With Eggplant Noodles and Cashew Cream
I know, I know. How in the world can lasagna taste amazing when you take away the noodles and the cheese? But, I think you'll be pleasantly surprised with how delicious this Whole30 lasagna tastes. This from the guy who last week said he didn't like eggplant. But... I also said "unless it's covered it in sauce" - which, by the way, is the real reason why this recipe works so well!
This is the perfect kind of dish when serving a crowd. All the ingredients in this recipe are Whole30 compliant. But because it's a baked good, it is technically against the rules. But it's the perfect way to end a round or for a special celebration! It really is healthy comfort food. And a bonus... it's also gluten-free and dairy-free. But it's so good - trust me, no one will care!
What the Heck is Cashew Cream?
It sounds weird. And I was a skeptic. But this stuff really worked! I had heard of cashew cream in the past, but really had no desire to try it. The only reason I chose to this time is because of my desire to come as close to traditional lasagna as possible. And it totally looks, and tastes, like a cheese layer! Just make sure you soak your raw cashews the night before. Super simple to make.
Be Patient. Let it rest.
Now to everybody's least favorite part of the process. Once your lasagna is all done cooking, take it out of the oven, and walk away! The longer you let it rest, the more likely it will hold together when slicing. I would say a minimum of 30 minutes, but a solid hour of rest time is best. Please don't throw tomatoes.
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And this is the AMAZING Result…
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Whole30 Lasagna with Eggplant Noodles and Cashew Cream
- 2 cups raw cashews soaked overnight in 4 cups water
- 2 lbs. lean ground beef
- ½ cup yellow onion diced
- 1 Tbsp. sea salt divided
- ¼ tsp. ground black pepper
- 1 tsp. dried basil
- ½ tsp. fennel seeds
- 1 tsp. Italian seasoning
- 8 oz. baby bella mushrooms finely chopped
- 1 Tbsp. garlic minced
- 6 oz. tomato paste
- 28 oz. canned crushed tomatoes
- 15 oz. tomato sauce
- ½ cup water
- 1 large globe eggplant cut lengthwise into ¼-inch slices
- 18 oz. frozen spinach
- ¼ tsp. fresh nutmeg
- Soak 2 cups of raw cashews in 4 cups of water overnight.
- In a Dutch oven, add ground beef, onions, 1 teaspoon of salt, and black pepper. Cook over medium-high heat until beef is browned. Season with basil, fennel seeds, and Italian seasoning, and give a good mix. Then add mushrooms, garlic, and remaining 2 teaspoons of salt and cook until juices from mushrooms have evaporated. Add tomato paste, mix well to fully incorporate, and cook for 2-3 minutes. This will help get rid of the can taste. Stir in crushed tomatoes, tomato sauce, and water. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer for about 1 hour, stirring occasionally.
- Meanwhile – Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Using a mandolin, slice eggplants into ¼-inch thick “noodles.” Spray two baking sheets with nonstick spray and place eggplant pieces in single layer. Season both sides of eggplant slices with sea salt. Bake for 10 minutes (until tender and beginning to brown) turning halfway through. Remove from oven and allow eggplant to cool. Can be roasted 1 day ahead and refrigerated.
- Make cashew cream – Drain the soaking water. Transfer soft cashews into a blender with 2 cups of new, warm water and puree in a blender until smooth. Set aside.
- Defrost frozen spinach. Drain and squeeze out all liquid (don’t be fooled, there’s a lot). Place in large bowl and break apart thoroughly. Season with a bit of nutmeg and mix well.
- Assemble in a 9 x 13 glass dish. Lower oven temperature to 350 degrees. Add a layer of meat sauce (about 2 cups). Then a layer of eggplant noodles. Then gently and evenly spread a layer of cashew cream. Take half of the spinach and break up into an even layer atop the cashew cream. Repeat all steps. Then finish the top with a layer of sauce, and then a layer of cashew cream.
- Bake uncovered for 30 minutes. Then switch oven to low broil setting and continue cooking for about 10 minutes.
- Remove from oven and let rest for at least 30 minutes. Cut with a sharp knife and scoop out with a spatula.
- Soak the Cashews: Make sure to soak them overnight to soften them and make them easier to blend into a creamy consistency. If you forget to do this the day before, you can do a quick soak by covering the cashews with boiling water and allowing them to soak for 30 minutes.
- Cut Eggplant Evenly: Slice the eggplant into even slices to ensure even cooking and to avoid having some slices that are undercooked and others that are overcooked. A mandolin works best.
- Brown the Meat Thoroughly: Make sure to fully brown the ground beef or turkey to bring out the flavors and to cook off any excess moisture.
