Rich and robust, this vegan lentil bolognese recipe is hearty, “meaty” and full of depth of flavor. Toss it with your favorite pasta, or spoon it over creamy polenta- either way, this simple nourishing vegan meal is one the whole family will enjoy. With a video!

Rich and robust, this plant-based Lentil Bolognese is hearty, "meaty" and full of depth of flavor. Toss it with your favorite pasta, or spoon it over creamy polenta- either way, this simple nourishing vegan meal is one the whole family will enjoy.

The last few nights have been chilly here. The air smells of leaves, pine, and woodsmoke from nearby chimneys. It’s getting darker sooner. I’ve got my wool socks on, and all I want to eat right now is pasta—and bread! Cozy comfort food.

So this is how this flavorful dish came to be. Brian and I were both craving something rich and “meaty” the other day, something that would hold up to a glass of red wine, all the while staying plant-based. Full of protein, fiber, and umami flavor, this vegan bolognese sauce was delicious over spaghetti. Then we served the leftovers over creamy polenta the second night. I can’t decide which way I liked it better. Both were so good!

Why you’ll love this!

  1. Healthy! Full of protein and fiber, this is a powerhouse of nutrients while being totally vegan and plant-based.
  2. Flavorful. We show you how to create umami and depth in this recipe so you won’t miss the meat.
  3. Great for meal prep. Think of  Vegan Bolognese as your new “Sunday sauce”. Make it ahead for the busy week, and serve it up over pasta, polenta, spaghetti squash, etc.-  it will keep up to 4 days.

Lentil Bolognese | 60-sec Video

Rich and robust, this plant-based Lentil Bolognese is hearty, "meaty" and full of depth of flavor. Toss it with your favorite pasta, or spoon it over creamy polenta- either way, this simple nourishing vegan meal is one the whole family will enjoy. #lentilbolognese

Ingredients in Lentil Bolognese

  • Lentils- the smaller the better! I prefer black Caviar lentils (or sub-French Green Lentils or red lentils)
  • Onions and garlic – for depth of flavor
  • Carrots and celery- for sweetness and complexity
  • Fresh oregano or thyme –or substitute 2 teaspoons dried oregano, or Italian herbs and bay leaf
  • Tomato paste – to add depth and richness
  • Red wine -optional, to add complexity
  • Fresh tomatoes –or sub canned tomatoes
  • Vegetable broth or substitute water plus veggie bullion, or chicken stock
  • Hemp seeds  (or toasted walnuts or  pecans) for texture and richness
  • Balsamic vinegar – for a punch of flavor and brightness
  • Salt and black pepper

ingredients in lentil bolognese

How to make Lentil Bolognese (instructions)

sauteing onions in a dutch oven

Step one

In a large pot or Dutch oven saute onion in olive oil over medium heat until fragrant and golden.

adding carrots, celery and garlic

Step two

Add carrots, celery and garlic, continue cooking and stirring about 5 minutes. Add herbs and seasonings. You could add other vegetables at this time, too- mushrooms, red bell pepper, even zucchini.

Step three

Add tomato paste, browning it a bit. Deglaze -add a  generous splash of red wine ( or dry white wine) and cook this off.  (Optional.)

pouring wine into the pot

Step four

Add tomatoes and their juices and cook these down a bit.

adding tomatoes to the bolognese

Add the lentils, hemp seeds or walnut nuts, and broth.

adding hemp seeds or walnuts to the bolognese

Step five

Bring to a boil and cover.  Simmer for 20-30 minutes

add the broth and simmer

Step six

Once the lentils are tender, remove the lid and cook off some of the liquid.

cook off any of the liquid in the pot

Step seven

Taste and adjust seasonings, and stir in the balsamic vinegar.

taste and add balsamic vinegar

Chef’s Tips

  • Toasted ground walnuts add really great earthy flavor (make sure to grind finely using a food processor or coffee grinder) but I like the ease of adding the hemp seeds– no grinding necessary!
  • Use small lentils! Keep in mind the smaller the lentils the faster the bolognese will cook! These little black caviar lentils are the best for quick cooking- just 20 minutes of cooking time. Of course, you can use other lentils, but they will likely take longer.
  • For added depth at the end, add a tiny splash of soy sauce or miso paste.

Serving Suggestions

  • Spoon the lentil Bolognese over creamy polenta, mashed potatoes, zucchini noodles, spaghetti squash, or toss it with your favorite pasta or gluten-free pasta.
  • Top with fresh basil ribbons and red pepper flakes.
  • Keep it vegan if you like or sprinkle it with parmesan or pecorino cheese. Vegans may enjoy our vegan cheesy sprinkle.

Rich and robust, this plant-based Lentil Bolognese is hearty, "meaty" and full of depth of flavor. Toss it with your favorite pasta, or spoon it over creamy polenta- either way, this simple nourishing vegan meal is one the whole family will enjoy. #lentilbolognese

Lentil Pasta Storage

Lentil pasta can be kept in the refrigerator in an airtight container for up to 4  days or can be placed in the freezer for  up to 3 months. Thaw overnight in the fridge before reheating. Reheat over low heat in a covered saucepan.

More Favorite Lentil recipes!

