A mouthwatering, Vegan and Spinach Zucchini Lasagna recipe made with no cheese (dairy) or pasta noodles. It's gluten-free, healthy, whole food plant-based and easy. (Plus it's low carb and has no soy/tofu, if that's your thing.)
This dish features layers of creamy vegan ricotta cheese (made with almonds), thinly sliced zucchini in place of noodles, spinach and anise-flavored basil smothered in a tangy tomato sauce. The flavors are rich, fresh and balanced--and it's just so damn delicious.
The only I thing I can think of that could possibly make this dish any better would be to top it with my amazing Mushroom Walnut Bolognese sauce. Or maybe layer in a little green pesto or red pesto. Definitely gonna try all the variations!
What makes this the best Veggie Lasagna Recipe ever?
A few weeks back, we brought this vegetable lasagna to a kick-off-the-university-semester potluck a few weeks ago. Not that Hemant’s faculty colleagues are hard to please, but they gobbled this up.
The thing is, no one cared that it was vegan. I’m not sure anyone even noticed. It's one of those meatless/vegetarian dishes everyone will love.
There's a joke in small Midwest communities: 'There's not much crime around here, but someone might break in and leave a few zucchinis in your fridge.' ? If you've been 'gifted' with zucchinis, I say turn them into this truly decadent Vegan Zucchini Lasagna.
Ingredients and Substitutions
- Zucchini - or you could try thin eggplant slices, or even pasta.
- Spinach - fresh is my favorite, but frozen works well here. You
- Fresh Basil - you can use dried, but I highly recommend fresh for the best flavor.
- Vegan Ricotta Cheese - homemade Almond Ricotta recipe included, but store-bought is fine, too.
- Marinara (Meatless Tomato) Sauce - homemade Instant Pot Tomato Sauce recipe included, but jar sauce is fine too as long as it's thick and not runny.
- Italian Seasoning
Zucchini spinach lasagna...or try out some other veggies
I chose a mixture of spinach and basil for filling for a couple of reasons. First, spinach cooks up fast, and tends to be a crowd pleaser as a lasagna filling. (At least with adults.) And loading this lasagna up with fresh basil really puts it over the top. It’s dreamy paired with almond ricotta. Just dreamy.
But you could easily mix it up here. Sauteed mushrooms would be amazing. And, I could definitely imagine this dish with some thinly sliced, roasted fall veggies like acorn squash and caramelized onions.
I haven't tried it, but I imagine thin eggplant slices could stand in for the zucchini--just check the cooking time. (WFPB compliant pasta would be great, too.)
Since you cook the veggies ahead of time, no matter what you choose--and as long as you pat them dry so it's not too soggy!--the basic methods should still work here. The possibilities are practically endless.
Follow these photos and step-by-step instructions for to make it perfect, every time. Please also see the full recipe card at the bottom of this page.
Step 1: Saute your veggie filling and divide into thirds. I'm using spinach, basil, onion & garlic.
Step 2: Slice raw zucchini into ⅛" thin strips using a mandoline (highly recommended!) or very sharp knife.
Step 3: Coat the bottom of the baking dish with a little tomato sauce and lay the 1st layer of zucchini on top.
Step 4: Dollop ⅓ of the almond ricotta onto the zucchini.
Step 5: Spread out the ricotta evenly over the zucchini, and sprinkle with a little Italian seasoning.
Step 6: Squeeze out any excess liquid, then place ⅓ of your veggie filling evenly over the ricotta layer. Top with another layer of zucchini, and repeat twice more. Finish with a 4th layer of zucchini.
Step 7: Pour the tomato sauce over the top of the lasagna...
...and spread it out evenly over the dish.
Step 8: Bake at 350 degrees Fahrenheit until hot and bubbly. Top with vegan Parmesan and basil if desired.
- If you can, buy zucchini in lengths that once trimmed, will fit your baking dish width.
- Use a mandoline. Thin even slices are key to success. Be careful, the blade is very sharp, so use the gripper--not your hands.
- Use a thick tomato sauce and squeeze out your spinach well, so it doesn't make the dish watery.
- Divide your filling ingredients (here, it's spinach & basil) before you start layering--so each layer gets about the same amount.
I've seen a lot of recipes that recommend salting or drying your zucchini slices first. But I've never had to do this with this recipe. I think it's because 1) the slices are very thin, 2) there's not too much zucchini here, and 3) my pasta sauce is fairly thick/not watery.
I like a thicker sauce that won't be too runny in the dish, especially when you're using zucchini, which is already high in water content. Of course, to keep it vegan we go with a marinara type tomato sauce--or a meatless bolognese would be great too.
