A hearty lentil bolognese and a creamy white bechamel make this vegan lasagna the BEST ever. We made this recipe with different ground beef alternatives, but there is something fundamentally perfect with using only brown lentils. And no, you don’t need any vegan ricotta cheese to make a delicious classic lasagna.
We love casserole dinners as they are perfect leftovers for lunch the next day. Apart from this yummy lasagna, we regularly make vegan shepherd’s pie, vegan pot pie, vegan eggplant parmesan, and vegan moussaka.
What to expect from this recipe?
Lasagna or lasagne is a popular casserole-type Italian pasta dish where there are 3 alternating layers baked with melted cheese on top. There is no need to add ricotta, cottage cheese, or any other cream. I saw this video back then, where Chef Gennaro explains in great detail how to make authentic Italian Lasagna. The traditional recipe consists of:
- ground beef cooked in a bolognese ragú sauce,
- bechamel sauce (not ricotta!),
- dry or fresh lasagna pasta sheets.
Since there are many meat and dairy substitutes you can choose from to make vegan lasagna, the recipes can also be quite different. So why is it one of the best vegan lasagna recipes I have ever tasted?
- The bolognese is made rich and hearty since we used sieved tomato puree and chopped tomatoes instead of a thin tomato sauce.
- The creamy cashew-based white sauce complements the sweet tangy ragu perfectly.
- We also added a bit of nutmeg, to make it a bit more aromatic and unique compared to all other recipes out there.
Why did we make this lasagna with lentils instead of other vegan ground beef alternatives?
There are numerous advantages of using lentils in dishes like lasagna:
- Lentils are pantry staples, cheap, and easily accessible.
- If you are in a hurry, you can use canned lentils. So no soaking and no long cooking is needed to get them ready.
- Lentils are allergy-friendly, as they are nut-free and soy-free so everyone can enjoy the final dish.
- Most people like lentils. If you prepare this dish for a non-vegan they will recognize lentils for what they are and will not feel tricked or deceived.
Seriously, look at the below picture. Doesn’t it look like a hearty lentil bolognese ragu that is perfect for meatless lasagna?
Usually, lasagna and other pasta casseroles need more than a handful of ingredients. But don’t let it convince you otherwise, it will be worth it when you are ready with it.
We used spinach lasagna pasta sheets, that’s why they are green. You can use flat sheets or these lasagna noodles with ruffles on the side. Choose a gluten-free brand if you need to.
- Onion -> You can use purple onion, but red onion looks better in this sauce.
- Brown lentils (canned or cooked) -> Red lentils are a possible substitute albeit they taste a little different and need less time to be soft. The closest alternative would be green lentils.
- Canned chopped tomatoes -> We used this one since ripe, sweet tomatoes are not always available in the produce section.
- Sieved tomato puree -> You can probably find several type of tomato sauces in the stores. We recommend choosing sieved tomato puree which is thicker and unseasoned.
- Sweet paprika powder
- Basil -> You can use fresh basil leaves or dried ground basil.
- Oregano -> Same goes here. You either have fresh leaves or use dried ground oregano instead.
- Salt and black pepper
Vegan béchamel sauce
We do have a classic vegan bechamel sauce which is flour-based and nut-free. And if we ever do a white lasagna, that would be our go-to sauce. But in this recipe, a fool-proof, quick, super easy cashew bechamel will just be perfect.
- Cashews -> I don’t know any exact substitutes since cashews make the creamiest nut-based sauce ever. No other nuts or seeds bring this kind of perfect texture. Its nutty flavor is also milder compared to other alternatives.
- Dairy-free milk -> The more neutral taste the milk has the better. We recommend using unsweetened almond milk, oat milk, or soy milk. Although, we usually opt for our homemade cashew milk recipe. We show you 3 ways to make it in 10 minutes.
- Garlic -> You need it and lots of it. If you only have garlic powder use ¼ teaspoon for each clove.
- Nutritional yeast -> You have 3 alternatives. Use this, or white mis paste or store-bought vegan Parmesan cheese. We love using this brand*.
- Nutmeg -> You’d be surprised how much of a difference a tiny bit of nutmeg makes to the final taste.
- Salt and black pepper -> Use white pepper to make keep the color closer to white.
🛒 You can find detailed measurements for all ingredients in the printable version of the recipe card at the bottom of this post.
