Cauliflower “Meaty Crumbles” and Spinach Pesto Lasagna

[This Spinach Pesto Lasagna with Cauliflower “Meat” is vegan, sugar-free, gluten-free, dairy-free, egg free, (optionally) soy-free and yeast-free. Suitable for Stage 2 and beyond on an anti-candida diet.]


One of the cardinal rules when throwing a dinner party is “don’t serve your guests a recipe you’ve never made before.”  (Also, “don’t wear white when you’ll be cooking with beets”;  “don’t seat ex-spouses next to each other at the table”; “don’t make Baked Alaska in July”; and “don’t leave the house without clean underwear”–oh, wait, that’s a different cardinal rule).

This past Saturday evening, I had the pleasure of cooking dinner for my friend Eternal Optimist and her friend.  So what do you suppose I did, friends?  Yep, exactly that; I served up something I had never made before.  I wasn’t truly cheating on the  rule, though, since I’d already cooked and eaten each of the dish’s components individually and knew they were, on their own, spectacular.

What did I serve?  Why, the old classic: that Romance-infused, saucy, cheesy, meaty, stratified seductress, lasagna.

For the most part, I’m a pretty lazy cook.  I prefer meals that are ready before I can say, “Elsie and Chaser, get out of the kitchen,” and I don’t enjoy multiple steps or extremely detailed instructions.  Desserts and cooking for others is the exception, however.

When I used to throw a bazillion dinner parties during my Social Thirties, I’d spend almost the entire weekend cooking and didn’t mind a bit.  Getting lost in the  whir of the electric beaters as I whipped cream for a multi-layered meringue-and-buttercream affair, or methodically chopping six onions for various dishes, or zoning out to the crackling sizzle of veggies sautéeing always felt therapeutic to me.  And while I’m not keen on lengthy preparation during the regular work week, when I whip up a special-request meal for the HH (for his birthday, or to say thanks for walking the dogs twice a day when my back is out, or to show my appreciation when he picks up baking ingredients from my favorite supplier, or to express gratitude for cleaning the house when friends are coming over–whoah, wait a sec, that HH sure does do a lot for me!), well, then a longer and more complicated process is even welcomed.

I’ll tell you straight off the bat, this lasagna falls into the “food-of-many-components” category.  It’s not difficult per se, but it does contain many layers, and each layer requires its own prep.  If you happen to have prepared marinara sauce at the ready (or a good jarred type you like), prepared pesto, and meat in the freezer, then you can throw it together in no time, and there’s no worr–


Did I just say, “MEAT”???!!!!

Now, now, calm down, people!  It may look like meat, and it may taste like meat, but it is not meat.  It is faux meat. This latest meaty substitute that I just created is just SO authentic, both in look and in flavor, that I simply forgot to specify–it’s entirely vegan! And SOY-FREE!

After creating a killer soy-free faux pepperoni a while back, I’ve been thinking about other ways to use vegetable bases to stand in for meat.  It’s not that I’ve hopped on the “soy-is-no-good-soy-is-awful-soy-is-the-Lucifer-of-legumes” bandwagon or anything; it’s just that, sometimes, you want something that isn’t soy. Especially with this lasagna (since it already contains tofu in the ricotta cheese), I wanted a no-soy “ground beef.” And so, this ground meat was born.

When I served the HH a big hunk of the lasagna, his immediate response was, “Ths turstes jess lak urrglrr lrzgne.”  (He was so impressed he forgot to swallow before speaking).  To translate, “This tastes just like regular lasagna.”  Whoopee! Considering that he consumes “regular” lasagna about once a month, his was high praise, indeed.

I’m incredibly pleased with this vegan meat, and am already dreaming up different uses for it.  Scattered on nachos.  Bound together with some flax eggs and cooked as burgers.  Atop a huge mound of spaghetti arrabiata.  Or even as the base in a vegan tortiere, like so:

The possibilities are endless. . . my head is spinning with dinner party plans already.  Because, after all, the true cardinal rule is this: if it tastes great, eat it.

Mum, are you sure that isn’t real meat?  We’d be happy to help you taste-test your recipes.  As you know, the cardinal rule for canines is, ‘if it’s not poisonous, eat it.’  Oh, wait, we might eat it anyway, even when it is poisonous. But don’t worry, I won’t go near that chocolate again.”


