like to reserve about 2 cups just in case, but I only ever end up using about a cup and a half with this recipe.
- Next, let’s make that delicious but simple sauce. Add the sunflower seeds, nutritional yeast, salt, and pepper to the blender. Pour about a cup of the reserved cooking liquid. Blend until smooth, and add more of the water a little at a time (blending each time), until the consistency is to your liking. I consistently add about a cup and a half of the cooking water to this recipe and it’s perfect every time.
- Add the sauce to your drained pasta and toss until well combined.
- Serve up the pasta with the vegan bacon and a sprinkle of vegan Parmesan cheese and enjoy!
- Refrigerate leftovers up to 2 days in the fridge, but like most pasta this is best on the first night.
More Vegan Pasta Dishes
I love pasta, what more can I say?
- Vegan Pasta Primavera
- Cashew Pesto (with pasta)
- Vegan Cajun Pasta
- Vegan Baked Feta Pasta
- Chickpea Florentine (one pot)
- Vegan Ricotta Pasta with Tomatoes
- Vegan Ragu
- Savory Coconut Pasta
- Vegan Vodka Sauce (with pasta)
- Tahini Pasta with Broccolini
- Vegan Hamburger Helper
As always, I hope you love this recipe--I know I do, and Mr. Zardyplants does too. He gave me very high praise each time I made it… and that makes me so happy. :)
This vegan carbonara is:
- A little cheesy
- A little eggy
- Kinda fancy
- And perfect for a quick and satisfying family dinner, but impressive enough to serve guests!
Let me know in the comments below if you make this recipe or tag me @Zardyplants on Instagram so I can see your beautiful recreations! If you tag me on IG, I will share your post in my stories :)
Also, one quick request: if you love how this recipe looks or tastes, please leave me a 5-star rating and a nice comment–ratings help more people find my recipes which helps me keep providing them! Thank you!