This Vegan Bolognese is a hearty and flavorful dish that’s easy to toss together. Made with your run of the mill pantry items, this savory sauce is composed of simple ingredients. A dinner dish bursting with flavor and chock-full of vegetables, for one very satisfying meal.
Spaghetti bolognese is a pretty common dish. However, when it comes to knowing how to pronounce bolognese, that can be hit or miss for many people. There’s no shame in that fact though. It’s an odd word, especially for those who aren’t Italian speakers. Bolognese is an Italian word, so the way it’s spelled isn’t how it’s actually pronounced. This is where the confusion comes in.
The word “bolognese” is pretty easy to pronounce once you’ve heard it. The correct pronunciation that’s widely accepted is “bow-luh-naze.” To pronounce it in the original Italian isn’t as easy, and definitely isn’t as easy to explain through text. In Italian, it’s more like “bow-low-nyay-zuh.” Like I said, awkward to try and explain through text, but that should give you a really good idea of how it sounds.
Bolognese is known worldwide and loved by adults and children alike. The Italians really have a knack for delicious dishes, whether it’s pasta, lasagna, gnocchi or pizza, I’ve always been a huge fan of Italian dishes. I loved to eat spaghetti bolognese as a child, but in the vegetarian version because I stopped eating meat when I was 6 years old.
What Is Bolognese?
If you’re familiar with spaghetti sauce, bolognese sauce is very similar, but it’s usually meat-based. It commonly contains beef, onions, tomatoes, and spices. Of course, my version is a vegetarian bolognese, so it doesn’t contain any meat. However, it doesn’t lack in the flavor department because of it.
Bolognese is an Italian dish and is said to have come from the city of Bologna in Italy. One of its best qualities is that it’s made with simple ingredients that can often be found in your pantry or fridge. On top of that, all the ingredients in this lentil bolognese are healthy and full of vital nutrients. Its main ingredients are:
- Crushed Tomatoes
As always, the full list of ingredients, instructions, and nutrition facts is in the printable recipe card below.
How To Make Vegan Bolognese?
STEP 1: Sauté the onion, celery, carrots, and mushrooms in heated oil for about 3-4 minutes. Add all the spices + garlic and sauté a bit longer around 1 minute.
STEP 2: Add to the pot the wine, tomatoes, lentils, broth, and bay leaf. Stir well.
STEP 3: Let the mixture come to a boil before reducing the heat and letting it simmer until the lentils are soft. It takes around 20 minutes, give or take depending on the lentils.
STEP 4: Make the pasta of your choosing per the packaged instructions.
STEP 5: Mix the cornstarch and plant-based milk together in a small bowl. Add it to the mixture, along with the vinegar and soy sauce.
STEP 6: Adjust the seasonings as you see fit and serve the lentil bolognese over the pasta.
Helpful Tips And Variations
- Soak the lentils – If you’re using green or brown lentils, it’s best if you soak them in warm water for about 15 minutes before cooking them. Not only do they cook quicker this way, but they’re easier for your body to digest as well.
- Use your favorite pasta – You don’t have to use spaghetti for this vegan bolognese. Feel free to use any pasta of choice, regular, gluten-free, or even grain-free pasta. Some other pasta types would be fettuccine, penne, fusilli or rigatoni that are suitable for this vegetarian bolognese. Besides pasta, you can also use gnocchi to make a delicious gnocchi bolognese (so yummy!).
- Lentil alternative – If you don’t want to use lentils, you can make a meat-free bolognese with textured soy protein which is also rich in plant-based protein. Simply soak 1 cup of soy curls in warm water until softened and then add them to the pan in place of the lentils.
- Add more veggies – If you aren’t a big fan of the vegetables included in this bolognese sauce, or you just simply want to add more, you definitely can. Some great suggestions would be eggplant, zucchini, yellow squash, etc.
- Storage – The best way to store this lentil bolognese is in the fridge, in an airtight container. It will last for around 4 days this way. For freezing, place the bolognese sauce in a freezer bag, leaving a small space for the ingredients to freeze and expand, then sealing fully once frozen. Do not store bolognese outside the fridge or freezer.
- Make it less spicy – If you prefer less spice in your spaghetti bolognese, simply nix adding in the crushed red peppers. This should reduce the spice considerably.
Perfect For Meal Prep
This tasty vegetarian bolognese is simply perfect for meal prep as you can store the sauce in individual containers in the refrigerator. Add fresh cherry tomatoes or spiralized zucchini for a low-carb version.
