Looking for a hearty, satisfying, and easy-to-make vegan bolognese recipe? Look no further than this green lentil bolognese! Packed with protein-rich lentils and flavorful mushrooms, this plant-based take on a classic Italian dish with a rich tomato sauce is perfect for those seeking a meatless alternative. Plus, it's budget-friendly and great for the whole family. Try it tonight and savor the deliciousness of this vegan bolognese! Great served with vegan garlic bread.
🌟 Why this recipe works
Only 13 ingredients - Italian food uses the most simple ingredients (and usually only a few of them) but cooks them to perfection to create dishes that are out of this world! And this lentil bolognese is no different. It uses simple ingredients like crushed tomatoes, dried lentils (or cooked lentils), dried oregano and mushrooms to make a hearty, rich tomato sauce into a fantastic recipe for green lentil bolognese. It's low in saturated fat and naturally gluten free (just double check on your vegan Worcestershire sauce bottle) and serve bolognese with gluten free pasta too.
Whole foods - just like this vegan cannelloni, this lentil bolognese is a healthy whole foods version of an absolute classic, so no meat or meat alternatives are needed! It's especially good if you're trying to avoid too many processed foods. Plus, green lentils are packed with protein.
I'm a pasta girl - I'm a quarter Italian so, it makes sense that pasta is one of my top foods, right? It not only means that, but I've got years of experience of cooking with my Italian Grandmother when I was younger. So you can trust this green lentil bolognese will be a really delicious recipe!
📋 Ingredient notes
Lentils - we have used dried green lentils in this recipe, but you could also use tinned lentils (reduce the liquid to make sure you get the right consistency). We like the size and texture of green lentils, but red lentils or brown lentils would also work. Either way, just make sure the lentils are tender before serving.
Mushrooms - lentils provide the protein, but mushrooms are great for adding a meaty texture and flavour to dishes like vegan bolognese. Also great in creamy mushroom pasta.
Vegan Worcestershire sauce - to add a little bit of tang! Some people may use balsamic vinegar but vegan Worcestershire sauce is best. We like the one by Biona or instead Henderson's relish, which has a very similar taste. Make sure to find a vegan version though because Worcestershire sauce contains anchovies.
Oregano - one of the key fresh or dried herbs in an Italian diet! Also, we use fresh basil at the end to make it really fragrant. Dried Italian herbs and dried basil can be substituted if needed.
🔪 How to make mushroom and lentil bolognese
This is a step-by-step overview with photos for making vegan green lentil bolognese. The full recipe, along with measurements and detailed instructions can be found in the recipe card at the bottom of the page.
1. Pop a good glug of olive oil in to a large pot or dutch oven and place over a medium heat. Next add the onions once the oil is hot and gently fry until softened. Then add in the garlic for another 30 seconds.
2. Add in the tomato paste (purée) and stir well.
3. Sprinkle in the dried herbs and bay leaf and then stir well with the onions, garlic and tomato paste.
4. Stir in the diced mushrooms and carrots. Cook for 4-5 minutes, stirring regularly, until the mushrooms have cooked down a little. They will soften and begin to release liquid.
5. Pour in the tinned crushed tomatoes, green lentils and vegetable broth.
6. Bring the pan up to a simmer.
7. Stir in the vegan Worcestershire sauce and sugar.
8. Keep on a low simmer for 45 minutes until the lentils are tender and most of the liquid has cooked off and the lentil ragu has a thicker sauce. Make sure to be stirring occasionally to prevent sticking.
9. Season with salt and pepper to taste and stir in fresh basil right before serving. Optionally, (and traditionally), stir the bolognese sauce through the pasta to eat the way Italians do!
Serve with al dente spaghetti, parpedelle, brown rice pasta or whole wheat pasta (or your favorite pasta!). Top with vegan parmesan or nutritional yeast and fresh basil. In addition, some people may like to add red pepper flakes, but I don't recommend it (this isn't an arrabiata!).
👩🍳 Expert tips
Use dried lentils - whether using red, green or brown lentils, dried lentils are a great way to keep the cost of this meal down. We recommend dried green lentils, but you could alternatively use cooked green or puy lentils, they will cook just as well, and it will most likely be much quicker.
Deepen the flavour - while this lentil bolognese recipe uses vegan Worcestershire sauce to deepen the flavour, you can take it up another notch by adding a splash of red wine or a teaspoon of marmite. We've done both of these before and they are great options. We kept the recipe ingredients in this green lentil bolognese to a minimum so that it's simple and flavoursome, but these ingredients can be added too!
