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8 Healthier Takes on Pasta Carbonara

April 12, 2024
Courtesy of Half Baked Harvest

Creamy, savory carbonara is a classic indulgent pasta dish, a favorite you probably see often on menus at Italian restaurants. It’s traditionally made with eggs, guanciale (a cured cut of pork), pecorino romano cheese, and, of course, pasta

Though it’s perfectly fine to enjoy the occasional bowl of carbonara the traditional way, there are many ways to modify it to satisfy dietary restrictions, or to sneak in some extra nutrition. Whether you’re looking for a lower-carb option, or a plant-based one, or just a creative healthy spin, you’ll find a recipe here to suit your taste.

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1. Zucchini Carbonara

Zucchini Carbonara

Courtesy of Half Baked Harvest

This recipe takes creative license with carbonara, adding zucchini noodles along with the pasta, tossing in roasted garlic and fresh herbs, and swapping prosciutto for the guanciale. The result is a colorful, herby twist on the classic that’s sure to become a new favorite. 

Try this recipe from Half Baked Harvest.

2. Greek Yogurt Pasta Carbonara

Greek yogurt Pasta carbonara

Courtesy of Danilicious Dishes

Carbonara is usually creamy because of the eggs and cheese; it doesn’t have cream. But here, protein-rich Greek yogurt takes the place of some of the eggs, lending the sauce an even creamier texture. Use chickpea pasta or another type of alternative noodle to boost the nutrients, if you like. The peas and herbs add a pop of color and flavor to the dish. 

Try this recipe from Danilicious Dishes.

3. Spaghetti Squash Carbonara

spaghetti squash carbonara

Courtesy of Simple Healthy Kitchen

Spaghetti squash is a popular swap for noodles for low-carb and gluten-free eaters, and here it gets the carbonara treatment, with eggs, bacon, and parmesan. Pro tip: Be sure to let the squash drain thoroughly after pulling out the strands so the sauce doesn’t become watery.

Try this recipe from Simple Healthy Kitchen.

4. Smoked Salmon Pasta Carbonara

smoked salmon pasta carbonara

Courtesy of The Rustic Kitchen

The traditional guanciale in carbonara has a smoky flavor — so why not swap in smoked salmon for a healthy twist? It’s still a decadent-feeling pasta dish, but with a shot of omega-3 fatty acids to fight inflammation and boost heart and brain health.

Try this recipe from Inside The Rustic Kitchen.

5. Roasted Cauliflower Carbonara

Roasted Cauliflower Carbonara

Courtesy of Damn Delicious

Cauliflower is everywhere these days; it’s rice, it’s gnocchi, it’s even in smoothies. Now it’s showing up in carbonara, and we’re not sad about it. Roasted with garlic, thyme, and olive oil, the cauliflower adds a layer of nutty flavor and interesting texture to this dish, as well as plenty of fiber and nutrients. 

Try this recipe from Damn Delicious.

6. Turkey Bacon Spaghetti Carbonara

Turkey Bacon Spaghetti Carbonara

Courtesy of The Petite New Yorker

Some people find guanciale, bacon, and some other cuts too fatty for their taste, but still want the smoky flavor in their carbonara. If that sounds like you, try this version, which utilizes lean turkey bacon. Be sure to cook the bacon until it’s nice and crisp for the best texture.

Try this recipe from The Petite New Yorker.

7. Vegetarian Mushroom Carbonara

Mushroom carbonara

Courtesy of Vikalinka

Garlicky caramelized mushrooms add umami and a meaty quality to this hearty vegetarian spin on carbonara. Thanks to the egg and cheese in the dish, this bowl still has 25 grams of protein. Use cremini mushrooms in this dish; they’re a good source of immune-boosting zinc.

Try this recipe from Vikalinka.

8. Vegan Carbonara

Vegan Carbonara

Courtesy of Vegan Huggs

A creamy cashew sauce and a tofu-based vegan bacon stand in here to make a carbonara plant-based eaters will love. To make the bacon, you mince tofu, toss it in a smoky marinade, and brown in a skillet. You also can bake it, if you prefer.

Try this recipe from Vegan Huggs.

Read next: 8 Light Spring Pasta Recipes That Won’t Weigh You Down


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