vegan carbonara with zucchini cream sauce

My new favorite thing to blend into cream sauce is cooked zucchini! It’s so magical and undetectable in a sauce. I used it as the base for this vegan carbonara recipe. It’s great because now you’ve got your sub for tofu and cashews!

veagn carbonara_hot for food

The newsletter subbies would already know about my obsession with the zuke as I sent out a creamy spinach dip recipe a couple of weeks ago made with it. It was delicious! You’re not signed up for the newsletter?! HELLO! From time to time I will send out exclusive recipes only to newsletter members so get on it and sign up here.

This dish all played out in a little game I call RECIPE?! so watch it unfold in the video below or keep scrolling for the written recipe.

vegan carbonara recipe for holidays

If you’re looking to add in a homemade bacon bit recipe, try my recipe for tofu bacon crumbles!

veagn carbonara_hot for food
4.32 from 29 votes
Print Recipe

vegan carbonara with zucchini cream sauce

A classic Italian dish turned vegan with all the creamy goodness and none of the guilt!

Course Main Course
Cuisine Italian
Prep Time 8 minutes
Cook Time 32 minutes
Total Time 40 minutes
Servings 2
Author Lauren Toyota


  • 225 g spaghetti
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 small zucchini, peeled and roughly chopped
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt
  • 5 garlic cloves
  • 1/2 C finely chopped or crumbled smokey vegan meat substitute (vegan ham, smoked tofu, my tofu bacon bits, or vegan sausage)
  • 2 tbsp nutritional yeast
  • 3 tbsp pickle brine
  • 1/3 C unsweetened nondairy milk
  • 1 tsp ground black pepper
  • 3/4 tsp kala namak/black salt
  • 1/2 C shredded vegan parmesan


  1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and cook spaghetti to al dente. Drain but do not rinse.
  2. Ensure all the green skin is peeled from the zucchini to ensure you have a white coloured sauce. Sauté zucchini and garlic cloves in a pan with 1 teaspoon of olive oil for about 8 to 10 minutes until soft and cooked through. 

  3. Add cooked zucchini to a high powered blender with 1 tablespoon of olive oil, nutritional yeast, pickle brine, nondairy milk, and ground black pepper. Blend until very smooth and creamy.

  4. In the same pan, brown up your vegan meat substitute over medium heat. Once crispy and golden brown, reduce the heat to low, add the spaghetti and all the sauce and toss to combine well. Ensure it’s heated through to your liking before adding kala namak, as you don’t want to heat this up much. Add kala namak and more ground black pepper to taste if you like, just toss until combined and then turn off the heat.

  5. Serve immediately and add vegan parmesan on top and more ground black pepper if desired.

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40 thoughts on “vegan carbonara with zucchini cream sauce”

    1. just drain the pasta from the cooking water but don’t rinse under water. That removes the starches. Some people do not now this! The exception is rice pasta, sometimes the texture of rice pasta is better if you rinse it under cold water before tossing it in a sauce.

    2. I think Teresa’s talking about how you wrote in the recipe above, "Rinse but do not drain." instead of "Drain but do not rinse" 🙂

  1. In my kitchen whipping it up Lauren. Very surprised how the sauce turned out. It’s good to know I am not the only one uses pickle brine.

  2. I’m just taking a guess at this but you refer to a really long zucchini. I think that may be a New Guinea Bean. Super delicious! Definitely going to give this recipe a go! Thanks!

  3. Thank you for saving my evening!! This was so refreshing, that cream sauce is now going to be in my permanent rotation for sure.

    I don’t like meat substitutes a whole lot, so I thinly sliced white button mushrooms and roasted them with Italian spices and paprika which was such a good meaty colour and smoky substitute. Thanks for the inspiration!! Definitely going to subscribe

  4. This recipe reminded me how much I love pasta… seriously, so good! I didn’t have zucchini so instead I used yellow squash and it was marvelous! Topped it all off with some quick vegan parm (cashews, garlic powder, nooch, salt) and tempeh bacon. For sure going to make this again! Thanks Lauren 🙂

  5. just made this and it was excellent! such a unique flavor! used lemon juice instead of pickle juice (all we had was super spicy pickles) and used "tofu pups" vegan hot dogs as the meat sub, cooked with paprika and and a tiny bit of liquid smoke.

  6. Sounds great, I’m going to try that. I also love to take dried tomatoes in a carbonara instead of sausage.

    1. I’ve made it a few times without peeling the zucchini and it just gives it a very "healthy food" looking green colour. Still tastes amazing!

  7. What a great recipe!!! I made it today for dinner, it is so delicious. Great summer recipe since zucchini are in season.
    I used 2 Tbs white wine vinegar instead of pickle brine. I added fried onions and eggplant and some fresh cherry tomatoes.

    Thank you Lauren 🙂
    Regards from Berlin

  8. Such a smart use for zucchini! They certainly are plentiful this time of year, so I’m happy to have some new methods for tackling the surplus. This recipe is definitely a winner!

  9. SO good! I also didn’t have pickle juice, so I used lemon juice. I also used a little less kala namak. I used tempeh bacon. YUM!

    1. cool! ya the pickle juice just has this EXTRA tang and flavor that’s different than lemon!

  10. Heather Marshall

    I love this! I’m not vegan or even vegetarian but I’m trying to incorporate a lot more plant based meals in my diet. This recipe was a lot easier than I thought, using the blender to mix the ingredients is so quick and simple and I assume it is a lot easier than mixing eggs/cream in some extreme technical way like the original version. I used vegan bacon the first time I cooked it but I don’t think it was necessary at all if you’re just making a quick dinner. I prefer it without the “bacon” anyway. This sauce is really nice and I plan on making a lot more to freeze because it’s amazing. I didn’t add the black salt and it turned out fine. The sauce doesn’t taste “vegan” either, and it’s quite light and doesn’t make me feel gross like non vegan cream sauces do. It doesn’t taste like squash or veggies either. I have a small appetite normally, but every time I make this I eat one and a half servings! So maybe make extra if your making it for more than one person. Highly recommend to vegans and non vegans alike!

  11. Oh My God!! Just made this recipe after getting my vitamix today and this carbonara sauce is LIFE-CHANGING! My non-vegan BF had the hardest time believing this was blended up zucchini! Made this with Gardein meatballs & crinkly noodles from the Asian market. These all worked so well together! I love your easy-to-follow recipes, Lauren!! I’m slowly opening the minds of omnivores to plant-based eating through amazing recipes like these! Thank you!

  12. This is one of my go-to recipes for company and it always gets rave reviews. We never have pickles (or brine) so I use capers and juice and the flavour is great.

  13. Made this and it’s incredible ! I added more olive oil onto the pasta to serve and would add more tofu (I followed your bacon bits recipe) next time when I most likely make this meal again! I definitely recommend

  14. I made this for my husband and 2 year old daughter, and we all really liked it! We skipped the kala namak since we were out, and just used tempeh bacon and vegan parm for the adult portions, but my daughter devoured her noodles–great way to get more veggies in! Thanks for the recipe!

  15. I LOVE THIS PASTA. I made this once on a whim years ago when I first saw the recipe, and it has become a staple since. it is so easy to make, feels richer than it is and has wowed so many friends and family. I add a pinch of pasta water to help it combine but otherwise this recipe is flawless.

  16. I just made this, the zucchini is so much better than cashews or soy. I used rainbow peppercorns which were so good on the pasta. Omg love this recipe so much!

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