Vegan Eggplant Cannelloni with Tofu Ricotta
This vegan eggplant cannelloni is completely plant based, gluten free, low carb and so tasty! Thinly sliced eggplant works just like pasta sheets, rolled around a creamy basil and spinach tofu ricotta, and topped with a simple homemade tomato sauce. The rollups are baked to perfection and served fresh out of the oven!
What is eggplant cannelloni
Cannelloni is traditionally made by wrapping sheets of fresh pasta into cylinders around a filling. However, you will often also find cannelloni tubes at the store, which are dried cylinders of pasta, ready to stuff. Spinach and ricotta is a popular non-vegan filling for cannelloni.
For this vegan cannelloni, eggplant is treated like pasta sheets, sliced thinly, lightly baked, and rolled around the filling when soft. I’ve used a beautifully creamy basil, spinach and tofu ricotta filling, which is super easy to whip up.
The eggplant roll ups are arranged in a baking dish, and topped with a quick and easy homemade tomato sauce. They’re finished with ground almonds then baked in the oven until they become rich and delicious.
Why I love this recipe
- I’m a big fan of Italian food, but sometimes I just feel like something a little bit lighter. This low carb cannelloni hits the spot every time, as it fills me up whilst still feeling light, and has all of those delicious Italian flavours.
- The recipe is free from milk, egg, and grains and gluten, so is perfect for vegan, grain-free and gluten-free diets. As we haven’t used pasta here, it’s also great for those who need to follow a lower carb diet.
- Believe it or not, this eggplant cannelloni recipe is also really healthy! It’s based around whole plant-based ingredients, and the spinach and basil tofu ricotta is filled with protein and iron.
- This is one of those recipes which, despite being simple, feels kind of fancy! Vegan cannelloni makes a perfect weekend meal for two, and can be whipped up even on the busiest of days. If you’ve been here for a while, you’ll know that I’m all about vegan cooking for those who love flavour- but that doesn’t always have to be complicated!
What are the ingredients for eggplant cannelloni?
When picking out your eggplants for this recipe, go for a couple which are short and wide. As this recipe only serves 2, you don’t want huge eggplants, but the width will give you plenty of room for your tofu ricotta filling.
Some recipes will call for the eggplant to be salted after slicing, to release some of the water before cooking. I don’t find this process necessary for this recipe, as we bake them in the oven before rolling. This helps to dry them up and reduce the amount of water released later.
What is the filling made from?
The vegan stuffing for the eggplant cannelloni is made from basil, spinach, tofu, plain yoghurt, nutritional yeast, apple cider vinegar and salt. It’s smooth and creamy, with the delicious flavour of basil. The spinach adds to the beautiful green colour of the cannelloni filling, and adds a healthy boost of iron.
The yoghurt, apple cider vinegar and salt give a slight sourness, which compliments the subtle sweetness of the vegan cheese. Nutritional yeast is an inactive yeast which brings a cheesy, nutty, savoury flavour to dishes. It’s really popular in vegan cooking due to the unique flavour it brings to ‘cheesy’ dishes.
For the quick and easy tomato sauce
For the simple tomato sauce, I’ve used onion, garlic, canned chopped tomatoes, and oregano. I’ve opted to make the sauce myself, as store bought sauces often have a lot of added sugar or salt. You can make this tomato sauce so easily, but if you’d rather, you can use store bought marinara sauce. I really like this one as it uses all organic ingredients and contains no added sugar.
How to make vegan cannelloni
First, prepare the eggplants for rolling. Cut each one into 6 5mm slices along the length- you can do this using a sharp knife, or if you have a mandolin with a 5mm cut you can use this. You can use grilled eggplant for this recipe, but I find it easier to just pop them in the oven to bake.
I like to do this on the grill pan with a rack, as I find this helps to dry them out and reduces the chances of them sticking. Cook them at 200c/390f for 15 minutes, turning half way.
Meanwhile, you can make the tomato sauce. In a saucepan, heat a little oil over medium heat. Add the chopped cloves of garlic and onion and cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, until they are softened and lightly browned.
Add the chopped tomatoes and oregano, stir, and bring the sauce to a simmer. Leave to simmer whilst you prepare the vegan eggplant cannelloni.
To make the filling, first wilt the spinach. Put it in a large sieve or colander, and pour over boiled water until it wilts. Give it a light squeeze with the back of a spoon to remove any excess water.
In a bowl, add the tofu, yoghurt, nutritional yeast, apple cider vinegar, salt, chopped basil, and spinach. Using a fork, mash this up until it reaches a creamy but slightly grainy consistency. If you’d rather, you can use a stick blender here to speed the process along and get a smoother result.
How to fill eggplant cannelloni
By now, the eggplants should be finished cooking and be out of the oven. Leave them to cool slightly so that they’re easier to handle.
The great thing about eggplant slices is that they are so much easier to fill than cannelloni tubes. All you need to do is place a small spoonful of filling at one end of the slice, and roll it up. Repeat this process for each of the eggplant slices until you have none left.
Spread about two thirds of the tomato sauce in the bottom of a 20cm oven proof dish. Place the eggplant roll ups, sealed side down, into the dish. Pour over the remaining sauce, sprinkle with ground almonds, and drizzle with a little bit of olive oil.
