Lasagna pasta is not something that you can enjoy on a keto or low-carb diet. But the pasta is essential to create the layers on a lasagna. Or is it? I wondered: What else could be used to help separate the lasagna layers? What would be easy to cook, taste good, be low-carb and keto friendly, and structurally appropriate? – Cabbage!
Truth be told, it wasn’t my idea… I had a lovely keto colleague share it with me on a flight. So brilliant, I couldn’t wait to get home and try it out!
Although a simple casserole dish, lasagna takes just soo looong! Because of all the pasta cooking, layer building, making two different sauce toppings, the meat one generally simmering for over an hour, plus time in the oven, and then waiting a bizarre long time to finally be able to dig it in… With this easy keto lasagna recipe I tried to cut as much corners as possible!
This easy keto cabbage lasagna takes very few key ingredients, and you’ll make only one sauce , as we fake the white sauce with near a buttload of mozzarella. All this cheese will melt to a thick layer of gooey deliciousness that will make you rethink the need of cooking a white sauce for lasagna ever again!
I will also give you many options for substitutions and ideas for extra things you can add, if you’d like it to be more elaborated. The choices are yours!
What are the main ingredients for the easy keto cabbage lasagna
Cabbage makes the structure of the keto lasagna layers. I haven’t found another low-carb vegetable that’s as easy to work with and that wields such a delicious lasagna. But of course, if you don’t like or can’t tolerate cabbage (it can cause food pregnancy for
me some), you could use thin slices of zucchini or eggplant, cut longitudinally. Read on for tips on how to use these.
Mozzarella is my cheese of choice here, because it melts so well that if you use it in enough quantity there’s your white sauce! I know, I know, lasagna should have a béchamel style white sauce, or an American style rich ricotta and egg concoction. But hear me out: if you want to keep things simple and fast, and have less washing up to do, making thick layers of mozzarella is the way to go.
You can use any other easy melt cheese that you enjoy, or even mix up cheeses, really there’s no reason why not. The only rule here is: will the cheeses taste good together (and within the lasagna context) and melt relatively easy? Just dump them on! Buttloads of cheese! I put half a kilo (a little over half a pound) of cheese in this keto lasagna ingredient list, but NOTHING is to stop you going over that number. Reference only 😉
If you want an even creamier lasagna still on the easy one sauce only side, some strategically placed spoonfuls of cream cheese in between your layers is not a bad idea, at all. Actually, it’s highly encouraged.
Ground beef is the classic choice for lasagna, but ground pork, chicken and even sausage meat are good options as well.
And tomato paste. In the spirit of making the easiest keto lasagna ever, I used tomato paste instead of homemade tomato sauce. Again, if you prefer to use fresh tomatoes, or canned tomatoes, that’s great and most likely your lasagna will taste even more delicious and fresh.
Tomato paste or sauce: is it keto?
That’s a meaningful question, as tomatoes are believed not to be keto friendly. Although tomatoes are fruits, they are not high in sugar, and can be enjoyed in moderation in a ketogenic diet. The problem is that store-bought tomato based products are usually loaded with extra carbs and sugar, added in as thickeners and flavor enhancers.
To make sure you are buying a keto and low-carb safe tomato sauce, puree, paste or juice, read the label. If the only ingredient listed is tomato, with the occasional mention of water, salt or citric acid (a natural preservative, used to extend shelf-life), then take it home! No hidden sugars to worry about.
How to keep vegetable lasagna from being watery
There’s two steps to prevent a soupy keto lasagna: First, drain well and pat dry the cabbage leaves: vegetables give out liquid when being cooked, instead of absorbing it, like regular lasagna pasta. Second: make the meat and tomato sauce thick.
In this keto cabbage lasagna recipe, to give the sauce a thicker texture, I used a little bit of unflavored pea protein. You can also use nutritional yeast. These are optional, and you can perfectly make this keto lasagna without it. You just might have to cook the sauce for longer to evaporate more of the meat moisture, and avoid a soupy lasagna.
Some recipes advise draining the water from the cooked meat before adding the tomato sauce, but I don’t like doing that. The meat juices are rich in flavor, and I’d rather simmer it a bit longer to condensate this flavor than to throw it away. Are you with me on this one?
Can you freeze the keto cabbage lasagna
This delicious cabbage lasagna is an ideal meal prepping recipe! It’s a really large recipe, so unless you have a huge family or are serving it at a gathering you’ll have enough keto lasagna for 2 or 3 meals.
