Smoky marinated cremini mushrooms and peas are tossed with spaghetti in a silky tofu and cashew sauce to create this decadently delicious vegan spaghetti carbonara!
Have you ever had spaghetti carbonara? I have not. It's a dish that's also often referred to as "bacon and eggs pasta," which means it's basically not my jam. I didn't even like bacon and eggs back in my omnivore days when I was a kid.
I learned about the dish when a customer requested it at an Italian restaurant I waited tables in during college. She had to explain what it was. And frankly...it sounded terrible. But I guess I filed it away somewhere in the totally irrelevant-to-me-at-the-time portion of my brain, and then retrieved it, years later when I was trying to come up with recipes to veganize.
Even though I can't stand bacon or eggs, I LOVE vegan bacon and eggs, so I was totally keen to get working on this one. We're using smoky mushroom "bacon" and a silky tofu/cashew sauce for this dish.
I had to run the final version by my husband, because I've never had non-vegan carbonara. He said this version is better. Wow.
Ingredients You'll Need
- Soy sauce. Gluten-free tamari or liquid aminos can be substituted if needed.
- Maple syrup.
- Liquid smoke. Look for this near the barbecue sauce at your supermarket.
- Smoked paprika.
- Cremini mushrooms. This might also be labelled as baby bella or baby portobello mushrooms at your store. Use regular button mushrooms if you can't find them
- Olive oil.
- Dried spaghetti. Feel free to substitute with another pasta shape, although spaghetti is traditional for pasta carbonara. Gluten-free pasta can be used if needed.
- Raw cashews. This is one of the main components of our vegan carbonara sauce. They definitely need to be raw (not roasted) for the sauce to taste right.
- Non-dairy milk. Use something unsweetened and unflavored such as soy, almond, or cashew milk.
- Silken tofu. I used firm silken tofu to make this recipe, but you can use soft if that's what you have on hand. Cut back on the amount of non-dairy milk if you do this.
- Nutritional yeast flakes. Look for these in the natural foods section of your supermarket, and feel free to leave them out if you're not a fan of them.
- Lemon juice. Use freshly squeezed juice to give your vegan carbonara sauce the best flavor.
- Salt. You can use regular table salt, or a product known as kala namak for extra eggy flavor. Kala namak is also known as black salt. It has a high sulfur content, so it tastes like eggs. Look for it in Indian markets or online.
- Frozen peas.
- Fresh parsley.
- Vegan Parmesan cheese. This is totally optional and just for topping our pasta. Feel free to use store-bought or homemade vegan Parmesan.
- Red pepper flakes. These are optional — just use them if you'd like your vegan spaghetti carbonara with a little kick!
How It's Made
The following is a detailed photo tutorial on how to make this dish. Scroll all the way down if you'd like to skip right to the recipe!
- To make your mushroom bacon, start my mixing your soy sauce, maple syrup, liquid smoke and smoked paprika in a small bowl.
- Heat the oil in a large nonstick skillet and add roughly chopped mushrooms. Cook them for a few minutes, letting them sit on the hot surface in order to properly brown, then flip and cook them a few minutes longer.
- Carefully pour the sauce over the mushrooms and continue cooking them until the liquid has dried up and caramelized.
Tip: Avoid crowding the mushrooms in the skillet, as each one needs contact with the hot cooking surface. You can cook them in batches if you don't have enough space.
- Start cooking your pasta. Refer to the package directions and just cook it until al dente, then drain it into a colander. Reserve a bit of the pasta cooking water when you drain it.
- While the pasta cooks, make the sauce by blending the cashews (soaked in water to soften up first), milk, tofu, nutritional yeast, lemon juice and salt. I'm using a blender, but a large food processor will also work.
- Heat some olive oil in a skillet and briefly sauté minced garlic, until it becomes very fragrant.
- Add your cooked pasta to the skillet, along with the sauce and (thawed) frozen peas. Toss everything well to distribute all the sauce. If the sauce seems too thick, thin it with a bit of your reserved pasta water.
- Take the skillet off of the stove and season the sauce with salt or kala namak. Adjust any other seasonings to suit your taste, then top the pasta with vegan bacon as well as some vegan Parmesan cheese, red pepper flakes, and fresh parsley if you'd like.
Leftovers & Storage
Leftover vegan spaghetti carbonara will keep in an airtight container in the refrigerator for about 3 days or in the freezer for about 3 months. The sauce may thicken during storage. Simply add a splash of water when reheating if needed!
More Classic Vegan Pasta Recipes
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Vegan Spaghetti Carbonara
Smoky marinated cremini mushrooms and peas are tossed with spaghetti in a silky tofu and cashew sauce to create this decadently delicious vegan spaghetti carbonara.
For the Mushroom Bacon
- 3 tablespoons soy sauce
- 2 tablespoons maple syrup
- 1 teaspoon liquid smoke
- 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
- 12 ounces cremini mushrooms, cleaned and roughly chopped
- 2 tablespoons olive oil, plus more as needed
For the Pasta
- 16 ounces dried spaghetti
For the Vegan Carbonara Sauce
- 1 cup raw cashews, soaked in water 4-8 hours, drained and rinsed
- 12 ounces silken tofu (Note 1)
- 1 cup unflavored and unsweetened non-dairy milk
- 2 tablespoons nutritional yeast flakes, or to taste (optional, but adds a really nice flavor)
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- 1 teaspoon salt, plus more to taste (Note 2)
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 3 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 cup frozen peas, thawed
- Vegan Parmesan cheese, optional
- Red pepper flakes, optional
- Chopped fresh parsley, optional
To make the mushroom bacon, first stir the soy sauce, maple syrup, liquid smoke and smoked paprika together in a small bowl.
Coat the bottom of a large skillet with the olive oil and place it over medium heat. Give the oil a minute to heat up, then add the mushrooms in an even layer. (Note 3)
Cook the mushrooms for about 10 minutes, flipping them only once or twice, until they've shrunken a bit and browned.
Carefully pour the soy sauce mixture over the mushrooms and allow them to cook 2 to 3 minutes more, until the liquid evaporates and forms a coating on the mushrooms.
Remove the mushrooms from the skillet and transfer them to a plate.
Bring a large pot of water to a boil and cook spaghetti according to package directions, until al dente. Reserve ½ cup of pasta water, then drain the pasta into a colander.
Make the sauce while the pasta boils. Place the cashews, silken tofu, milk, nutritional yeast flakes, lemon juice, and salt into a blender or food processor bowl and blend until smooth and creamy.
Wipe out the skillet you used to cook them mushrooms (it doesn't need to be perfectly clean) and add 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Give the oil a minute to heat up, then add the garlic. Sauté the garlic for about 1 minute, until very fragrant.
Add the cooked pasta to the pot, along with the sauce and peas. Toss everything to coat the pasta in sauce. You can thin the sauce with your reserved pasta water if it seems too thick.
Remove the skillet from heat. Season the pasta with additional salt if desired. Top with mushroom bacon.
Divide onto plates and serve with vegan Parmesan cheese, red pepper flakes, and fresh parsley, if desired.
- I used firm silken tofu, but the recipe will also work with soft. Simply cut back on the non-dairy milk by a few tablespoons if using soft.
- A portion of the salt in this recipe can be substituted with kala namak/black salt, available at Indian Grocery stores. This will add eggy flavor. I recommend starting with no more than ¼ teaspoon of kala namak, then adding more to taste.
- The mushrooms can be cooked in batches if you don't have enough room in your skillet. It's important not to crowd them.