Vegan Lentil Bolognese Sauce
This vegetarian Lentil Bolognese is the ultimate healthy comfort food. It’s loaded with vegetables and lentils and can be enjoyed on your favourite pasta, spaghetti squash, or even on its own!
Easy Vegan Bolognese
In the mood for some comfort food? You’re in the right place!
This Lentil Bolognese recipe is the ultimate comforting meal to cozy up with on a cold night. It’s loaded with vegetables, lentils and red wine for a flavour-packed bolognese. Plus this recipe gives you an excuse to open that bottle of red wine and even pour yourself a glass while you cook, I won’t tell 😉
This is one of my top dinner recipes to make when I want a hearty and cozy meal, along with my Vegan Ramen Stir Fry and my Peanut butter noodles.
You’ll need to devote a little more time to make this pasta sauce, but what’s the rush anyway? Time is your friend when making a super-rich and flavourful bolognese sauce! And trust me, it’s SO worth it. Time is actually the secret ingredient that makes a bolognese taste so delicious. It allows all the flavours to really come out and creates a sauce that is just so damn good.
What is Bolognese?
Bolognese is an Italian meat-based sauce typically made from ground beef mixed with tomato. There are a few different ways to prepare bolognese sauce but one of the most traditional ways is to prepare it as a ragu and let it cook slowly to develop flavour. Bolognese is traditionally served with an egg noodles like tagliatelle.
Is Bolognese typically vegan?
Bolognese is not traditionally vegan but can be easily made vegan by substituting ground beef for lentils. The lentils give the bolognese that meaty flavour and texture so even meat lovers won’t miss the meat in this recipe.
Why you’ll love this Vegan Bolognese
- Packed with flavour. This bolognese is the ultimate comfort food. It’s packed with cozy warming flavours and delicious to enjoy on pasta, spaghetti squash or rice.
- Vegan and gluten-free. While this lentil bolognese is vegan and gluten-free, I promise any meat-eaters will fall in love with this recipe! (Some may not even know that it doesn’t have meat in it!)
- Perfect for meal prep. As the sauce sits in the fridge for a couple days, the flavours will intesify making it even more delicious. That makes it a great dish to make for meal prep at the beginning of the week.
- Freezer-friendly. This bolognese freezes like a dream! It will store well in the freezer for up to 3 months in a sealed container.
- Super nutritious. Each serving of this bolognese has 240 calories, 14 grams of fiber and 11 grams of protein!
What is Vegan Bolognese Sauce made of?
- Portobello mushroom
- Red pepper
- Olive oil
- Red wine
- Crushed tomatoes
- Bay leaves
- talian seasoning
- Coconut sugar (or brown sugar)
- 1 tbsp lemon juice
How to make Lentil Bolognese (step-by-step instructions)
Roughly chop the vegetables then add them to a food processor. Pulse the veggies in a food processor until finely chopped like in the picture below. Make sure not to over-process the vegetables. You don’t want them to turn to mush!
Heat some olive oil in a large pot then add the vegetables to brown. Let the vegetables simmer for about 15 minutes stirring constantly to prevent them from burning. (Don’t rush this step and only cook them for a few minutes. You want them to really cook down and build flavour.)
Next, add the red wine. And not just a splash, an entire 3/4 cup of red wine. Again, don’t skip this and use water or broth instead! Red wine is a key ingredient in baking this bolognese taste incredible. Let the wine cook-off in the pot. Then add the crushed tomatoes and lentils, Italian seasoning and oregano and stir everything together.
Give the lentil bolognese about 20-30 minutes simmering on low. Or if you have the time, let it cook on low for up to an hour. Then, use an emulsion blender (or regular blender) and pulse the mixture just slightly to break it down. Don’t over pulse it though! You want to make sure to have texture in your bolognese.
Boil your favourite pasta, some spaghetti squash, zucchini noodles, rice, or however you like. Top it off with some fresh basil or parsley and parmesan cheese, nutritional yeast or vegan cheese.
