This vegan lasagne is packed with veggies, mushrooms & lentils for a protein and fibre-rich meal, all whilst being comforting and easy to make.
The ragu sauce
We like to use a base of onions, carrot and celery which add a huge amount of flavour as well as bulk to the sauce. It’s important to cook these for long enough that they start to brown slightly – it takes a while (15-20 mins) but it’s SO worth it in the long run as it really sets up those deeper, meatier flavours for the ragu. This mixture is then removed from the pan and we cook the mushrooms by themselves as this gives them the space to release their liquid which can evaporate, concentrating the flavour and making the texture meatier. We then add in our balsamic vinegar, tinned tomatoes, herbs and red lentils. The dry red lentils are an amazing ingredient to have on hand as they’re cheap, quick to cook, are high in protein and fibre and add a lot of bulk to the sauce.
We stir in tinned green lentils as they’re pre-cooked and add to that ‘meaty texture’ but you can easily cook the green lentils from dry (see recipe notes) or replace with vegan mince or TVP (see sections below the recipe card).
To enhance the meaty flavour of the ragu, we turn to ingredients like marmite (even if you don’t like it on toast, PLEASE try it in a vegan ragu – it’s amazing!!) which you can also sub for vegemite or miso, depending on what you have access to. We also love adding dark soy sauce to ‘meaty’ dishes for that delicious umami flavour it brings and how easy it is to find in the supermarkets. Another secret flavour boost comes from Maggi liquid seasoning which really amps up the umami flavours. However, we know not everyone is going to be able to buy another ingredient to keep in the cupboard so it’s entirely optional.
The bechamel sauce / white sauce
Usually in a standard lasagne you might add cheese to your bechamel e.g. cheddar or mozzarella, or even layer cheese into the bake. We’re not a fan of most supermarket vegan cheese so, especially with a highly flavoured dish like lasagne, there’s not a huge need to replace the cheese – we just leave it out! If you miss that stretchy texture of mozzarella you can always sprinkle a few handfuls of grated vegan mozzarella alternative into the layers of the lasagne as you wish.
We like to make a very tasty bechamel sauce (i.e. a white sauce) which starts with olive oil (cheaper and more accessible than vegan butter) and some garlic (for extra flavour!). Plain flour is added and toasted briefly in the oil to remove the floury flavour then soy milk (or another non-dairy milk) is whisked in until thick. We then mix in some more flavourful ingredients – nutritional yeast (which adds a savoury note), apple cider vinegar/lemon juice (to mimic the tang of cheese), salt (very important!! Again helps to add to the ‘cheesy’ taste) and black pepper. Lastly, a bit of nutmeg in the bechamel is a classic ingredient and just adds an extra layer of flavour.
Making bechamel sauce without nuts (cashews)
Some recipes call for using soaked, blended cashews (or other nuts) in the bechamel for a creamier texture. Whilst this is nice, it makes the recipe more hassle to make and more expensive. We find that using the flour-thickened white sauce and using plain soy milk works great to produce a creamy texture. If you want it to be creamier but don’t want to add nuts, you can also substitute 100ml of the non-dairy milk for a non-dairy cream (e.g. Elmlea plant) or you can stir in 2-3 tbsp of vegan cream cheese/soft cheese/creme fraiche alternative.
Are dried lasagne sheets vegan?
Generally, dry pasta is egg-free making suitable for vegans to consume. Just make sure you check the packaging to see what the ingredients are! On the other hand, fresh pasta usually contains eggs so, unless it says otherwise, it’s easier to avoid the fresh stuff and just stick to dried.
In the UK, I’ve tried many different lasagne sheets from different supermarkets and I’ve always had the experience that you do not need to pre-cook the lasagne sheets before layering & baking. This is because the ragu & bechamel contain enough liquid to cook the pasta while the lasagne bakes. That said, this is a good reason to make sure that your ragu sauce isn’t too dry (so don’t worry if it seems a bit watery pre-bake). The pasta will absorb the excess water as it bakes so it shouldn’t turn out watery.
