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This Lentil Bolognese Sauce is easily one of my favorite pasta recipes. It’s hearty, full of flavor, and high in plant-based protein. All you’ll need is one pot and about 30 minutes to put together this incredibly delicious vegan pasta sauce.
Bolognese vs. Spaghetti Sauce. What’s the difference?
Although they may seem similar on the surface classic bolognese and Italian spaghetti sauce are actually quite different. Bolognese is essentially a meat sauce (ragù ). Spaghetti sauce typically does not contain meat and is usually just a tomato-based sauce.
Bolognese is also often served with wide-noodled pasta such as tagliatelle and spaghetti sauce is typically served over traditional spaghetti. Note that tagliatelle is an egg-based pasta and is typically not vegan-friendly, but if desired, make our Homemade Vegan Egg Pasta from scratch!
Ingredients You’ll Need
- Mirepoix: aka Onions, Carrots, and Celery are the simple yet essential aromatic flavor base to start this dish off right. For best results, dice these ingredients into a uniform consistency and watch them melt into your bolognese.
- Garlic: Adds a spicy bite to the sauce. Fresh cloves of garlic are highly recommended over garlic powder, but garlic powder will do in a pinch!
- Red pepper flakes: Adds a very minimal, yet perfectly balanced amount of heat. Feel free to add more or less based on your personal preference.
- Red bell pepper: Brings a touch of sweetness to this sauce, plus a boost of additional nutrition. Avoid green peppers here – they are on the bitter side and better suited for recipes such as fajita veggies.
- Lentils and Mushrooms: The key to the perfect “meaty” bolognese. We used canned brown lentils as a vegan substitute for ground beef and/or ground turkey. Green lentils are another good option. Just make sure to cook them before adding them to your bolognese sauce.
- Vegan wine: Enhances and accents the flavor and aroma of the lentil bolognese sauce. We used a dry white wine, but readers have shared success subbing a red wine. Don’t worry, all of the alcohol is cooked off! Make sure your wine is vegan by checking this helpful resource: Barnivore: Your Vegan Beer, Wine, and Liquor Guide. Or, check out the Best White Wine Substitutes for an alcohol-free version.
- San Marzano tomatoes: These tomatoes are sweeter and less acidic than Roma tomatoes. They’re typically on the pricier side but they’re well worth the splurge here.
- Broth: Both vegetable broth and vegan beef broth work well in this sauce. Learn how to make your own vegetable broth at home using our super easy homemade vegetable broth recipe.
- Fresh basil and/or fresh parsley: Adds a burst of freshness and brightens up all of the flavors in this rich vegan meat sauce.
- Pasta: Use your favorite pasta of choice here. Whole wheat pasta, gluten-free pasta, spaghetti, short-cut pasta, even zoodles – anything works!
How to Make Vegan Lentil Bolognese
- Sauté the onions and garlic. In a medium pot or large saucepan over medium heat, heat 2 tablespoons of vegetable broth or extra virgin olive oil. Once warmed, add in the finely diced onions, minced garlic, and red pepper flakes. Cook for about 3 minutes, stirring often, until fragrant and translucent. If the garlic is sticking or burning to the bottom of the pan add additional vegetable broth, 2 tablespoons at a time, as needed.
- Add the vegetables. Add in and sauté the carrots, celery and bell pepper until cooked through and softened, about 3 minutes.
- Add mushrooms. Once softened, add in the finely chopped white mushrooms and continue to cook until all the excess moisture has cooked off.
- Pour in the vegan white wine. Mix to combine and continue to cook until all of the liquid cooks off, about 5 minutes.
- Add remaining ingredients. Stir in the crushed tomatoes, bay leaves and remaining broth and simmer for 10 minutes, mixing often. Stir in the lentils and cook for an additional 5 minutes so that all of the flavors marry together.
- Season to taste. Remove the lentil bolognese from the heat and season with salt and black pepper to taste. Finish with fresh herbs, or as desired.
- Serve. Serve this lentil bolognese recipe over your favorite spaghetti pasta or zucchini noodles and sprinkle with homemade vegan parmesan cheese. Enjoy!
This hearty sauce served over pasta makes the perfect weeknight dinner recipe or healthy meal prep for easy lunches. You can also double the recipe to make a big batch and feed the whole family for holidays and get-togethers.
If you’re looking to switch it up, try serving this bolognese stuffed in a baked potato, with tofu scramble, on burger buns sloppy Joe’s style, spread on buttery toast, or stuffed in peppers. The options are truly endless!
This lentil bolognese sauce will store well in the refrigerator for up to 5 days or in the freezer for up to 3 months. Before covering and storing in an airtight container, allow the Bolognese sauce to cool completely to room temperature. This will prevent condensation from building up inside your storage container and keep the pasta from raising the internal temperature of your refrigerator to an unsafe temperature.
To make a deep-flavored lentil bolognese, it is important to sauté the vegetables for enough time. If you rush the sauté process, you won’t be able to develop layers of flavor in the marinara sauce. Additionally, using a vegan wine helps create a rich, well-bodied sauce. Make sure to do both for the best plant-based lentil bolognese.
The lentil bolognese itself is naturally gluten-free, but traditional pasta is wheat-based and not gluten-free. To make this pasta dish 100% gluten-free, swap the wheat pasta with a gluten-free pasta.
If you’ve frozen your lentil bolognese recipe, it can be defrosted over 1-2 days in the refrigerator, then reheated as usual. Or, if you are short on time, add the bolognese frozen to a large pot and cook on low heat until defrosted. Add additional veggie broth as needed to thin the lentil bolognese out again.
More Vegan Pasta Recipes You May Enjoy:
- 15-Minute One-Pot Pasta
- Vegan Penne alla Vodka
- Miso Garlic Butter Pasta (Dairy Free)
- Creamy One-Pot Pasta with Mushrooms and Asparagus
- Roasted Pesto Gnocchi
- Easy Vegan Pasta Primavera
Disclaimer: The nutritional information shown is an estimate provided by an online calculator. It should not be considered a substitute for a professional’s advice. This page may contain affiliate links, which simply means that we earn a commission if you purchase through those links, but your price remains the same. Thank you for supporting Sweet Simple Vegan!