This easy and deliciously creamy vegan carbonara recipe is perfect for a satisfying meal any night of the week.
There’s nothing better than pasta for pure comfort food and this vegan carbonara is no exception. It’s just so creamy, flavourful and satisfying, you’re going to love it!
The recipe uses cashews to make the creamy sauce and features mushroom, garlic, smoked paprika, nutritional yeast, balsamic vinegar and soy sauce to add flavour and balance to the recipe.
Why You’ll Love this Recipe
- The whole recipe comes together in about 30 minutes.
- Entertaining? Your friends and family will love this creamy pasta dish!
- You’ll need just a handful of everyday pantry ingredients.
- This recipe is completely vegan (dairy-free, egg-free, etc.). It can be made gluten-free if needed.
- Perfect for special occasions but easy enough for a weeknight meal.
Ingredients & Substitutions
Complete list of ingredients with amounts and full instructions is located in the recipe card below. This section covers ingredient and substitution considerations.
- Cashews: Use plain, raw cashews with no added oil or salt.
- Almond Milk: You can use any plant-based milk but I’d suggest sticking to almond or cashew for their neutral flavour.
- Garlic: Fresh garlic is best here but if you only have ground garlic, you can substitute 1.5 tsp for the garlic cloves.
- Nutritional Yeast: I recommend keeping this in the recipe for the cheesy flavour it adds. Nutritional yeast is common in well-stocked grocery stores or you can buy it online.
- Smoked Paprika: Smoked paprika adds that smoky carbonara flavour to the recipe but if you only have regular paprika, that will be fine. Another option is to add a dash of liquid smoke to mimic the bacon flavour of traditional carbonara.
- Lemon: You’ll need 1 whole fresh lemon to make the lemon juice and zest.
- Linguini Pasta: Any variety of pasta or pasta shape works but I like wheat-based noodles like linguini or spaghetti best for this recipe. If you need the recipe to be gluten-free you can use your choice of gluten-free noodles such as brown rice or quinoa pasta.
- Mushrooms: You can use cremini or white button mushrooms in this recipe or go a little fancier and use wild mushrooms or shiitake mushrooms.
- Soy Sauce: Any variety works here but if you need a gluten-free recipe be sure to substituie tamari or coconut aminos.
- Balsamic Vinegar: White vinegar or red or white wine vinegar will work as a substitute.
- Parsley: Totally option but nice to brighten up the final dish.
Step 1: Make the carbonara sauce.
Start by “quick soaking” the cashews. Place them in a bowl and cover them with boiling water. Let them sit for at least 10 minutes.
While you’re waiting, you can chop the mushrooms and start bringing a large pot of water to a boil on the stovetop.
After 10 minutes, transfer the cashews and water to a high-speed blender along with the almond milk. Blend on high for 1-2 minutes until smooth.
Add the garlic, nutritional yeast, smoked paprika, salt, lemon juice, lemon zest and pepper. Blend until completely smooth.
Step 2: Cook the pasta and reserve cooking liquid.
Cook the linguine al dente according to the pacakage instructions.
Don’t Forget: Before you drain the pasta, scoop off two cups of the cooking water and set aside for later.
Once the pasta is ready, drain and set aside.
Step 3: Cook the mushrooms.
For the mushrooms, heat the oil in a large pan and cook for 6-7 minutes. The mushrooms will release a small amount of water, continue cooking until all the water has been absorbed/evaporated.
At the soy sauce and balsamic vinegar and cook for about 1 more minutes, stirring often.
Step 4: Add the pasta and water.
Add the sauce and stir well, then add the cooked pasta. Slowly start adding the reserved pasta water 1/4 cup at a time, string and cook for a few more minutes until you reach a thick, creamy consistency.
I add the entire 2 cups of water.
Stir in the chopped fresh parsley if using and serve with fresh cracked black pepper.
- I didn’t use them in the final recipe but you can experiment with miso paste and liquid smoke to add more umami flavour that would replicate the taste of the traditional version of carbonara.
- You can use black salt or kala namak to replicate the “eggy” flavour of real carbonara. I’d start with 1/2 tsp if you haven’t used it before as its flavour is quite strong. If you’re using kala namak, omit the regular salt.