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Last Year at this Time: Grilled Avocado on “Toast”

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  1. What an amazing looking lasagna! You just made me completely change my mind about what to cook for dinner!

  2. Looks delicious! I have the bad tendency to cook things I’ve never made before when having friends over…and it often gets me in trouble!

  3. This looks amazing. I am a bit sad however, because cauliflower is on the list of things I need to avoid. I am going to think of a veggie substitute for it to make your soy-free meat substitute, as it looks delicious. And then I will make the lasagna too 🙂

    • Valerie, I’m sure you could use parsnip instead, if you’re allowed that, or even carrots (though they’d be pretty sweet). Let me know how it turns out if you give it a try. 🙂

  4. I love the idea of cauliflower and nuts as a meat substitute. I will definitely need to give this a try. 😉 Thank you so much for sharing. Your picture of this is very enticing.

    hope it was a good Monday,

  5. Ricki, this looks amazing! I am already dreaming of stuffing the “meat” into ravioli!

  6. Courtney says

    I am shocked to hear you consider yourself a lazy cook…you strike me as a very ambitious cook and the last word I would use to describe you is lazy, lol! I think you underestimate yourself 🙂

    The “meat” looks great–I can’t wait for it to cool down a bit so I can try it!


    • Courtney, I think I am pretty creative and I like to play, but basically if it takes more than 30 minutes, start to finish, I lose interest! (UNLESS I’m cooking for someone else, that is). 😉

  7. Far out, Ricki.

    That’s frankly amazing. I nearly had a conniption…but cauliflower/walnut meat is sheer genius. Wonderful!!

  8. Oh, this definitely sounds like a meal that my hubby would enjoy! He likes hearty veg meals, and this sounds like a good one. Thanks!

  9. You certainly have a way with making things meaty! That pepperoni was a hit. Definitely interested in this one too. Although *gasp* I’d totally eat ground beef too. I mean, if it were from a sustainable source. I guess that would save me a lot of work. But I like the challenge of these meaty substitutes 🙂

    • Michelle, even for people who eat meat (like my hubby), it’s sometimes a nice change to have a veggie-based substitute and give the saturated fats and cholesterol a rest. 😉

  10. This does indeed sound like a very versatile meat substitute! I love Heather’s idea of stuffing it into ravioli, and I’m sure it’s amazing in your lasagna, which looks amazing. Yum!

  11. That could quell a serious comfort food craving. Yum.

  12. I love the idea behind your veggie meat! I can’t wait to try that out. It opens up so many new and exciting possibilities for texture… thanks for sharing!

    • Eva, glad you like it. The texture changed depending on the usage. . .it became softer baked into the tortiere, retained its graininess in the lasagna. 🙂

  13. Oh yes, please send me a piecce of this now!

  14. blog looks great – and so does your lasagna – I love the sound of your ‘meat’ – I sometimes feel fake meat is more real than ‘real’ meat – I often see cookbook photos and get surprised to hear it is real flesh rather than just proper vego food.

  15. What?! This is one of the most tempting “meat” recipes I have ever seen! I feel that I must go out and get some cauliflower so I can make it this weekend!
    Thanks, Ricki!
    And one question: would ACD be a good choice for someone with diabetes or with insulin resistance?

    • Thanks so much! Re: the ACD diet, I am not really equipped to diagnose or prescribe as I’m not a doctor. 🙂 However, just looking at the diet itself, yes, it is low glycemic and because the premise is to keep blood sugar steady and low, there’s nothing in it that would be contraindicated for someone with diabetes. But I would think that diabetics could actually have more options than the ACD (ie, no need to be gluten free if you’re diabetic, unless you’re sensitive to it, and I’m fairly sure that diabetics can have some dairy, eggs, etc.). If someone is simply looking for a low glycemic diet that omits most food allergens, the ACD is for them!

  16. Uh, can you say, “YUM?!” Awesome job, Ricki… when can I expect my dinner party invitation? Churro has been dying to meet Elsie and Chaser!

    • Danielle, drop by any time! 🙂 And while they are super-gentle and the sweetest girls you will ever meet with people, I’m sorry to say that Elsie still needs a few lessons on polite behavior when it comes to other dogs. 🙁

  17. this looks FABULOUS. can’t wait to give it a try!!