- Use a High-Powered Blender: If you want a smooth and creamy cashew cream, use a high-powered blender or food processor to blend the ingredients together.
- Let it Rest: After removing the lasagna from the oven, let it rest for 30-60 minutes before serving to allow the flavors to meld together and the sauces to settle.
- Can I use a different type of meat besides ground beef or turkey? Yes, you can use ground chicken, pork, or a combination of meats in this recipe.
- Can I use a different type of nut besides cashews for the cashew cream? Yes, raw almonds or macadamia nuts can substitute for cashews, but the flavor and texture may differ.
- Can I use a different type of eggplant besides regular eggplant? Yes, you can use Italian or Japanese eggplants in this recipe, but remember that the size and texture may differ.
- Can I make this recipe ahead of time and freeze it for later? Yes. Bake the lasagna and let it cool to room temperature before wrapping it in plastic wrap and freezer-safe foil.
- Can I use different vegetables besides eggplant in this recipe? Yes, you can use zucchini or summer squash as a substitute for eggplant, but the texture and cooking time may differ.
- Can I add cheese to this recipe? If you are following Whole30, cheese is not compliant. However, if you are making this recipe as a gluten-free and lower-carb lasagna option, you can add traditional cheese. Keep in mind, cook time and quality may vary as this recipe was developed using cashew cream.
I'm impressed! This looks so yummy - can't wait to try it!
Hello! Planning to make this, and I'm considering either making a smaller dish (1/2 the recipe) or making it all and freezing half. Did you happen to freeze any of it? I'm wondering how it would hold up. Thanks!
Hmmm... We did not freeze any of it either time we cooked it. Quite frankly, we ate every bit of it! Please let us know how it goes.
Thanks for getting back to me! I made the entire dish, and it's delicious! The prep time was definitely more than 10 minutes for me, but it was worth it. A few notes - I got 2 eggplants, but only used 1 (maybe my mandoline slices too thin or my eggplant was larger). Also, I think I accidentally bought roasted cashews, so I have a feeling my cashew cream came out slightly different, but it was still very good and toasted up like cheese (and i have some leftover). I made this lasagna for me and a traditional lasagna for my boyfriend - he actually couldn't tell which was which before biting into them. With all of that being said, mine didn't stay in perfect square forms when serving, but that is probably due to the errors i mentioned here. I won't be freezing it just because I don't think it will hold up. But wow, it really compares to "real" lasagna! Excited to have leftovers for a few days and pretty much end my whole30 with this!
LOVED this recipe! I tried it last night with some tweaks like on the herbs, plus I forgot to get spinach and I used only passata instead of combined tomato products. I found it to be a lot of work but 100% thought it was worth the time and effort! I was so surprised and impressed by the cashew cheese even after nearly goofing that up too. (I forgot to pre-soak my raw cashews and had to resort to a rapid-soak method. Then, I found out that I didn't buy enough raw cashews, but another rapid-soak method of a few roasted cashews did the trick.) Maybe next time I'll be better prepared instead of one huge hot mess. Thank you for this awesome recipe!!!
I'm so glad you enjoyed it!
I plan to make this recipe tomorrow for a holiday party in 2 days. How would it come out if I bake it tomorrow then heat it up the day after?
I think that would work just fine. I tend to like lasagna better the second day anyways.
The flavor was amazing! Tasted very similar to your typical lasagna just not as heavy. Only thing I noticed is that it was a bit soupy and the presentation was not as enticing as a normal lasagna.
Thanks for giving the recipe a try and the feedback, Jill!
I've never been a fan of eggplant before but decided to try this as I've given up pasta. So glad I did! This has an amazing flavor! I highly recommend it!
This sounds wonderful. Planning to try it this week. Does anyone have any recommendations for sides? We are doing a lifestyle change (not diet lol) similar to Whole 30 so no grains. Otherwise, I would do garlic bread.
We served it with a tossed salad with our favorite salad toppings.
My family lives this recipe. We make it when no one is doing Whole30.
Was completely shocked how good this was. We will be making this or a version of it every week. I added two eggs to the cashew mix and that really helped set the “cheese”. I’m going to try a layer of eggplant and layer of zucchini next time! Love love love!!!!
Fantastic recipe! It's more labor intensive than the things I usually make these days, but it turned out really well, and it was very tasty. This is a keeper for sure. Plus, the sauce would be good on its own. I have no need to buy pre-made sauce at the grocery store any more!
This was a homerun. Completely satisfied my inner Italian with a dish that was so delicious and balanced. I did do 1/2 pork Italian sausage for the meat, but no other additions or changes recommended or needed. This very well could replace my traditional recipe. Winner!