If you decide to give this comforting vegan bolognese a try, please leave a comment and rating below and don’t forget to tag me in your Instagram or Facebook post with @elavegan and #elavegan – I love seeing your creations!
If you love easy vegan pasta recipes, make sure to check them out below:
- Vegan Lasagna Soup
- Spinach & “Ricotta” Cannelloni (Vegan Manicotti)
- Pumpkin Pasta Bake
- Creamy Pasta Soup
- Vegan Pasta Bake
- Easy Vegan Pasta Salad
- 1 tbsp oil
- 1 medium onion finely diced
- 1 medium (52 g) stalk celery finely diced (1/2 cup)
- 10 oz fresh (280 g) mushrooms finely diced (or 1 oz dried)
- 2 medium (200 g) carrots finely grated
- 4 cloves garlic finely minced or crushed
- 2 tsp Italian seasoning or use 1 tsp each of dried oregano and basil
- 1 tsp onion powder
- 1 tsp coconut sugar or sweetener of choice
- Pinch of red pepper flakes or to taste
- Salt and black pepper to taste
- 1/3 cup (80 ml) red wine or use more vegetable broth
- 3 cups (750 g) crushed tomatoes or marinara sauce or tomato sauce
- 2 cups (480 ml) vegetable broth
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 cup (200 g) dry lentils I used brown, soaked
- 1 tbsp soy sauce gluten-free if needed or tamari
- 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
- 1/2 cup (120 ml) plant-based milk
- 1 tsp cornstarch
- 8 oz (225 g) spaghetti gluten-free if needed or pasta of choice
- Vegan parmesan or nutritonal yeast to garnish (optional)
- I recommend soaking the lentils in lukewarm water if you are using green or brown lentils. This step is optional, however, the lentils cook faster and are furthermore better digested when soaked. You can skip this step if using red lentils.
- Heat oil in a pan or pot over medium heat. Add onion, celery, mushrooms, and carrots. Sauté for 3-4 minutes. Stir in garlic, sweetener, and all spices. Sauté for a further one minute, stirring frequently.
- Add red wine (or vegetable broth), crushed tomatoes, vegetable broth, the bay leaf, and the drained lentils. Stir to combine.
- Bring to a boil and let simmer for 20 minutes or until the lentils are tender (depending on the variety it can take shorter or longer).
- Meanwhile, cook your favorite pasta (e.g. spaghetti) as per package instructions.
- Add soy sauce and balsamic vinegar. Mix the plant-based milk and cornstarch in a small bowl and add the mixture to the pan.
- Taste and adjust seasonings. Add more salt/pepper/spices to taste. Also, add more vegetable broth if needed.
- Serve the lentil bolognese in bowls over pasta and sprinkle vegan Parmesan on top (optional). Enjoy! Store bolognese sauce leftovers covered in the refrigerator for up to 4 days.
- Use your favorite pasta - Feel free to use any pasta of choice, regular, gluten-free, or even grain-free pasta. Besides pasta, you can also use gnocchi. Check out my gluten-free vegan gnocchi recipe.
- Lentil alternative - You can use textured soy protein instead of lentils. Simply soak 1 to 1 1/2 cups of soy curls in warm water for a few minutes and then add them to the pan in place of the lentils.
- Add more veggies - You can add more vegetables of choice. Some great suggestions would be eggplant, zucchini, yellow squash, etc.
- Check out more helpful tips and the step-by-step photos in the blog post above.
- Recipe serves 4. Nutrition facts are for one serving (including pasta).
Nutrition information is an estimate and has been calculated automatically
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My family of meat lovers actually loved this recipe. I followed the recipe exactly except I initially soaked the lentils for 20 minutes and water drain them and results again in vegetable broth for an hour. I also added chopped spinach and fresh basil to the sauce and it was delicious. I couldn’t stop eating. Thank you Ela!!
Wonderful! I am glad you liked it, Marianne. 🙂
This was absolutely delicious. I added about a 1/2 c of chopped organic walnuts for a bit of a nutty, chunkier flavor and added a bit more basil and oregano. Thank for the recipe (I found you on Pinterest).
