“Indulge” With Dairy-Free Spinach Stuffed Shells

Dairy-Free Spinach Stuffed Shells

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I can pack away some serious stuffed shells.

Cheesy, warm and delicious, stuffed shells are the ultimate comfort food out there in my opinion. They’re also a great make-ahead dish for company. Whose eyes don’t widen when they see a huge pan of shells coming out of the oven?

Lately though, I’ve been really wanting to experiment with a lighter variation, a vegan version. Call me crazy, but I wanted to see if it was possibly to cut the cholesterol but not lose any of the flavor. Guess what? It worked.

Dairy-Free Spinach Stuffed Shells

In this dairy-free version, I use a blend of tofu, olive oil, garlic and nutritional yeast as the “ricotta” filling and I swear you won’t be able to tell the difference! These vegan stuffed shells are still so incredibly cheesy and filling, you’ll swear this is the traditional cheese-laden version. But don’t believe me, believe my barbecue-loving boyfriend who ate an entire plateful of these shells without noticing a hint of a difference. When I asked him how dinner was, a huge smile grew on his face as he told me it was absolutely delicious and, were there seconds?

Dairy-Free Spinach Stuffed Shells

Dairy-Free Spinach Stuffed Shells

Dairy-Free Spinach Stuffed Shells

Cut down the cholesterol without losing any flavor in this vegan stuffed shells recipe from Jenna Weber of Eat, Live, Run. See the full post at the Fresh Tastes Blog.



  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1.5 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon oregano
  • 16 ounces extra firm tofu
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 tablespoon nutritional yeast
  • 10 ounces frozen spinach, defrosted
  • 1 box jumbo shells
  • 1 jar of your favorite marinara sauce


  1. Drain the tofu and pat dry with paper towels. Crumble into the bowl of a food processor or high-speed blender along with olive oil, salt, oregano, garlic and nutritional yeast. Process on high until smooth and “ricotta-like”.
  2. Add the defrosted spinach to the blended tofu mixture.
  3. Cook shells in boiling salted water until el dente. Drain
  4. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Pour about ½ cup pasta sauce into the bottom of a 9 x 13 inch pan. Stuff shells with 2 T of filling and place in pan, seam side down. Repeat until all shells have been stuffed.
  5. Pour remaining pasta sauce over shells, cover with foil and bake for 30 minutes. Serve!

Yield: 6-8 servings

Jenna Weber, food blogger for PBS Food's Fresh Tastes blogJenna Weber is half of the Fresh Tastes blog team. She graduated from Le Cordon Bleu in 2008 and, since then, has worked as a pastry chef, bread baker and freelance food editor. Currently, Jenna blogs full-time on EatLiveRun.com where her delicious daily recipes and quirky culinary musings appeal to thousands. She lives in Northern California and, when not in the kitchen, can usually be found on her yoga mat.

  • http://www.digitalroom.com/ Digital Printing

    Where am I going to get these shells?I cannot find it the grocery even in the local market. So please help me I also want to try this asap. I’m going to join the cooking contest tomorrow so please help me here!I got all ingredients but not for these shells.

  • Cassie

    Thanks Jenna! I appreciate this recipe as I am lactose intolerant so almost all stuffed pasta has ricotta or other dairy. These look and sound delicious!

  • shutupandrun

    I’m so intrigued by these that I must try them. I have to admit I’m skeptical, but really want you to prove me wrong!!!

  • http://popcornonthestove.com/ Kristen

    I love these! We usually don’t add oregano to our mixture, but I may have to now!! Yum!

  • http://www.petitfoodie.com jenna

    what brand of sauce did you use?

  • Aimee

    Uh-oh, spinach was left out of the steps, but I assume you throw it into the food processor with the rest of the ingredients? This recipe looks incredible!

  • http://foodfitnesslifelove.wordpress.com/ Sara

    I’m going to make this next week- it looks simple and delicious. I hope my boyfriend has the same reaction that yours did! :)

  • http://bakingnbooks.wordpress.com Bakingnbooks

    Great photos! I love the last line of your profile too – what I can only dream of!

  • http://madeinsonoma.blogspot.com/ Kelli H

    I’m totally making this but I’m going to use homemade marinara sauce. I love cheese but my body doesn’t like it so I’m excited to make this recipe!

  • Alex G

    does the spinach get added when making the filling?

  • Kim Hoffman

    This makes my heart sing! I have been dairy free due to allergies for a year and I haven’t found any suitable replacements to my beloved cow’s milk cheese yet. Can’t wait to try this.

  • Ashley

    bless your heart! i’ve recently discovered i’m lactose intolerant, and i have missed ricotta cheese like nobody’s business. this really – seriously – made my day.