Where can I buy vegan lasagne sheets?
Check your local supermarket in the pasta aisle (not the chiller aisle) – we mostly find that smaller supermarkets don’t carry lasagne sheets but larger ones do. Supermarket own-brand, dry lasagne sheets are usually vegan (just check the label to be sure) as well as name brands like Barilla. Most of the time, the fresh lasagne sheets from the chiller aisle contain eggs and so are not suitable for vegans.
Easy Vegan Lasagne Recipe
Vegan Lentil Ragu
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 2 onions (white, brown or red) diced
- 2 medium carrots diced
- 2 sticks celery diced
- 300 g chestnut mushrooms diced
- 150 g red lentils
- 3 sprigs rosemary leaves picked & finely chopped
- 1 tsp dried oregano or mixed dried herbs leaves picked
- 1-2 tbsp soy sauce we like dark soy sauce
- 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar*
- 1 tbsp marmite, miso or vegemite OR soy sauce
- 2 x 400g tin chopped tomatoes or plum tomatoes
- 1 tsp Maggi liquid seasoning optional
- 1 x 400g tin cooked green lentils* drained and rinsed
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 2 cloves garlic crushed
- 4 tbsp plain white flour
- 450 ml unsweetened non-dairy milk we like soy milk
- 30 g nutritonal yeast
- ⅛ tsp freshly grated nutmeg
- 1 tsp cider vinegar, distilled vinegar or lemon juice
- salt and black pepper
- 250 g dry lasagne sheets ensure they're egg-free/vegan
For the vegan ragu:
- Heat the olive oil in a large, deep frying pan or a medium pot. Add the onions, carrots, celery and a pinch of salt. Cook over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables have softened and are starting to brown (15-20 minutes).2 onions (white, brown or red), 2 medium carrots, 2 sticks celery, 2 tbsp olive oil
- Remove the vegetables from the pan/pot to a plate or bowl and set aside.
- Return the pot to the heat and add the mushrooms, cooking until they release their liquid and start to brown.300 g chestnut mushrooms
- At this point, add the onion/celery/carrot mixture back into the pot along with the lentils, rosemary, oregano, soy sauce, balsamic vinegar, marmite (or miso/vegemite) and tinned tomatoes.150 g red lentils, 3 sprigs rosemary, 1 tsp dried oregano or mixed dried herbs, 1-2 tbsp soy sauce, 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar*, 1 tbsp marmite, miso or vegemite, 2 x 400g tin chopped tomatoes or plum tomatoes
- Fill up one of the tomato tins with water and add to the pot/pan as well. Place the pan over a high heat and bring to a simmer. Turn the heat down to low, cover with a lid, and leave to cook for 20-30 minutes, stirring occasionally until the lentils have softened. If you notice the sauce is looking dry whilst it's cooking, add more water as needed.
- Remove from the heat. Stir in the Maggi liquid seasoning (if using) and the drained green lentils and set aside. Taste and adjust seasoning by adding more soy sauce (or salt), if needed.1 tsp Maggi liquid seasoning, 1 x 400g tin cooked green lentils*
For the vegan bechamel:
- Heat the olive oil in a medium pot over a medium heat. Add the crushed garlic and cook, stirring, for 30 seconds. Add the flour and stir for 1 minute more to slightly toast the flour.2 tbsp olive oil, 2 cloves garlic, 4 tbsp plain white flour
- Gradually whisk in the non-dairy milk bit by bit, cooking over a medium-low heat until you have a smooth, thick sauce.450 ml unsweetened non-dairy milk
- Stir in the nutritional yeast, nutmeg and vinegar/lemon juice. Season with salt and pepper to taste.30 g nutritonal yeast, 1/8 tsp freshly grated nutmeg, 1 tsp cider vinegar, distilled vinegar or lemon juice, salt and black pepper
Layer and bake:
- Preheat your oven to 180°C fan / 200°C non-fan (350°F fan / 400°F non-fan) and grab a deep, 9 x 13-inch baking dish (or an ovenproof dish of a similar size).