This is soooo good. i adjusted a bit because i had a jar of Rao’s that i wanted to use up. I was skeptical about the cashew cream but all of the flavors turned into one of the best lasagna’s we have ever had. Don’t cheat yourself and not try this,
Everyone loved it
Used zucchini and fresh spinich
Just made this for the 4th time, in the oven now! I froze a piece last time but have not tried it. I omit the water. Everyone loves it!
We loved this lasagne. It had wonderful flavor. Based on one reviewers comment and since I had made cashew cream in the past I decided to use less water. Instead of 2 cups of warm water I used 1 cup. I also added 2 TBL of nutritional yeast to add a touch of cheese flavor. The cream was thicker but still spread nicely. The top layer of lasagne only allowed for dollops of cream across the pan. The lasagne set up beautifully. Those dollops baked out very deliciously. If you want to add more vegetables you could. For example leftover or pre roasted butternut squash cubes. This recipe is a keeper! Thank you.
Lots of work but very good!
I’ve made this lasagna several times now. I’ve made it with and without the mushrooms and spinach. All the ways comes out amazing every time!
So good! Definitely one of my longer meals to make but so worth it! Recommend 1 cup of water with the cashew cream, 2 cups came out like milk. The dish was very full when I placed it in the oven but it did not splatter at all, I placed an extra pan beneath it just in case but it was fine! Will make again!
I love this recipe! It's my go to recipe for healthy eating. It's delicious and hearty but healthy. It's my go to when doing The Whole Thirty. Thank you for sharing!
Been making this for 2 years with this recipe. I hate eggplant, yet love this recipe. I love cheese, and don’t even miss it. Home run on this recipe!
Would this work with palmini noodles you think? Sounds great!
I've never heard of palmini noodles, so I'm not able to advise on that. Let me know if you give it a try!
Pleasantly surprised by this recipe! The only tweaks we made were: (1) using a mixture of chopped portobellos and creminis (since that’s what we had), sautéing fresh spinach, adding slightly less water, adding some more Italian seasoning and red pepper flakes in the tomato sauce mixture and “jazzing” up the cashew cream with some nutritional yeast, spices and lemon juice (accordingly to other “vegan cheese” recipes). Fair warning, watch your oven closely while this broils so it doesn’t burn. We let ours “rest” for 30 minutes. Although that’s the minimum, it was barely warm at that point so you gamble with cold food waiting any longer.
I am confused on these baking times. At the beginning it says the totally bake time is 2hrs and 10mins yet the toe let time of “baking” in the steps is only 40mins. What am I missing? I am making this for dinner tonight, so will just wing it I guess but would love clarification. Also, aren’t steps 7 & 8 the same?
The 2 hours cook time includes the cook time for the sauce, the noodles, and the baking time for the lasagna. The bake time is 30 minutes uncovered, then 10 minutes at a low broil uncovered. Thanks for pointing out the error in step 7 and 8. I've corrected it. 🙂
This lasagna is so very delicious! I made this lasagna today exactly per the recipe, except I followed everyone's recommendation to add only a cup of water to the cashews for the blending stage and used canned spinach and zucchini. It truly is as good as regular lasagna, but unbelievably much healthier. So well worth the effort. This will be the only lasagna I will make now. Next time, I think I will leave out the beef and double the cashew cream, possibly adding eggs and nutritional yeast as others have suggested. Thank you so much for this wonderful recipe that is now a regular in our home!
Wondering if this can be assembled and then frozen for cooking later. Any words of advice?
Hmmm. That's a great question. I think it might work. The things I really wonder about are the cashew cream and the eggplant noodles. Not sure how their textures might change. But I'm inclined to think it's worth a try.
This was SO good!! I did struggle with the cashew cream at first. It was waaaaaay too thin, and I almost gave up on this recipe. But then I put it in a pot and reduced it over low heat. Perfect! I also used hearts of palm lasagna "noodles" instead of eggplant. And I let it set out for at least 30 minutes to set, as instructed. Delicious!! Leftovers were even better! Thank you for this awesome recipe!
Loved it. I have made a couple of version now. It is delicious.
Glad you enjoyed it!
I LOVE this recipe and have been making it for years. I want to make this for company at Christmas, but need to make it ahead of time. People mentioned freezing it in the comments, but no one says how it turns out. Can't decide if it'd be better to prepare it and freeze it without baking or completely cook it per the recipe and then just reheat it. Has anyone tried this?
This recipe is absolutely delicious!!! The cashew cream is amazing. Kids and guests loved it as well!