Vegan cooking: Experiment with lasagna layers

Squash, lentils, mushrooms, even apples star in filling main dishes.

Vegan column_Vince’s Low-Carb Meaty Vegetable Lasagna_plated
Vince's Low-Carb Meaty Vegetable Lasagna.
Contributed / Susan Alexander
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The word "lasagna" comes from the Ancient Greek word "laganon," which was the first form of pasta. The name roughly referred to a flat sheet of pasta. The original dish consisted of sheets of pasta layered with sauce. "Lasagne" is the plural form of "lasagna."

The best thing about vegan lasagne are the endless mouth-watering options to tantalize your palate.

Lentil Lasagna

Vegan column_Lentil Lasagna
Lentil Lasagna.
Contributed / Susan Alexander

  • 1 tablespoon canola oil
  • 2 carrots, chopped
  • 1 onion, diced small
  • ½ cup mushrooms, chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 cup cooked brown lentils
  • 2 cups vegetable broth
  • (1) 14-ounce can diced tomatoes
  • 2 bay leaves
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 tablespoons vegan margarine
  • 2 cups non-dairy milk
  • 2 tablespoon all-purpose flour
  • 9 lasagna noodles, boiled until al dente

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Saute carrots, onion, and mushrooms in oil. Add garlic, lentils, broth, tomatoes, and bay leaves. Cook for a half-hour. Add salt and pepper to taste and remove bay leaves.
Melt margarine in a pan and stir in flour. Slowly add non-dairy milk, stirring after each addition, to make a white sauce. Cook until thickened. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Assemble the lasagna. Lightly oil a 9-by-13-inch glass casserole dish. Place a layer of lasagna noodles on the bottom of the pan, top with one-third of the lentil mixture. Top with one-third of the white sauce. Top with another layer of lasagna noodles, then another one-third of lentils and another one-third of white sauce. Finish the lasagna with the last layer of noodles, then lentils, then white sauce.


Cook in the oven for about a half-hour, or until browned on top and hot throughout.

Squash Lasagna

Vegan column_Squash Lasagna
Squash Lasagna.
Contributed / Susan Alexander

I love the texture of this dish. You can cook up a butternut squash (my preference) and puree it, or just open a can of pumpkin. I like the richness of soy milk in this recipe. I think the pine nuts are best toasted on top of the stove in a skillet with a tablespoon of olive oil, but pine nuts can be dry-roasted as well.

  • 9 lasagna noodles


  • 1 can pumpkin
  • ¼ cup instant potato flakes
  • ¼ cup non-dairy milk
  • ½ teaspoon onion powder
  • ¼ teaspoon garlic powder

White sauce:

  • ¼ cup vegan margarine
  • ¼ cup all purpose flour
  • 3 cups dairy-free milk
  • Dash of nutmeg
  • Canola oil
  • 1/4 cup toasted pine nuts

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cook the lasagna noodles until barely tender. Remove from heat, rinse in cold water, and pat dry on a clean dish cloth. Set aside.
Mix pumpkin, potato flakes, soy milk, onion powder and garlic powder in a bowl. Set aside.

Next, make a white sauce. In a medium pot, melt margarine over medium heat, add flour, stir completely, then slowly add 3 cups of dairy-free milk incorporating each addition completely before adding more. Add a dash of nutmeg.

Lightly oil a 9-by-11-inch baking dish. Put about a half-cup of the white sauce on the bottom of the baking dish. Place a layer of noodles on top of the white sauce. Next spread the squash on the noodles, then add another layer of noodles. Then put the remaining white sauce on the top. Sprinkle with toasted pine nuts and bake for 30 minutes or until piping hot throughout.

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Mushroom Spinach Lasagna

Vegan column_Mushroom Spinach Lasagna
Mushroom Spinach Lasagna.
Contributed / Susan Alexander

  • 9 lasagna noodles, cooked al dente
  • 14-ounce package firm tofu, drained
  • Salt to taste
  • Ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 teaspoon dried oregano, divided
  • 8-ounce package mushrooms, sliced
  • (2) 10-ounce packages frozen spinach, thawed and drained of excess liquid

For the white sauce:

  • 1/4 cup vegan margarine
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 1/2 cups soy milk (or other non-dairy milk)
  • 2 tablespoons nutritional yeast
  • 1/2 teaspoons garlic powder
  • Salt to taste
  • Ground black pepper
  • 3 tomatoes, thinly sliced

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Drain and squeeze liquid from tofu. Crumble and season with salt and pepper.  Set aside.

Vegan column_Mushroom Spinach Lasagna slice
Mushroom Spinach Lasagna.
Contributed / Susan Alexander

In a large skillet over medium heat, heat oil. Add onion and garlic and season with salt, pepper, and 1 teaspoon oregano. Add mushrooms and cook until softened, 3-4 minutes. Stir in spinach until completely combined. Remove from heat and set aside.

