Chicken Carbonara Spaghetti Squash Boats are a healthy twist on a classic Italian recipe. They’re made with homemade cashew cream to keep them dairy free and paleo.
Pasta carbonara is one of my guilty pleasure foods. There’s something about the combination of pasta, pork, and sharp Italian cheese that’s practically magic. Of course, there’s nothing healthy about the traditional recipe at all. It usually leaves me in a carb coma and a slight stomachache.
These paleo chicken carbonara spaghetti squash boats are still indulgent, but they’re definitely a healthier option than the real deal.
First, I swapped pasta for spaghetti squash. That was the easy part. I’m not a huge fan of spaghetti squash with red sauce, but I love it with cream based sauces or with oil and garlic. This rich carbonara sauce masks the vegetable taste of the squash really well.
Figuring out the sauce was a more difficult task. I wanted to keep this recipe paleo and dairy free, which meant the traditional mess of parmesan and pecorino romano wasn’t an option. Instead, I resorted to an old favorite from when I was in culinary school – cashew cream.
Cashew cream takes a little bit of prep work (you need to soak the cashews in water for a few hours) but it’s really easy to make and results in a thick, creamy sauce with a neutral taste. It keeps for about 3 days in the fridge (and can also be frozen) so I make it on Sunday. That way, these chicken carbonara spaghetti squash boats are easy to throw together after work during the week.
The seasoning in the carbonara sauce is pretty simple – I add a shallot and some garlic to add a little bit of the sharpness that you miss from not using cheese. Then I season it with salt and a whole lot of freshly cracked pepper – add enough to make you think “wow, that’ll be really peppery” then add a little bit more.
I kept my recipe simple, mimicking traditional carbonara, but you can feel free to mix in peas, mushrooms, or anything else you like.
- 1/2 cup raw cashews
- 1 cup water
- 2 small spaghetti squash (2-3 pounds each)
- 4 slices sugar-free bacon
- 2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, diced
- 1 shallot, minced
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 3/4 cup vegetable stock
- 1/4 cup dry white wine (optional)
- salt and freshly cracked black pepper
- 1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped
To make the cashew cream, place the cashews in a small container and cover with water. Let soak 2-3 hours, until soft and plump. Drain the cashews, then add them to a blender with 1 cup water. Blend on high until smooth.
Heat your oven to 400ºF. Split the spaghetti squash in half, lengthwise, and scoop out the seeds. Place the squash cut side up on a baking sheet; bake 40 minutes or until tender.
Meanwhile, cook the bacon in a large pan over medium heat until crisp, about 8 minutes. Transfer the bacon to a paper towel lined plate, leaving the drippings behind.
Add the chicken to the pan from the bacon; season with salt and pepper. Cook 5-6 minutes or until browned and almost cooked through. Transfer to the plate with the bacon.
Add the shallot and garlic to the pan; cook 1-2 minutes or until fragrant. Add in the broth and wine (if using) and bring to a simmer, scraping up the brown bits from the bottom of the pan. Stir in the cashew cream; simmer 5-8 minutes or until thick enough to coat the back of a spoon. Season with salt and lots of freshly cracked pepper.
Crumble the bacon. Mix the crumbled bacon, chicken, and parsley into the sauce.
Use a fork to scrape the "spaghetti" from the squash; mix it into the sauce. Spoon the carbonara into the squash shells. Return to the oven for 10 minutes.
Top with additional parsley, if desired.