Our guide to plant-based casseroles is sure to have you veganizing all your childhood and family favorites for easy weeknight meals! We will also answer some of your most common casserole questions as well as address any casserole cooking concerns. And of course, who would we be if we didn’t give you some great vegan casserole recipes as well? If you love good comfort food (And who doesn’t?), read on for all our tips and tricks on making the best vegan casseroles!
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Once autumn enters our hemisphere with its cooler temps and shorter days, my mind starts to think of one thing: casseroles. I love a good, hearty casserole on a chilly, fall day. Who am I kidding? I love a good casserole pretty much any time of the year. They are such easy dinners to make, but for some reason, they taste so much better on cloudy, colder days.
There’s something about comfort food in general, but casseroles in particular, that really warms you down to your very soul. You don’t just feel full from a casserole, you feel satisfied. And we have got some tremendously tasty, satisfying casseroles for you to try.
But in this post, we also want to try and answer “What makes a great casserole?” and “Why does casserole make me feel so good?” We also offer quite a few of our favorite vegan casserole recipes for you to try out.
What are the 3 components of a great casserole?
Short answer: Protein, vegetables, and a nice starchy binder. Basically, it’s a whole “plated dinner” in one easy slice or scoop. And with just one casserole dish to cook with and clean, they’re so much easier to make.
In this section, we’ll walk you through how to veganize each component of a casserole. Then, we’ll get into the easy recipes for some great casserole dishes!
Protein Options for Vegetarian Casseroles
The protein option of the casserole helps create that satisfying filling. It’s usually the main component and identifying factor in the flavor. These days there are a lot of homemade as well as store bought options for vegan meats.
- Soy Curls: TVP Chunks / Strips are also good. Soy curls come dehydrated, so you can just dump and bake them in the sauce. They have the best texture and are our #1 recommendation for vegan chicken in casseroles. There are also a variety of vegan chicken strips or pieces on the market these days. Check out our full soy curls guide for more info.
- Walnut Meat: In recipes that call for ground meats, we like to use walnut meat! It simmers in the casserole giving the walnuts a more tender, delicious texture. The color / flavor does bleed into the other ingredients a bit though, so that’s something to consider! Check out our full walnut meat guide for more info.
- Vegan Ground Beef: There is also a variety of vegan grounds like Beyond Beef, Impossible Meat available at many grocery stores. Or you can use our recipe for homemade TVP Ground Beef!
Vegetables for Veggie Casserole Recipes
The good news is you can almost always use any type of canned or frozen veg you might have on-hand or is most convenient for you in lieu of fresh vegetables.
- Frozen Vegetables: I like to use frozen for ease and saving some time, especially when using “mixed vegetables” or small chopped broccoli. The frozen, shredded hash browns are a huge time saver as well.
- Canned Vegetables: Contrary to some opinions, canned and frozen vegetables are not depleted of nutrients just because of their packaging process. But for some recipes, like the zucchini lasagna and squash casserole, you really need the fresh stuff.
- Fresh Vegetables: The only thing I would suggest if using fresh veg is to be mindful of cooking times for some of the denser fresh vegetables like carrots or green beans as most canned or frozen veg of that type is often blanched or par-cooked before packaging. You might want to consider doing the same.
Starchy Binders for Vegan Casseroles
A great casserole needs at least one binder. This is what will hold all the other ingredients together and give your casserole slices some density.
- Vegan Condensed Soups: See more about our vegan condensed soup recipes in the section below!
- Vegan cheese or vegan cheese sauce: In recipes like our tater tot hotdish, we use vegan cheese to bind things together. For best results, use a cubed block of vegan cheese from brands like Daiya or Violife.
- Vegan Egg: JustEgg and Vegan Egg from Follow Your Heart are great for a vegan breakfast casserole or bakes!
- Noodles: Egg noodles are a classic component, but not vegan. For our vegan noodle casseroles, we use: macaroni dumplings, lasagna noodles, pappardelle, fettuccine, or rotini. Most store-bought pasta is vegan. You usually only see eggs in specialty pastas, homemade pastas, and “egg noodles”.