Bake in the oven for 20 minutes at 200c/390f.
How to serve
I love to top my vegan cannelloni with some simple chopped fresh basil. Sometimes I like to add some toasted seeds for a bit of crunch, or some finely grated vegan parmesan.
Honestly, this recipe makes a huge main course for two, so you may not need anything on the side if you’re serving 2. If you’re extra hungry, or you’re using this recipe to serve 4, you might want a little extra something.
I’m not normally one for serving bread with pasta, but as these are low carb cannelloni, I think we can get away with it! Try a nice garlic bread, or perhaps some homemade focaccia.
For a healthier option, try a simple chopped salad. I find that crunchy romaine lettuce with a citrusy dressing goes great with this, or an arugula salad with a balsamic vinaigrette.
For a warm side, I love this roasted asparagus and mushrooms recipe. Some garlicky sautéed green beans, griddled zucchini or tenderstem broccoli would also go great.
Variations on this recipe
I love these healthy eggplant cannelloni as they are, but as always you can change it up depending on your taste or dietary needs. I’ve put some ideas below for you:
- Keep it nut free- skip the ground almonds on top, or replace them with breadcrumbs or milled sunflower seeds.
- Keep it soy free- you can replace the tofu ricotta in this recipe with a nut-based ricotta cheese. This is a great recipe which I love.
- To make this a little more luxurious, sometimes I like to top it with my favourite vegan mozzarella before baking. You can use a store bought variety, but I really love this recipe (I use this mozzarella in my vegan arancini recipe- they’re super tasty!)
- If you’re not worried about this being low-carb cannelloni, you can use cannelloni pasta tubes with the filling. Make sure they’re egg free, as some pasta contains egg. Give them a good coating in the tomato sauce before baking, to make sure that they completely soften.
- If you like the idea of vegan eggplant cannelloni, but aren’t sold on the tofu ricotta filling, you can change this up a bit. Try using your favourite hummus recipe, or even fill them with ragu.
Can I prepare eggplant cannelloni in advance?
These vegan cannelloni are tastiest when they’re served fresh out of the oven. However, you can prepare the components in advance. Once baked, the eggplant slices can be cooled and kept in an airtight container in the fridge until ready to roll.
The same goes for the filling and the tomato sauce. These can both be refrigerated for up to 4 days. When you’re ready to eat your eggplant roll ups, assemble the dish as above and cook for 20 minutes.
How long do they last?
Saying that, if you happen to have leftovers from your vegan eggplant cannelloni, you can keep it in the fridge for up to 4 days, in an airtight container. To reheat, pop them in the oven for 15 minutes at 200c/390f, or microwave for 3 minutes per 3 rolls.
Looking for more ideas for date night?
You might like…
- This Mediterranean dip for starters. If you like eggplant this will be right up your street!
- Some homemade vegan butternut squash ravioli (you can have lots of fun making this together in the kitchen!).
- This easy vegan mushroom risotto– low effort and a personal favourite of mine.
- Or a big plate of vegan spaghetti! I love this creamy tomato spaghetti carbonara.
Eggplant Cannelloni with Tofu Ricotta
- 2 small eggplants
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 1 brown onion finely chopped
- 3 cloves garlic finely chopped
- 1 can chopped tomatoes 400g/14oz
- 1 tsp dried oregano
- 100 g spinach
- 200 g firm tofu
- 2 tbsp dairy free yoghurt
- 2 tbsp nutritional yeast
- ½ tbsp apple cider vinegar
- ½ tsp salt
- 5 g basil chopped
- 2 tbsp ground almonds
- Preheat the oven to 200c/390f.
- Prepare the eggplants for rolling. Cut them into 12 5mm slices along the length- you can do this using a sharp knife, or if you have a mandolin with a 5mm cut you can use this.
- Lay them out on a grill pan with a rack, or an easily removable oven rack. Bake them for 15 minutes, turning half way.
To make the sauce
- Meanwhile, heat ½ tbsp of oil in a saucepan over a medium heat. Add the garlic and onion and cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, until they are softened and lightly browned.
- Add the chopped tomatoes and oregano, stir, and bring the sauce to a simmer. Leave to simmer whilst you prepare the eggplant cannelloni.
To make the filling
- First, wilt the spinach. Put it in a large sieve or colander, and pour over boiling water until it wilts. Give it a light squeeze with the back of a spoon to remove any excess water.
- In a bowl, add the tofu, yoghurt, nutritional yeast, apple cider vinegar, salt, chopped basil, and spinach. Using a fork, mash this up until it reaches a creamy but slightly grainy consistency. If you’d rather, you can use a stick blender here to speed the process along.
- Once the eggplants are out of the oven, leave them to cool slightly so that they’re easier to handle.
To roll the cannelloni
- Place a small spoonful of filling at one end of the slice, and roll it up. Repeat this process for each of the eggplant slices.
- Spread about two thirds of the tomato sauce in the bottom of a 20cm oven proof dish. Place the eggplant roll ups, sealed side down, into the dish. Pour over the remaining sauce, sprinkle with ground almonds, and drizzle with the remaining olive oil.
- Bake in the oven for 20 minutes until golden and bubbling.
Made this recipe?
I’d love to know how you got on- let me know how it turned out in the comments below!
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