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Easy Vegan Lasagna Recipe
Lasagna makes pretty much everyone happy and, with this Easy Vegan Lasagna Recipe, now even vegans and plant-based eaters can enjoy this ultimate comfort food.
Lasagna has always been a favorite dish of mine. What’s not to love – it’s warm and savory and oh.so.flavorful. The problem, for me anyway, has always been that lasagna has been good going down, but the aftermath of feeling stuffed could be unpleasant. Before eliminating meat and cheese from my diet at home, lasagna could be quite the gut bomb.
This vegan lasagna recipe not only eliminates meat and cheese, it also replaces heavy white flour noodles with the more nutritious options of zucchini noodles and red lentils.
The Trick to No Noodle Vegan Lasagna
The challenge to making lasagna without the noodles keeping it from becoming a soggy soupy mess. After all, it’s usually the noodles that do the job of absorbing the moisture from lasagna’s other ingredients. To make sure that this zucchini-based lasagna came out like the original, I did two things. First, I salted and rested my zucchini strips. Then, I added red lentils to the sauce mix at the very end.
Salting Your Vegetables for Your Vegan Lasagna
If you’ve never experimented with salting your vegetables before roasting them, I think it’s a step you should investigate. It’s a tip I picked up from my new favorite food science book: Vegetables Illustrated, by Cook’s Illustrated.
Salting vegetables with a high-water content draws the moisture out of the vegetables. So, in the case of roasting, certain vegetables are free to turn a golden brown on the baking sheet instead of steaming and becoming mushy. Zucchini is a prime candidate for this step (eggplant is too, if you like eggplant in your vegan lasagna).
It doesn’t take much time (or much salt) to draw the water out of zucchini. I usually start this vegan recipe by slicing my zucchini strips with a mandoline, then laying them out on a clean dish towel. I sprinkle about 1 tsp. of salt over them and allow them to rest while I prepare rest of the ingredients. I’ll pat them dry just before adding them to my lasagna baking pan.
Adding Red Lentils to Your Vegan Lasagna
When I make the sauce for my lasagna (yes, I make my own sauce – it’s so simple!), I’ll add a ½ cup of dry red lentils in at the very end. As the lentils cook in the lasagna, they’ll absorb the moisture from the zucchini and the tomato sauce. This gives the finished lasagna a nice, firm texture that’s similar to traditional lasagna.
Forget the Cheese, Cashew Cream is a Dreamy Addition to Vegan Lasagna
For many people, cutting the meat out of lasagna is easy. Vegetable lasagna is a wonderful dish. It’s usually the cheese where people get hung up.
Admittedly, cheese was the hardest ingredient to eliminate from my cooking. I still wanted that gooey, savory, creamy deliciousness in every bite. The trick, as it turned out, was to accept that I had to give up gooey. I know a lot of commercial cheeses try for gooey and, in my opinion, that just makes vegan cheese substitutes taste fake. Similarly, you’ll see tapioca flour in a lot of homemade vegan cheese recipes trying to achieve that gooey, stringiness. To me, it just makes the vegan cheese taste dry. Creamy and savory, though? Those are very easy to achieve with vegan cheese.
For this vegan lasagna recipe, I decided on a cashew cream over an almond ricotta (I make them both). Cashew cream is just that – it’s creamy, smooth and very savory. It also comes together a. lot faster as cashews require quite a bit less soaking time than almonds. Cashew cream is simple to make, including only cashews, olive oil, garlic, water and nutritional yeast. If you’re not familiar with nutritional yeast.
What is Nutritional Yeast?
I’m guessing that you mostly have those ingredients at home already, but if you’re new to plant-based cooking, you might not be familiar with nutritional yeast. Nutritional yeast is a popular ingredient in vegan recipes. It’s often cited for its cheesy, nutty flavor, but it’s more than just a flavor substitute – it’s actually got plenty of health benefits too. I did some thorough coverage on nutritional yeast in my Basil Pesto Stuffed Shells recipe if you’re interested in learning more.
Making the Tomato Sauce for Your Vegan Lasagna
I used to think making my own sauce for dishes like those Basil Pesto Stuffed Shells and Creamy Vegan Polenta with Mushroom Ragu was too much effort. But, making a tomato sauce is really easy and very rewarding. By making it yourself, you’re able to control what goes into it. And, for me, what goes into it, is some extra vegetables.
To make the homemade tomato sauce rich and savory, I start by browning my onions and then caramelizing my tomato paste in a cast iron skillet. These two steps will give the sauce some extra richness. I add in mushrooms (another vegan-friendly ingredient rich in umami) and carrots (which work to naturally sweeten the sauce). My final step, as I mentioned above, is to add the red lentils are the very end. I pour them in just after I turn off the burner, so that they can cook in the oven along with the finished lasagna pan.
Putting Your Vegan Lasagna Together
Putting together a vegan lasagna is much like building a traditional lasagna. I start by adding olive oil to the bottom and sides of the baking dish, then adding a layer of zucchini. This is followed by a layer of the cashew cream, seasoned with some salt and pepper and then finally the homemade tomato sauce. I do this three times – the amounts work out about perfectly – and then pop it in the oven for 45 minutes.
Heading: What’s In My Kitchen to Make This Vegan Recipe Easier?
Want to know what tools and resources I keep on hand to make my vegan cooking even easier? Here’s a short list of what helped me create this blog post and recipe. For the complete list, visit my Shop where you can find the kitchen gadgets I like as well as a list of books that I recommend.