- Grains: White rice, brown rice, quinoa, barley, or bulgur. Just be mindful of varying cooking times for different types of grains.
- Shredded Potatoes: Russet, Yukon, or sweet potatoes are all great. You can also use fresh or frozen, but I always like to use frozen for ease.
- Vegan Sour Cream or Yogurt: We especially love Tofutti sour cream, and there are a variety of brands available for vegan sour creams and yogurts these days.
Vegan Condensed Soup Substitutes
Condensed soups are a classic casserole component! They’re used to add texture and bind everything together.
We have several vegan condensed soup substitute recipes that can be used as 1:1 subs for the Campbell’s versions:
- Vegan Condensed Cream of Chicken Soup
- Dairy-Free Cream of Mushroom Soup
- Vegan Condensed Cream of Potato Soup
- Condensed Cheddar Cheese Soup Substitute (Vegan)
Check out our vegan condensed soup substitute guide for more info!
Plant Based Casserole Toppings
A bonus 4th component to making a great casserole is the topping! The crunchy baked topping adds such an amazing texture component to any casserole. And there are so many toppings to choose from!
- Vegan Butter: Butter is often mixed with cracker crumbs or bread crumbs for a casserole topping. You can easily replace this with vegan butter, olive oil, avocado oil, or sunflower oil!
- Vegan Bread Crumbs: Make your own with our homemade Italian bread crumbs recipe, or buy them at the store. Just be sure to check the ingredients, as many contain a variety of forms of dairy. Panko bread crumbs are often vegan, and Edward and Sons makes vegan bread crumbs! There are also a variety of gluten-free breadcrumbs available at many stores.
- Cracker crumbs: Crushed Ritz crackers are a classic casserole topping, and the original flavor is vegan. Other vegan crackers include Club, Saltine, and many storebrand variations of these.
- Crushed potato chips or corn chips: Lay’s regular chips are vegan as are many other brands. But watch out for things like milk powder in flavored chips…even Salt and Vinegar chips! Corn chips are great for casseroles with a southwest inspiration. Unlike the bread crumb or cracker toppings, I would sprinkle these on after baking the casserole.
- Tater Tots: Tater tots are a popular classic casserole topping – especially in the Midwest US. And luckily, most frozen tater tots are usually vegan! Popular vegan-friendly brands include Alexia,McCain, and Ore-Ida, the inventors of the tater tot. Tater tots made from sweet potatoes are a great topping choice too. Many store brand tots are vegan. Just check those ingredients.
- Crunchy onions: French’s Fried Onions are vegan or make your own air fried onions!
The Best Vegan Casserole Recipes
This vegan pot pie casserole is a quick and deliciously dairy-free and vegetarian version of the savory chicken pie I first fell in love with so many years ago in London. It’s made with tremendously simple and easily found ingredients like store-bought puff pastry and frozen mixed vegetables. The hardest part of this vegan chicken pot pie recipe is waiting for it to finish cooling!
This super easy vegan version of a classic chicken and broccoli casserole is the perfect recipe for those colder nights and days. It’s rice and veggies and gravy all cooked up together with tender meaty soy curls and little bits of chopped broccoli throughout. Just dump all the ingredients into a casserole dish, bake it, and watch the whole family enjoy vegan broccoli rice casserole all season long.
This no-boil, dump-and-bake vegan chicken noodle casserole is everything you love about chicken noodle soup in comforting casserole form. It’s wholesome ingredients like tender vegan noodles with onion, celery, and carrots cooked in a creamy dairy free sauce with meaty chunks of soy curls throughout. And it’s so easy you can even make it on a busy work night, or you can meal prep for a week of easy plant-based dinners.
This vegan take on the classic tuna noodle casserole will take you back! This pasta casserole is pure comfort food, an easy work night dump and bake dinner that’s completely plant-based, dairy-free, and surprisingly healthy! We use jackfruit seasoned with ground nori and miso paste for the tuna. This is combined with noodles, peas, pimentos, and vegan condensed cream of mushroom soup, then baked to perfection. Top it with bread crumbs, potato chips, or seasoned Ritz crackers – your choice!