The left-overs will last covered in the refrigerator for three days. Re-heat in microwave before serving.
The keto cabbage lasagna can easily be frozen for up to six months. Wait for the lasagna to cool completely before freezing. Cut it in the desired serving sizes, and put them in airtight containers or wrap them in wax paper, then seal inside heavy duty freezer bags.
How to make the easy keto cabbage and meat lasagna
How to prepare cabbage leaves for lasagna layering
Core the cabbage head, inserting a knife and cutting around the stem at an angle. Use a sharp knife and be careful, you might need some force to stab the knife in. The hole should go about 3 inches inside the cabbage, to make it easier to remove the leaves later (1).
Boil the cabbage, with the carved hole down, submersed in water for about 20 minutes, until the leaves are soft and coming out by themselves (2). While the cabbage is boiling, you can start the preparation of the meat and tomato sauce.
If using zucchini instead of cabbage: cut the slices lengthwise, lightly sprinkle them with salt and let sit for about 15 minutes for the salt to bring out the water. Pat them dry with paper towels before assembling into the lasagna layers.
For eggplant, do the same, and then rub in some olive oil and arrange the slices on a baking tray, and bake them at 200 °C (395 °F) in a preheated oven for 15-20 minutes. This is important to remove the bitterness and bring out the rich eggplant flavor.
How to prepare the meat and tomato sauce
In a large pan or deep skillet, heat up 2 tablespoons of olive oil, and fry the chopped onions until they are soft and transparent. Add in the crushed garlic, and fry them together until golden (4).
Add the ground beef, salt and chili flakes. Mix it with the onion and garlic. Sometimes the minced meat clumps together when cooking, specially if it has been defrosted. Be sure to break the meat chunks that might form, to get an uniform sauce. Continue cooking until the meat just starts to brown (6).
Add the Worcestershire sauce, herbs, olives and tomato paste, (7) mix it in, and simmer until the moisture is mostly evaporated and the sauce is thick. It shouldn’t take long, if you are using tomato paste, that’s already pretty condensed. You may also add pea protein or nutritional yeast to thicken the sauce. Set the sauce aside to form layers.
How to arrange the keto cabbage lasagna layers
Prepare the layering set up: Drizzle some olive oil at the bottom of a large lasagna or casserole dish (13″x 9″ or equivalent). Around it, have the pan with the sauce, the shredded mozzarella (or other cheese and cream cheese, if using), the cooked cabbage head, drained of water (try to squeeze it out as much as you can), and a some paper towels or a dry tea towel.
Gently remove the cabbage leaves whole, one by one as you need them, and pat them dry with the paper towels or tea towel. Assemble the first layer of cabbage over the olive oil. You’ll need only 2 or 3 leaves per layer. There’s no need to overlap. There will be some cabbage left at the end of the keto lasagna assembly, which you can keep in the fridge to use later on, for a stir-fry, for example.
If using zucchini or roasted eggplant slices, you’ll probably need more slices per layer. Just set the vegetable slices side by side, as you would with regular lasagna pasta.
Add a few spoonfuls of sauce, and tap it down to spread as evenly as possible. For a 13″x 9″ casserole / lasagna dish, this should make three layers of sauce.
Add about one cup of mozzarella cheese, or any other easy melt cheese of your choice (like gouda, edam, emmental, raclette or gruyere, for example) or a mix of cheeses. You can also add spoonfuls of cream cheese.
Add another layer of cabbage leaves, then sauce and another cup of cheese. Repeat until you have 3 layers of sauce (for a 13″x 9″ dish). The lasagna will have then a total of four layers, including the top one.
For the top layer of the keto lasagna: Add 1 layer of cabbage leaves, the last cup of mozzarella cheese, sprinkle Parmesan cheese, and drizzle some olive oil (13). The Parmesan on top of the mozzarella will help create a beautiful, golden gratinated crust.
Just look at this sizzling cheese…
Bake the keto cabbage lasagna in a preheated oven at 200 °C (395 °F) for about 15-20 minutes, until the cheese is melted. Then, turn on the broiler (top heating element) for about 5 minutes to gratinate the top cheese layer. Watch it closely not to burn, as cheese can burn really fast. Remove the keto lasagna from the oven when the cheese starts to crust, getting slightly browned.
Now, the most difficult part: Leave the keto cabbage lasagna rest outside the oven to set for about 20 minutes before cutting the slices.