Preparing the ingredients
- Peel and chop onion and garlic.
- Precook dry lentils or drain canned ones.
- Wash and chop fresh basil and oregano or use dried ground herbs.
- Don’t precook lasagna noodles. You will use the dry sheets as they are.
- Measure all other ingredients.
Making lentil bolognese
We used our vegan marinara sauce as a base for this lentil bolognese ragu, but here is how to do it
- Preheat a large frying pan or skillet over medium heat. Add chopped onion and cook it lightly until it turns glossy.
- Add chopped garlic and cook for 1-2 minutes.
- Add sweet paprika powder and stir for a minute before adding chopped tomatoes, tomato sauce, and the remaining seasoning (basil, oregano, salt, and black pepper) and simmer for 5 minutes.
- Finally, add precooked or canned lentils and simmer for a couple of minutes just to heat them up.
Making vegan béchamel sauce
We use our cashew alfredo sauce to make a killer white sauce for this vegan lasagna.
- Boil water in a kettle and soak cashews in hot water for 5 minutes, then drain them. Alternatively, you can boil water in a stockpot and cook the cashews for 5 minutes.
- Add soaked cashews, garlic, milk, and seasoning (nutmeg, nutritional yeast, salt, and pepper) to your blender. You can certainly use a hand blender (aka immersion blender) or a regular blender. They all make a creamy sauce. However, if you need this sauce to be extra smooth without a single little piece to find, we recommend using a high-power blender like Vitamix.
- Blend them until you get a creamy sauce.
Layering your vegan lasagna
This recipe will give you 4 servings and we used a 9 x 7 x 3 inch (23 x 18 x 8 cm) large oven-safe dish. We made 6 layers of pasta, 7 layers of lentil bolognese, and 7 layers of white sauce. You can use less pasta and more sauce in between the lasagna sheets, it is totally up to you.
- You don’t want your pasta layer at the bottom as it may stick to it during backing. We recommend that you start with a thin layer of lentil bolognese sauce.
- Next are a set of lasagne sheets to cover up the whole ragu.
- Then, spread ragu on top of them again and a bit of white sauce.
- Then pasta, ragu, and white sauce again and again.
- Cover the final layer of noodles with white sauce. You can sprinkle it with grated vegan mozzarella cheese, vegan parmesan, or more nutritional yeast.
- Preheat the oven to 400 Fahrenheit (200 degrees Celsius) and bake your vegan lentil lasagna for 30 minutes. Depending on your oven, but if you see the top getting brown, cover it with tin foil and bake it for more.
FAQs and substitutions
Raw cashews or roasted cashews?
We usually use roasted cashews especially if we cannot find raw cashews on the cheap. The sauce is PERFECT with roasted cashews. Even if you can only find salted ones, don’t worry, it will be washed off while soaking.
What other vegan ground beef alternatives can you use?
- TVP (textured vegetable protein) is the closest you can get to a real ground beef texture. It is 100% soy so some people have a problem with it, but it truly is the best alternative. We use it in our vegan cabbage lasagna and in our vegan moussaka (photo #1).
- Cauliflower and walnut mince is a seemingly weird combination but works cauliflower gives the minced texture, while walnut adds meaty richness. If you eat soy-free or prefer a whole foods substitute, we have step-by-step instructions for you to make it within our vegan spaghetti bolognese recipe (photo #2).
- Mushroom bolognese would be most people’s first choice as they are easy to work with, usually cheap, and it is a familiar ingredient. Although we think that mushroom does not deliver on texture perfectly. It remains too spongy. We only use them in combination with cauliflower and walnut mince and prepare them similarly.
- Extra firm tofu could be another alternative, although most people bit hesitant to use it. Most people like tofu crunchy, but since it will be braised in a sauce, tofu will be soft.
- Quinoa or millet gives a minced texture, but they are so tiny compared to ground beef. We use it in our vegan chili recipe (photo #4) in combination with other veggies.
How to store it?
All casserole-type dishes are great for batch cooking. You can easily store it in the fridge for 3-4 days without any problem.
Can you freeze it?
Store any leftovers per serving (in an airtight container) in a freezer and thaw whenever you need them.
This Lentil Lasagna recipe is meat-free, dairy-free and egg-free.
- Vegan – All ingredients are supposed to be vegan.
- Nut-free – Use our vegan bechamel sauce recipe instead of the cashew white sauce described here to make it nut-free.
