Smoky marinated cremini mushrooms and peas are tossed with spaghetti in a silky tofu and cashew sauce to create this decadently delicious vegan carbonara.
I waited tables all throughout college. By that time, I’d been a vegetarian for quite a while, but none of the establishments that I served in were meatless. Things could get awkward. I felt weird about telling customers I was vegetarian, but at the same time it wasn’t like I could go and suggest the filet mignon. I got some odd looks from people upon telling them that my favorite dish was a dinner salad with a side of mashed potatoes.
The last place I worked at was Italian. We did not have spaghetti carbonara, but I did have a customer ask for it once, and when I didn’t know what it was, she went into great detail explaining the dish and how freaking amazing it was, but it was all kind of lost on me. Bacon and eggs are two things I was never down with, in my early meat eating days.
If you’ve been reading a while you probably know that vegan bacon and eggs are two things I’m way down with.
In fact, I’m almost inclined to apologize here for overdoing it a bit in the vegan bacon department, but I won’t because you guys are going to love the juicy little bits of mushroom bacon that go into this one.
I had to run the dish by my husband, because I’ve never actually had non-vegan carbonara. He said this version is better. Wow.
We dined on two variations of this dish, his being sprinkled with kala namak for extra eggy flavor, which was apparently key to egging up the dish, mine without, because I wasn’t really keen on egging up my dish. But I loved the creamy sauce on it’s own.
FAQ & Tips for Making Amazing Vegan Spaghetti Carbonara
- Make sure your tofu is silken! Silken tofu has a silky smooth texture that’s very different from the firm tofu most of us are used to. If you don’t see it in the refrigerated section with the regular tofu, check the international foods section, as it might be sold there in shelf-stable packages.
- Make sure to arrange your mushrooms in an even layer in your skillet when you cook them, and don’t crowd the skillet. If your skillet is small, cook them in batches.
- Want to make this recipe gluten-free? Just use your favorite gluten-free pasta and gluten-free tamari instead of soy sauce.
Vegan Spaghetti Carbonara
For the Mushroom Bacon
- 1/3 cup soy sauce
- 3 tbsp. maple syrup
- 3 tbsp. apple cider vinegar
- 1 tsp. liquid smoke
- 1 lb. cremini mushrooms cleaned, stemmed and sliced
- 2 tbsp. olive oil
For the Spaghetti Carbonara
- 1 lb. dried spaghetti noodles
- 1 cup raw cashews soaked in water 4-8 hours and drained
- 1 lb. silken tofu
- 1/2 cup unflavored soy or almond milk
- 2-3 tbsp. nutritional yeast flakes to taste (optional, but adds a really nice flavor)
- 2 tbsp. olive oil
- 3 garlic cloves minced
- 1 cup frozen peas thawed
- 1/2 cup fresh parsley
- salt & pepper to taste
Stir soy sauce, maple syrup, cider vinegar and liquid smoke together in a small bowl. Add sliced mushrooms and toss to coat. Allow to marinate for 30 minutes, tossing occasionally to recoat.
While the mushrooms marinate, bring a large pot of water to a boil and cook spaghetti according to package directions, until al dente. Reserve 1/2 cup of pasta water, then drain pasta into a colander. Return to pot and toss with a bit of olive oil.
Place cashews, silken tofu, milk and nutritional yeast flakes into food processor bowl and blend until smooth and creamy, stopping to scrape down sides of bowl as needed.
Coat the bottom of a large skillet with 2 tablespoons of olive oil and place over medium heat. When oil is hot, add mushrooms in as even a layer as possible. Allow to cook until browned on bottoms, about 5 minutes. Flip and allow to cook 5 minutes more on opposite sides. Remove mushrooms from skillet and transfer to a plate.
Add 2 tablespoons more of oil to skillet. When oil is hot, add garlic and cook 2 minutes, until very fragrant. Add spaghetti, cashew mixture, peas, parsley and mushroom bacon to skillet. Toss everything a few times, until noodles are coated and ingredients are well mixed, adding some reserved pasta water to thin the sauce if needed. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
Divide onto plates and sprinkle with red pepper flakes, cashew Parmesan and kala namak, if desired. Serve.
This recipe makes a big batch. I don't recommend scaling down the batch size unless you've got a relatively small blending device for the sauce, otherwise you might not be able to get it to blend fully.