Dice the veg - the mushrooms and carrots should be diced or finely chopped for this lentil bolognese sauce. That way everything is the same size in the pan, will cook evenly and it will also look more like a traditional bolognese when cooked. A nicer dicer, food processor or just a plain old sharp knife and cutting board can be used to achieve this.
Meal prep - lentil bolognese is a fantastic meal prep idea. It lasts for up to 4 days and freezes well too. If you're meal prepping, it's best to stir the pasta and the bolognese sauce together before decanting into an airtight container. That's so it reheats better in the microwave. Vegan mac & cheese is also great for meal prepping.
Leftover sauce - leftovers can be served with jacket potatoes, on toast or with pasta. Lentil bolognese does freeze well for up to three months too. Just defrost before reheating, and then heat either in the microwave or on the hob. Make sure it is piping hot before serving.
Bolognese sauce can be made so many ways! Make a vegetarian or vegan bolognese by using TVP (textured vegetable protein), veggie (vegan) mince alternative, green lentils (or red lentils or brown lentils) as well as finely chopped walnuts and diced mushrooms. There's a lot to choose from, but we recommend mushroom and lentil bolognese for the best results.
Yes! Lentil bolognese is a great recipe and works well with either dried lentils or canned lentils. While dried lentils are cheaper to buy, canned lentils will be quicker to cook and needs less liquid.
Yes, bolognese freezes well for up to three months.
🧀 Serving suggestions
Lentil bolognese sauce is traditionally served with spaghetti but there are many more options than that! Such as:
Your favorite pasta - tagliatelle, pappardelle or rigatoni (or gluten free!)
Zucchini noodles (low carb option)
🍝 More vegan pasta recipes
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Vegan Lentil Bolognese
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 1 onion (large)
- 4 cloves garlic
- 2 tbsp tomato purée AKA tomato paste
- 300 g chestnut mushrooms - diced
- 200 g carrots - diced
- 1 tbsp dried oregano
- 2 dried bay leaves
- 800 g chopped tomatoes - tinned
- 1 cup vegetable broth
- 1 cup green lentils
- 1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce - make sure it’s a vegan one
- 1 tsp brown sugar
- ¼ cup fresh basil - roughly chopped, tightly packed
- Pop a good glug of olive oil to a large pot or dutch oven and place over a medium-high heat. Next add the onions once the oil is hot and gently fry until softened. Then add in the garlic for another 30 seconds.1 tbsp olive oil, 1 onion, 4 cloves garlic
- Add in the tomato paste (purée) and stir well.2 tbsp tomato purée
- Sprinkle in the dried herbs and bay leaves and then stir well.1 tbsp dried oregano, 2 dried bay leaves
- Stir in the diced mushrooms and carrots. Cook for 4-5 minutes, stirring regularly, until the mushrooms have cooked down a little. They will soften and begin to release liquid.300 g chestnut mushrooms, 200 g carrots
- Pour in the tinned crushed tomatoes, green lentils and vegetable broth.800 g chopped tomatoes, 1 cup green lentils, 1 cup vegetable broth
- Bring the pan up to a simmer.
- Stir in the Worcestershire sauce and sugar.1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce, 1 tsp brown sugar
- Keep on a low simmer for 45 minutes until the lentils are tender and most of the liquid has cooked off and the lentil ragu has a thicker sauce. Make sure to stir regularly to prevent sticking.
- Season with salt and pepper to taste and stir in fresh basil right before serving. Optionally, (and tradiitionally!), stir the bolognese sauce through the pasta to eat bolognese the way Italians do!¼ cup fresh basil
- Serve with al dente spaghetti, parpedelle or pasta (or whatever your favourite is!). Top with vegan parmesan or nutritional yeast and fresh basil. Some people may like to add red pepper flakes, but I don't recommend it.
- Alternatives - balsamic vinegar can be used instead of vegan Worcestershire sauce if you're in a pinch. Canned lentils can be used instead of dried, but reduce the broth by half. Brown or red lentils can be substituted for green lentils. Dried Italian herbs and dried basil can be substituted if needed.
- Try adding a splash of red wine or a teaspoon of marmite to deepen the flavour.
- Freezes well for up to three months. Keeps in the fridge in an airtight container for 4 days.
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