Vegan Carbonara is a creamy homemade dinner that’s comforting, flavor packed, and easy to make! Cashew based sauce coats the pasta and it all gets topped off with flavorful tofu “pancetta” that is savory, salty, and downright irresistible. 

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

This carbonara recipe is not at all authentic (this carbonara recipe is), 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.

Stock up on more of the best vegan comfort food dishes with recipes like this one and so many others. Some of my favorites include Lentil Soup, Vegan Chicken and Dumplings, and Vegan Shepherd’s Pie!

Why should you make this Vegan Carbonara?

  • It’s an easy dinner recipe! You can make this easy dinner for any occasion. It’s an excellent weeknight dinner to serve to the family, but it also doubles as an impressive date night/ dinner party entree. 
  • The vegan pancetta is SO good. Seriously, the biggest reason my family always requests Vegan Carbonara for dinner is for the little bits of flavor packed pancetta tofu! They’re pretty addictive. 
  • It’s oh so creamy. The cashew based sauce is easy to make and always satisfies. You’ll love how decadent and creamy it really is!
tongs holding a bunch of vegan carbonara spaghetti noodles

Ingredients needed (with substitutions)

For the vegan pancetta:

  • Tofu – Make sure it’s firm or extra firm so it holds its shape while cooking. 
  • Soy Sauce – You can use tamari for a gluten free substitute. 
  • Tomato Paste
  • Olive Oil – You can swap this out for avocado oil if preferred. 
  • Garlic Powder
  • Liquid Smoke – If you don’t have any liquid smoke, you can use smoked paprika instead.

For the creamy sauce:

  • Cashews – You could try subbing with raw slivered almonds or sunflower seeds, if needed.
  • Garlic – Freshly minced garlic yields the best aroma and flavor. 
  • Water
  • Nutritional Yeast – You can leave this out if you’re not a fan. 
  • Lemon Juice – Only use freshly squeezed lemon juice, not the bottled alternative. 
  • Salt

The rest:

  • Spaghetti Noodles – Any spaghetti noodles will work, from white to whole wheat or gluten free. I used brown rice noodles.
  • Basil – Fresh basil adds the best touch of fresh flavor to this hearty dish. 
  • Vegan parmesan cheese-Either my recipe or I love Violife’s vegan parmesan, it tastes just like the real thing.

How to make vegan carbonara

Find the complete printable recipe with measurements below in the recipe card.

Make the vegan 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.

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.

tofu cubes in a bowl with red sauce for pancetta in vegan carbonara

Dump the tofu/sauce mixture onto the prepared pan and spread the tofu out evenly.

tiny tofu cubes in red sauce on parchment lined pan

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.

baked tofu pancetta for vegan carbonara

Make the creamy sauce for vegan carbonara

Bring 4 cups of water to a boil. Pour the hot water over the cashews and let soak for 5 minutes.

Drain the cashews and discard the soaking water. Add them to a blender along with the garlic, 2 cups fresh water, nutritional yeast, lemon juice and salt. Blend until very smooth. Set aside.

blender with creamy white sauce with bubbles, grey background

Stir it all together and enjoy!

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!

Frequently asked questions

  • Can I make Vegan Carbonara gluten free? Yes! You can easily make sure the recipe is gluten free by using gluten free tamari instead of soy sauce and gluten free noodles.
  • How can I make Vegan Carbonara nut free? I haven’t tried it, but you may be able to substitute sunflower seeds for cashews.
  • How long will Vegan Carbonara stay fresh? In an airtight container in the fridge, any leftovers you have will stay fresh for about 2-3 days. It doesn’t freeze well.
creamy vegan carbonara with tofu chunks and basil in black pan

Want more comforting vegan pasta recipes?

square image of a cast iron pan with pasta and tofu bacon
4.87 stars (22 ratings)

Vegan Carbonara – Creamy and Easy!

Vegan Carbonara is a creamy homemade dinner that’s comforting, flavor packed, and easy to make! Cashew based sauce coats the pasta and it all gets topped off with flavorful tofu “pancetta” that is savory, salty, and downright irresistible. 
Prep: 20 mins
Cook: 40 mins
Total: 1 hr
Servings: 6 servings

Ingredients 
 

Vegan Pancetta

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

  • Bring 4 cups of water to a boil. Pour the hot water over the cashews and let soak for 5 minutes.
  • Drain the cashews and discard the soaking water. Add them to a blender along with the garlic, 2 cups fresh 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
Course: Main
Cuisine: Italian
Author: Nora Taylor
Did you make this recipe?Mention @nora_cooks_vegan_ or tag #noracooks!

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Comments

  1. We made this recipe this past Sunday for my youngest birthday. It was so delicious and tasty. I’ve never used liquid smoke before and actually used the smoked paprika as well. Having the fresh basil and think it’s the absolute best thing to complement the other flavors. Will definitely make it again !!!

    1. I’m happy you loved the recipe! This is a great recipe for a celebration! I appreciate you taking time to share your wonderful feedback and review. Enjoy all your future vegan carbonara meals!

  2. Hi Nora, we just tried this Carbonara and it’s super yummy, thanks for sharing!
    I ended up finishing the red sauce for the tofu with some corn tortilla tips bcs it was too good to go to waste haha.
    The only thing I have encountered with most pasta and cashew sauces is that it comes dry really fast, what do you suggest to make it less dry?

    1. Hi Dessa. You are welcome! Thank you for sharing your great feedback and review! I’m so happy you loved the carbonara! It’s best to eat it right after it cooks, as the noodles will absorb the sauce and thicken the longer it sits. When this happens, simply add a little warm water and mix until it’s no longer dry. Hope this helps!

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