And one last, important tip: this keto lasagna tastes EVEN BETTER on the next day. If you can leave something for tomorrow, you’ll be awesomely rewarded.
Share with your friends,
they might cook for you!
- 1 medium cabbage
- 1 kilo ground beef
- 2 +1 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 small onions, chopped
- 10 cloves of garlic, crushed
- 80 grams tomato paste (4 tablespoons)
- 75 grams black olives, sliced (about ½ cup)
- ½ tablespoon fine grain salt
- 1 tablespoon chili flakes
- 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
- 1 tablespoon basil, dried or fresh chopped
- 2 teaspoons oregano
- 1 scoop pea protein OR 3 tablespoons nutritional yeast OR 1 tablespoon cornstarch (optional, see Notes)
- 500 grams mozzarella cheese, shredded (about 4 cups)
- 2 tablespoons Parmesan cheese
- Core the cabbage head, carefully inserting a knife and cutting around the stem at an angle. The hole should go about 3 inches inside the cabbage.
- Boil the cabbage, hole down, submersed in water for 20 minutes, until the leaves are soft. While the cabbage boils,
- In a large pan or deep skillet, heat up 2 tablespoons of olive oil, and fry the chopped onions until they are soft. Add in the crushed garlic, and fry them together until golden.
- Add the ground beef, salt and pepper. Mix it with the onion and garlic, breaking larger meat chunks that might form, and continue cooking until the meat just starts to brown.
- Add the Worcestershire sauce, herbs, olives and tomato paste, mix it in, and simmer until the moisture is mostly evaporated and the sauce is thick. You may also add pea protein or nutritional yeast to thicken the sauce (see Notes below). Set sauce aside to form layers.
- Preheat the oven to 200 °C (395 °F).
- Prepare the layering set up: Drizzle some olive oil at the bottom of a large lasagna or casserole dish (13"x 9" or equivalent). Around it, have the pan with the sauce, the shredded mozzarella (or other cheese and cream cheese, if using), the cooked cabbage head, drained of water, and a few paper towels or a dry tea towel.
- Gently remove the cabbage leaves whole, one by one as you need them, and pat them dry with the paper towels or tea towel. Assemble the first layer of cabbage over the olive oil. You'll need 2 or 3 leaves per layer. Don't overlap the leaves.
- Add a few spoonfuls of sauce, and tap it down to spread as evenly as possible.
- Add a generous layer of mozzarella cheese (or mixed cheese) and optionally spoonfuls of cream cheese. Use about one cup of cheese for each layer.
- Add another layer of patted dry cabbage leaves, another layer of sauce, and another layer of cheese. Repeat until you have 3 layers of sauce (for a 13"x 9" dish).
- To build the last layer / topping: 1 layer of cabbage leaves, mozzarella cheese, Parmesan cheese, and drizzle some olive oil.
- Bake the lasagna at 200 °C (395 °F) for about 15-20 minutes, until the cheese is melted. Then, turn on the broiler for about 5 minutes to gratinate the top cheese layer. Watch it closely not to burn, remove from the oven when the cheese starts to crust, getting slightly browned.
- Let the lasagna rest outside the oven to set for about 20 minutes before cutting the slices.
Cheese - you can use a different easy melting cheese, other than mozzarella, or a combination. Feel free to increase the quantity if you'd like. You can also add cream cheese in between the layers.
Thickener - The pea protein and nutritional yeast are suggested thickeners for the sauce. If using, briefly remove the sauce from the stove and sprinkle the chosen powder uniformly over it, and mix it quickly to blend it in.
Spices - Listed as a personal suggestion. This lasagna is mild spicy. If you don't like spicy, just leave out the chili flakes, or add some black or white pepper (milder) instead. Adjust garlic and onion to taste.
Cabbage substitution - you can use zucchini or eggplant, 3 large or 4 medium ones. Check the post for details.
You can prepare the lasagna ahead of time and leave it covered in the refrigerator to bake on the next day. You'll need to increase the baking time to make up for the cold ingredients.
Nutrition Information:Yield: 12 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 319Total Fat: 20.2gSaturated Fat: 7.1gCarbohydrates: 8.5gNet Carbohydrates: 6.3gFiber: 2.5gSugar: 3gProtein: 25.7g
Nutrition information is provided as a guideline only. Different brands of ingredients may have different nutrition facts. If tracking macros, remake the calculations using the nutrition facts from the labels of the ingredients you selected. Net carbs calculated exclude carbs from insoluble fiber and sugar alcohols.