Serve this high-protein vegan Red Lentil Bolognese sauce over your favorite pasta for a super hearty, satisfying and comforting meal. Made plant-based with nutrient-packed red lentils instead of beef! (Vegan, gluten-free, oil-free.)
This red lentil vegan Bolognese is so satisfying and filled with protein and fiber. Plus it's simple to assemble with many pantry staples.
Split red lentils only take about 10 minutes to cook making it a perfect alternative to finely minced beef.
Please note: I'm not an expert in traditional Italian cooking. So this is simply my interpretation and vegan adaption of classic Bolognese.
What is Bolognese Sauce?
Traditional Italian Bolognese is a super thick, meat-based pasta sauce.
But instead of finely chopped beef, I use nutrient-packed red lentils as the star of this plant-based version. The texture is so wonderful and hearty.
White wine and milk are also typically used. However I use tamari to deepen the flavor and optional nutritional yeast to add a "cheesy" taste.
The result is a protein-packed, savory sauce that is incredibly satisfying when spooned over your favorite pasta.
Ingredients for Red Lentil Bolognese
For this recipe you will heat in a large skillet:
- Yellow onion: Or substitute white onion or sweet onion if desired.
- Garlic cloves: I like the taste of fresh garlic cloves best in this recipe, but you can substitute dried garlic powder if needed.
- Red lentils: Or you could change it up with crushed walnuts, diced mushrooms, or other vegetables for your "meaty" base. Diced zucchini, bell pepper, or spinach would be great additions to stir in as well.
- Vegetable broth: Be sure to use low sodium if desired.
- Canned crushed tomatoes
- Tamari: Or substitute soy sauce. I use tamari for gluten-free.
- Italian seasoning: Or use another seasoning blend like dried oregano, dried basil, dried thyme, etc.
- Pasta of choice: I use fusilli gluten-free pasta made from quinoa and brown rice. But you could use zucchini noodles, penne, rigatoni, etc.
Garnish: Top your bowl with a tablespoon of fresh basil or fresh parsley, red pepper flakes to taste, or your favorite vegan parmesan cheese before serving.
Batch size: This recipe makes a large batch. The sauce recipe yields about 5.5 cups (without pasta) so be sure to reduce or halve if desired.
Store leftovers in an airtight container in the refrigerator. I find they keep for about 4-5 days.
Freezing note: I haven't tried saving this sauce in the freezer. But I'm guessing it would do very well if you wanted to freeze some for 1-2 months.
For more inspiration, also browse all lentil recipes.
Vegan Lentil Bolognese
- 16 oz. pasta (gluten-free if desired)
- 1 small onion
- 2 stalks celery
- 1 carrot
- 3-4 cloves garlic
- 1 cup red lentils* (dry, uncooked)
- 1 1/2 cups vegetable broth
- 28 oz. can crushed tomatoes
- 1 Tbsp. tamari
- 1 1/2 tsp. dried Italian seasoning**
- Optional: 1/4 cup nutritional yeast
- Fresh basil, parsley, cashew parmesan, etc.
- Cook pasta according to package instructions. Drain when finished.
- Meanwhile, very finely dice onion, celery, and carrot. (Or use a food processor for quicker results.) Mince garlic.
- In a large skillet over medium-high heat, sauté onion, celery, and carrot for 7-8 minutes or until softened. (I use 3 Tbsp. water/broth for no-oil sauté method, adding more as needed.)
- Add minced garlic and Italian seasoning. Stir and sauté 1 minute.
- Add broth and red lentils (rinsed very well).
- Bring to a light boil. Then decrease heat to medium-low and cover. Simmer for about 10-15 minutes or until lentils are cooked and the liquid is absorbed.
- Stir in crushed tomatoes and tamari. Heat 5 more minutes. Add nutritional yeast for cheesy flavor if desired (optional).
- For serving, spoon the sauce over the top of the pasta and garnish with any desired toppings.
Nutrition Per Serving (Estimate)
Sodium: This is omitted as I cannot provide an accurate number. I encourage you to calculate your own to provide a much more precise reading based on the exact ingredients, brands, and amounts you're using.
If you are enjoying this Vegan Red Lentil Bolognese Sauce recipe, also check out:
- Lentil Cabbage Soup
- Ultimate Vegetable Soup
- Easy Vegan Lasagna with Chickpea Ricotta
- Red Lentil Sweet Potato Stew