  18. “Meat” that is soy-free and mushroom-free, be still my heart! It might make a nice base for Shepherd’s Pie, with sweet potato topping.

  19. Ricki,
    I just tried using your “print this” button option but it won’t work for me 🙁 I turned off my pop-up blocker but that still didn’t help. Is there something I’m doing wrong?

    • Nicole, my techie guy tells me that there’s an issue with Internet Explorer 7 or earlier–is that what you use? Let me know either way so he can fix this glitch! Thanks! 🙂

      • Yep, it must be an issue with Internet Explorer. The print option didn’t work on my work computer using Explorer 7, nor my laptop using Explorer 8. But I also use Mozilla Firefox on my laptop and that one works!

  20. The lasagna looks fantastic! I like the new recipe layout too, with the print button, looks great. I also know the “rule” about not making a new recipe the first time for guests, but I almost always ignore it, usually with good results.

    • Erin, I’m the same way. I think that after cooking enough recipes, one can usually tell if something will work or not. I think of it as gustatory imagination (something, alas, the HH does not have). 😉

  21. Fun! I’m so glad I clicked over. I didn’t think I’d be able to eat your meat sub, b/c Dan and I are going grain-free and bean-free for a month as part of an elimination diet. Once I add back nightshades for the paprika, I can totally do this one! Cool!

  22. Leslie Caplan says

    I’m salivating. Never would have thought to use paprika. Sounds interesting.

    Ricki, what are the orange chunks? I thought maybe onion, but I don’t see that in your ingredient list.

    Since you like to save time, have you ever tried not par-boiling the noodles first? I saw that once in a recipe and found it odd but tried it. Worked great. They cooked up as if I had pre-cooked them, but I didn’t have things to have to clean up.

    • Leslie, I made my own home-made marinara sauce and added half each of leftover yellow and orange sweet bell peppers that I had lying around. The recipe was so basic I didn’t include it: sautee garlic & onion with chopped peppers, add 2 cans crushed tomatoes, basil, oregano, onion powder & salt to taste, and cook about 20 minutes. 🙂 Re: the noodles, I will absolutely do that next time–it was clear that the parboiling wasn’t entirely necessary. I’d add maybe 1/2 to 1 cup veg broth before baking, though. 🙂

  23. Cauliflower meat! I love it!

  24. LASAGNA! The gluten-free, vegan world just keeps getting better. This calls for another go-round with an almond cheese.

    The new design is very clean looking – great job. The print button doesn’t work for me most likely because I am not connected to a physical printer and instead have a logical printer directer to a PDF wrapper.

    • Gretchen, thanks so much. 🙂 I’m a bit frustrated with the print button, as it seems to affect anyone with Internet Explorer–and that’s a lot of people. I’m going to see if there are other options.

  25. I love lasagna but so rarely make it because I don’t want to have a whole pan of leftovers to eat with all that cheese! This version however is something I would be happy to eat the leftovers of!! And I am so intrigued by that faux meat you’ve created. I don’t like the veggie ground round or TVP so this might be a great option for me!

    • Ashley, glad it appeals! I liked this much better than TVP. And if you bake it enough (it takes over an hour to do it right), you get separate, dry bits, just like ground “beef.” 🙂

  26. I’ve been a wee bit stressed trying to figure out what to feed my picky grandparents when they stay with me this weekend (the WHOLE weekend, AHH!). I am relieved to have this recipe, I am sure that they will be impressed!

    • Sarah, this worked really well for my carnivorous hubby! Enjoy the weekend (I’m sure two days will go by very quickly!) 😉

  27. You are simply too creative! I just posted this on my facebook page –

  28. Ricki, this does look absolutely fabulous, but the recipe does contain soy since it includes tofu and Bragg’s or soy sauce, right?


    • Shirley, I meant for only the “meat” to be soy-free–the tofu in this recipe applies only if you make lasagna, but you can use the “meat” in anything you like (such as pasta, etc.). But yikes! You are absolutely right about the Bragg’s!! I’ve just amended the recipe for those who want entirely soy-free “meat.” And hey–no kicking into spam this time–yay! 🙂

  29. WOW! That first photo had me sold, I will be making this FOR SURE. Cody is always begging me to make lasagna, and now I have a recipe that looks like a winner. Maybe it will be his welcome home meal! Thanks for another brilliant post, Ricki!

