A simple twist on a classic Italian sauce, this vegan bolognese sauce is just as rich, hearty, and silky smooth as the original; but it's completely plant based. Plus it's perfect served with a side of easy, Air Fryer Biscuits for scooping up all that saucy goodness!
Keep reading and I'll share tips, techniques, and serving suggestions for making this spectacular vegan meal!
We've got some picky eaters in our family, so there was a time when I was cooking 3 completely different meals just to please everyone - smh! Funnily enough, everyone loves this vegan bolognese sauce recipe. Everyone also loves: spicy Thai Peanut noodle rolls, cauliflower tacos, and veggie bean soup.
Why You'll Love Lentil Bolognese
- healthy: dairy-free, gluten-free, plant-based, soy-free
- nourishing: packed with whole foods like lentils, mushrooms, walnuts, and tomatoes
- hearty, filling, super satisfying, incredibly flavorful vegan comfort food
- high in protein, nutrient rich meal
- easy to make (one pot) and inexpensive (simple pantry items)
- everyone loves it - vegan, vegetarian, plant based, and meat eaters
Ingredients You'll Need
Here's what you'll need to make the BEST vegan bolognese. It's A LOT closer to traditional bolognese sauce flavor and texture-wise than you'd expect!
lentils - black or French lentils are small, firm and hold their shape when cooked. However, if you prefer a softer texture, choose red, yellow or green lentils. Use dry lentils, precook them or use canned lentils.
mushrooms - I used button and/or cremini, but any will work. They add tons of flavor and bulk.
cauliflower - optional but cauliflower adds great texture and mild sweetness when cooked.
walnuts - add a lovely, subtle crunchiness and pack a huge nutritional punch.
the flavour makers.
Every incredible Italian dish begins with slow cooking soffritto - typically finely chopped onions, celery, and carrots. They are cooked together with garlic until soft and super flavorful.
Pro Tip: The soffritto or mirepoix imparts tons of intense flavour, don't rush this step - it takes time (and some patience).
Dry white wine, balsamic vinegar, plus fresh and dry herbs add more layers and depth of flavor.
the tomato sauce.
I'm a big fan of San Marzano tomatoes for their flavor. They can be pricey though so I usually grab a few extra tins if I see them on sale. If you have another favorite flavorful tomato, sub them in.
Choose crushed or whole San Marzano tomatoes. The whole tomatoes can be crushed by hand right before adding to the pot.
Tomato paste adds intense flavor and richness.
All types of pasta go with Bolognese! Tagliatelle and pappardelle hold up well to this hearty sauce; and of course everyone has heard of spaghetti bolognese (so that works!). We also love how the meaty sauce and cheesy bits get caught up in rotini and penne! Choose gluten-free pasta if preferred.
How to make Bolognese Vegetarian
This veggie bolognese sauce is super easy to prepare - it just takes a little patience and some time to develop those rich, spectacular flavors. Of course, once the lentils are soft, you can eat (30 minutes); but if you have time, let the sauce simmer while the flavors improve!
- Heat the oil/butter in a large Dutch oven.
- Once shimmery, add the chopped veggies to the pan. Sauté till fragrant and almost caramelized to coax out major flavor.
- Deglaze the pan with a swirl of dry white wine which dissolves and incorporates all the browned bits and caramelization from the bottom of the pan creating incredible flavor.
- Add tomato paste, spices, and seasonings.
- Stir in the lentils, broth, tomatoes, and milk/cream (cashew creamo).
- Let the sauce slowly simmer while the lentils soften and the sauce cooks down and reduces for at least 20 minutes. Note: I like the flavor and texture best at 40+ minutes.
- Taste and adjust seasonings as needed.
Pro Tip: Traditional Italian bolognese sauce has milk in the sauce. Optional but delicious! Add a swirl of plant-based creamo (store-bought or homemade - recipe below in Notes).
FAQ + Tips
There are many vegan meat replacements for Bolognese sauce that keep it hearty and meaty these days. For example, tofu, tempeh, lentils, mushrooms, walnuts, jackfruit or a commercial meatless product like Gardein, Beyond, Impossible or Lightlife meat crumbles or vegan mince to name a few.