- WFPB-friendly (whole foods plant-based) – You can skip the oil, if you sautee onion and garlic in water, vegetable broth, or directly in the tomato sauce. If you add grated vegan cheese use an oil-free alternative. Since white flours are also usually avoided try to find whole wheat lasagna noodles or if you need it to be gluten-free, choose brown rice lasagna noodles or lentil lasagna sheets
- Gluten-free – All ingredients are supposed to be gluten-free but always cook with certified products. If you plan to use oat milk, be sure to buy a certified gluten-free brand. Otherwise, choose another type of dairy-free milk. Lasagna is not gluten-free, so choose GF noodles like these.
- Soy-free – Don’t use soy milk to make the bechamel and you are good. Choose soy-free vegan cheese if you want to grate some at the top.
More vegan lasagna recipes
We also have a delicious vegan cabbage lasagna recipe (see below) where we cooked a rich vegan marinara sauce with TVP (textured vegetable protein) and a cashew bechamel similar to the one in this recipe. We also have a vegan spinach lasagna recipe (see below) where we use crumbly spinach tofu ricotta paired with a rich Pomodoro sauce.
More vegan casserole recipes
You can browse through our vegan dinner recipes or check out
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Easy Vegan Lasagna with Lentil Bolognese
Lentil Bolognese Ragu
Vegan Bechamel Sauce
- Soak cashews in hot water for 5 minutes, then drain them. Alternatively, boil water on the stovetop and cook cashews for 5 minutes.
Making lentil bolognese sauce
- Peel and chop the onion and cook it lightly in olive oil until it turns glossy. Add peeled and chopped garlic and cook for 1-2 minutes.
- Add chopped tomatoes, tomato sauce, and seasoning (sweet paprika powder, basil, oregano, salt, and pepper) and cook for 5 minutes.
- Add cooked or canned lentils and cook for 1-2 minutes.
Making vegan bechamel sauce
- Use a regular blender, a hand blender, or a food processor, whichever gives you a creamier result.
- Add soaked cashews, garlic clove in whole, dairy-free milk, and seasoning (nutmeg, nutritional yeast, salt, and pepper) and blend them until creamy.
Layering the vegan lasagna
- To ensure that the pasta sheets do not stick to the bottom, we place a thin layer of lentil bolognese ragu at the bottom.
- After that, the layers should look like pasta sheets, bolognese sauce, and white sauce.
- And repeat… We needed the above combination 6 times to fill a 9 x 7 x 3 inch (23 x 18 x 8 cm) oven-safe dish. The last layer should be white sauce which you can sprinkle with vegan grated cheese or vegan parmesan, or more nutritional yeast.
- We made 6 layers of pasta, 7 layers of ragu, and 7 layers of white sauce. You can use less pasta and more sauce in between the sheets, it is totally up to you. (In the photos, we used spinach lasagna pasta sheets, that's why they are green.)
- Preheat the oven to 400 Fahrenheit (200 degrees Celsius) and bake your lasagna for 30 minutes.
Other vegan ground beef alternativesHere are some other suggestions. Feel free to choose whichever you like per your taste.
- TVP (textured vegetable protein) is the closest you can get to the real ground beef texture and taste without the fatty and greasy part nonetheless. We used TVP in our vegan cabbage lasagna recipe. We show you there how to prepare it through step-by-step photos and instructions, including a quick video.
- Cauliflower and walnut mince is a seemingly weird combination but works cauliflower gives the minced texture, while walnut adds meaty richness. If you eat soy-free or prefer a whole foods substitute, we have step-by-step instructions for you to make it within our vegan spaghetti bolognese recipe.
- Mushroom bolognese would be most people’s first choice as they are easy to work with, cheap, and has familiar ingredients. Although we think that mushroom does not deliver on texture perfectly. It remains too spongy. We only use them in combination with cauliflower and walnut mince and prepare them similarly.
- Tofu could be another alternative, although most people bit hesitant to use it. It is not easy to make tofu crunchy, and you can easily end up with something too gooey. We rarely use it.
- Quinoa or millet gives a minced texture, but they are so tiny compared to ground beef. We use it in our vegan bean chili recipe in combination with other veggies.
UPDATED: This recipe was originally posted in April 2020. More info, tips, and details were added and it was republished in Sep 2022.