My cast iron skillet is one of my favorite kitchen tools. It’s a great pan for a number of different recipes, but it’s especially good for the slow-cooking that this sauce requires.
This is a great kitchen gadget for making things like Vegan Sweet Potato Nachos and Easy Vegan Lentil Lasagna. When purchasing a mandoline, I would recommend going with a sturdier option, which does tend to cost a little more. But, they’re very sharp kitchen tools and your fingers will be close to the blade. You don’t want a version that could slip on the counter as you’re slicing.
It’s true – a Vitamix is an expensive blender. But, oh! The things it can do and do well. If you’re interested in getting more into vegan cooking, or you just want to eat healthier, then I think that this is a must-have kitchen tool. I use my Vitamix daily for breakfast smoothies and it really gets the job done when making vegan cheeses.There are many versions of the Vitamix on the market. This is the version that I have.
For the record, I do count books as a tool in the kitchen, particularly a book like this. This book is a wealth of not only “how to” in the kitchen, but also “why to.” I love the behind the scenes intel on my ingredients, especially vegetables!While this book isn’t specifically vegan or vegetarian, it does contain a lot of very helpful information!
No, that’s not the brand. It’s just the idea! But,I own this set of Global™ knives and They’re some of my most prized possessions in the kitchen. This set is universally well-rated for the at-home chef and will get you a good, solid set of knives without totally breaking the bank.
I’ve read a dozen posts about why you shouldn’t use a garlic press. One of them actually suggested that they take up valuable kitchen space. I mean, I guess if you have a tiny kitchen you might have to make those choices. They’re smaller than a can opener. I love mine. I hate, hate, hate mincing garlic.
Easy Vegan Lasagna Recipe
Lasagna makes pretty much everyone happy and, with this Easy Vegan Lasagna Recipe, now even vegans and plant-based eaters can enjoy this ultimate comfort food. This lasagna recipe is dairy free, replacing cheese with an easy cashew cream sauce. This also makes it a no tofu vegan lasagna. The noodles get swapped out with zucchini, making it a healthy, gluten-free option as well.
For the Sauce & Zoodles
- 1 cup yellow onion chopped
- 2 cloves garlic minced or pressed
- 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 2 tbsp tomato paste
- 1 tsp dried oregano
- 1/2 tsp crushed red pepper
- 8-10 button mushrooms washed and dried
- 2 carrots washed and diced
- 1 28 oz can diced tomatoes
- 1/2 cup water
- 1 tbsp fresh lemon juice
- 1/2 cup dried red lentils rinsed and drained
- Fresh torn basil
For the Cashew Cream
- 1 cup cashews or cashew pieces soaked in hot water
- 1/2 cup water
- 1 tbsp fresh lemon juice
- 1 tbsp nutritional yeast
- 1 clove garlic peeled
- pinch of table salt
- 1-2 zucchini sliced into 1/4" strips using a mandolin or sharp knife
- 1 tsp table salt
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Place the cashews in a medium-sized glass bowl. Boil 2 cups water and pour over the cashews. Set aside for 45 minutes to 1 hour while you slice the zucchini and make the tomato sauce.
Heat the olive oil in a large sauce pan or deep-sided skillet. When shimmering, add the onions and sauté on medium-low heat until starting to turn golden brown. Add the garlic, oregano and crushed red pepper and sauté 1-2 minutes.
Increase the heat to medium and add the tomato paste. Continue cooking until the tomato paste is fragrant and turns a dark red.
Add the carrots and button mushrooms and stir to coat.
Add the diced tomatoes and allow to simmer for 10 minutes.
Add the red lentils and lemon juice, stir and remove from heat.
Using a mandolin (or a sharp knife), thin slice the zucchini lengthwise into ¼” strips. Place the strips on a clean towel (or paper towels) and sprinkle with 1 tsp. salt. Allow to rest for 10 minutes, then pat dry.
In a blender, combine the soaked cashews (drained from soaking water and rinsed) with water, lemon juice, nutritional yeast, garlic and salt. Blend until creamy.
Lightly coat a deep baking dish with olive oil, then make a bottom layer of slice zucchini, add a thin layer of cashew cream and season with salt and pepper. Then add a layer of tomato sauce. Repeat this process two more times.
Bake for 45 minutes at 350 degrees. Remove from oven and allow to rest for 10 minutes. Top with fresh basil and vegan parmesan.
- Just a note on soaking cashews: many recipes will call for soaking your cashews for 3+ hours. And while I’m a huge fan of soaking nuts to make vegan cheese for the recommended time, cashews are a pretty forgiving nut. To make this process quicker, soak cashew pieces in just boiled water for 45 minutes to 1 hour while you prep the rest of the dish. Don’t worry, your cashew cream will be creamy!!
- Don’t skip sprinkling your zucchini with salt and allowing it to rest. You’ll be amazed by how much moisture it sheds. That’s a lot less water swimming in the bottom of your vegan lasagna pan!
About Herbivore’s Kitchen
Herbivore’s Kitchen is a blog run by me, a plant-based home chef and aspiring food photographer. I switched my and my family’s diet to a plant-based diet after learning about the health benefits of going vegan. Making this change has prompted a variety of food and holistic-lifestyle related questions that I explore through this blog. I talk about how to pick and prepare the most nutritious foods, to how to reduce waste at home, to how to live a more sustainable lifestyle while on the road.