Yes! If you batch cook lentils or have some canned lentils in the pantry, add them to the sauce; but reduce the amount of broth in the recipe as needed.
How to Store Bolognese Sauce
Make a big double batch of this mushroom lentil bolognese to enjoy the next time you're craving vegan comfort food or pasta! Keeps well in the fridge in an airtight container for several days.
For longer storage, place in freezer friendly containers/bags and freeze for up to 3 months. Remove from freezer when ready to eat - thaw in fridge overnight or warm in Dutch oven until heated through and bubbly. You may need to add a splash of water for thinning.
Ways to Enjoy Bolognese
- traditionally on pasta like spaghetti, tagliatella or penne
- on a toasted bun - vegan sloppy joe
- delicious on baked potatoes
- incredible as a lasagna sauce!
- on mashed potatoes or gnocchi
- serve with a sprinkle of parmesan cheese
Here are some of my favorite kitchen items from this post (affiliate links):
Deep Sauté Pan with Lid - as you can see from the photos, my pan is pretty 'well used'. We lost the lid years ago (I use a cutting board now). It's one of the most versatile, beloved pans in my kitchen.
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Easy Mushroom Lentil Bolognese (vegan)
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- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 tablespoon butter
- 1 onion, finely chopped
- 2 carrots, finely chopped or grated
- 2 large celery ribs, finely chopped
Packed with Veggies
- 3-4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
- 3 cups mushrooms, small dice
- 2 cups cauliflower, finely chopped (optional)
- ½ cup dry white wine to deglaze (or broth)
- 3 tablespoons tomato paste
- 2 tablespoons oregano, dry leaves
- 1-3 teaspoons red pepper flakes, more to taste
- salt and pepper, to taste
- ⅓ cup walnuts, chopped
- 2 cups vegetable broth
- ¾ cup dry lentils or 1 ½ - 2 cups cooked lentils
- 28 oz San Marzano whole tomatoes or crushed*
- 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
- ½ cup plant-based milk, creamo
- 1 teaspoon maple syrup (if needed)
- 4-6 servings pasta (spaghetti, pappardelle, tagliatella)
- ½ cup basil/parsley, chopped
- parmesan cheese, vegan
- Heat 2 tablespoons of oil and 1 tablespoon of butter in a deep sauté pan or Dutch oven over medium-high heat.
- Add onion, carrots, and celery to pan. Saute until soft, fragrant, and starting to take on color (~5 minutes).
- Add the garlic, mushrooms, cauliflower (if using) and continue to cook for 10-15 minutes until they are soft and fragrant. Adjust heat as necessary.Season with salt and pepper to taste.
Deglazing the Pan
- A swirl of dry white wine or broth will dissolve the cooked veggie particles in the bottom of the pan forming the base of flavor for the bolognese sauce. Stir and scrape the bottom of the pan to incorporate all the flavorful caramelized bits for about 2-3 minutes until the liquid is mostly evaporated.
Spices, Lentils, and Tomatoes
- Stir in the tomato paste, oregano, red pepper flakes, S&P to taste and walnuts. Cook for another minute or two while the tomato paste cooks off.
Making the Sauce
- Add broth and lentils. Stir to incorporate.
- Add the crushed tomatoes and balsamic vinegar. Bring up to a boil, then reduce the heat to simmer covered while the lentils soften.
- While the sauce is simmering, add ½ cup milk (cashew cremo*) if using. *Recipe below in Notes.
- Taste and adjust seasoning as needed - more salt, acid, cream, red pepper flakes. If the sauce is too acidic, add a teaspoon of maple syrup.
- Meanwhile, cook the pasta (spaghetti, tagliatelle or pappardelle) in salt water while the sauce is simmering and reducing.
- Make pasta as per package directions. To keep the recipe gluten free, use your favourite gf pasta.
- Serve sauce over pasta and top with torn basil leaves, more red pepper flakes, and vegan parmesan.
This recipe is from simplyceecee.co food blog. All images and content are copyright protected. Please do not use my images or republish this recipe without prior permission. Thank you.