When I first changed to a whole-food plant-based diet, I thought lasagne would be off the menu for good. With that rich, meaty ‘red’ sauce and decadent creamy ‘white’ sauce, I couldn’t see how that could be replicated to taste just as good. But I tried!
And I kept on trying! For a long time I couldn’t get the flavours and textures right, even though I checked out lots of recipes and experimented with different ideas. I knew it was possible as I had eaten the most amazing vegan lasagne at one of my favourite veggie cafés in Brighton, Iydea (I even waited an hour after they ran out for them to bring out a fresh batch, only to find out it was their vegetarian version not vegan. Oh the disappointment!). Although the topping was so rich and creamy, I had my suspicions it wasn’t quite as ‘whole-food’ as I wanted it to be 😉
However, now I am content, as this lentil lasagne is mighty tasty and really hits the spot. I use my tasty lentil ragu recipe for the ‘red’ sauce, full of rich, comforting flavours. Of course, it could be that my taste buds have changed over time and eating a low-fat plant-based diet means ‘rich’ and ‘creamy’ are different now. But whenever I make it, the response is the same – it’s really good lasagne.
One of the challenging elements to replicate was texture; minced beef is firm, even a little chewy. Some types of lentils when cooked turn into mush, so really don’t work. Dark brown, black or Puy lentils, however, keep their texture when cooked, so are definitely the ones to use.
Bay leaf is also another key ingredient, providing a savoury, familiar flavour that pervades the lentil sauce. On the odd occasion I’ve forgotten to pop one in the pan, I’ve realised afterwards the sauce is not quite the same.
After trying different types of white sauce, there’s two that work the best. A batch of my béchamel sauce is thick and creamy, but needs preparing ahead to get the full infused flavour. The other option – silken tofu based – is super quick and provides an added bonus – extra plant-based protein.
“Where do you get your protein from” is still the most asked question when it comes to a whole-food plant-based or vegan diet. Even though it appears in all foods, protein is still seen as the star nutrient that must be missing in plants. Which is is not!
Protein is definitely important, particularly at certain times of life or if you’re exercising a lot. It also helps you stay full for longer which helps when trying to lose weight – but then so does the fibre in whole plant foods!
For women navigating through menopause and beyond, protein – amount and quality – is particularly important as alongside calcium and vitamin D, it’s essential for bone health. Plus, protein is needed for muscle mass; did you know that after the age of 40 we can start to loose 10% muscle mass every 10 years? Strong muscles are essential for healthy ageing, reducing falls and the risk of them and reducing frailty.
Protein is already present in this yummy lasagne in the lentils. However, tofu contains even more. Adding 250g of silken tofu to the sauce means another 25g of plant protein in the dish, along with extra phyto-oestrogens, tiny plant chemicals that can help manage fluctuating oestrogen levels during menopause (more on this another time).
The silken tofu sauce is super easy to make – just bung the ingredients into a blender jug and whizz to combine. However, it can dry out a little during cooking, which is why you need a goodly amount of white sauce. Once in the oven, make sure you loosely cover the dish with foil half way through cooking to stop it drying out too much. The top will still crack a bit, but once you’ve served it up, no-one will notice!
If you need to use gluten free lasagne sheets, please remember these may need some pre-cooking before constructing the dish. And if you prefer not to use lasagne sheets at all, this dish works really well with layers of cooked aubergine, courgette or even sweet potato instead. But do notice I say cooked – I’ve had a few failures trying to save time and use raw. Not a good outcome 😉
As always with lasagne, this dish tastes even better the day after making as time helps the flavours to develop. So if you can, plan ahead and cook your lentil lasagne, then leave to cool, keep in the fridge until you’re ready to eat. Then re-heat in the oven for 15 minutes or so until piping hot – cover with foil though or the topping will dry out and become a bit too crispy. If you don’t have time to make the day before, then of course make and eat – and look forward to any leftovers as you know they will taste even better! This dish also freezes well, so you could make a double batch, cut into portions and freeze separately so you have a tasty evening meal to hand on those busy days.
I hope you enjoy this tasty lentil lasagne as much as we do. I’d love to hear how you get on, so don’t forget to let me know. Enjoy!
- 22cm square oven-proof dish 6 cm high
- small baking tray
- tin foil
- 1 portion lentil ragu see link to recipe below
- 9 lasagne sheets wholewheat if you can find them or gluten free if needed
For the white sauce
- 1 portion béchamel sauce see link to recipe below
- 250 grams silken tofu
- 3 tbsp nutritional yeast
- 1/4 tsp Himalayan salt
- 1/2 tsp garlic powder
- black pepper to taste
- Make the lentil ragu using this recipe. You can make this in advance or just before you want to construct and bake your lasagne.
- For the silken tofu sauce - place all the ingredients into a high speed blender or food processor bowl and blend until smooth. Check the flavour and add more seasoning if required.
- For the béchamel sauce - make the basic sauce using this recipe then add the flavourings as listed. Check the flavour and add more seasoning if required.
Construct the lasagne
- Pre-heat the oven to 180ºC.
- Divide the lentil ragu into 3 portions. Spoon one portion into the base of the dish and spread out equally.
- Cover with 2-3 lasagne sheets
- Pour just under a third of the white sauce over the lasagne sheets and spread out equally to cover.
- Repeat this another 2 times, finishing with a layer of white sauce - make sure you have kept the biggest portion for the top so the lasagne sheets are completely covered.
- Sprinkle 2 extra tablespoons of nutritional yeast over the top if desired then place on a baking sheet and pop in the oven.
- After 20 minutes, the top will have set, so loosely cover with tin foil to stop it drying out and continue to cook for another 10-20 minutes until the lasagne is soft and easily pierced with a sharp knife.
- Remove from the oven and leave to settle for 10 minutes before serving. Alternatively, leave to cool completely and keep chilled in the fridge until you're ready to eat. Reheat in the oven for 10 minutes or until everything is piping hot again.