carbonara pasta with bacon and chives in white bowl

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Why I love this pasta carbonara recipe

A few months ago, Marc decided to give up dairy. He had been debating the idea for a while, but around October, he decided to really commit. Of course, my mind started working in overdrive.

How could we possibly give up cheese, especially when we’re living in the land of cheese? I mean between France and Wisconsin we are pretty much always living in a land of cheese.

But, there is a restaurant here in Amiens that serves traditional carbonara, which is surprising because most of the carbonara here in France is cream. They serve it with a heaping garnish of chives, and it’s absolutely amazing.

More dairy free pasta recipes:

overhead image of three bowls with pasta carbonara garnished with chives on a marble surface

Here’s what you’ll need to make it

Now let’s talk carbonara ingredients

  • Bacon – traditionally, carbonara uses pancetta, but I’ve found it’s equally good with bacon so that’s usually what I use.
  • Eggs – this is where we get our creamy sauce. The eggs get tempered with hot pasta water, which heats them to a safe temperature while preventing them from “cooking”.
  • Pasta – you don’t need to use spaghetti, just make sure you cook your pasta to al dente in salted water for optimal flavor
  • Lemon – normally, carbonara pasta has cheese added, but I’ve found that a little zing of lemon juice really kicks up the flavor a bit without using cheese.

How to make pasta carbonara

Cook your pasta. Boil a large pot of salted water and add the pasta. Let the pasta cook for the time indicated on the package for al dente.

Before draining, reserve 1/2 cup of pasta water. I like to use a liquid measuring cup or mug to pull the water out. You could also use a ladle.

When the pasta is cooked, drain the extra water. If your other ingredients aren’t ready, drizzle with olive oil to prevent it from sticking.

Crisp up the bacon. While the pasta cooks, heat a large skillet to medium-high. Add the chopped bacon and let it cook until crispy, stirring as needed. Next, add the garlic and allow it to cook in the bacon grease until fragrant.

If you need more time, turn off the heat to prevent burning while you’re preparing the other ingredients. Turn the heat back on just before tossing your pasta and egg mixture.

Temper the eggs. In a mixing bowl, whisk the eggs with the lemon juice and salt. Then slowly whisk in most of the hot pasta water. This will “cook” the eggs and prevent them from scrambling with being added to the pan.

Toss everything together. Add the pasta and egg mixture to the pan with the bacon. Stir everything together and allow the eggs to coat the pasta. As it starts to heat, the sauce should start to thicken.

Garnish and serve. If needed, adjust seasoning with salt & pepper. Then, garnish each serving with a generous portion of fresh chives.

carbonara pasta with bacon and chives in a white bowl
What kind of pasta is used in Carbonara?

Pasta carbonara is most commonly made with spaghetti, but any pasta will work in this recipe. I prefer to use a long pasta shape because it’s more like spaghetti, and I love using bucatini as an alternative to spaghetti. But, you can use whatever pasta you have on hand, even if it’s not long. Just be sure to follow the package directions for al dente when cooking.

Should carbonara have cream?

Absolutely not. Carbonara sauce is creamy because of the tempered eggs used to make the sauce. There should be no cream or butter in the recipe. Traditionally, carbonara has parmesan or pecorino cheese in the sauce, but this recipe does not include it.

Does pasta carbonara have raw eggs?

Yes. Pasta carbonara is made with raw eggs which are tempered with hot pasta sauce. This cooks the egg and brings it to a safe temperature while preventing the egg from scrambling or clumping in the sauce.

Why is my carbonara not creamy?

This is a common problem with carbonara, and you can fix it by maintaining the right temperature during the cooking process. You want to keep the pasta and bacon warm while you’re tempering the eggs with hot pasta water. Once the eggs are tempered, they still need to be heated when they’re added to the pasta. Cook the tossed pasta over medium-heat, and stir frequently until the sauce thickens.

closeup of creamy pasta carbonara with bacon and chives

More dairy free pasta recipes:

More easy dinner recipes:

Print

Creamy Pasta Carbonara

This easy pasta carbonara recipe is made with eggs and without cheese for a creamy sauce that’s flavorful and dairy free. It’s as close to authentic as you can get without dairy. Make it with spaghetti or your favorite pasta, and garnish with fresh chives before serving.
  • Author: Melissa Belanger
  • Prep Time: 10 minutes
  • Cook Time: 15 minutes
  • Total Time: 25 minutes
  • Yield: 8 servings 1x
  • Category: Mains
  • Method: Stovetop
  • Cuisine: Italian