Shredded potatoes baked in a creamy dairy-free cheese sauce with crispy edges and a tender middle. This is a simple cheesy potato casserole recipe perfect for breakfast, brunch, or or even holiday dinner sides. Vegan, dairy-free, gluten-free, egg-free, plant-based, and meatless. This Cracker Barrel copycat recipe is made with our vegan condensed soup substitute. Serve it as a side or make it a main dish or even a breakfast casserole by adding some vegan sausage or bacon.
This healthy vegan squash and zucchini casserole is an easy to make, dump-and-bake, plant-based dinner or side dish. It’s loaded with zucchini, squash, carrots, potatoes, and soy curls in a creamy dairy-free dijon sauce baked to beautiful bubbling perfection. It’s the ideal meatless dinner for meal prep for the week or to freeze for easy future meals!
Our Vegan Chicken Tetrazzini is an easy meal to make anytime, and you’ll love the rich cozy flavor! This creamy dairy free pasta bake with soy curls and mushrooms is just as comforting as a traditional chicken or turkey tetrazzini recipe! Our vegetarian version is also freezer-friendly and makes a perfect family-friendly vegan meal.
This Spicy Vegan Tater Tot Hotdish is the perfect winter comfort food. It’s easy to make in your cast iron skillet and a great way to use up whatever vegetables are in your fridge! It’s a simple, great recipe filled with bell peppers, onions, corn, peas, and walnut meat in a thick flavorful gravy, topped with crispy tater tots.
You’re going to love this healthy vegan lasagna that uses thin zucchini slices for the lasagna noodles! This delicious plant-based dinner is packed with flavor and easily made gluten-free and low-carb. It’s also a fantastic way to use either fresh garden or store bought zucchini. And unlike some other zucchini lasagna recipes, this isn’t a watery zucchini lasagna either because of a very simple “trick”, and it’s not paper towels.
Our vegan au gratin potato recipe is SUPER easy and only requires a few simple ingredients. We used an easy cashew based parmesan to replace the dairy cheese in the original recipe and a simple mixture of apple cider vinegar and dairy free milk creates the most perfect vegan buttermilk you’ll ever imagine. These easy vegan scalloped potatoes are the BEST oil free and gluten free side dish for your holiday dinner. They taste just like the creamy potato bakes we grew up with but completely plant-based and healthy!
These Creamy Vegan Pesto Lasagna Rolls with meaty sauteed mushrooms, plant-based pesto sauce, smoky sausage-style walnut meat, and a dreamy dairy-free roasted garlic sauce are the best vegan healthy but decadent dinner for when you REALLY want to impress. This cozy vegetarian lasagna can be made ahead of time and is the perfect baked pasta for date-night-in, paired with a glass of wine and candlelight!
This vegan Tikka Masala Lasagna has all the comfort of a traditional lasagna with a spicy curry twist that will knock your socks off! It’s easy to make (don’t let the long ingredient list fool you; that’s mostly spices), makes enough for a crowd and freezes well for meal prep! You’ll fall in love with this lasagna inspired by our love of Indian spices.
This vegan enchilada casserole is spicy, simple, and oh so delicious. And you won’t believe how easy this plant-based Mexican-inspired casserole is to make! The result will tantalize your taste buds with cheesy layers of flour tortilla, spiced and saucy vegan soy curl chicken, black beans, corn, green chilis, and enchilada sauce baked in the oven until melty.
Perfect for breakfast, brunch, or any potluck gathering, this vegan sausage, pepper, and JUST Egg casserole is sure to please. Eggless and dairy free, taste-tested and omni-approved, everyone is just going to love it! The best part: it freezes and reheats tremendously well, so it’s perfect for meal prep too. Oh, and did I mention the tater tot crust?
When I need a breakfast to feed a crowd but don’t have time to cook all morning, this vegan breakfast strata casserole is the recipe I turn to! Cubed baguette is tossed with a cheesy plant-based bacon sauce, topped with grape tomatoes, and baked until crispy on the top and tender in the middle. Even the omnivores at the table will be roaring for seconds!