Wipe out skillet and return to medium heat to make white sauce. Melt vegan margarine in a small pot, then add flour and whisk to combine. Whisk in non-dairy milk until smooth. Stir in nutritional yeast and garlic powder and season with salt and pepper. Bring to a simmer and let cook until thickened, 8-10 minutes.

In a large baking dish, spoon a quarter-cup marinara in an even layer, then add a layer of noodles. Top with a layer of vegetable mixture, tofu, marinara, then white sauce. Repeat until all ingredients are used, ending in marinara. Add a single layer of tomato rounds and season with salt, pepper and remaining oregano.

Bake 35-40 minutes, until lasagna is heated through.

Vince’s Low-Carb Meaty Vegetable Lasagna

Vegan column_Vince’s Low-Carb Meaty Vegetable Lasagna_slice
Vince's Low-Carb Meaty Vegetable Lasagna.
Contributed / Susan Alexander

A few years ago, I bought a deep dish 9-by-13-inch glass baking dish. The deep sides prevent spillovers and messy ovens. If you don’t have a glass deep-dish baking dish, run out and get one. (Of course, you can always cut back on ingredients to prevent a spillover, but it’s easier to just buy a deep baking dish.)


This recipe demonstrates that my husband does not know the meaning of restraint when building a lasagna.

  • 3 large zucchini squashes, cut into long, thin slices

For the vegan ricotta:

  • 14 ounces firm tofu
  • 2 tablespoons nutritional yeast
  • ½ teaspoon garlic powder
  • ½ teaspoon onion powder
  • 1 teaspoon dried basil
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Meat layer:

  • (2) 14-ounce packages beefless crumbles
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 3 peppers, green, orange, red, yellow or a combination, chopped into bite-sized pieces
  • 1 tablespoon canola oil
  • 1 tablespoon Italian seasoning
  • 1 tablespoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1 teaspoon fennel seeds
  • 32-ounce can tomato puree
  • 8-ounce bag washed spinach
  • Vegan mozzarella shreds

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Make vegan ricotta: In a blender, mix tofu, nutritional yeast, garlic powder, onion powder, basil, salt and pepper until smooth. Set aside. In a large skillet, saute burger crumbles, onion, and peppers in the canola oil until the onions and peppers soften. Add spices for the meat layer and saute for another minute. Add tomato puree. Turn off heat and assemble the lasagna layers.

Lightly oil a 9-by-13-inch deep-dish glass baking dish. Place a layer of zucchini on the bottom (about one-third of the zucchini). Top with about one-third of the meat sauce. Top with a layer of spinach then ricotta. Repeat layers starting with another layer of zucchini. Spread the last one-third of the meat sauce over the top layer of ricotta.

Cover the dish with foil and bake for 40 minutes. Uncover, top with mozzarella, cover, and bake for another 20 minutes until zucchini is tender and the lasagna is piping hot.

Mexican Lasagna

Vegan column_Mexican Lasagna
Mexican Lasagna.
Contributed / Susan Alexander

Double the recipe to make in an 8.5-by-11-inch (or larger) baking dish.

  • 1 package frozen vegan burger crumbles
  • 4 tablespoons vegan taco seasoning (or make your own)
  • 2 tablespoons canola oil
  • 12-14 soft corn tortillas
  • (2) 8-ounce tubs of vegan ricotta cheese
  • 1 cup shredded vegan cheddar cheese
  • 16-ounce jar chunky salsa
  • Optional toppings: vegan sour cream, green onions, avocado

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a large skillet, saute burger crumbles until heated. Add the taco seasoning and about a half-cup of water (depending on the directions on the packet). Stir until combined and all water is absorbed. Set aside.
Oil an 8-by-8-inch baking dish. Layer four corn tortillas on the bottom of the pan, cutting them to make them fit, although overlapping them is fine. Next, layer one-third of the ricotta, one-third of the burger crumble mixture, one-third of the salsa and one-third of the vegan cheese. Repeat the layers two more times.

Bake covered for 30-40 minutes or until the casserole has heated through. Let the casserole stand 10 minutes before cutting. Garnish with vegan sour cream, sliced green onions, and diced avocado, if desired.

Greek Lasagna (Pastitsio)

Vegan column_Greek Lasagna
Greek Lasagna.
Contributed / Susan Alexander

We love the flavors of this lasagna.

“Meat” sauce:

  • 2 cans chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • ¼ cup chopped walnuts
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon canola oil
  • ½ cup green or brown lentils
  • ½ cup red wine
  • 2 teaspoons beefless bouillon
  • 15-ounce can crushed tomatoes
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ¾ teaspoon ground allspice
  • ½ teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 2 bay leaves
  • ½ bunch parsley, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • Pepper to taste

Bechamel sauce:

  • ½ cup vegan margarine
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 5 cups non-dairy milk
  • 2 teaspoon lemon juice
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • 1 pound tube shaped pasta
  • 1 can whole tomatoes drained reserving liquid (optional)
  • 1 tablespoon canola oil
  • About ¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Make the “meat” sauce: Chop the chickpeas and walnuts into smaller pieces using a food processor. Set aside. Saute onion with oil, over medium heat until onion is soft, about 5 minutes. Add the chopped chickpea mixture and the rest of the meat sauce ingredients, cover and simmer for 20-25 minutes, or until the lentils are cooked and the liquid is absorbed. Keep an eye on the sauce and stir as needed; you don’t want the meat sauce to burn. Add water as the meat sauce cooks, if needed. (If you’re using whole tomatoes to top off the pastitsio, add the liquid from draining the whole tomatoes to the meat sauce here.) Take the lid off the sauce near the end of cooking to reduce the amount of liquid, if necessary. The meat sauce should be moist, but not runny.

