Amazing flavors easily come together in this comforting meal of Vegan Stuffed Shells! Jumbo shells are filled with a creamy combination of vegan cheeses, hummus, herbs, and sautéed veggies, then baked to perfection in a bubbling dish of pasta sauce. The whole family will love this delicious meal!
Yup! You read that right… Hummus is my secret ingredient here. No tofu to press nor cashews to soak in this savory meal!
Hummus pairs so well with the vegan cream cheese to form a light, creamy, cheesy filling. Trust me, one bite, and your eyes will be rolling back as you taste this divine flavor.
Not only does this meal come together so easily, but it can also be prepped ahead of time. Don’t let jumbo stuffed shells intimidate you the way I used to!
Here are the simple steps that bring this dairy-free, eggless dish together.
- While starting the water for the jumbo shells, cut the veggies.
- Add the pasta to the boiling water and sauté the veggies.
- Stir the filling ingredients together.
- Move the al dente pasta to a sheet pan to cool down.
- Pour a whole jar of pasta sauce into a large dish.
- Shake some pasta water in the jar and add that to the dish as well.
- Pipe the filling into the shells and nest them into the sauce.
- Top the shells with vegan mozzarella, cover the dish, and bake!
About the piping... it is an absolute game changer! I was hesitant at first because spooning the filling in seemed to be more natural and fuss-free. Well, I finally gave it a go and I will never go back.
Not only does piping help with getting all the amazing filling in under the shell edges, but it also keeps your hands nice and clean! If you don’t have a piping bag, you can simply use a gallon bag with a corner trimmed off.
Ingredient Notes and Substitutions
Jumbo Shells - Try to pick a box that has the fewest crushed pieces because you want to be able to fill them. I usually have about 5-10 shells left that don’t fit into my baking dish. If you do as well, you can easily add some vegan butter to them and save them for later.
Olive Oil - You only need a small amount of this, although if your pan is nonstick, feel free to skip it altogether by adding a splash of water when sautéing the veggies.
Vegetables - Shred a full zucchini and chop 2 cups of baby spinach. I try to pack those 2 cups with as much of those nutritious leaves as I can squeeze in. Kale can be used instead of spinach.
Seasoning - I use dried oregano and fresh basil, but you can certainly use what you have on hand. Feel free to add other herbs of your choice such as rosemary and parsley. I also use a pinch of salt and pepper, but you can season the filling to your preference.
Vegan Cream Cheese - Vegan cream cheese such as Kite Hill, Trader Joe's, Daiya, or Miyokos adds a thick creaminess.
Hummus - This is my secret ingredient! Classic hummus is so good in this dish! It adds a hint of cheesiness, extra protein, and a slightly gritty texture that's similar to ricotta.
Vegan Mozzarella - Your favorite shredded vegan mozzarella works! My go-to brands are Violife and Daiya.
Pasta Sauce - Use a jar of your favorite vegan pasta sauce from the grocery store or this homemade Cherry Tomato Sauce will work perfectly.
How to Make Vegan Stuffed Shells
Cook the Jumbo Shells - Preheat the oven to 375°F. Start to boil the shells according to the package instructions. You want to stop the cooking process the moment they reach al dente (firm, but cooked) by draining them and spreading them out on a baking sheet to cool. We want them to be firm so they hold their shape when being stuffed. They will also cook a bit more in the oven later.
Prepare the Ingredients - Meanwhile, prepare the vegetables by dicing the onion, mincing the garlic, and roughly chopping the baby spinach and basil leaves. Shred the zucchini, then squeeze the extra liquid out by pressing down on the shreds with a napkin. Roughly chop the vegan mozzarella shreds into smaller pieces that will melt easier.
Sauté the Vegetables - Bring a large saucepan to medium-high heat. Add the olive oil to the pan, and when hot, add the onions. Cook them for about 3 minutes or until they're slightly translucent. Next, add the garlic, zucchini, and baby spinach. Stir as they cook for about 5 minutes, or until the veggies are softened.
Make the Filling - Scrape the sautéed vegetables into a medium-sized mixing bowl. Add the vegan cream cheese, hummus, the vegan mozzarella, basil leaves, and seasoning. Stir everything until well combined.
Prepare the Dish - Pour the entire jar of pasta sauce into the bottom of a 9x13 oven-safe dish. Then, add ½ cup of pasta water to the jar, close it, and vigorously shake it. Pour this mixture into the dish and spread everything out with a spoon. This will make sure you get every bit of sauce from the jar as well as help keep the shells moist while baking.