Easy Vegan Casserole Meal Prep Tips
- Many casseroles can be made up to 24 hours in advance. This is one of the greatest things about casseroles! Make the casserole up to 1 day in advance and store it in the fridge. Bonus points: This will give the flavors a chance to mingle and make the casserole taste even better!
- Try Souper Cubes! You can freeze casseroles in individual portions either before or after baking in 1 or 2-cup Souper Cubes! You can even bake casseroles IN the Souper Cube trays to make individual portions. They’re especially great if you avoid tin foil in your cooking because they are reusable and made with silicone.
- Freeze leftovers for later. Let any leftovers cool completely and freeze in an airtight container for up to 3 months.
- Make one, freeze one. A great casserole cooking meal prep strategy can be to double the casserole recipe you’re making. Make one to eat now and assemble the other in a heavy-duty foil-lined baking dish sprayed with a little cooking oil. Do not bake, just assemble and transfer to the freezer until frozen through. Then, remove the foil packet from the dish and freeze for up to 2 months. When ready to eat, remove the foil packet from the fridge and return it to the original casserole dish. Let it thaw in the fridge for at least 24 hours and bake as directed in the recipe!
- Keep chopped veggies on-hand in the freezer! It’s a great idea to store some minced garlic, chopped onion, and chopped peppers in a freezer-safe bag, so you can have them on-hand for easy dump and bake casserole making! The 2-Tbsp Souper Cubes are perfect for this too!
General Casserole Cooking FAQ
This depends on whether you are using canned/frozen or fresh. I find you don’t normally need to cook canned or frozen vegetables before adding them to the casserole. However, some harder fresh vegetables, like carrots, for example, might need to be precooked depending on how large you cut them.
To keep a casserole moist while cooking, keep it covered. To keep a casserole moist when reheating, add a tablespoon or so of water or plant based milk before microwaving or reheating in the oven.
Covering a casserole with foil serves two purposes. One, it helps keep heat inside the casserole dish so the casserole cooks evenly. And two, it helps retain moisture and steam, keeping the casserole moist.
You can cook two casseroles at once. But bear in mind, many ovens aren’t perfectly calibrated and have heat zones, so rotate the casserole dishes a couple times throughout the cooking process.
Most casserole dishes come with a well-fitting lid. If you don’t have one, you can cover the casserole dish tightly with some aluminum foil.
There are a few reasons your casserole could come out too dry. The oven might be too hot and is overcooking the casserole. It’s also possible to lose a lot of steam liquid from the dish if the lid is not tight on the dish.
Is it better to bake a casserole covered or uncovered?
This depends on the casserole. Most casseroles have you start off with them covered to help create the creamy sauce, then finish uncovered to give the casserole a nice crust on top. Again, it really depends on the type of casserole you’re making. If you’re making any kind of casserole with uncooked pasta or potatoes, a tight cover is vital for the cooking process!
How do you keep the bottom of a casserole from burning?
Some ovens put out a lot of heat radiating from the bottom. This can sometimes cause recipes to burn, especially when on the lower rack of the oven. To help remedy this, try placing the casserole dish on the upper rack. If the problem persists, place the casserole on the upper rack and place a broiler dish or heavy baking sheet on the bottom rack to disperse the direct heat.
Why is my casserole so watery?
Again, there could be a couple reasons for this. Oven calibration could again be a culprit. If you find you often need to add extra time to finish cooking recipes, look into this as the major culprit. It could also be that one of your substitutions either expels excess water (like squash) or doesn’t absorb liquid as well as the original ingredient.
Why does making and eating casserole make me feel good?
Casseroles are among the classic comfort foods. Comfort foods are foods that are a little rich, a little starchy or carb-heavy, and offer some form of emotional connection or memory to a happy time, often childhood memories. These combined help release serotonin which makes us feel calmer and less anxious or depressed. It’s casserole science!
I hope this helps answer many of your casserole questions! If you have any other questions or want to see your favorite casserole veganized, drop a comment and rating in the section below.
If you make any of our listed casseroles, we’d love to see the outcome and hear what you thought. Again, leave a comment below or on our Instagram at “@theplantpowercouple” with the “the”.