- If you want to add bacon, try serving with your choice of vegan bacon such as coconut bacon, tofu bacon or tempeh bacon.
- This vegan parmesan cheese is delicious for serving on your carbonara.
- The recipe can be halved if you only need a few servings and prefer to enjoy it fresh rather than store leftovers.
To make gluten-free carbonara, use your choice of gluten-free pasta noodles and substitute tamari or coconut aminos for the soy sauce.
Sure spaghetti and fettuccini both work well for carbonara but you can also use any pasta you like or have on hand, such as penne, farfalle or rotini.
To make this recipe oil-free, use water instead of oil to saute the mushrooms.
You can but I’d suggest sticking to almond milk or cashew milk or even just using water. Soy milk and oat milk are ok to use but I find their flavours really come through in the sauce. If you don’t mind that, go for it.
Whichever kind of plant-based milk you use, just be sure it’s unsweetened.
Storing & Making Ahead
- The cashews can be soaked up to overnight.
- The blended cashew cream sauce can be made 1 day in advance and stored in the fridge until use.
- The pasta is definitely best (creamiest!) fresh, though it’s ok to store in the fridge for up to 4 days.
- Reheat the pasta in a pan on the stovetop or in the microwave until heated through.
- It still tastes great after storing but it does thicken considerably so you may consider stirring in a bit of water, broth or almond milk to help loosen it up.
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For the Carbonara Sauce
- 1 cup raw cashews (125 g)
- 1 cup boiling water (125 ml)
- 1 cup almond milk, unsweetened (250 g)
- 4 cloves fresh garlic (20 g)
- 2 tbsp nutritional yeast (10 g)
- 1 tsp smoked paprika
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 tbsp lemon juice
- 1 tbsp lemon zest
- 1 tbsp fresh cracked black pepper
For the Pasta & Mushrooms
- Soak Cashews: Place raw cashews in a medium sized bowl, and cover with 1 cup of boiling water. Let the cashews soak for 10 minutes. While the cashews are soaking, chop up the mushrooms and start bringing a large pot of water to a boil on the stovetop to cook the pasta.
- Blend Carbonara Sauce: Once soaked, place nuts and water into a blender and add almond milk, cover with lid and blend on medium high for 1-2 minutes. Once cashews are smooth, add the garlic, nutritional yeast, lemon juice, lemon zest, smoked paprika, salt and pepper. Cover with lid and blend until completely smooth and combined, approximately 1 minute. Once the sauce is smooth, set aside for later.
- Cook Pasta: Cook linguine pasta according to package instructions. Once the pasta is cooked, reserve 2 cups of the pasta water for later use before draining. Drain the pasta and set aside.
- Heat Oil: Once the pasta is cooking, heat 2 tsp oil over medium-high heat in a large non-stick pan.
- Cook Mushrooms: When the pan is hot add the chopped mushrooms and cook for 5 minutes. The mushrooms will release a small amount of water while they are cooking. Continue to cook until all that liquid has been absorbed, stirring occasionally.
- Add Vinegar and Soy Sauce: Once mushrooms are cooked add both soy sauce and balsamic vinegar to the pan. Cook for an additional 1 minute, stiring often.
- Mix Pasta: When mushrooms are cooked and the pasta is drained, add the ‘carbonara sauce’ to the mushrooms, mix together until fully incorporated. Add your cooked pasta and mix thoroughly, adding the reserved pasta water ¼ cup at a time until you have reached a creamy texture. You will likely add the full 2 cups.
- Serve: Fold in chopped parsley if desired and divide evenly into bowls and enjoy!
The pasta stores well in the fridge for up to 4 days but will thicken and stiffen considerable. It will loosen after reheating but won’t be as creamy as when it’s fresh. If will still taste good after storing, but you can stir in a little water, broth or almond milk to help loosen it up a bit, if desired.
The recipe can be halved if you only need a few servings and prefer to enjoy it freshly made rather than store leftovers.
- Serving Size: 1/6th of recipe
- Calories: 430
- Sugar: 4 g
- Sodium: 502 mg
- Fat: 12 g
- Carbohydrates: 65 g
- Fiber: 4 g
- Protein: 16 g
Keywords: vegan carbonara, dairy-free carbonara