Vegan spinach and parmesan filling that will have everyone coming back for more – dairy-free or not! Perfect for stuffing pastas and proteins.
Have it as is or mix it with your favorite ricotta substitute for a lighter version. It’s simple to make with just a few ingredients and a few minutes. I developed it to go into my fried tofu pockets and slathered them with Marsala cream sauce. But it would be great inside giant shells, raviolis, meatballs, cannelloni or manicotti, or stirred into your favorite sauce.
Ingredients and Substitutions:
The ingredients are super simple! And even if you need to make some substitutions, those are easy as well. As is, the recipe is gluten-free, and can be nut-free as long as you use or make a parmesan that doesn’t have any. If you need to avoid soy, just find a mayo that doesn’t contain it.
- Spinach – I use frozen spinach which I thawed, then squeezed out all the liquid from.
- Olive Oil – Make sure you use a good one because the flavor actually comes through a bit. If you can’t olive oil, use your favorite cooking oil. We aren’t cooking on high heat, so they should all play nice. If you’re oil free, use a bit of broth instead.
- Onion – I use sweet onion here because that’s what my Marsala cream sauce recipe calls for and I had a bit. You can use whatever onion you like best, though. And if you don’t want to use onion at all, shallots would be wonderful. Make sure whatever you use, you mince it up nice and small.
- Garlic – Just some regular ole minced garlic. I use the jarred stuff because it’s easy for me, but fresh would work great. Even powdered will work!
- Parmesan – I use my own homemade parmesan, but use whatever powdered parm you have and love. If yours doesn’t have any binding power (starches added), add in about a teaspoon of your favorite starch.
- Mayo – The mayo adds some moisture and helps give the illusion of dairy-based cream or cream cheese having been added. It also adds a little acidity to brighten the spinach filling up. I use Hellmann’s for everything, but the Target brand or Just Mayo (if you can find it!) would also be great. For soy-free folks, Sir Kensington’s is amazing. And if you’re oil free? My friend Teresa has a great alternative made with tofu and cashews.
- Salt and Pepper – IF DESIRED. Once you mix everything up, give it a taste test. For me, my parm has enough seasoning that I didn’t need anything extra. But you cook for you and your ingredients! Taste test and add salt and pepper if wanted.
- Water – You want to have a little water on hand in case your pan starts to dry out too much. The last thing you want is burnt, bitter spinach. 😉
Preparing to make the Spinach Parmesan Filling:
I tried doing this with fresh spinach and it just was not the same. It had too much moisture and grassy taste, and that weird feeling that spinach gives you when you cook it. You know, where the roof of your mouth starts to feel like it has a thin layer of rubber covering it? …No? ..Just me? Well ok, then.
ANYWAY. The best way I’ve found to combat this is to use frozen spinach, thaw it, and squeeze the bejeezus out of it. Just use a clean kitchen towel over a bowl, dump the spinach in, twist, and squeeeeeeeze until you have a dense ball of spinach left.
You can keep this spinach juice for homemade stocks and soups, or to pop into smoothies if that’s your thing.
I’ve found that my frozen spinach (I buy the loose-in-the-bag kind, not the block) reduces in volume by about 1/4-1/3 once I squeeze all the liquid out.
You also need to mince your onion and garlic (if you didn’t buy it pre-minced) before you get started. Once we turn on the heat, it’s go time and things will happen fast. Get that done before.
How to make the filling:
In a small pan over low-medium heat, pour in your oil. Add in your minced onion and stir constantly until it starts to smell wonderful (“until fragrant”). Quickly add in your garlic, and continue stirring until it starts to become golden brown in some places.
Add in your lump of spinach. It should have just enough moisture still in it that it will keep things from burning. Break it up with your spatula and stir it around, pressing it down to scrape up the caramelized onion and garlic from the bottom of the pan. That stuff is flavor!
After about a minute the sizzling gets quieter, and you know your spinach is drying out. Things will also start to stick to the bottom of your pan. Quickly add in the mayo, and stir it until everything is combined. Turn off the heat.
While the pan is still hot, add in a couple of tablespoons of water to deglaze the pan and keep things from burning. Stir vigorously to get the bottom of the pan clean.
Add your parm and stir well. It should come back together into a moldable, edible spinach clay. Taste test a small bit and add salt and pepper if desired. Keep in mind that as a filling, it should be well seasoned to stand out from whatever its encasing is. So make it a little saltier than if you were eating it as a salad.
Keep it covered in the fridge for up to two days until you’re ready to use it. It should hold together both cold and hot.
- 1 tsp olive oil
- 1 tbsp minced onion
- 1/4 tsp minced garlic
- 1.5 c looseleaf frozen spinach, thawed
- 1 heaping tbsp vegan mayo
- 1/2 c vegan parmesan
- Water, as needed (or white wine!)
- Salt and pepper, to taste
- Squeeze the liquid from your spinach and put aside.
- Put a small saute pan over low-medium heat
- Once the pan is hot, add the olive oil and onion, stirring constantly
- When onion becomes fragrant, add garlic and stir until it begins to brown
- Add in the spinach and press/stir with a spatula to deglaze the pan
- Once the spinach dries out and starts to stick, add in the mayo, stirring quickly to combine everything.
- Turn off the heat and add in a couple of tablespoons as needed to deglaze the pan and stop the spinach from burning.
- Stir in the parmesan. Everything should come together into a moldable consistency.
- Taste test, add salt and pepper if desired.
For substitutions and step-by-step photos, please see the blog post.
Store it in a covered container in the fridge for up to two days.