- Spread a thin layer of ragu into the bottom of the dish (this prevents the pasta sticking). Top with a layer of the dry lasagne sheets – you can break them in half to help them fit! Next, add around 1/4 of the ragu. Top with around 1/4 of the bechamel sauce. Repeat the layering of pasta, ragu, and bechamel sauce until you've used it all up.
- Drizzle with a bit more olive oil and bake for 30-40 minutes until golden on top.
Using quorn (or another chilled/frozen veggie mince) instead of lentils
In this recipe to keep costs down, I’ve gone for using a mixture of red lentils & green lentils for that ‘mince meat’ texture. If you prefer, you can replace some or all of the lentils with a vegan mince substitute such as quorn mince. Our recommendation is that you simply don’t add the green lentils and instead add 300g vegan quorn mince (or other vegan mince) to the pot in step 3 and cook the mince alongside the mushrooms.
Using TVP (or soya mince) instead of lentils
Another alternative is to use textured vegetable protein (i.e. TVP) which is also sometimes called soya mince which comes as dry, slightly chunky granules. They need to rehydrate to be edible but you can do this by just stirring them into your ragu sauce. Our advice is to not add the green lentils and instead stir in 120g of soya mince/TVP in step 6 (i.e. when you would’ve added the green lentils). You will need to add a bit more water to the sauce to replace the liquid which the mince absorbs.
The advantage of TVP is that it’s generally a lot more cost effective than name brand mince options. It’s also got a very long shelf life, is stored at room temp and, as it is dry, will bulk up a lot more when you add to sauces so you don’t need as much by weight.
The downside is that it’s unflavoured so you want it to go into a flavourful sauce otherwise it can be bland!
Is Vegan Lasagne Healthy?
This recipe is packed with a wide variety of vegetables (onion, carrot, celery, mushrooms, tomato) which is great for reaching your 5-a-day and getting a range of micronutrients and different types of fibre. It also contains lots of fibre-rich lentils (both red and green!) which also give you a boost of protein. The pasta will also provide some protein plus gives you carbohydrates for energy. You can increase the fibre content further by using dry wholewheat lasagne sheets if you wish.
How long do you cook vegan lasagne?
It takes 30-40 minutes to bake this vegan lasagne – the time is needed for the pasta to cook through and for the bechamel to start to turn golden on top.
Making vegan lasagne without pasta (courgette/aubergine method)
You can replace some/all of the pasta in this lasagne recipe with thinly sliced courgette or aubergines. To do this, just remove the top & end of your chosen veg and then slice into planks about 3mm thick.
With courgette, you can layer it straight into the dish.
With aubergine, we recommend brushing the planks with a bit of olive oil on both sides and roasting in a 180°C fan oven for 10-20 minutes until golden, before layering into the dish.
How to make vegan lasagne
- Make the vegan ragu sauce by cooking onion, celery, carrot and mushrooms until browned. Stir in red lentils, chopped tomatoes, rosemary, dried oregano, soy sauce & marmite and simmer for 30 minutes until you get a thickened ragu.
- Make the vegan bechamel sauce by heating garlic and olive oil in a pot. Add flour and stir for a minute, then whisk in soy milk until smooth and thick. Remove from the heat and stir in nutritional yeast, vinegar, salt, black pepper and nutmeg.
- Spread a thin layer of ragu into the bottom of a casserole dish. Top with a single layer of dry lasagne sheets followed by 1/4 of the ragu then 1/4 of the bechamel. Repeat this until all of the ragu and bechamel have been used up.
- Bake for 30-40 minutes in an oven preheated to 180°C fan until golden on top. Serve whilst hot from the oven.
(Follow the recipe above for detailed instructions)