One of the best pasta dishes ever created and an example of how even a recipe that relies so heavily on animal products – traditionally eggs, bacon and parmesan cheese – can be made vegan with a few simple adjustments.
A lot of people confuse carbonara with something more like a fettuccine alfredo, which has a thick and creamy white sauce. The creaminess of authentic carbonara comes from the pasta itself, by mixing the starchy water with egg yolk. So instead I use aquafaba, which gives you a silky glaze that is a joy to eat, especially with the contrast of the crisp, slightly chewy bacon bits.
Turmeric adds a yellow colour like egg yolk and black salt has a sulphorous egg flavour which adds to the authentic taste. If you can’t find this – although I recommend seeking it out as it is very useful in vegan cookery – then just use regular sea salt.
My favourite vegan bacon is made by Meetlyke. The flavour is smoky and the texture slightly chewy, perfectly recreating cooked bacon strips. You can use whatever brand you like or is easily available to you, you may just need to adjust the frying time accordingly. If you don’t like faux meats then smoked tofu or mushrooms would make a nice alternative – simply saute until crispy and then add your pasta in the same way.
This recipe is very adaptable due to the simple ingredients so you could easily scale it up for more people and add more or less of anything to your liking.
A vegan recipe for authentic Italian Carbonara - spaghetti coated in a glossy sauce with crunchy vegan bacon and tangy parmesan.
- 1 tbsp vegetable oil
- 1 tbsp vegan butter
- 60 g vegan bacon see notes
- 1 large garlic clove peeled, whole
- 200 g spaghetti
- 100 ml aquafaba (chickpea water)
- 20 g vegan parmesan finely grated, see notes
- 1 tsp nutritional yeast see notes
- 1/2 tsp black salt (kala namak) or sea salt
- 1/8 tsp ground turmeric
- Pinch of black pepper
Add the oil and butter to a large frying pan and allow to heat up on medium-high. Cut the bacon into small chunks and add to the pan with the whole peeled garlic clove. Allow to sauté until crispy (4-5 mins), stirring regularly so nothing burns.
Put the spaghetti on to boil in salted water.
Once the bacon is crispy, take out the garlic clove and discard. Take the pan off the heat and set aside for now.
Make the sauce mixture. Add the aquafaba (100ml), grated parmesan (20g), nutritional yeast (1 tsp), black salt (1/2 tsp), turmeric (1/8 tsp) and black pepper (pinch) to a mixing bowl. Add a ladle of the starchy pasta water (~ 50ml) and stir together with a fork.
Drain the pasta once cooked and add to the bacon pan. Return to the hob on a medium-low heat.
Add the aquafaba sauce to the pan and mix everything together so the pasta is well coated. Simmer for 3-4 minutes to allow it to heat through and the sauce to thicken slightly.
Serve into pasta bowls and top with more grated parmesan and black pepper.