Ever thought making your favorite manicotti dairy/vegan/gluten free but felt overwhelmed? I’m giving you an easy recipe to follow that will surprise and even the biggest meat and cheese lover out there. You will absolutely save this vegan and gluten free manicotti recipe to make again and again.
My husband loves spaghetti and all things pasta. He was a little, well a lot, skeptical of me saying I was making a vegan and gluten free manicotti for dinner. He wasn’t excited in the least bit.
“I’m getting seconds!” said my husband as he got up to get his second serving of the homemade vegan manicotti I whipped up for dinner. It made me feel pretty good when I heard this compliment.
I’ll admit, sometimes I’m used to hearing “eeeewwww gross! What is this?” from my kids when I have a new recipe. Thankfully we’ve cut down on the negative comments about food lately.
I don’t know if it’s in my DNA or just being from the south or if it’s that I just love to cook but I love cooking a good comfort meal. At least one day a week and it’s usually on a Sunday we have some type of healthy-ish casserole or crockpot meal.
My comfort meals are a little different that the traditional southern cooks, though. I try to keep it plant based (or with a lean organic meat like fish or chicken) as much as possible in our house. If you are just starting to try to make mealtimes a bit healthier then this article will help give you inspiration, easy family friendly meals, and practical ways to eat healthy as a family.
Why Make Manicotti Dairy Free?
Well, for one my oldest has a dairy allergy so we are all dairy free in our house. Not just because of his allergy but because I personally believe in being dairy free or highly limiting it for several reasons that I’ve listed below.
- Mainly because dairy is highly inflammatory to us and our bodies are not made to break it down.
- I have witnessed the effects that dairy has on my own kids as well.
- My little girl’s recurrent ear infections, upper respiratory infections, and congestion literally went away after removing dairy from her diet. I’ve noticed that if too much dairy sneaks back in the diet then poof! here comes the congestion.
- Can be a contributing factor to things such as colds, congestion, ear infections, and constipation
- Research shows again and again just how inflammatory dairy is for our system and the strong link to cancer and dairy consumption
- Linked to skin issues like psoriasis, eczema, hives, rashes, etc
- People even report bloating, and upset stomach from consumption
By no means am I trying to scare you but I do think if you have issues with any of the above or just want to see how you feel once you limit or eliminate it from your diet then go for it. You may be surprised.
Going Gluten Free
We also deal with a gluten allergy so we are all gluten free as a family too. Sometimes I’ll sneak in a little gluten when we are on a date but for the most part I stay gluten free.
For me and my oldest, it’s easier for everyone (especially him) if the whole house is dairy/gluten free. I can’t imagine having food in the house that I can’t eat so I think it’s better for everyone to do it this way. Plus, I can honestly say I feel better. I don’t feel as bloated after eating and I feel lighter being dairy/gluten free.
If you are new to gluten free this 27 page guide will help you along the way. I have included our favorite products, two weeks of kid friendly meal ideas, and recipes. You can get your copy HERE.
How To Make Dairy Free Cheese For Vegan Manicotti?
For pasta dishes like manicotti or lasagna, I have found that non- gmo, organic tofu is by far the best alternative to ricotta cheese. I use the firm but you can use the silkin tofu but it won’t create that ricotta cheese like firmer texture like the firm tofu will.
Using the firm tofu will create the same texture and consistency of ricotta cheese and I promise no one will be able to tell the difference. I like to add some seasonings to the “ricotta” mixture like garlic (lots of garlic), basil, oregano, and other Italian seasonings.
Gluten Free Noodles
Oh my goodness there are so many gluten free noodles out there now. We love the chickpea noodles for pasta but for manicotti or lasagna I use the Jovial brand. It’s made from 100% organic brown rice. I also love their lasagna noodles. A lot of stores carry their own brand of gluten free noodles too which are great too.
