Our vegan carbonara is a simple recipe that can be made in 15 minutes. The taste of our carbonara sauce is similar to the taste of an authentic Italian carbonara recipe.
It's full of umami, peppery and with an eggy flavor thanks to Kala Namak, an Himalayan black salt that tastes exactly like an egg.
What to expect
Traditional carbonara is an Italian pasta cheese made with guanciale (the cheek of a pig), eggs, pecorino romano or sometimes parmesan, and black pepper.
Our vegan carbonara tries to recreate a similar flavor and texture using plant-based ingredients.
Ingredients & Substitutions
For the vegan carbonara sauce
- Plant milk: we use soy milk, but you can use any plant-based milk that is not sweet and that doesn't have any flavorings.
- Chickpea Flour: we use chickpea flour to recreate the texture of the eggs. You won't taste the flavor of the chickpea flour as we use very little of it.
- Nutritional yeast: to add the cheesy flavor to the sauce.
- Olive oil: to make the sauce a little more fat, like the original.
- Paprika: to give some color to the sauce. You won't taste the paprika either.
- Kala namak: this is the key ingredient for any vegan carbonara sauce. It's a black rock salt that adds the exact flavor of an egg. Do not skip it! You can find it in any Asian store or online.
- Tempeh, olive oil, soy sauce, salt, and pepper: we use these to recreate the salty, peppery flavor of Italian guanciale.
- Black pepper: sprinkle on top and in the sauce.
Start with tempeh bacon
To make it, let's start with the recipe for tempeh bacon, which is going to be our replacement for the “guanciale”, the cheek of the pig, used in carbonara.
You can also use tofu or seitan for this recipe, but in my opinion, tempeh is the best choice.
So, dice up 100 grams or 3.5 ounces of tempeh and sauté it in a pan with two tablespoons of olive oil.
Add a pinch of salt and plenty of pepper and let it sauté over medium-low heat for 5 minutes, moving it around occasionally.
After 5 minutes, when the tempeh is nicely browned, add about two tablespoons of soy sauce, which will add flavor and umami, making the tempeh really palatable and meaty.
Let it cook for another minute until the tempeh cubes have absorbed the soy sauce and set them aside. Our tempeh bacon is ready.
Make the carbonara sauce
Then to replace the eggs we make a sauce with 180 grams or ¾ cup of unsweetened soy milk, 15 grams or 1 tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil, a pinch of salt, half a teaspoon of Kala Namak, a black rock salt that adds an eggy flavor, 10 grams or 2 tablespoons of nutritional yeast, 10 grams or 1 tablespoon of chickpea flour to bind the mixture, and half a teaspoon of paprika to lightly color the sauce.
Blend till smooth with an immersion blender or with a regular blender.
Transfer the sauce to a pan that is large enough to hold the pasta, then when the pasta is almost cooked warm up the sauce, stirring it, until it slightly thickens. It should take just a minute.
Now toss in the pasta, al dente. I add 320 grams or 12 ounces of spaghetti, to serve 4 people.
Add half a ladle of pasta cooking water, and finish cooking in the pan for a minute, until the pasta is completely coated in the sauce.
Just before serving, add the tempeh bacon, plenty of black pepper according to your taste, give it a final stir, serve and eat it right away!
- Get yourself some Kala Namak: you will probably not be able to find it in a store, so get it online. This Indian rock salt makes all the difference because it tastes like egg, mainly due to its sulfur content.
- Don't worry if the carbonara sauce smells strongly like an egg: this is absolutely normal due to the Kala Namak. When you mix the sauce with the pasta the smell will be much less and the carbonara will taste like heaven!
- Toast the pepper before grinding it: for the best result and an inebriating pepper aroma, toast your peppercorns on a hot pan before grinding it. This way the oils in the pepper will develop an incredible aroma.
Kala namak is a pink/black/purple rock salt used in South Asia with a sulfurous, pungent smell. In this preparation, Kala Namak tastes exactly like an egg. So don't skip it.
You can buy Kala Namak online or in local Asian stores.
Yes. You can replace tempeh with any other fake meat that has a similar texture and flavor as guanciale/bacon. You can also replace it with tofu and seitan.
It's not a secret that we love easy pasta recipes! It's a complete meal and frankly, one of our favorite choices for an easy dinner. That being said, if you want to increase your veggie intake, we're certainly trying, check out these compatible side dishes:
If you love this vegan carbonara, try one of these quick and easy pasta recipes next:
- Spaghetti Aglio e Olio
- Creamy mushroom pasta
- Spaghetti Cacio e Pepe
- Penne all'arrabbiata
- Pasta Pomodoro
- Lemon Pasta with spinach
- Pasta salad with lemon vinaigrette
- Pasta in spinach pesto
Do you have an everyday favorite pasta recipe? Let us know in the comments below!
This vegan carbonara is best eaten straight off the pan. However, if you have any leftovers, store them in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 24 hours. Then heat it up on a pan with a dash of water.
- 1 Blender (immersion blender works too)
- ¾ cup soy milk unsweetened
- 2 tablespoons nutritional yeast
- 1 tablespoon olive oil extra virgin
- 1 tablespoon chickpea flour or garbanzo bean flour
- ½ teaspoon kala namak black salt
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 3.5 ounces tempeh or tofu or seitan
- 2 tablespoon olive oil
- 2 pinches salt
- 4 twists pepper
- 2 tablespoons soy sauce
- 12 ounces spaghetti + salt and water to cook them
Make vegan bacon
- Cut the tempeh (or tofu or seitan) in small dice. Warm up the olive oil in a non-stick pan, then add in the diced tempeh and fry on low heat for about 5 minutes, till it starts to brown.Tip: In the meantime you can put the pasta water to boil, salt it generously, and start cooking the pasta.
- Season the tempeh dice with salt and pepper, then add the soy sauce.Stir and cook for another minute, till the tempeh is fully glazed in the soy sauce. Set aside.
Make the vegan carbonara sauce
- To a blender, add all the ingredients for the carbonara sauce: unsweetened soy milk, olive oil, chickpea flour, nutritional yeast, black salt (kala namak), and salt. Blend till smooth.
- Transfer the sauce into a non-stick pan that is large enough to fit the pasta.When the pasta is almost cooked, warm up the carbonara sauce, while stirring it, until it thickens a little. It should take about 1 minute.Do not overcook the sauce or it will get too thick.
- Toss the pasta, al dente, into the pan with the sauce. Add ½ ladle of pasta cooking water, and finish cooking the pasta in the pan for another minute, till the pasta is fully coated in the sauce.Towards the end add the vegan bacon, and a few twists of freshly ground black pepper. Stir a final time, then serve immediately.