How to store leftover Lentil Spaghetti Bolognese
Fridge: store any leftover bolognese sauce in the fridge in a sealed container for up to 7 days. The flavour of the bolognese will actually intensify after a day and it will taste even better! Reheat the bolognese sauce in a pot on the stove or in the microwave.
Freezer: Let the bolognese cool completely then transfer to a freezer-safe container. Store in the freezer for up to 3 months. To defrost let the container sit on the countertop until dinnertime, or defrost it in the microwave on the “defrost” setting.
Lentil Bolognese Recipe FAQs
Bolognese is often served with spaghetti (aka spaghetti bolognese)which is a traditional recipe in America. However, you can serve the bolognese on many different shapes of pasta. Any pasta with some ridges like penne, rigatoni or tagliatelle will hold onto the sauce well so you get more of that delicious bolognese in every bite.
Absolutely! This is one of the most freezer-friendly recipes and holds up so well in the freezer for up to 3 months.
French lentils or green lentils are best for this bolognese as they hold their shape and texture when being cooked which we want for this sauce. Some other types of lentils like red lentils will fall apart too much and become mushy in the sauce.
You can reheat this recipe in the microwave or in a pot on the stovetop.
Yes! The bolognese sauce is gluten-free, so just make sure to use your favourite gluten-free pasta.
Tips for perfect Lentil Bolognese Vegan Sauce
- Give the veggies time to brown in the pan. Don’t rush through this step and only cook them for 5 minutes! Browing the veggies builds flavour which is essential for a delicious vegetarian bolognese.
- Don’t replace the red wine in this recipe with water or broth. Red wine is also essential in this dish for making a super flavourful bolognese sauce. Any type of red wine will work.
- You can substitute the crushed tomatoes with diced tomatoes. Diced tomatoes will give you a bit more of a chunky bolognese.
- French lentils or beluga lentils work best in this recipe. Don’t substitute with red lentils.
- Make sure to remove the bay leaves before blending the sauce! Bay leaves are very tough and it will be unpleasant to eat little chunks of them.
- Only blend the sauce ever so slightly! Don’t go crazy and blend it up into a puree. You want the sauce to still have a nice chunky texture and be able to see some pieces of lentils in there.
- Add red pepper flakes for some heat. Like your sauce spicy? Try adding a teaspoon or two of crushed red pepper flakes (also called chilli flakes) to the bolognese sauce.
More lentil recipes to try
If you tried this Lentil Bolognese or any other recipe on the blog let me know how you liked it by leaving a comment/rating below! Be sure to follow along on Pinterest, Instagram and Facebook for even more deliciousness!Print
Lentil Bolognese Recipe
- Prep Time: 15 minutes
- Cook Time: 35 minutes
- Total Time: 55 minutes
- Yield: 8 servings 1x
- Category: Main
- Method: Cook
- Cuisine: Italian
- Diet: Vegetarian
A delicious and Comforting Lentil Bolognese sauce that is vegetarian/vegan-friendly, gluten-free and packed with flavour!
- 1 large onion
- 4 garlic cloves
- 2 big carrots
- 2 celery stalks
- 1 portobello mushroom
- 1 red pepper
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 3/4 cup red wine
- 2 cups cooked lentils (I use french lentils)
- 2 cups crushed tomatoes
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 tsp Italian seasoning
- 1 tsp oregano
- 1 tbsp coconut sugar (or brown sugar)
- 1 tbsp lemon juice
- salt & pepper to taste
- 3/4 cup water
- 1 large handful of fresh parsley, finely chopped
- pasta, spaghetti squash, rice…etc. for serving
- Add the onion, garlic, carrots, celery, mushroom, and pepper to a food processor and chop into small bits.
- Heat the olive oil in a pan on medium-high heat and add in the chopped vegetables and salt.
