This Creamy Vegan Carbonara is downright irresistible and easy to make. A creamy sauce coats the pasta and the tofu “pancetta” is pure heaven. Top with fresh basil and vegan parmesan for a truly incredible meal!

looking down on a pan full of creamy pasta with basil and tofu pancetta

This carbonara recipe is not at all authentic, but it is delicious and I think you will love it! Traditional carbonara is made with pork, eggs and cheese, so of course this vegan version is completely different.

I love creating vegan versions of the food you love, like my Vegan Lasagna, Stuffed Jumbo Shells, Mac and Cheese and Vegan Alfredo. I don’t think there is anything wrong with trying to recreate some of the old flavors and dishes that you used to love before you decided to go vegan. And if you can show people just how delicious eating vegan can be, they just may want to give it a go themselves!

Ingredients needed

  • Firm or extra-firm tofu – This is for the vegan “pancetta”.
  • Low sodium soy sauce – Or tamari for gluten free.
  • Tomato paste
  • Olive oil
  • Garlic powder
  • Liquid smoke -If you don’t have this, you can substitute 2 teaspoons of smoked paprika instead.
  • Raw cashews -For the creamy pasta sauce. You could try subbing with another non-dairy milk, but I haven’t tested it myself.
  • Garlic
  • Water
  • Nutritional yeast -If you don’t like it, leave it out.
  • Lemon juice
  • Salt
  • Spaghetti noodles -Any spaghetti noodles will work, from white to whole wheat or gluten free. I used brown rice noodles.
  • Fresh basil
  • Vegan parmesan cheese -Either my recipe or I love Violife’s vegan parmesan, it tastes just like the real thing!

tongs holding a bunch of creamy pasta

How to make Vegan Pancetta

These little tofu bacon cubes are so addictive, my family could not get enough of them! The recipe adapted from my tasty Tofu Bacon.

First, you need to press your tofu. I do this by wrapping the tofu in a clean tea towel and placing my cast iron pan on top for 20-30 minutes. Then chop the tofu into small cubes.

Whisk together the soy sauce, tomato paste, olive oil, garlic powder and liquid smoke in a large bowl, then toss the tofu in the sauce. Add the tofu and sauce to the pan lined with parchment paper, and bake for about 30 minutes, flipping the pieces around halfway through. Be careful not to burn them and watch closely toward the end.

collage showing how to make vegan pancetta

While the tofu pancetta is baking, you can prepare the sauce (it’s as easy as throwing soaked cashews into a blender with a few ingredients), cook the pasta and chop the basil. Mix together the pasta and sauce, and serve with vegan pancetta, fresh basil and parmesan!

Gluten free

You can easily make this vegan carbonara gluten free. Simply substitute tamari for the soy sauce and use gluten free spaghetti noodles. I used Tinkyada Brown Rice Spaghetti.

Leftovers

This recipe serves about 6 people. Leftovers will keep in the refrigerator for 2-3 days and can be reheated in the microwave or even the stovetop. It does not freeze well.

More comforting vegan pasta dishes

square image of a cast iron pan with pasta and tofu bacon

Creamy Vegan Carbonara

This Creamy Vegan Carbonara is downright irresistible and easy to make. A creamy sauce coats the pasta and the tofu "pancetta" is pure heaven. Top with fresh basil and vegan parmesan for a truly incredible meal!
5 from 4 votes

Ingredients

Vegan Pancetta

  • 16 ounce block firm or extra-firm tofu, pressed
  • 1/4 cup low sodium soy sauce/ tamari for gluten free
  • 1/4 cup tomato paste
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 tablespoon liquid smoke/ or use 2 teaspoons smoked paprika instead

Creamy Sauce

  • 1 1/2 cups raw cashews
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 cups water
  • 1/4 cup nutritional yeast
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon salt

The Rest

  • 12 ounces spaghetti noodles (I used gluten free brown rice noodles)
  • 1/4 cup fresh basil, chopped
  • Optional: Vegan Parmesan, *I used Violife parmesan

Instructions

Make the Tofu "Pancetta"

  • Press the tofu: Drain the tofu and wrap it in a clean tea towel. Place a plate or pan on top of the wrapped tofu, and put a couple of heavy books or a cast iron pan on top of that. Let the tofu press for at least 30 minutes if possible.
  • Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F and line a large baking sheet with parchment paper.
  • Cut the tofu into small cubes. In a large bowl, whisk together the soy sauce, tomato paste, olive oil, garlic powder and liquid smoke. Add the tofu pieces and stir well to coat in the sauce.
  • Dump the tofu/sauce mixture onto the prepared pan and spread the tofu out evenly. Bake in the oven for 30-35 minutes, flipping the tofu over once halfway through cooking. Be careful not to burn the tofu. Remove and set aside.

Make the Cream Sauce

  • Boil 2 cups of water (I just heat up water in my tea kettle). Pour the water over the cashews and let soak for 5 minutes.
  • Drain the cashews, and add to a high powered blender along with the garlic, water, nutritional yeast, lemon juice and salt. Blend until very smooth. Set aside.

The Rest

  • Boil the noodles according to package instructions, then drain and return back to the pot. Add in the cream sauce and stir over low-medium heat until the sauce thickens somewhat.
  • Serve immediately with tofu "pancetta", fresh basil and vegan parmesan, as desired. Enjoy!

Notes

  1. Gluten free: Make sure the recipe is gluten free by using gluten free tamari instead of soy sauce, and gluten free noodles.
  2. Nut free: I haven't tried it, but you may be able to use another non-dairy milk in place of the cashews and water. I would try a can of coconut milk or even soy milk (unsweetened, of course) and mix it with the nutritional yeast, garlic, lemon juice and salt to taste.
  3. Leftovers will keep in the refrigerator for 2-3 days. This dish does not freeze well.

Nutrition

Serving: 1serving, Calories: 519kcal, Carbohydrates: 59g, Protein: 22g, Fat: 23g, Saturated Fat: 4g, Sodium: 843mg, Potassium: 518mg, Fiber: 5g, Sugar: 5g, Vitamin A: 166IU, Vitamin C: 4mg, Calcium: 129mg, Iron: 4mg

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