Make bechamel sauce: Melt margarine, add flour, then slowly blend in remaining ingredients. It’s okay if the sauce is not perfectly smooth.

Cook pasta according to package directions, al dente. Drain. Mix 2½ cups of the bechamel sauce with the pasta.

Grease a 9-by-11-inch baking dish with the canola oil. Add half the pasta to the bottom of the baking dish. Cover the pasta with the “meat sauce” pressing down so it’s firm. Add the other half of the pasta on top. Press down to secures the layers.

Dot with whole tomatoes, if using. Cover the lasagna with the remaining bechamel and sprinkle with nutmeg.

Bake for 35-40 minutes until hot throughout. Let cool 20 minutes before cutting.

Polish Lasagna

Vegan column_Polish Lasagna
Polish Lasagna.
Contributed / Susan Alexander

Do you love meat and potatoes? This lasagna is for you!

  • 1 package vegan bacon, cut or crumbled into small pieces
  • 2 large onions, chopped
  • (2) 14- to 16-ounce packages vegan burger crumbles
  • About ½ teaspoon each garlic powder and ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons vegan margarine
  • 5 large potatoes mashed with lots of vegan creamer or non-dairy milk and vegan margarine
  • 1½ cups shredded vegan cheddar cheese
  • 1 box lasagna noodles (cooked according to package al dente)
  • 4 vegan Kielbasa sausages, cut into quarter-inch rounds
  • 15-ounce can sauerkraut

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Fry bacon, set aside. Saute onions until softened, add burger crumbles, garlic powder and black pepper. Set aside. Slice sausage, set aside. Drain sauerkraut, chop, rinse lightly and chop. Do not squeeze the liquid from the sauerkraut.
Slather sides and bottom of 13-by-9-inch baking dish with vegan margarine. Put a layer of lasagna noodles in the dish. Add half of the mashed potatoes, sprinkle with about half cup of the vegan cheese, then top with half of the burger crumble mixture.

Make a second layer of lasagna noodles. Sprinkle with sauerkraut. Evenly distribute the kielbasa slices.

Make a third layer of lasagna noodles. Add the remaining mashed potatoes and sprinkle with a half-cup vegan cheese and the remaining burger crumbles. Sprinkle with another half-cup of vegan cheese and top with crumbled vegan bacon.

Bake for 35 minutes until bubbly and hot throughout.

Apple Lasagna

Vegan column_Apple Lasagna
Apple Lasagna.
Contributed / Susan Alexander

Have you discovered vegan Coco Whip, yet? It’s the most delicious stuff ever! It is found in the freezer section of many grocery stores. It defrosts overnight in the refrigerator.

  • Nabisco Graham Crackers
  • 4 apples, peeled and cored
  • 1 tablespoon vegan margarine
  • ¼ cup brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon all purpose flour
  • ½ teaspoon cinnamon
  • ¼ teaspoon each ginger and nutmeg
  • 1 tablespoon maple syrup
  • (2) 8-ounce tubs of Tofutti vegan cream cheese  
  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 2 tablespoons light brown sugar
  • 9-ounce tub Coco Whip coconut whipped topping, defrosted
  • Store-bought vegan caramel sauce or chocolate sprinkles for topping, if desired
Vegan lasagna_Apple Lasagna_slice
Apple Lasagna.
Contributed / Susan Alexander

Cut apples into thin slices. Saute apples in vegan margarine for a couple minutes. Add brown sugar, spices, and flour. Cook for about 10 minutes. Cover for about a minute. Stir in maple syrup. Remove from heat and cool completely.
Mix cream cheese with brown sugar, cinnamon, powdered sugar, and apple cider vinegar. Fold Coco Whip into cream cheese.

In an 8-by-8-inch baking dish, place a layer of graham crackers, one-third of the Coco Whip mixture and half of the apples. Place another layer of graham crackers on top of the apples followed by another one-third of the cream cheese, and the remaining apple mixture. Top with another layer of graham crackers and the last of the Coco Whip mixture.

Top with vegan caramel sauce or vegan chocolate sprinkles just to make it pretty.

Susan Alexander
Susan Alexander

Susan Alexander is food columnist for the Duluth News Tribune. She loves gardening, farmers markets and creating delicious meals consisting of whole grains, fresh vegetables and fruits.


Related Topics: FOODRECIPES
Susan Alexander is food columnist for the Duluth News Tribune.
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