- Brown the vegetables in the pan for 15 minutes, stirring frequently. (Do not skip this step! Browing the vegetables is where all the flavour happens!)
- Once the vegetables are browned, add in the wine. Cook on medium heat until the wine evaporates.
- Next, add in the lentils, and crushed tomatoes, and the rest of the ingredients (except the pasta) and mix together until well combined.
- Lower the heat to low, add in the water and let cook down for another 20 minutes.
- Remove the bay leaves and slightly pulse the sauce with an emulsion blender.
- Serve over your favorite spaghetti or pasta.
Store leftovers in a sealed container in the fridge for 7 days or in the freezer for 3 months.
For the tastiest results don’t replace the red wine in this recipe with water or broth. Red wine is essential for a delicious and flavourful bolognese!
Use green lentils or french lentils in this recipe for the best results. Red lentils won’t hold their texture and will become mushy in the sauce.
Don’t forget to remove the bay leaves before pulsing the sauce. You don’t want to end up with little chunks of bay leaves mixed in.
Add 1 tsp of red pepper flakes if you like your bolognese sauce spicy.
- Serving Size: 1/6th of recipe
- Calories: 240
- Sugar: 8g
- Sodium: 370mg
- Fat: 5g
- Carbohydrates: 35g
- Fiber: 14g
- Protein: 11g
Keywords: vegetarian bolognese, vegan bolognese, healthy bolognese
DELICIOUS! Just made this for dinner & it was lovely. Thank you Jess. Xoxo.
I love this recipe so much! I use it for lasagne and also add a couple things like walnuts and sun dried tomatoes but at it’s heart I follow this recipe and I always get insane compliments and people asking me to send on the recipe.
This recipe is a keeper! It’s just oh… soo… good! ♥️
Have been checking out your other recipes and have found several I especially want to try!
Thanks so much Donna! I’m so happy you enjoyed it 🙂
I am a huge fan of the french lentil bolognese from Flourist, but wanted to mix it up and try a new vegan bolognese for once. Your recipe is delicious Jess — 5 stars!
I love this recipe! I made a few modifications…hand chopped the veggies into very small pieces because I wanted the texture. I also used basil instead of parsley and added finely chopped walnuts for texture.
So happy you enjoyed the recipe Tanya!
My husband and I are seniors, and not likely to turn vegan/vegetarian. But our granddaughter is a vegetarian, and we understand that eating meat is not sustainable for our planet. We eat mostly chicken and fish, and I like to try a new vegetarian recipe every now and then. I like this, husband less so. I made a half recipe and we could easily have gotten 2 meals and a lunch out of it. I added a pinch of red pepper flakes, and used the whole can of tomatoes even though it was a half recipe. I think you could chop up whatever veggies you had in the fridge and use them in this, as long as you included onion, garlic and tomatoes. I may make another batch and freeze it for our granddaughter – she’s a college student. Thanks for the recipe!
You’re welcome Laurie! Happy to hear you’ve found a vegetarian recipe that you enjoy and that you can share with your granddaughter 🙂
Very tasty. I’m trying to base my meals around using less meat. This recipe did not make me feel like something was lacking; the way a lot of vegetarian/vegan dishes see to feel. Deglazing the browned veggies with wine I think was key to this recipe “working for me”.
Hi Shaine, Thanks for the review! I’m happy you enjoyed the recipe. This is one of my favourite vegetarian/vegan dishes to serve to avid meat-lovers because they usually can’t even tell it’s meatless!
Oh my word! This recipe is a KEEPER! No matter how many times we make it, it blows our socks off every time!!! We eat some and freeze some for days when we don’t feel like cooking. Thanks for a real winner of a recipe!
Happy you enjoyed the recipe Andree! 🙂
I loved this Recipe. It has now settled and hardened, I wondered if you might have some suggestions to use it? Lentil balls? Other suggestions?
Thanks for a great website!
