This hearty lentil Bolognese is packed with flavor and perfect over pasta. Totally vegan and easy enough for a weeknight!
Spaghetti Bolognese was one of the few dishes that I actually missed for a while after giving up meat. I love my pasta, but Bolognese sauce always too a pasta dinner to the next level.
Here's what I realized though: it wasn't actually the meat that I missed. It was just having a super substantial, super hearty sauce for my pasta. So couldn't I just substitute some other substantial, hearty, protein-packed ingredient for the meat? That's just what I did!
Lentils are one of my favorite meat stand-ins that fit the bill. They're great in tacos, burgers, and chili. I thought a lentil Bolognese would be pretty good...and it was awesome!
Ingredients You'll Need
- Olive oil. You can substitute another high-heat oil, but olive will give your lentil Bolognese the best flavor.
- Dry white wine. This adds a lot of flavor, but it can be left out if you prefer to cook without alcohol. If you do use it, keep in mind that not all wine is vegan. Check with Barnivore to ensure that the brand you use is.
- Canned diced tomatoes.
- Tomato paste.
- Soy sauce. Gluten-free tamari or liquid aminos can be substituted if needed.
- Spices. We're using dried oregano and thyme. If you'd rather use fresh herbs make sure you double the amount.
- Sugar. Use organic to keep the recipe vegan.
- Non-dairy milk. Any variety that's unflavored and unsweetened will work. Try soy milk, almond milk, or oat milk. Even coconut milk can be used in this recipe!
- Cooked brown lentils. Green lentils could also be used. I don't recommend using red lentils, as they have a totally different texture from brown lentils.
- Salt & pepper.
- Pasta of choice. Use your favorite variety! Most dried pastas are vegan.
Tip: This recipe can easily be made gluten-free! Just use gluten-free tamari and gluten-free pasta.
How to Cook Lentils
This recipe calls for cooked lentils. You have a couple of options here!
Canned lentils are cooked, so you can use them if you like.
You can also cook dried lentils. To do this, simply place the lentils in a pot, cover them with water, and let them simmer until they're tender. You'll need to start with about ¾ cups of dried lentils in order to get the 1 ½ cups of cooked lentils needed for this recipe.
Tip: Cook more lentils than you need, then place your leftovers in a sealed bag or container and freeze them for future use!
Making the Sauce
- Start by heating up some olive oil in a large pot. Add the onion, carrots and celery. Sweat the veggies for about 5 minutes, until they begin to soften, then add the garlic and cook it for another minute.
- Pour in the white wine and bring it up to a simmer. Let it cook until it reduces by about half.
- Now add your tomatoes, tomato paste, soy sauce, thyme, oregano, sugar, and milk. Give everything a stir and bring it up to a simmer. Let it cook for about 30 minutes, until the sauce is thick and rich.
- Stir in your lentils and cook the sauce for about a minute more, until heated throughout.
- Remove your lentil Bolognese from heat and season it with salt and pepper to taste.
- Ladle it over pasta and enjoy! I like to serve mine with a sprinkle of vegan Parmesan cheese.
Leftovers & Storage
Leftover lentil Bolognese can be kept in a sealed container in the refrigerator for about 4 days, or in the freezer for about 3 months.
More Italian Vegan Recipes
- Vegan Stuffed Shells Florentine
- Meaty Vegan Meatballs
- Vegan Italian Stuffed Peppers
- Vegan Pasta e Fagioli
- Vegan Lasagna
- Vegan Pasta Puttanesca
Like this recipe? If so, please stop back and leave me a review and rating below if you try it! Also be sure to follow me on Facebook, Pinterest or Instagram, or subscribe to my newsletter for more recipes like this one!
This hearty lentil bolognese is packed with flavor and perfect over pasta. Totally vegan, and easy enough for a weeknight!
- 12 ounces dried spaghetti
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 medium onion, diced
- 2 medium carrots, diced
- 2 medium celery stalks, diced
- 4 garlic cloves, minced
- ¾ cup dry white wine
- 1 (28 ounce or 800 gram) can diced tomatoes
- ¼ cup tomato paste
- ½ cup unflavored and unsweetened non-dairy milk
- 2 tablespoons soy sauce
- 1 teaspoon dried thyme
- ½ teaspoon dried oregano
- 1 teaspoon organic granulated sugar
- 1 ½ cups cooked or canned (and drained) brown lentils1
- Salt and pepper, to taste
Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add the pasta and cook it according to the package directions.
Drain the pasta into a colander, return it to the pot, and toss it with a dash of olive oil to prevent sticking.
While the pasta cooks, coat the bottom of a large pot with a tablespoon of olive oil and place it over medium heat.
Give the oil a minute to heat up, then add the onion, carrots and celery. Sweat the veggies for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, until they begin to soften up.
Add the garlic and cook it for about a minute, until very fragrant.
Add the wine, bring it to a simmer, and let it cook until reduced by about half, about 4 minutes.
Stir in the tomatoes, tomato paste, milk, soy sauce, thyme, oregano, and sugar.
Raise the heat and bring the sauce to a simmer. Lower the heat and let the sauce simmer for about 30 minutes, until the veggies are tender and the sauce is thick.
Stir in the lentils and cook the sauce for a minute more, until the lentils are heated.
Remove the pot from heat and season the sauce with salt and pepper to taste.
Ladle over pasta and serve.
- To prepare 1 ½ cups of cooked lentils, place ¾ cup of dry lentils in a small saucepan and cover them with water. Place the pan over high heat and bring the water to a boil. Lower the heat and let the lentils simmer until tender, about 20 minutes. Drain the lentils.
If I'm going to spread this out across multiple days, do I need to keep the bolognese and pasta separate in the fridge?
Alissa Saenz says
That's up to you! I like to keep them separate, but I can't stand soggy pasta. I know some people who like their pasta better when it soaks up some sauce though, so it's really a matter of personal preference.
We had this tonight and it was delicious! And very easy.
This was super good; thanks for the recipe. I used fresh fennel instead of celery and had the sauce over fettuccine—fabulous! I’d been looking for a vegan, whole-foods, Bolognese-y sauce, and this is that sauce.
All the best,
Oops—sorry I misspelled your name, ALISSA!
- I subbed celery with extra carrots (no celery at home) - was pretty heavy-handed with the carrots; that's my style
- subbed soy sauce with chickpea miso & vegan steak sauce for that umami (soy allergy)
- used a thin cashew cream instead of plant milk
- used ~1Tbsp of red wine vinegar in some vegetable stock in place of wine
I served this on a blend of lentils, millet, amaranth, and wild rice, with some roasted broccoli (with shallots, garlic, crushed chili flakes, and vegan parm) and some delightful little polenta rounds seasoned with some garlic pow, oregano, thyme, and basil, sautéed til crispy in plant butter. It was so good! I know I changed it a fair amount but that was mostly out of necessity - allergies or not having stuff in the house. This recipe is great AND people ought to know it's pretty versatile! Very pleased with how it worked out on my Italian-ish Buddha bowl, and definitely looking forward to eating the leftovers on lentil pasta.
Absolutely delicious! A new favourite!
Hello! This looks great, I was just wondering how to get hold of the other lentil Bolognese recipe you did with the red peppers? Had it bookmarked but haven’t had it in a while but now the link leads onto this one. Don’t get me wrong this looks great, loved the addition of the red peppers in your other recipe though :-) thank you
Alissa Saenz says
I just sent you an email with the recipe! :)