The Sauce For Vegan Manicotti
For the sauce, I use chopped onions, sliced mushrooms, finely chopped celery, and sometimes I include some chopped veggies/legumes like squash, zucchini, eggplant, or steamed lentils. I make sure to use lots of fresh herbs like garlic, basil, oregano, garlic powder, onion powder, pepper, and parsley.
I’m a Mom and busy bee during the day so I’d like to say that I make my spaghetti sauce homemade but that is rare. Just keeping it real. I use a clean, organic spaghetti sauce, can of organic tomato paste with basil/oregano, and sometimes can of organic diced Italian tomatoes. I add my freshly sautéed veggies to the sauce and call it homemade.
If you are looking for a good meat alternative, then FieldRoast is a cleaner option. It’s not gluten free.
For people not worried about gluten, I like this brand because it has just a few ingredients and I know exactly what each ingredient is. My rule of thumb – if I’ve never heard of or can’t pronounce an ingredient or the list of ingredients is a mile long then it stays on the shelf.
The FieldRoast Italian sausage is made from eggplant, fennel, and spices. There is vital wheat gluten in it. Another meat alternative is Beyond Meat and they make crumbles that resembles regular meat. Honestly, it kinda weirds me out though. If you eat meat then use a leaner meat like organic ground turkey or chicken.
Transitioning to Dairy and/or Gluten Free Meals
I love to make meals that I’ve always enjoyed but just now making them a bit more healthy and colorful. I’ve found that taking my favorite foods like Italian and Mexican meals and turning those into dairy and gluten free meals is the best way to transition.
I’ve found there are so many ways to make delicious meals dairy and gluten free. It’s just figuring out the best combos and not trying to venture too far from the original recipe. It’s also about finding good substitutes.
For this vegan manicotti, the tofu is what truly makes a difference because it resembles ricotta cheese very closely and with the right amount of seasoning you are good to go.
For more help going dairy/gluten free and making mealtimes healthy and enjoyable for you and your kids please join me each week for more inspiration right HERE.
I hope you enjoy this recipe. Let me know what you think. Happy cooking!
- 1 box of gluten free manicotti shells
- 1 jar organic marinara sauce
- 1 can organic tomato paste with basil/oregano
- 1 can organic diced tomatoes with Italian seasoning (optional)
- 2 garlic cloves chopped
- Dashes of dried garlic powder, onion powder, basil, oregano, and pepper (sprinkle to your liking)
- 1 package organic non-gmo tofu
- 2 tbsp water
- 2-3 tbsp nutritional yeast
- 1 package FieldRoast Italian sausage, other meat alternative that’s GF, veggies, or 1/2 pound of organic ground chicken or turkey
- Veggies to use: 2 handfuls spinach, chopped onions, mushrooms, eggplant, zuchini, squash, or lentils
- 1 tbsp lemon juice
- 1 egg or 3 tbsp flax/1 tbsp water if vegan
Optional: add 1 cup dairy free shredded mozzarella cheese if you’d like. Miyokos or So Delicious is our favorite brands. Daiya is also good.
- Boil manicotti shells until al dente. Let cool while preparing the rest of the ingredients.
- Mix tofu, water, egg or flax egg, spices, nutritional yeast, and lemon juice in a bowl. Finely chop garlic cloves and mix in. You want the mixture to resemble the texture of ricotta cheese. It should be somewhat smooth but still put together. If using spinach, add spinach into tofu mixture.
- Heat stove top on medium heat. Add a little splash of water to sauté.
- Whether you are using veggies, ground chicken or turkey, or meat alternative you will sauté your choice here. If using sausage cut off wrapping on sausage and place in skillet whole or crumble.
- Once sautéed pour marinara sauce, tomato paste, and diced tomatoes (drained) into the skillet and stir.
- Place a little sauce in a baking dish (just enough to lightly cover the bottom). Stuff manicotti shells with dairy free cheese mixture. Place shells on top of sauce. Then pour remaining sauce over shells.
- Bake on 375 until warm and bubbly. This will be about 20-25 minutes.
- I like to sprinkle the top with nutritional yeast or vegan parmesan.