Hi Kristen! Happy you enjoyed the recipe! What do you mean by it settled and hardened? Did it thicken after being in the fridge? if so you can always thin it out with some broth or water!
I love this receipe. I’ve made a couple of modifications. I added finely chopped raw walnuts for added texture, used shitake mushrooms instead of portobello , and fresh basil instead of parsley.
Sounds delicious with some added walnuts Tanya!
My whole family enjoyed this recipe. It has so much flavor you don’t miss the meat. I did reduce the amount of sugar and used beef broth instead of water. This will be on our meal rotation! Thank you so much!!
Happy to hear you and your family all enjoyed it! 🙂
Is the nutritional value including a pasta or grain or is it for only the sauce? 🙂 SUPER excited to try this out this week!!
Hi Carly! The nutrition calculated is just for the sauce 🙂
Hi Jess, this recipe looks great; I’m really looking forward to making it. To clarify, the lentils need to be cooked separately and then added to the sauce? Thanks for your reply 🙂
Hi Jayme, yes exactly! the recipe calls for 2 cups of cooked lentils
I have made this at least four times. Wonderful. I have had to leave out the mushrooms which I love because my husband does not eat them. It still tasted fantastic. When I’m up to it I sauté some mushrooms ahead of time and throw them into my plate. Sometimes I up the wine because it adds so much flavor. This is an A+ recipe.
So happy you enjoyed the recipe Beth!
I was wondering is this freezable
Hi Molly, 100% yes!
I cooked this meal last night and it was absolutely delicious! I let the sauce cook for an hour, it was worth the wait! It’s definitely the best vegan bolognese sauce.
Thanks Aurelie! So happy you enjoyed it 🙂
Can this be frozen?
I want to try this recipe but only have red lentils. Why do you say not to sub with red lentils?
Hi Amanda, red lentils are much softer and a completely different texture and flavour than brown or black lentils so they won’t work in this recipe.
This is so delicious! Great flavour & I liked the consistency of it hand blended a little bit.
I used a Chianti in this recipe. Wowza. This literally tastes like an original bolognese but with lentils! Absolutely loved this recipe. The flavor and aroma was even better day 2. I forgot to use the emulsifier because I was too excited to eat it but either way it’s still super delicious!
Thanks for the review Nam! So happy you enjoyed it!
Delish! Whole family loved it, thanks.
Happy you enjoyed Lisa!
OK. I see you. This was the most amazing vegan meal I’ve ever made. I’m used to that classic bolognese taste with a little bit of richness from the fat of the meats.. but this recipe completely blew the tried and true original out of the water. And what’s more, we all felt great after eating it! Thank you so much for this incredible recipe!
Hi Leandra, thank you for the review! I’m so happy you loved the recipe 🙂
We love using this recipe instead of buying processed faux meat crumbles! So much better for us and tastes better too!
Thanks Emily! Happy you loved it 🙂
So delicious, my meat lover family really thought it was better than traditional (meat) bolognese !! Thank you !!!!
Thanks Josie! So happy you and your family loved the recipe!
A five-starred staple recipe that convinces even the heaviest meat eaters of the manageability of vegan food! It gives a vivid concert of flavors, with the red wine dominating as the main note. The tamily of my boyfriend was in awe of this Bolognese and couldn’t believe that it’s meat free at first. His mum had the grand idea not to pulse all of the sauce at the end, but divide the mixture in two halves and mix one half only. This way, some of the lentils’ crunchiness could be preserved. I made sure to season the veggies while browning, to add as much taste to the pure ingredients as possible.
Thank you for the review Lei-Ling! So happy you and the family all enjoyed this recipe! It’s a great vegan option for meat-eaters 🙂
So easy and tasty!
Thanks Sara! Glad you enjoyed!
This is by far the BEST recipe I have ever followed from Pinterest. Me and my boyfriend just went vegetarian and we both love this so much more then regular bolognese. I don’t feel so heavy and weighed down after eating. I will definitely be making this again, thank you so much for this recipe!!
