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Vegan Mexican Lasagna

September 26, 2016
Featured in: Food Rx, Dinner
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This vegan Mexican lasagna with spicy mashed sweet potatoes and tempeh

This vegan Mexican lasagna with spicy mashed sweet potatoes and tempeh "meat" sauce makes a comforting plant based meal!

by Rachael Hartley, RD, LD, CDE, CLT

As someone who spent three of her teenage years as a vegetarian and still prefers to eat mostly plant-based to this day, I’ve eaten my fair share of tofu. I love how it soaks up whatever delicious sauce you cook. Mmm, and how it gets crispy on the outside and creamy on the inside when you fry it up in a hot skillet. #heaven #yesreally #iliketofuthatmuch  

When I was a kid, tofu was always the butt of food jokes. We even had an entire song dedicated to tofu-hating, Killer Tofu by The Beets, which I know all my fellow children of the early 90s know by heart. It was commonly understood that tofu, along with sushi and broccoli, were gross and the only people who ate them were weird. I would awkwardly laugh, because I loved both tofu and a good California roll, and I could down some broccoli if it was cooked the way my grandpa made it, steamed with soy sauce and garlic. 

Still, there’s a lot of adults who take a hardline stance on tofu. I get it. By itself, tofu is pretty bland, so if for some crazy reason you ate it plain, it could turn you off pretty easily. I fault no one for not being a tofu fan. 

Today I want to introduce a new kind of soy to you, one that's perfect for people who are carnivores who, in theory, want to eat more plant-based meals but also want to enjoy their food.

Meet (meat?) tempeh. 

This vegan Mexican lasagna with spicy mashed sweet potatoes and tempeh

I know my description isn't going to sell it, but stick with me on this one. Tempeh is made by fermenting soybeans and pressing them into a cake. The result is a vegan protein with a more complex flavor and when you crumble it up, it tastes just like ground meat. I cook it up with lots of spices to make a vegan sausage, saute it with taco seasoning for a vegan taco salad, and turn it into bacon...err "bacon!" Trust me on this one, tempeh is going to become a favorite.

Here's a few more reasons to pick up tempeh on your next grocery run:

  • Tempeh is a fermented food, packed with health promoting probiotics that help boost the immune system and improve gut health. Also, because tempeh is fermented, your body is better able to absorb the nutrients from soybeans.
  • Rich in bone building nutrients, eating tempeh regularly could help prevent osteoporosis. A serving contains 10% the daily value (DV) of calcium, 27% DV copper, and 25% DV phosphorus. 
  • Studies show the isoflavones in soy, a plant compound with weak estrogen-like effects, helps lower cholesterol and is beneficial during menopause. 
  • Tempeh has almost the same amount of protein as meat and poultry with 19 grams in every 100 gram serving. 

This vegan Mexican lasagna uses ground tempeh to make an easy meat sauce. The savory mashed sweet potatoes taste almost cheese-like in this comforting dish! If you like, double up the tempeh meat sauce and serve it with whole grain pasta and roasted veggies for another easy weeknight meal. 

This vegan Mexican lasagna with spicy mashed sweet potatoes and tempeh

Vegan Mexican lasagna with spicy mashed potatoes and tempeh "meat" sauce is yummo! via @RHartleyRD
This vegan Mexican lasagna with spicy mashed sweet potatoes and tempeh

Vegan Mexican Lasagna


Serves 6


  • 5 cups peeled sweet potatoes, cut into chunks
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, divided
  • 1 red onion, finely chopped, divided
  • 8 ounces tempeh, crumbled
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 2 teaspoons cumin
  • 2 14-ounce cans tomato sauce
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • 9 corn tortillas, cut in half
  • Chopped fresh cilantro, avocaodo, hot sauce, for serving


  1. Place a steamer basket over a small pot of boiling water. Add sweet potatoes, cover and steam 10-12 minutes until fork tender. 
  2. Meanwhile, make tempeh "meat" sauce. Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a medium pot on medium-high heat. Add 1/2 the chopped red onion and saute until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add crumbled tempeh, cumin and oregano and saute 2 minutes. Set aside 1 cup of tomato sauce then pour the rest into the pot. Bring to a simmer and cook 20 minutes until flavors are melded. Season with salt and pepper to taste. 
  3. After potatoes have steamed, heat remaining tablespoon olive oil in a large skillet on medium-high heat. Add remaining red onion and garlic and saute until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add chili powder, stir and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Turn off heat and carefully add sweet potatoes to the skillet. Using a potato masher, mash together the sweet potatoes and sauteed vegetables to make a thick puree. Season with salt and black pepper to taste. 
  4. Preheat oven to 350 degrees fahrenheit. Spread 1/2 cup plain tomato sauce at the bottom of a large casserole dish. Layer 3 of the halved tortillas over the bottom to mostly cover. Top with 1/2 the sweet potato mash and 1/2 the tempeh sauce. Top with another layer of 3 halved tortillas. Top with remaining sweet potato mash and tempeh sauce. Top with another 3 halved tortillas. Spread remaining 1/2 cup plain tomato sauce over the top. 
  5. Place casserole in the oven and bake 30 minutes until lightly golden and slightly bubbly. Serve garnished with sliced avocado, cilantro and hot sauce. 
Click for nutritional information
Calories 418
Carbohydrates 55.2g
Fiber 7.5g
Sugar 12.8g
Fat 11.7g
Protein 14.2g
Sodium 98mg
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Rachael Hartley is the author of the FOOD Rx on HealthyAperture - a monthly feature that embraces the saying "Let food be thy medicine." The tasty, whole food recipes shared in Food Rx take advantage of the healing power of food, highlighting ingredients with known health promoting abilities. Rachael is also private practice dietitian and blogger at Avocado A Day Nutrition. She is passionate about helping men and women improve their physical and mental health and wellbeing with nourishing and delicious whole foods, mindfulness and intuitive eating. As lifelong food lover, the kitchen is her playground and she enjoys experimenting with new ingredients, trying new cuisines and sharing those creations on her blog. When not working with clients or blogging, you can find her playing with her two big fluffy dogs, practicing yoga, or traveling with her husband.
More posts by RachaelAnAvocadoADay
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