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. Hi Nora
    I tried making this recipe today. It came out really well. I used some tempeh for the ‘pancetta’ substitute and my parents loved them. I felt that the tempeh alternative to bacon was a bit soft, so I think I might bake them for a bit longer. Other than that, this recipe deserves 5 stars, especially when I really enjoyed the egginess of the sauce. Thank you! 

    1. You are welcome! I am so glad you and your parents loved the recipe! Thank you or sharing your positive review and feedback! Happy cooking!

  2. Hi Nora 
    Love your recipes! You are batting 1000! 
    Question on this carbonara recipe. Can I make the cashew cheese sauce and cook the tofu ahead of time ( 1 day) ?
    Thanks

    1. Thank you so much for your wonderful feedback, Samantha! I’m so happy you love my recipes. Yes, you can make the cheese sauce and tofu ahead of time. Just keep them in separate containers in the fridge overnight.

  3. This dish is delish! That said, mine came out very dry, not creamy. By mistake I didn’t add pasta water, which I normally would. However I did season up some pb-milk when we ate, and than again as I put away leftovers. The tofu pancetta was great. I did add it too soon and maybe that soaked up too much liquid. Any ideas? Nobody else mentioned this in their comments.

    1. It’s best to serve it right after it cooks, as the noodles will absorb the sauce and thicken the longer it sits. If this happens, simply add a little warm water and mix until it’s no longer dry. Hope that helps!

  4. We went vegan about a 1 1/2 months ago. It is hard to find tasty dishes but this one is really good! The sauce is creamy and flavorful. The tofu is so tasty with that hickory smoke in it. And I thought the parm would not be so good but I was wrong. We really enjoyed our dinner tonight. Thanks for the recipe!

  5. I’ve enjoyed recipes from this site, but in my opinion the sauce was kind of bland and runny. After my first serving I added a lot of turmeric and curry powder to make a kind of curry which was nice.

  6. Incredibly delicious!! The first time I made this, I didn’t have tomato paste. I subbed red sauce and ketchup. The second time I made it, I used the tomato paste. Both times were phenomenal!!

    1. Hi Emily! Thank you for taking time to share your review and comments! I’m glad you found the carbonara delicious!

  7. This is hands down amazing and meals like this inspire me so much, such creativity on how to keep all the meals we love when transitioning to a vegan diet. This will now be a regular meal in my home❤️

    1. Hi Deanna. I’m thrilled you love carbonara and that it will be a regular meal in your home! Thank you for sharing your comments!

  8. I used plain unsweetened sodelicious yogurt in place of the cashews and used the rest of the seasoning for the cream. It turned out incredible. The”bacon” bits are amazing, my carnivore father devoured it, and didn’t realize it was vegan.

  9. Made this for dinner last night, wow was it delicious! Will definitely be adding this into our rotation at home. The tofu was spot on.

  10. I just made this with coconut milk, and omg this is seriously delicious, my 2 years old is eating it by the, literal, fist full! 

    Love your recipes Nora, thank you so much!!!

  11. This was great! Filling and delicious. I think I may 1.5 the pancetta coating next time for extra flavor, but that’s just preference. You are my absolute favorite recipe blog!

  12. Whenever I see  Nora’s name come up in a recipe I’m searching, I know it’s a good one and this one did not disappoint. 

    I’ve made tons of “bacon” tofu recipes and creamy vegan pastas with cashews and nutritional yeast , and I LOVE real carbonara – it’s my favorite pasta dish. 

    I can’t believe how GOOD this was! Creamy, cheesy, garlicky, bacon-y and that pop of basil was perfect. 

    I freeze my tofu to make it extra firm and textured, and luckily I had some defrosting in my fridge 🙂 

    Thanks Nora for another great recipe. This one will be a new go to . 

  13. The cashew cream sauce was my favorite part of the recipe! I used about 1 & 1/2 cups water when I experimented with veggie broth. For me I felt it was more flavorful. Thoughts on using crispy tofu? Do you have a recipe to make it? I used chickpea spaghetti. Thanks for the recipe!

    1. Thanks! Cashew cream is wonderful. 🙂 This tofu gets pretty crispy for me in the oven. But you could use other crispy tofu instead I’m sure.

  14. So good!!! The tofu is next level. My husband asked where I got the recipe and I said, “where do you think?” His response, “Nora does it again! Damn she’s good.” 🙂 It’s true. We have loved all of your recipes. Thank you!

  15. Family *loved* this. Husband – who eats tofu at least 2x per week – said it’s the best tofu dish he’s had in months. I kind of want this tofu pancetta in everything. Great dish!

  16. I just made this for dinner and it was absolutely delicious! My husband also gave it two thumbs up, and is excited for the leftovers tomorrow 🙂

  17. Hi. Am I supposed to cook the cashews in 2 cups of water, drain, then add the cashews with two cups of water to the blender?

    1. For the cashews, you simply soak them in boiling hot water for about 5 minutes, and you need about 2 cups of water to cover them. But you do also add 2 cups of fresh water to the blender. Hope that helps!

  18. Oh my! This is amazing! The sauce  is so creamy. I didn’t have liquid smoke so I used smoked paprika and it worked really well. After the tofu had been in the oven I put it in a fry pan just to make it crispier. I also added mushrooms. My three young children loved it so it’s definitely a winner! Thank you Nora for all your delicious recipes ?

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