Thanks for the review Liz! It makes me so happy to hear that you enjoyed this recipe, it’s definitely one of my personal favourites!
Love this recipe! I added red pepper flakes to give it some heat, but it was very good 🙂
So happy you liked the recipe Alyssa! 🙂
Im not a wine connoisseur so do you have suggestions on a red to add to this recipe? I plan on making it tonight 😊
Hi Jessica! Any red wine will do. Doesn’t have to be a “fancy” one. I personally like a pinot noir so I can drink a glass white I cook the bolognese 😉
I have so many cans of lentils in my pantry with no purpose…would they work in this recipe?
yes of course!
Such a great recipe! My mum was sceptic about this recipe but once it was done she really-really enjoyed it!
Thank you so much for sharing!
Thank you! So happy you both enjoyed!
Absolutely incredible! Even though it worked out for like 10 servings or more, it´s super duper yummy! The good thing is that this recipe actually works, it´s easy to cook when you follow it.
Thank you Tyna, so happy you loved this recipe 🙂
This was a great recipe because there was minimal chopping involved haha. My 9 year old approved so that means it’s a hit. I’d use less parsley just cause I’m not a fan I guess maybe it was just cause we used flat leaf. But it was DELICIOUS AND EASY.
Thank you Jean! Happy to hear this recipe is 9 year old approved! 🙂
My partner and I are doing a Standard Process 21-day purification cleanse, and this recipe was an amazing addition to our program (ok, we’re not supposed to have sugar or alcohol, but they weren’t in large quantities). We ate it over zucchini noodles, and it felt like a tremendous cheat! I accidentally overblended just the onion and garlic, and I think it might have been fortuitous flavorwise – plus my partner isn’t a fan of chunky onions anyway. Thanks for the delish dish.
Your welcome Stacey! Glad you enjoyed 🙂
This recipe is SO flavorful, I didn’t have mushrooms so I did more carrots and it turned out perfect! There was a lot left over too and this will now be a goto for meal prepping!
Thanks for the review Lindsey! Glad you enjoyed the recipe 🙂
This was an amazing meal! My family loved it, and the little one cleaned her plate…which is rare! This will definitely be on rotation in our home.
Thank you so much Kyla, glad you and your family enjoyed it! 🙂
Delicious sauce!! Easy and a good excuse to drink some wine while you cook!
Thank you so much Hailey!
taste amazing. for those that say it is “watery” did you let it simmer for 20 minutes like the recipe says?
Thanks for the review Tim! and yes the recipe should definitely not be watery at all, if anything it is quite thick and sometimes I add even more water to loosen it back up! Letting it simmer,with the cover off will make all the liquid in the sauce evaporate
My husband and I are obsessed with this recipe. I have been sharing it with everyone turning this time of needing both comfort food but also maintaining health, Love everything that she creates!
So happy you both enjoyed the recipe Courtney!
I’ve been eating the leftovers from this meal for 2 days now and I swear it ages like fine wine. The flavors really marinate well. I grew up eating spaghetti with pasta sauce, diced veggies, and ground turkey and I can say with certainty that this recipe taste better! I love that it is guilt free and so filling! My grandmother told me she’d never eaten lentils until 2 years ago when I introduced her to them and this recipe is now probably my favorite lentil recipe to date. I did tweak it a tiny bit by adding a little bit of jarred pasta sauce, about 2 or 3 tablespoons of tomato paste, an extra tablespoon of lemon and I did not have peppers (though I suspect that would make it even better!). Thank you for a great recipe, Jess. I’m a new mom who fell off of the vegan train, but I love finds like this that remind me how great vegan meals are. Can’t wait to try more of your recipes! Maybe look to satisfy sweet tooth next? I’ve yet to make a delicious vegan cake if you’ve got one? Thanks again!
