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Vegan Bolognese Recipe (With Lentils)

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This delicious vegan Bolognese is a true Italian-inspired dish. Made with lentils, veggies and spices, you’ll have all the flavor of the meaty classic in plant-based form. Pair with some al dente pasta for a delicious and comforting pasta dish that is restaurant-approved. 

Vegan Bolognese Recipe

The lentils in this recipe offer a meaty texture all the while you have a vegan and vegetarian Bolognese, perfect for any night of the week. Add some vegan parmesan cheese and ring that dinner bell. 

Recipe Highlights 

  • A great protein source that will leave you feeling full and satisfied. 
  • An easy recipe to whip up for pairing with your favorite pasta. This is a dish the whole family can enjoy. Even a meat-loving husband won’t flinch at the meatless sauce. 
  • Similar flavor to a traditional Bolognese sauce. This version is made without ground meat to make this a vegan-friendly recipe. 
  • The best vegan pasta sauce that tastes incredible on night one and even better the next day. This sauce has a ton of flavor in each bite. 

Ingredients Needed:

  • Lentils: I used a dried brown lentil or green lentils for this recipe. It will replace the ground beef in the sauce to make it “meaty”.
  • Vegetables: A variety of vegetables are used to enhance the flavor of the sauce. Yellow onions, carrots, celery, garlic, and crushed tomatoes are going to richen the sauce and add tremendous flavor. 
  • Olive Oil: A little olive oil is used to help sauté the vegetables nicely in the pan. 
  • Vegetable Broth: For the liquid, I used a mix of wine and broth. Use a wooden spoon and scrape the bottom of the pan to remove any browned bits for added flavor to the sauce. 
  • Wine: You can use a dry red wine to enhance the flavor. If you prefer to skip wine, then replace it with more broth. 
  • Spices and HerbsDried rosemary, dried parsley, crushed red pepper flakes, dried oregano, and salt are used for helping to create more dimension to the sauce. 
  • Pasta: Reach for spaghetti noodles or any other type of pasta. Even a wide pasta noodle, gluten-free noodles, or whole wheat pasta are a great option. 

How To Make Vegan Bolognese

Vegan Bolognese Recipe

The first step is washing and prepping all your vegetables. You want to evenly and finely dice the veggies and mince your garlic cloves. 

Next, in a large skillet or large Dutch oven you will add the oil and heat over medium heat. Once it is warm add in the onions and cook until they are caramelized. 

Then you will add in the carrots, and celery and cook for another few minutes. You want the celery to become translucent. 

Next, add in the lentils and all the spices, leave out the salt. Cook for 1-2 minutes you want all the spices to become fragrant. 

Pour in the tomatoes, broth and wine (if using), and stir. Bring the mixture to a simmer reduce heat and simmer as directed. You want the lentils to be tender and fully cooked. 

Make sure to stir often to prevent burning, and taste and season with salt if you need. 

In a pot boil water and then cook your pasta as directed. Once done drain pasta. 

Plate up the pasta and scoop the sauce over the pasta. Add on some fresh or dried parsley and nutritional yeast if you would like. 

Storing 

To store this dish, keep the sauce separate from the pasta. You can store it for 3-5 days in the fridge. Then, warm the sauce up and pour it over the pasta. Or, serve it on top of garlic bread. 

You can also freeze the sauce if you would like. Simply place it in a sealed container or freezer bag and freeze the “meat sauce” for 3-4 months. Then, thaw in the fridge overnight to defrost. Warm up the sauce and serve over pasta. The pasta sauce still has great flavor even reheated from being frozen. 

Recipe FAQs and Notes

  • Feel free to play around with the vegetables used. Porcini mushrooms, red bell pepper, or other veggies will add great depth of flavor. Add more vegetables as you see fit. 
  • You must sauté and caramelize the onions, as it really contributes to the flavor. Otherwise, this dish will lack that classic Bolognese flavor. This takes place of browning the “meat” in a regular recipe.
  • Add in some extra spices and herbs for extra flavor, or leave the recipe as you would like. Red pepper flakes will even help to enhance and spice things up. 
  • Make sure to stir the sauce often to prevent the vegan lentil Bolognese from burning as it is simmering on the stovetop. 
  • I have made this recipe with and without the wine. You can use extra broth instead of wine but the flavor difference is significant.

Can I use canned lentils for Bolognese sauce?

You can skip a step and use canned lentils to help save time with the sauce. Just drain and rinse the lentils and then add them to the sauce. You will still want to simmer the sauce to help infuse flavors but of course, your lentils will be already fully cooked. 

Is this Bolognese sauce gluten-free?

All of the ingredients in this sauce are gluten-free. But, make sure that you are reading on the packaging as some ingredients can be prepared in a factory with gluten products. And, be sure to use gluten-free pasta if needed.

What can I serve with vegan Bolognese sauce?

Feel free to pair it with pasta, spaghetti squash, sauteed zucchini, or even polenta. You have endless ways to enjoy this dish. You can even use the sauce for filling stuffed peppers or using in a vegan version of lasagna.

Enjoy this easy and delicious plant-based protein packed vegan Bolognese sauce and pasta. It is a total comfort meal for us, and I hope you and your family enjoys it the way we do.  

Vegan Bolognese Recipe

More Protein-Packed Recipes For Dinner

Vegan Bolognese Recipe

Vegan Bolognese Recipe
This vegan Bolognese is a plant-based version of the meaty Italian classic.
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 50 minutes
Serving Size 4

Ingredients

  • 1 cup dried brown or green lentils rinsed
  • 1 yellow onion (medium) diced
  • 1 carrot (large) peeled and diced
  • 1 rib celery diced
  • 2 cloves garlic minced
  • 2 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 28 oz crushed tomatoes
  • 1 ½ cups vegetable broth
  • ¾ cup dry red wine or use more broth
  • 1 tsp dried rosemary
  • 1 tsp dried parsley
  • ½ tsp crushed red pepper flakes
  • ½ tsp dried oregano
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 12 oz spaghetti or pasta of choice

Instructions

  • Finely dice the onion, celery and carrot. Mince the garlic.
    Diced veggies
  • In a large pan or pot, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring regularly for 7-10 minutes until the onion begins to caramelize and turn translucent.
  • Add the carrot, celery, and garlic. Cook for 3-5 minutes until the celery begins to go translucent.
  • Add the lentils and all the spices except the salt. Cook, stirring for 1-2 minutes until it becomes fragrant.
    Lentils added to the pan with onion and spices
  • Add in the broth, crushed tomatoes and wine (if using), stir well.
    Broth and tomatoes in pan
  • Bring to a simmer before reducing the heat to medium-low and cooking for 45-60 minutes until the lentils are tender. Stir regularly to prevent burning.
  • Taste and add salt as needed.
  • Towards the end of the cooking time, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Cook the pasta (according to package instructions).
  • Drain pasta and mix with the sauce. Or, scoop the sauce over a nest of cooked pasta. Garnish with fresh or dried parsley, vegan cheese, or nutritional yeast.

Notes

Store sauce and cooked noodles separately. The sauce is even better the next day when the flavours have had time to sit.

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