Ingredients

Scale
  • 1 16-ounce package pasta
  • 8 slices thick cut bacon, sliced into thin strips
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced (about 1 tablespoon)
  • 4 eggs
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 lemon, juiced and zested
  • 1/41/2 cup chopped fresh chives

Instructions

  1. Cook pasta in salted water according to package directions for al dente. Before straining, reserve 1/3 – 1/2 cup of the cooking water for the sauce.
  2. Heat a large skillet or frying pan to medium-high, and bacon and sauté, until slightly crispy, about 5 minutes. Add the minced garlic. Sauté until fragrant, about 30 seconds, and turn off the heat.
  3. In a medium bowl, whisk together the eggs, salt, lemon juice and zest. Temper the eggs by whisking the reserved pasta water into them while still hot.
  4. Toss cooked pasta with the bacon, garlic and egg mixture, and stir to coat evenly in the liquid.
  5. Add additional pasta water, if needed. Adjust seasoning with salt & pepper, to taste.
  6. Garnish with chives and serve immediately.

Nutrition

  • Serving Size: 1 bowl
  • Calories: 309
  • Sugar: 2.4 g
  • Sodium: 378.5 mg
  • Fat: 7.4 g
  • Saturated Fat: 2.3 g
  • Carbohydrates: 45.4 g
  • Fiber: 2 g
  • Protein: 14.7 g
  • Cholesterol: 104.4 mg

Keywords: dairy free, egg, bacon

Last Updated on November 12, 2021 by Melissa Belanger

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10 Comments

  1. Hi Melissa! I’m so happy I stumbled on your site– starting in December, I began losing all of my tolerance for dairy. I went from having a big glass of milk every day to barely being able to have a tablespoon. Today, the only dairy prodoct I can having at any real serving size is yogurt, and I can’t tell you how much I’ve been grieving the loss of cheese and milk.

    But then yesterday, I came across your recipe for carbonara, as well as other meals, and I feel hugely encouraged! Thank you for sharing your work and research, as well as yummy recipes like this one. I look forward to slowly making my way through your other suggestions and guidance as I begin this new life without milk and cheese.

    1. The eggs get tempered when you add the hot liquid, which brings them to a safe temperature and then they will thicken when they’re in the pan with the pasta, but they won’t get cooked like a scrambled egg.

  2. I made this tonight and it was really yummy! I used chickpea pasta in place of regular pasta, too.
    I did have a couple of suggestions for clarification in your instructions. When you drain the pasta, do you rinse it too? Or better to retain a bit more of the starchiness from the pasta water? (I went ahead and rinsed the chickpea pasta as it started to clump.) When you mix the pasta, bacon, & egg/lemon mix together, what pot are you mixing it in – the pot you cooked the pasta in? The skillet you cooked the bacon in (and are you draining off some of the grease first)? Or a separate bowl? When you slice the bacon, do you cut the long strips into shorter lengths?
    Thanks for this; I’ll definitely be making it again!

  3. This recipe is excellent. I made it exactly as you laid out and we did not miss the cheese at all. My husband actually asked, startled, is there cheese in this?—I laughed and said it was egg. It’s difficult to find dairy-free recipes that aren’t strictly vegetarian or vegan. My only addition to your excellent recipe was frozen peas, which I added when I combined all the ingredients in the skillet. Thanks and I’ll be back for more DF recipes.

  4. Mine wasn’t creamy at all it was a soupy lemon sauce. I make carbonara all the time and I followed your instructions so not sure how this happened?

  5. My whole family loved this! (I added mushrooms in with the bacon.) Even my usually fussy kids devoured it and asked for seconds.

  6. This was amazing! I haven’t been able to eat carbonara since I became sensitive to dairy over 10 years ago and it was one the dishes that I thought absolutely had to have cheese in it (and I didn’t want to substitute vegan cheese or nutritional yeast). I used smoked guanciale from a local butcher and really good free-range eggs. The lemon zest and juice is a stroke of genius! It gave the dish a lovely tang. I’m not sure that I don’t like this more than the original. Thank you!