  • Kturner

    These sound so yummy! Do I just add the defrosted spinach after making the tofu “ricotta like”? Do I need to squeeze the spinach dry? Awesome recipe Jenna!

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=21306504 Jenna Weber

    I used Trader Joe’s marinara sauce..it’s awesome (and super cheap)!

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=21306504 Jenna Weber

    sorry about that! Yes, you just add the spinach after defrosting to the tofu mixture. I just squeeze the spinach dry with my hands and it works fine!

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=21306504 Jenna Weber

    Just add the spinach after you blend the tofu mixture :)

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=21306504 Jenna Weber

    Really? I have always been able to find them at every grocery store I’ve been to. They’re just with the other pastas.

  • http://sewfrench.com/ Sewfrench

    Oh, this looks fabulous!
    We need more yummy, non dairy recipes in the world!

  • Kteague108

    thank you, I’m allergic to dairy and love shells. will try these tonight but will not tell my husband he’s eating toful

  • http://idreamofgreenieblog.com Bess

    These look amazing and even fool proof enough for me to not ruin! Love seeing non-dairy variations of popular recipes on here :)

  • Amanda

    Looks interesting! Would love for you to spend a little time talking about some of the less known ingredients you use in your recipe. For instance, what is nutritional yeast, where do you find it and what does it add to/do for the recipe. Also, while I think tofu is pretty well known a little blurb about it, and why you choose the type you did might help readers who have never used it before more comfortable trying it.

  • jen

    do you have to use frozen spinach? what is the alternative?

  • Alyssa

    Can I make these with fresh spinach? I have a ton from my CSA.

  • EmilyPaige

    I’m going to a vegan potluck Sunday night… I believe that with some gluten free shells this could be my winning dish. Thankyou! :)

  • Leah

    Funny saw the same exact recipe in the Rachel Ray mag last month…must be catching on!

  • Birnern

    any way to find our the caloric count, fat content, etc. on this recipe?

  • Emily Malone

    In my oven as we speak! The ricotta is THE BOMB.

  • Lmpisciotta

    Nutritional yeast can be found at health food stores, like Whole Foods Market. Usually it is in the bulk food section. It’s a yeast that looks like yellow flakes. It has a cheesy taste, which is why it is used in the stuffed shells. Extra firm tofu has a firmer texture, so it will crumble like ricotta. You can buy any brand, but make sure it is extra firm.

  • Thepowerofstringcheese

    wondering if extra firm is going to be too dry of a texture to replicate ricotta, or if the olive oil adds enough moisture to make it creamy. it looks just about right in the picture, but for me, the dead giveaway with tofu substitutions is the texture. wondering if medium firmness would be better. would probably experiment with both when trying this out.

  • nicole

    Yes, I’d like to hear more about tofu as well. A vegetarian friend of mine doesn’t eat it anymore–she tells me the American varieties have something akin to MSG in them… they are not fermented the pure way they are in Japan. Is this true?

  • Cyncha227

    Yea Jenna! I’ve been making stuffed shells and lasagne with tofu for twenty years. I must admit that I like some shredded mozz. in it though! I’m allergic to the ricotta cheese and didn’t want to feel deprived. Where there’s a will there’s a way! My husband loves it too, so no picky eaters here.

  • Sazzybamm

    Is there a way to incorporate the “print” feature on the PBS recipe blogs? This sounds delicious. I’m going to make it this week!

  • http://www.pbs.org/food Ashley Carufel [PBS Food]

    All the recipes will have a “print” button once the full site launches later in the summer. If there are other features you would like to see – let us know!

  • Cyndi Jordan

    can’t wait to try this – and hopefully fool my husband!

  • Moonblue54

    Oooooh, that’s sounding so gooood!!!! Gotta try it! I’m looking for more meatless recipes. I don’t particularly like tofu, but anything that tastes like cheese I’ll try!!

  • Soul_of_Wit

    I think that you’ve conflated al dente and el presidente. It made me smile.

    The recipe sounds great for the lactose intolerant. We often cook a cottage cheese/spinach mixture for shells. Reasonably low in fat, but the texture is different.

  • http://foodfitnesslifelove.wordpress.com/ Sara

    Holy frick, I made these tonight and they are EPIC. Thanks, Jenna! Posted it up on the blawgy blawg: http://foodfitnesslifelove.wordpress.com/2011/08/02/meatless-mondays-spinach-stuffed-shells/

  • Cheryl

    My son is lactose intolerant, and I bet this would be a great lasagna filling too! Thanks!!

  • Lindy

    YUM! Just made these tonight. Delicious! I left out the nutritional yeast since I didn’t have any. Being lactose intolerant, I’m always excited to try dairy free recipes. :)