Hi Simone, thank you for your comment and review! I’m so happy to hear you loved this recipe! It’s definitely one of my favourite lentil recipes. I have plenty of desserts on the blog you may enjoy. Including some raw vegan cakes and some vegan donuts which are just delicious!
Hey! This bolognese looks sooo delicious!! I really want to try it but I don’t really like celery, can I replace it with some other vegetable? Thanks!
Hi Mariana, you don’t taste the celery in the recipe but if you prefer you can just leave it out!
When do you add the lemon juice?
Hi Bri, you add the lemon juice with the rest of the seasoning
What do I do with the parsley? What do I do with the lemon juice?
Hi Derek, you add it in with the rest of the seasoning to the bolognese
Do I cook the lentils first
Hi Lyn-ann, yes you do. it is listed to used cooked lentils in the recipe 🙂
Just made today with Spanish pardina lentils, it really surprised me in good way. I’m trying to find ways for my daughter to get more iron, this is definitely going into my recipe rotation.
Such a great idea for your daughter, I’m glad you loved them! Thanks for the review Paula 😊
This was great! I omitted the sugar because I really am not a fan of sweet, and it turned out awesome! It was still a little sweet for my taste, I think I probably used a sweeter wine. So next time I’ll go with a drier red. But it was still really good! I used green pardina (Spanish) lentils and they held their shape well. Thanks for the recipe!
Hi Jerome, happy you liked the recipe!
Made tonight and overall not bad. I found it tasted too sweet for my preference. Would you suggest omitting the brown sugar to get rid of the sweetness? Any suggestions to reduce the sweet taste would be appreciated. I think this would be perfect once I can neutralize that aspect.
Hi Christina, you can omit the brown sugar and try a different brand of tomatoes. some canned tomatoes are sweeter than others
The recipe called for both lemon and brown sugar but instructions didn’t mention where to use it. Bummer to buy those things to not know when to use. Are they considered seasoning?
Hi Kiley, the lemon and sugar are part of the seasoning for the sauce and are added into the sauce in step #5!
This recipe was great! I didn’t use sugar though and added a couple of tablesppons of nutritional yeast and crushed red pepper. So yummy! I will definitely make it again!
Nutritional yeast is such a great addition! I’m glad you loved it, Dulce! 🙂
Made this tonight and it was a hit with all 3 kids. Definitely will make it again.
Thanks for the review Allison! So happy to hear this recipe is a hit with kids!
Really nice, I added a mild chilli and had it with Spaghetti Squash, which I grew in my garden
Thanks for the review Janice! Glad you enjoyed the recipe. It’s great on spaghetti squash 🙂
Can I freeze this recipe? I want to batch cook…
Hi Claire, yes you can! 🙂
The macros, micros, and fiber content look amazing. I am so excited to test this out.
Thanks Autumn! Hope you enjoy!
AMAZING. Also tastes great under soft scrambled eggs for breakfast. Bonus points if you add white cheddar (for my non vegans) 🧀
Hi CJ, thank you for the review! Glad you enjoyed the recipe!
I’ve got this recipe simmering as we speak. It smells great and will be nice way to get the kids to eat more veggies!
Hi Myriam, yum! I hope you and your kids enjoy the recipe!
It looks delicious ! As the years go by, I cannot stand vegetarian food that tastes too much meat food (I’ve been a vegetarian for almost 20 years), I’ve tried other recipes with TSP and don’t really them but never tried with lentils so far and I love lentils, so pinned to try it soon ! 🙂
I totally understand. I don’t really cook much with “fake meats.” I definitely prefer the natural textures and flavors of the lentils and mushrooms in this recipe. I hope you like it too!
This lentil bolognese looks incredible and I love that you used sprouted lentils. Wonderful recipe, Jess 🙂
Thanks Ela! I actually just ate some more for dinner this evening! Expect tonight I had it over quinoa 🙂