Hi Robin, I am so glad you liked it. Love the added crunch of walnuts. 🙂
Followed the recipe exactly and found that the bolognese was quite watery… and didn’t bind with the pasta that well. Next time I’ll simmer for much longer and toss in the pasta with pasta sauce to hopefully help it thicken up/bind
*pasta water (not pasta sauce)
Hi Melissa, you can always blend a part of the sauce, then it will thicken slightly and bind better with the pasta. Hope this helps. 🙂
This has to be one of my favorite recipes of all time!! All of my friends fell in love with it as well and I keep sharing it with everyone I know because it’s just so good! Thank you for this incredible recipe and all of your hard work ♥
That’s awesome, Eden! I am so glad you love it. 🙂
Another one for the books!! Just had this for lunch… delicious ???? thank you! Again lol
That’s awesome, Teo! Happy you love it. 🙂
i was yearning to try this recipe for weeks and finally i did yesterday! i didn’t have basil or oregano so i used 1 tsp of thyme instead. i added more broth instead of wine. my mom liked it! (it’s hard to impress her when i make food). i have leftovers in the fridge and today i m going to puree them for a smoother texture. thank you for the recipe!
Sounds great! Happy you and your mom liked it. Thanks for your feedback. 🙂
So I’m not fully vegan I’m pescatarian but dairy free and egg free. One thing I miss is bolognese and I don’t quite like all the mince meat replacement made this and followed the recipe to the tea and it’s delicious definitely 10/10!!
So happy you enjoyed the recipe, Amani! 🙂
I made this and it was excellent – Thanks so much for sharing this recipe!
Hi Pete, I am so glad you liked it. 🙂
This was so good!! Thanks for a great recipe 🙂
You are very welcome, Anna. 🙂
Love this and so do my girls. It’s so delicious. I’ve skipped the cornstarch and milk as didn’t feel it needed it. Can you let me know it it can be frozen?
Yes, you can freeze it. 🙂
WOW! Absolutely amazed at how quickly this came together and how delicious it is! I’m not vegan (just trying to eat more plants!) so I used honey as my sweetener and skipped the wine, but added a tbsp more honey. I threw in a zuchinni I had at the bottom of my crisper drawer, used dry red split lentils, and pureed it with an immersion blender at the end to achieve a traditional meat sauce consistency. I love how versatile this recipe can be. And since it was happily gobbled up by my toddler, this recipe is a keeper!
Sounds great! Thanks for sharing. 🙂
This was a winner! Great flavors and packed with veggies and protein! I subbed zucchini/summer squash for the shrooms. Even picky kids went back for seconds.
Glad to hear that your kids loved it too. 🙂
Made this for the first time tonight and loved it! Used dried soya mince instead of lentils and missed out the wine, cornstarch and milk and it was absolutely delicious ❤
So glad it turned out delicious, Samantha! 🙂
This is sooooo good! I have made this 6 times since January, for non-vegans who all love it, for meal prep, and I always double the batch to freeze it for later. It freezes and defrosts really well in that the texture doesn’t change at all. I’m so happy I found this recipe!
Hi Suzan, I am so glad you love it. Thanks for your helpful fedback. 🙂
I am very excited to make this. I had a question – would using white cooking wine instead of the red wine alter the flavor too much? I have a bottle lying around and was hoping to sneak it into more recipes.
That’s no problem. I have made it with white wine before, and it tasted delicious. 🙂
My wife and I loved this recipe! Have t9 admit that we not true Vegan, just eating healthy. I had some left over cream from making Chicken Picata last night and had a good bottle of marsala so I used those and it was fantastic.
I am glad it turned out delicious! Thanks for your feedback, Michael. 🙂
Hello! I want to try this yummy recipe, but I wanted to check the Sodium in the meal? My husband requires a low sodium diet. Just wanted to check in ❤️❤️❤️❤️
Hello Jeraldin, unfortunately, I can’t answer this question because that depends on so many things. E.g. will you use a low-sodium soy sauce, regular, or tamari, how much salt will you use, will you use veggie broth or water, etc. I recommend using Cronometer.com where you can enter your specific ingredients with measurements, and it will calculate the amount of sodium of your meal. 🙂
This recipe says serves 4. This is a ton of sauce for four servings, and what are you constituting a serving when out to the nutrition facts? I made this for my macro meal planning.
Thanks in advance
Hi Amenda, I think it’s not a ton of sauce for 4 servings. I even made it into 2 servings in the past, when my boyfriend and I were very hungry.
Unfortunately, I cannot tell you how many cups one serving is, as I didn’t measure it. If you make it again, you can either weigh the complete sauce or measure it in cups, then divide through 4. 🙂
Loved this recipe! We made it with spaghetti squash and it tastes delicious and is super filling!
That’s so good to hear, Jess! Thanks for your lovely feedback. 🙂
Loved the recipe! It made quite a bit….can leftovers be frozen for later use?
Yes, that works! So happy you liked it. 🙂