  30. So I’m a little late it would seem to finding this post, but whoa… It doesn’t make me any less excited that you posted it! I CAN’T WAIT to try this Ricki! You’re such a genius 😀

    ~Aubree Cherie

  31. Interesting, Ricki, interesting. Lasagna is one of those things that always takes much longer to make than I planned, and convinces me, as a vegan, never to make it again. After all, the “regular people” don’t have to make the meat and the cheese as well as the pesto and the sauce. And sometimes I even used to make the noodles, turning the process into an all day affair. But people LIKE lasagna. And I know people who would love this recipe. And now I may have to make lasagna AGAIN! Darn you, Ricki. Must you always be so clever and convincing?

  32. This reminds me–it’s been FAR too long since I’ve made beloved lasagna. 🙂

  33. Looks killer, Ricki. I eat soy products, but never much fancied the typical fake meats. Would love to try this once I can bear to have the oven on around here.

  34. I made this not long after you first posted it. Now i’m making the “meat” so that i can use it in vegetarian sweet potato shepherd’s pie 🙂

  35. Wow. I bought all the ingredients for this recipe a few weeks ago but I have been putting off making it because it just seemed so labor intensive. I finally made it today and it took just as much time and energy as I expected. But I have to say I didn’t expect it to turn out as well as it did! This was seriously yummy. Even my carnivorous husband said, “this tastes like actual lasagna, not like fake lasagna!” I would totally make this again soon if it wasn’t such an intense recipe. The only change I made was that instead of making the spinach pesto, I sauteed spinach, mushrooms and shallots and used that as a layer instead. Thanks Ricki for another delicious, healthy recipe!

  36. This was the first vegan lasagna I’ve ever made. It was just as tedious as a traditional lasagna, but also just as yummy! The only thing I would do differently is leave the the soy sauce out of the “meat” mixture. It was too salty for us, but still very delicious! I just love the nut/cauliflower texture of the “meat”, it is just like ground beef but without the nauseating chewiness. I would also probably add some sliced zucchini or mushrooms next time, and use more noodles. Thanks for the recipe!

    • Thanks so much, Laura, and for commenting! I think if you make all of the components from scratch, yes, it would take quite a while. 😉 I’m wondering if Bragg’s is different from soy sauce in terms of salt content, as mine wasn’t overly salty. But I’m so glad you like the “meat”! 😀 I agree that mushrooms would be great in this–sadly, I’m not allowed to have them. 🙁

      • Thanks for the response Ricki, I will try Bragg’s next time, I’ve never used it before and after looking it up it looks to have less sodium than Tamari. The marinara sauce I made was salty as well, I learned my lesson for next time. I am eating some leftovers today and let me say, it is even better after sitting in the fridge for a few days. So tasty.

  37. Made this for Easter dinner. I am just going to warm it back up a bit tomorrow. I can’t wait to eat it. I made it the lazy way with premade pesto but I am still excited.

  38. This recipe is fantastic! I just posted about the wonderful meals my family enjoyed with your ground “meat”. I’ll be hanging onto this recipe for future use!

  39. hi there
    i can wait to try this! only problem is i cant use the touf chease recipe you have put a link to because i dont do yeast at all,can you let me have the recipe without? i wasnt sure where to find ‘cosy inside’?? recipe. thanks and happy cooking !! xxx

  40. Hi Ricki, I used your cauliflower-walnut “meat” in some moussaka and blogged about it here, with a link back to you, of course. This “meat” was amazing, thanks for coming up with it!

  41. How innovative! I will have to try this. Thank you! :)))

  42. Hope you informed your guests that the recipe contained tree nuts. I’ve been following the raw/vegan food recipes for a while now and so many of them contain nuts that don’t look or taste like nuts. With a deadly tree nut allergy in the house, it scares me that I will send my daughter somewhere that someone will serve one of the recipes without informing her. She knows to ask about most things – but she would never think to ask if there were nuts in her lasagna.

