Lasagna is one of those foods I can’t live without, so I riffed off of my mom’s classic recipe to make this dairy free lasagna, that also happens to be vegan.
Cheese is one of the first things people say they can’t give up. Mac and cheese, pizza, lasagna, what’s not to love? Dairy, that’s what.
When I talk to people about eating a more plant-based diet, cheese is one of the first things people say they can’t give up. Mac and cheese, pizza, lasagna, what’s not to love? Dairy, that’s what. My stomach doesn’t like it, so I’ve found another way. I’d say it’s as time consuming as making a regular lasagna, so definitely a more “involved” dish, but SO worth it to satisfy that cheese craving.
The right ingredients for a dairy free lasagna
First up is a solid pasta sauce. You can take a short cut by using a 24 oz jar (#storeboughtisfine), but if you have time, build your own flavors. I start with onions and garlic, that’s your base. You can also riff with some grated carrots, mushrooms and other veggies.
Once your onions and garlic are nice and soft, it’s time for my secret ingredient: seitan. Now, if you’re into meat or are gluten-free, go ahead and skip this part, you can easily substitute with meat or leave this out. It won’t be as good without something filling the place of “meat,” but you do you.
For my veggie crowd, seitan is a protein substitute made from wheat gluten that acts a heck of a lot like ground meat when done right. Before you say “ew,” just know that I had the same reaction, and was BLOWN AWAY when E served me some pasta with seitan bolognese. I’m a seitan believer. E has been perfecting his recipe over the last few years, but you can buy some seitan from Whole Foods too. Just make sure to grind it up in a food processor or blender to get the right size and texture. If you’re looking for a place to start, this is a pretty good recipe according to E. Let me know in the comments if you want my take on a seitan recipe.
Finally – cheese. Y’all know that I’m picky about ingredients, ESPECIALLY dairy substitutes. I’ve made plenty of lasagnas without cheese, but it just isn’t the same. So I buckled down one week, and made a bunch of lasagnas with different vegan cheeses. The great thing about lasagna is that the dairy-free cheese has plenty of time to get good and melty between the sheets of pasta. I used a combination of:
- Violife Parmesean – grated with microplane
- Miyokos Mozzarella – acts like ricotta with sharper flavor
- Miyokos Cheddar Shreds – before you judge me, try it. The shreds get ooey and gooey, and it’s absolutely delectable.
As an added bonus, I added some zucchini slices to this lasagna as well. I sliced them thinly, then placed onto paper towels, and sprinkled with salt to help dehydrate. Then I completed the sandwich with more paper towels, and placed something heavy-ish on top (in my case, a sheet tray).
Though it’s a little extra work, I recommend cooking your noodles in well-salted water for at least 4 mins, just to soften up. Otherwise, I find the edges of the noodles harden too much in the oven.
I hate/can’t find vegan cheese. For the haters out there, don’t knock it til you try it. If you can’t find it, try ordering it on Prime or online. If your craving is bad enough, you’ll get the cheese. Or, try making it without the cheese, but it just isn’t as creamy or flavorful. Don’t say I didn’t warn you…
I’m gluten free/don’t like meat substitutes That’s ok. Do what works – if you’re ok with meat, add meat. If not, I’ve def played around with adding a softer white bean to my sauce for protein. Play around with it!Print
This lasagna will knock your socks off. Vegan? Dairy free? Who’s that?
- 1 medium onion, diced
- 2–3 cloves garlic, minced
- OPTIONAL: 1-2 carrots, grated
- OPTIONAL: 1 package mushrooms, diced
- OPTIONAL: 2-3 cups seitan, in pea-sized bites*
- 24 oz jar pasta sauce**
- 1 package Miyokos Mozzarella
- 1 package Miyokos Cheddar shreds
- ½ block Violife Parmesean, grated (I used a microplane)
- Enough lasagna noodles for 3-4 layers***, precooked according to package instructions for 4-5 mins
- OPTIONAL: 1-2 zucchini, thinly sliced
- Salt/pepper to taste
- Couple Tbsp Tamari, soy sauce, or coconut aminos
- Neutral cooking oil (such as Grapeseed)
- OPTIONAL: Paprika / Cayenne
- GARNISH: Fresh parsley
- IF USING ZUCCHINI: Slice thinly, and place onto paper towels in one layer. Salt, top with another layer of paper towels, and place something on top of them (I used a sheet pan).
- Fill a nice sized pasta pot with water, and a generous couple pinches of salt. Bring to a boil, and cook pasta according to package instructions. I only did 4-5 mins, still enough structure to handle the sauce & cheese, but not rock solid.
- Preheat oven to 350 F.
- Meanwhile, heat a couple Tbsp on medium heat in a shallow saucepan. Mine is ~12 in wide.
- When oil is hot, add diced onions and carrots (if desired) with a pinch of salt to soften.
- Once onions are softer (2-3 mins), add minced garlic, mushrooms, seitan, and another pinch of salt. Stir often to prevent sticking. If needed, add a couple Tbsp of water to deglaze pan.
- When mushrooms release juices, add a couple Tbsp of tamari. This will give your sauce a nice umami kick. If not using mushrooms, add tamari after 5-6 mins.
- Add a couple Tbsp of oregano, and a ½ tsp each of Paprika or Cayenne if you’re feeling spicy. Stir to combine, then add pasta sauce.
- Let simmer on low for 5-10 mins for flavors to come together. Taste, and adjust seasoning.
Assemble the Lasagna:
- Start with a little pasta sauce or water to prevent sticking.
- Layer sheets of pasta, ⅓ sauce, ⅓ zucchini slices, ⅓ mozzarella & parmesan and ½ cheddar
- Repeat step 2 for your second layer.
- For the final layer, top with sauce, zucchini, mozzarella and parmesan (FYI: the cheddar has better texture when baked between the layers).
- Cover with foil or lid, and bake for 40-50 mins, until noodles are cooked and cheese is gooey.
- Remove from oven and let rest for 10-15 mins before serving. Speaking from experience, you’ll burn yourself! And from a technique perspective, the lasagna needs time to “set up” so you get beautiful slices.
- Slice, and enjoy! Top with fresh parsley if you have it!
*My recipe coming soon! Or buy from Whole Foods or other health market. To get into small pieces, I pulsed it in my Vitamix, but you can also use a food processor.
**You can make your own with a 24 oz can of tomato sauce and a couple Tbsp of tomato paste, but it will take a little longer for the flavors to develop. If using mushrooms, add after mushrooms release juices and you add tamari to re-hydrate. Otherwise, add after onions are cooked and soft.
***I used a 9×13 dish, and it used 12 noodles – 4 on every layer. Play around with this beforehand, as noodles come in different shapes and sizes.
If you need more sauce, you can add some pasta water, ¼ cup by ¼ cup. You can also use pasta water in the bottom of your lasagna pan.