You can never go wrong with any type of noodle, but silky, rich, and creamy pasta carbonara is hard to beat. Created by resourceful Italian cooks centuries ago as a simple way of using up humble staple ingredients, the sum is truly greater than its parts. Golden egg yolks enrich the sauce, coating every al dente strand with cheesy goodness. Crispy bacon tangles around each forkful to add a savory, subtly smoky bite to create a deeply satisfying yet completely crave-worthy experience.
Unfortunately, as you may have guessed, this original formula relies heavily on animal products. If only those early eaters knew it could be even better with a completely vegan approach! This Creamy Carbonara with Coconut Bacon recipe comes from The Vegan Pasta Cookbook by Rebecca Hincke. Plant- based carbonara tastes every bite as decadent but is much healthier, easier, and comforting for everyone to enjoy.
Aside from being absolutely delicious, there are even more reasons to love this vegan carbonara recipe. Here are just a few!
What goes into a plant based carbonara, you ask? Minimal elbow grease, plenty of pasta, and some wonderfully creamy components.
Silken tofu: Instantly create a high-protein yet low-calorie base by blending silken tofu to a smooth, creamy consistency. You can find this in shelf-stable, aseptic packages or water-packed near the refrigerated produce area.
Non-dairy milk: Pick a milk, any milk, as long as it doesn’t come from a cow! Make sure it’s unsweetened and then go with your favorite, whether that’s almond, soy, hemp, oat, rice, or something else entirely.
Kala namak: Otherwise known as “black salt,” it’s a bit of a misnomer because the color is actually pink! This is the secret ingredient that creates an uncanny eggy flavor since it’s a kiln- fired rock salt infused with sulfurous aroma. You can find it in most Asian specialty markets or online.
Turmeric: Just a tiny pinch will add a sunny yellow color to anything, which helps create a convincing eggy appearance to this sauce.
White miso paste: Add volumes of umami in a tiny spoonful of this Japanese fermented soybean paste. White miso is very mild, almost sweet, and rather salty.
Spaghetti or bucatini: Any long pasta will do, but bucatini, which is essentially a narrow tube, is the deluxe option. It offers the most satisfying bite, and the open ends to allow the sauce to run through the entire length, rather than just cling to the outside.
Vegan Parmesan: Many people don’t realize that conventional Parmesan isn’t even vegetarian, let alone vegan. Traditionally, rennet is used to make the curds coagulate, which comes from the stomach lining of cows. Chose a cruelty-free option, available from many brands such as Violife, Daiya, and Follow Your Heart to bypass that issue entirely. You can also make your own Chipotle Vegan Parmesan Sprinkle from scratch using whole foods ingredients.
Coconut flakes or chips: Coconut chips will give you larger bacon bits, whereas shreds will create a finer sprinkle. Both will taste great though so you can’t go wrong with either choice!
Liquid smoke: A little bit goes a long way of this concentrated smoky flavor extract. It makes everything instantly taste like bacon, so it’s a great thing to keep in the pantry for when cravings hit.
No one would complain if you stick with a simple, straight-forward tofu carbonara sauce, but you can enhance the dish with your own personal touches to make it different and exciting every time.
If you’re making the dish in advance, it’s a great idea to prepare the sauce and keep it separately in an airtight container in the fridge until ready to use. It’s so delicious all by itself though, there are plenty of other ways to enjoy it without noodles:
A: Tofu is a critical part of the carbonara sauce, but you can swap it out for unsweetened almond or coconut yogurt for a tangy change of pace. Don’t forget to replace the white miso with chickpea miso and the soy sauce with coconut aminos as well.
A: Once the sauce, pasta, and coconut bacon have been tossed together, the textures will change if kept for a second serving. The sauce will get thicken and the bacon will soften, but you can still enjoy it for up to 5 days if stored in an airtight container in the fridge. To reheat, you may want to add a bit more water while warming it gently in a saucepan over the stove, until the sauce is smooth again and everything is warmed through.
A: No problem! You can make Easy Tofu Bacon instead, or simply use one of the many prepared vegan bacon options available in most grocery stores.
This dairy-free carbonara recipe was reprinted with permission from The Vegan Pasta Cookbook by Rebecca Hinke. Copyright © 2022 by Page Street Publishing Co. Photography by Rebecca Hinke. Reproduced by arrangement with the Publisher. All rights reserved. Many thanks to Jessica Sabbagh and Sarah Hudson for recipe testing.