I understand this can be done with a knife, but for the most even, thin slices (this recipe calls for ⅛”), I’d definitely recommend a mandoline. It results uniform 'noodles'--which is key to making this dish a success. Use caution, as the blade will be VERY sharp.
If you’ve made traditional lasagna with noodles, this is exactly the same process. Except, you'll be making own ‘noodles’ from zucchini.
In fact, because the zucchini cooks with the rest of the dish, it's similar to making an easy, no-boil noodle lasagna recipe.
You can buy whole food, plant-based compliant pasta sauce and ricotta cheese these days (see recipe notes), which is a great option if you need to speed things up. Of course, I think homemade always tastes better. If you’re making your own sauce and ricotta, you’ll want to do that first.
Compliant pasta sauce can be a bit harder to find as most seem to contain oil. In a pinch, I like to make a quick sauce from Pomi tomato sauce, a little garlic powder and Italian seasonings.
While the homemade ricotta cheese and tomato sauce are extra steps, they can be done pretty quickly.
Once you’ve soaked your almonds, my vegan ricotta recipe takes only 5 minutes in the blender. My easy tomato sauce recipe requires only a few minutes of prep in the beginning and blending at the end, with most of the time being hands-off cooking in the Instant Pot or simmering on the stovetop.
You can store this recipe in a tightly covered dish in the refrigerator for 3-4 days, and freeze it for up to 3 months. You can also make it ahead a day in advance; you will just need to increase the cooking time by about 15 minutes or until everything is hot and bubbly.
If you like this whole food plant-based recipe, you might like my Roasted Eggplant Tomato Stacks, Mushroom Walnut Bolognese Sauce, 5-Minute Vegan Alfredo Sauce, Chickpea Cheese Sauce, Vegan Carbonara, and Roasted Vegetable with Pesto Pasta.
Happy, whole food plant-based cooking, y'all!
I LOVE hearing from you! Connect with me on Facebook, Instagram or Pinterest, or drop me a note in the comments.
Vegan Zucchini and Spinach Lasagna
- 1 recipe Easy Instant Pot Tomato Sauce about 3 cups. Or use your favorite compliant tomato sauce (see notes)
- 1 recipe Almond Ricotta about 2 cups. Or use your favorite compliant vegan ricotta cheese (see notes)
- 3-4 medium zucchini ends trimmed off, then cut lengthwise into ⅛ inch slices (see notes)
- 2 pounds of fresh baby spinach leaves, chopped Or sub 1 ½ 10-ounce packages frozen spinach
- 2 cups fresh basil leaves, chopped plus more for serving if desired, see notes
- ½ yellow onion finely diced
- 4 cloves garlic
- 3 teaspoons Italian seasonings
- Optional: Vegan parmesan for topping
- If making your own almond ricotta and tomato sauce, do this first.
- Preheat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Heat about a tablespoon of water in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and saute for 5 minutes or until soft. Add the garlic and saute for 2 minutes or until soft.
- Add the spinach and saute until almost cooked, about 5-7 minutes. Add the basil and saute another 2-3 minutes. Divide roughly into thirds in the pan, and set aside.
- To a 9 x 13 baking dish, add about ½ cup of tomato sauce and spread it around the bottom of the dish to coat.
- Place your first layer of zucchini slices over the tomato sauce on the bottom of the dish, overlapping them just a little.
- Dollop ⅓ of the ricotta over the zucchini, and spread evenly. Sprinkle with 1 teaspoon of Italian seasonings.
- Using your hands or a clean towel, squeeze out any excess liquid from the spinach and basil. Then, gently place ⅓ of the spinach & basil mixture evenly over the ricotta.
- Top the spinach & basil with another layer of zucchini and repeat 2 more times. Finish with a final (4th) layer of zucchini.
- Pour the rest of the tomato sauce over the lasagna and spread it out evenly over the dish.
- Cover and bake at 375 degrees Fahrenheit for 45 minutes. Remvove the cover and bake another 10 minutes, or until the lasagna is hot and bubbly throughout and the zucchini is fork tender.
- Allow the lasagna to rest for 10-15 minutes. Top with Vegan parmesan and more basil, if desired.
I substitute a pound of crumbled firm tofu for the ricotta and it works well. Love that you use a lot of basil and garlic and spices since zucchini has very little flavor.
Hi Nancy, Your tofu version sounds yummy! And yes, you've got it--all this fresh herbs and spices give the zucchini nice lift.