Pregnant women often wonder if they can eat carbonara since the sauce is made with undercooked eggs and a couple of other ingredients that need to be checked.
Carbonara is safe for pregnant women if the eggs used to make the sauce are pasteurized. Carbonara sauce can’t be cooked on medium heat, otherwise the eggs become scrambled. The FDA recommends using pasteurized eggs when making undercooked egg-based sauces. Most store-bought carbonara sauces are pregnancy-safe.
With this said, should you be concerned with the other ingredients in carbonara? Find out below if you should, and what alternative sauces you can get!
Is Pasta Carbonara Safe During Pregnancy?
If you go on a search, or even look at cookbooks, traditional Italian carbonara only has a handful of ingredients, namely:
- Guanciale (pancetta if guanciale is not available)
- Pecorino cheese (parmesan if pecorino is unavailable as well)
- Black pepper
Contrary to what many people think, the sauce is not made with cream. Instead, it’s made with eggs and pecorino cheese, although some use parmesan as well.
This pasta dish also uses spaghetti, linguini, or fettuccine. However, other people also use penne or rigatoni pasta. Guanciale is the fat/meat of choice. And if you search more, the sauce is only heated, not cooked. So does that make the sauce, and carbonara in general, unsafe for pregnant women?
Let’s look at the ingredients that pregnant women might be concerned about.
Eggs are the most problematic carbonara ingredient for pregnant women. In traditional carbonara, egg yolks or the whole eggs are combined with pecorino/parmesan (and black pepper for some).
This mixture is added to the hot pasta on the pan. Some carbonara recipes call to put the heat on lowest or turn it off. This results in the eggs not cooking thoroughly. If they did, then you’d have scrambled egg pasta.
This means that the eggs in carbonara become unsafe for pregnant women. The CDC advises cooking eggs at an internal temperature of 160°F (71.1°C) or more (source: CDC). The FDA also recommends using eggs treated through pasteurization or other approved methods that effectively destroy Salmonella because they are safer than those that aren’t (source: FDA).
Eggs could be contaminated with Salmonella and pregnant mothers and their unborn can get infected. Salmonella can stick to egg shells and even the inside of the egg.
According to a study, pasteurized eggs are good for people who are immune-compromised, especially when used in dishes that require uncooked/undercooked eggs. Pasteurized eggs can be a viable answer in reducing the incidence of salmonellosis. (source: ScienceDirect).
So what should you do? If you’re making carbonara at home, opt for using pasteurized eggs, or use a commercially-made pasteurized sauce – we’ve listed some pregnancy-safe ones below.
If you’re ordering it in a restaurant, it’s likely to be made fresh with undercooked eggs and is therefore not safe during pregnancy – it’s better to switch it with something else until after your baby is born. You could ask the restaurant if they use pasteurized eggs – in which case it would be safe.
Meats used in traditional carbonara include guanciale or pancetta. The closest alternative would be bacon – read our dedicated article on bacon in pregnancy here.
Even though they have reached a safe temperature, cured meats may still be color pink when cooking because of the curing agents used. However, if cooked until crispy, they should be safe (source: FDA).
Whichever one you use is safe because you will be cooking it on the pan on medium heat to release the oils, which means they will brown and cook.
Cheeses used in carbonara are either pecorino, parmesan, or a combination of both. Both cheeses are hard cheeses and safe to consume during pregnancy.
Pecorino is pasteurized, while traditional parmesan cheese is not. However, even if parmesan is unpasteurized, it has low moisture content, making it safe to eat when pregnant.
Is Store-Bought Carbonara Sauce Safe When Pregnant?
Most commercial or store-bought sauces made from eggs are safe because they are pasteurized (source: FDA). However, you might want to double-check this by reading the packaging or doing your research.
For carbonara, most creamy sauces sold on the market do not contain eggs and instead are made with heavy cream, which is also pasteurized.
Here are some popular pregnancy-safe ones:
- Dolmio Carbonara Pasta Bake Sauce
- Gino Angelini Pasta Sauce
- Knorr Fix Spaghetti alla Carbonara
- Savini Tartufi Parmigiano Reggiano Truffle Cream
Overall, carbonara can be enjoyed by pregnant women, provided that pasteurized eggs are used to make the sauce, or if it’s made with store-bought versions. We hope you found this article helpful!