Vegan Carbonara Pasta Recipe

A vegan version of pasta carbonara that's silky and rich, dotted with meaty bits, plus the characteristic lactic tang of Pecorino Romano, but with no dairy products whatsoever.

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Vicky Wasik

Why It Works

  • Tofu creates a silky, egg-like base for the sauce, while miso and nutritional yeast give it a richer, eggy quality.
  • King oyster mushrooms are meaty enough to stand in for pork, and mild enough to not make the whole dish taste like mushrooms.
  • Sauerkraut brine adds the lactic tang of Pecorino Romano, while keeping the sauce 100% vegan.

Carbonara may be one of the most difficult recipes to vegan-ify, since every major ingredient in the sauce is off-limits. But by eating lots of the real deal and getting mighty crafty with an array of unlikely ingredients, I managed to create a vegan carbonara that captures the essence of the original like no other: It's silky and rich, unctuous, and studded with meaty bits, with the sharp, lactic tang of Pecorino Romano (but, of course, no actual Pecorino Romano).

Recipe Facts

Active: 30 mins
Total: 30 mins
Serves: 4 servings

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Ingredients

  • 7 ounces silken tofu (1/2 of a 14-ounce block; 200g)

  • 1/2 cup (120ml) sauerkraut brine (see note)

  • 1/4 cup nutritional yeast (1/2 ounce; 15g)

  • 1 tablespoon (15ml) white miso

  • Generous pinch cayenne pepper or red chile flakes

  • 3 generous dashes (about 1/4 teaspoon) smoked paprika

  • 2 teaspoons (8g) freshly ground black pepper

  • 1 tablespoon (15ml) white wine vinegar or fresh juice from 1 lemon

  • Kosher salt

  • 1/2 cup (120ml) extra virgin olive oil, divided

  • 4 ounces (115g) king oyster mushrooms, stems and caps sliced into 1/2-inch "lardons"

  • 1 pound (450g) dry spaghetti or penne

Directions

  1. In a blender, combine tofu, sauerkraut brine, nutritional yeast, miso, cayenne or chile flakes, smoked paprika, black pepper, and vinegar or lemon juice. Blend at high speed, stopping to scrape down sides if necessary, until a very smooth, silky sauce forms. Season with salt. Add 1/4 cup (60ml) olive oil and blend in at low speed just until emulsified.

  2. In a large sauté pan, heat remaining 1/4 cup (60ml) olive oil over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add mushrooms and cook, stirring, until browned, about 6 minutes.

  3. In a pot of salted boiling water, cook pasta until just al dente. Transfer pasta to pan with mushrooms, reserving pasta-cooking water. Pour on just enough creamy sauce to coat all the pasta, then add about 1/4 cup (60ml) pasta-cooking water. Cook over medium heat, stirring, until sauce forms a silky glaze that coats pasta. Serve.

Special Equipment

Blender, large sauté pan

Notes

Use the brine from good-quality fermented sauerkraut—it should be nice and sour. You can also make your own kraut at home and use some of the brine from that. The sauerkraut brine adds the lactic acid that the cheese would normally contribute to the dish, but in a pinch, you could substitute 1/4 cup (60ml) each of water and dry white wine.

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Nutrition Facts (per serving)
745 Calories
32g Fat
93g Carbs
24g Protein
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Nutrition Facts
Servings: 4
Amount per serving
Calories 745
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 32g 41%
Saturated Fat 5g 23%
Cholesterol 0mg 0%
Sodium 575mg 25%
Total Carbohydrate 93g 34%
Dietary Fiber 8g 28%
Total Sugars 4g
Protein 24g
Vitamin C 5mg 26%
Calcium 103mg 8%
Iron 6mg 31%
Potassium 583mg 12%
*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.
(Nutrition information is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate.)