Stuff the Shells - Scoop the filling into a piping bag or gallon bag with a corner clipped off. Pipe the filling into the shells and nest them into the sauce with the opening side up. Piping makes things so much faster, easier, and less messy. However, if you want to spoon the mixture in, each shell will get about 1-2 tablespoons.
Bake - Sprinkle the remaining vegan mozzarella shreds over the shells, cover the dish, and slide it into the hot oven. Bake the shells for about 25 minutes or until the sauce is bubbling and the cheese has melted. Let the shells cool down for a few minutes, garnish them with fresh basil, and enjoy!
- Stir vegan ground meat into the filling.
- You can use squash instead of zucchini.
- Try adding parsley, rosemary, or other herbs.
Frequently Asked Questions
Full Bake Option - Prepare and bake the stuffed shells. Cover them tightly and place the dish in the refrigerator for 4 days or the freezer for 2 months. When ready, move the dish from the freezer to the fridge overnight. Take the dish out of the refrigerator while the oven is heating to 325°F. Warm it up in the oven, covered, for 30 minutes or until heated through.
Pre-Bake Option - Prepare the dish but do not bake it. Cover it and store it in the refrigerator for 2 days or the freezer for 2 months. Then, move it to the refrigerator the night before you plan to bake it (if frozen.) Place the dish on the counter while the oven is heating up to 375°F. Bake it in the oven for about 40 minutes or until the sauce is bubbling and the cheese has melted.
Partial Prep Option - Wait to boil the pasta and bake the shells until you're ready to eat the stuffed shells. Prepare the filling ahead of time and store it in the refrigerator for 3 days.
Store leftover stuffed shells in an air-tight container in the refrigerator for 4 days or in the freezer for 2 months. Thaw them overnight in the refrigerator before reheating them in the microwave at 30-second intervals.
- Fettuccine Alfredo - pass the pasta please!
- Bake these scrumptious Breaded Squash rounds for a healthy appetizer.
- Prepare this fresh Cherry Tomato Sauce for this stuffed shells dish.
- A quick pasta meal with healthy pumpkin - Pumpkin Pasta.
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Vegan Stuffed Shells with Spinach and Zucchini
- 12 ounces jumbo pasta shells
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 cup yellow onion, diced, (half a large onion)
- 1 tablespoon garlic cloves, minced, (about 3 cloves)
- 2 cups zucchini, shredded, (1 zucchini)
- 2 cups baby spinach, chopped
- 5 ounces classic hummus, (half a standard container)
- 8 ounces vegan cream cheese
- 1 cup vegan mozzarella shreds, divided
- ¼ teaspoon dried oregano
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- ¼ teaspoon pepper
- ⅓ cup fresh basil, chopped
- 24 ounces pasta sauce, (2½-3 cups)
- Preheat the oven to 375°F. Boil the shells according to the package instructions. Stop cooking them as soon as they are al dente by draining them and placing them on a baking sheet.
- Prepare the other ingredients while the pasta is cooking. Dice the onion, mince the garlic, and chop the baby spinach and basil leaves. Shred the zucchini, then press on the shreds with a napkin to absorb any extra liquid. Chop the mozzarella shreds into smaller pieces so they melt easier.
- Add the olive oil to a large, medium-high heated saucepan. Cook the onions for 3 minutes until they're translucent. Add the garlic, zucchini, and baby spinach. Continue to stir as they cook for 5 minutes or until softened.
- Mix the sautéed vegetables in a medium-sized bowl along with the vegan cream cheese, hummus, ½ cup vegan mozzarella, basil leaves, salt, pepper, and oregano.
- Pour the entire jar of pasta sauce into a 9x13 oven-safe dish. Add ½ cup of pasta water to the sauce jar. Close it and shake it. Pour this mixture into the dish and spread it out into the rest of the sauce.
- Put the shell filling into a piping bag and fill each shell with 1-2 tablespoons. Nest the shells into the sauce. You should be able to fill about 25 shells.
- Cover the shells with the remaining vegan mozzarella shreds. Cover the dish with a lid or foil. Bake the shells for 25 minutes. They are ready when the sauce is bubbling and the cheese has melted. Garnish with fresh basil and enjoy!
- Try not to overcook the shells. They need to remain firm to adequately hold the filling and they will cook a bit further in the oven.
- If you'd rather skip the olive oil, sauté the veggies with a splash of water on a nonstick pan.
- Use classic hummus rather than a flavored variety so that it takes on the other Italian flavors of the dish.
- If you don't have a piping bag, simply add the filling to a gallon bag and clip a small corner off. Piping is so much easier, faster, and less messy than using a spoon.
The nutrition information is estimated and can vary depending on brands and measurements used.