    • Hi Renae,

      Yes, of course I let them know about the nuts–and everything else! I always ask my guests if they have any allergies or particular foods they don’t eat–long BEFORE they set foot in my house. Then I prepare the menu according to their food sensitivities and preferences. No one wants to feed something unappealing (or, worse, unhealthy) to someone else! In this case, my first “guinea pig” is always the HH, who, lucky for him, can eat anything. Later I served it to guests who were fully informed before they put their forks to their mouths. 🙂

  43. Thank you soooooo much for this. I bookmarked this recipe after finding this by accident a few weeks ago and have been dreaming of it. I made it tonight but made my own pasta sheets with ground chick peas as I can’t have gluten and prefer to be low carb as well. It was, simply put, orgasmic!!

    • Thanks so much, Amanda! (and wow.). 😉 Glad you enjoyed it. I’m intrigued by the homemade pasta, too! Would love to know how to make it if you’re willing to share the recipe. 🙂

  44. Another recipe introduced to me by Johanna GGG. I am so going to make this. I would do today, but I have no walnuts, so its bookmarked for next time.

  45. Wow. Just made the “meat” recipe and it is wonderful. I just want to eat it by the spoonful. Will be trying the lasagna tomorrow. Since our family has become 95% vegan, my 6 year old daughter will be thrilled to see lasagna resembling “normal” lasagna. Great recipe!

    • Jennifer, thanks so much for your comment, and for letting me know! I’m so glad you like it–hope you (and your daughter) like it in lasagna equaally well! And I will warn you: it looks eerily like real meat! 🙂

  46. Hi Ricki, thanks for stopping by on my blog 🙂 Your comment there made me realise I’d forgotten to add an update! The lasagna tasted even better the next day and scored thumbs up from people I gave it to. Initially the walnut flavour stood out to me (probably because I prefer pecans used this way) but after a day they were absolutely just right and I was pleased to have lots of leftovers to myself 🙂 I’ve only just discovered your blog and taking note of so many fabulous looking things!

  47. Hi again, I used your ‘meat’ in my vegan moussaka and it was delicious 🙂

    • Yay! So glad to hear that! I’ve been wanting to try a moussaka with it, so glad it worked out! Did you post the recipe somewhere? 🙂

  48. So I came over to this recipe from the link on today’s burger recipe. The lasagne looks delightful, but the meat crumble is totally awesome! BTW My husband and I lived in Montreal for a few month’s and we adore the city! We also spent time in Hamilton, and it was the coldest winter I think I ever experienced!

  49. I am from a family of carnivores and Hunters married to the same. When my 10 year old daughter decided to be a vegetarian I was worried about making sure she got enough protein and the extra work it would take to make a different meal for her. I really respect and admire her choice so I have made the effort, but I know that sometimes she chokes down good she hates in order to support her belief. THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK! For this recipe. It was easy to make and so delicious! Even the meat eaters liked it and I can finally feed my daughter something she likes besides salad and beanburritos. I will make this recipe again and again.

    • Jenny, I’m so thrilled to hear that! And so lovely that you are supporting your daughter. Thanks so much for dropping by to let me know! 🙂

    • Nancy Nurse says

      Hi Jenny, you never have to worry about protein… we get too much protein for our kidneys as it is…. there’s more than enough protein in veggies.

  50. Realizing I’m 3.5 years late to the game, I made this tonight expecting my fella to be disappointed as he has been with quite a few of my vegan attempts. He LOVED it. He literally said “This tastes like regular lasagna,” I guess because he’d managed to swallow first. 🙂 He ate two huge pieces, then he posted a photo of the remaining pan on Facebook. I was thrilled! I have really missed lasagna since I cut out cheese. This was well worth the time to make the separate ingredients. Oh, and he’s really into food and flavors and such, and he couldn’t believe the meat was made from cauliflower. Thank you so much for this recipe!

  51. Great recipe Ricki! By any chance do you know what is the calories for such delicious and mouth watering food you’ve mentioned here?

  52. Finally cooked up a batch of your walnut mince. Had some today in a sweet potato chilli & it was amazing. Thank you for such a great recipe.

  53. Can I dehydrate the cauliflower meat and store it in a jar? I would think so.

    • Great question, Gail! I would think so, too–when I created the recipe, I didn’t have a dehydrator, so I’ve never done it that way. But I will try it now so I can come back here and let people know! If you do try it, let me know how it turns out. 🙂

  54. Can i also dehydrate the beet peparoni and store in a jar?


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