Rich and robust, this plant-based Lentil Bolognese is hearty, "meaty" and full of depth of flavor. Toss it with your favorite pasta, or spoon it over creamy polenta- either way, this simple nourishing vegan meal is one the whole family will enjoy.

On the homefront: It’s been a beautiful week here. The leaves are turning, the sun is shining, and the birds are singing. Nature doesn’t seem to notice what is in the news or all the world drama and happenings; it just keeps unfolding in its own time.

Mercury is in retrograde until mid-October, meaning it has the appearance of moving backward in the sky. During this time, some believe this backward motion can disrupt travel, communication and technology. Coincidence, perhaps, but compelling given the events of this week. 😉

And while it is always good to have a healthy dose of cynicism I find this retrograde particularly interesting.  How life often mirrors a bigger story. Are we not, after all, made of stars? Lately, on a personal level, I’ve noticed, “signs” directing me to be “patient and wait”, or hold my tongue, or delay a big decision, or to not force things.

When I take heed, things are easier…

I hope you are having a beautiful start to your week friends! Enjoy this recipe for Lentil Bolognese and please share how you serve it or adapt this!

xoxo

Sylvia

 

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Rich and robust, this plant-based Lentil Bolognese is hearty, "meaty" and full of depth of flavor. Toss it with your favorite pasta, or spoon it over creamy polenta- either way, this simple nourishing vegan meal is one the whole family will enjoy. #lentilbolognese

Lentil Bolognese Recipe

5 Stars 4 Stars 3 Stars 2 Stars 1 Star 4.8 from 205 reviews
  • Author: Sylvia Fountaine | Feasting at Home
  • Prep Time: 20
  • Cook Time: 35
  • Total Time: 55 minutes
  • Yield: 6-8 1x
  • Category: vegan main, pasta,
  • Method: stove top
  • Cuisine: Italian
  • Diet: Vegan

Description

Rich and robust, this plant-based Lentil Bolognese is hearty, “meaty” and full of depth of flavor. Toss it with your favorite pasta, or spoon it over creamy polenta- either way, this simple nourishing vegan meal is one the whole family will enjoy.


Ingredients

Units Scale
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 1 1/2 cup carrots, small diced
  • 1 1/2 cups celery diced
  • 46 cloves garlic, rough chopped
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon chili flakes- optional
  • 1 tablespoon fresh oregano or thyme (or 2 teaspoons dried Italian herbs)
  • 1/3 cup tomato paste
  • Generous splash red wine (optional) 1/4 cup-ish
  • 1 1/4 cups black caviar lentils (or other small lentils for quick cooking-see notes)
  • 3 medium tomatoes, diced with juices (or sub a 14-ounce can of diced tomatoes or crushed tomatoes)
  • 3 1/2 cups veggie stock or broth (or sub water plus 2-3 boullion cubes)
  • 3/4 cup ground toasted walnuts (hemp hearts or ground pecans)
  • 2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar

Instructions

  1. Heat oil in a large pot or dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add the onion and saute for 2-3 minutes stirring until fragrant. Lower heat to medium, then add the carrots, celery, garlic, salt, pepper, chili flakes, and herbs.  Saute 7-8 minutes, stirring.
  2. Add the tomato paste, browning it just a bit in the pan (this will deepen the flavor), then deglaze with wine if you want, scraping up any brown bits.  Once most of the wine has cooked off add the tomatoes and their juices, cook them down for just a few minutes.
  3. Add the lentils, veggie stock and hemp seeds or walnuts.  Bring to a boil, cover tightly, lower heat to low, and simmer gently 20-25 minutes, or until the lentils are tender. Bigger lentils will take longer. Uncover.
  4. Continue cooking uncovered until most of the liquid has cooked off.  Stir in the balsamic vinegar, taste, and adjust salt, pepper, vinegar and chili flakes to your liking. Keep in mind, you want this just slightly salty if tossing with pasta.
  5. Serve this tossed with your favorite pasta or serve it over this creamy polenta or this Instant Pot Polenta. Sprinkle with optional  pecorino cheese… or try this Vegan Cheesy Sprinkle!

Notes

If using hemp seeds- use the shelled soft “hearts”- not the whole seeds ( these will be gritty).

Broth: If your veggie broth is bland or your bolognese is bland, you can intensify the depth here by adding a tiny splash of soy sauce, or miso paste mixed with a little water, or a little veggie stock bouillon paste.

Lentils: For fast cooking use small lentils: French Green Lentils or Split Red lentilsBrown lentils will take mush longer to cook.

Storage: This can be made ahead and will keep up to 4 days in the fridge.

Nutrition

  • Serving Size: 1 cup
  • Calories: 268
  • Sugar: 6.4 g
  • Sodium: 481.6 mg
  • Fat: 11.5 g
  • Saturated Fat: 1.3 g
  • Carbohydrates: 30.9 g
  • Fiber: 6.6 g
  • Protein: 13.9 g
  • Cholesterol: 0 mg

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Comments

  1. I was it immediately drawn to this recipe, but I’m so glad I finally tried it. Very tasty and satisfying!






  2. Thanks you for another excellent recipe! I didn’t change a thing. It’s delicious and hearty.

  3. We love this bolognese sauce. We doubled recipe – cooking time to simmer to desired consistency increased significantly. It freezes well!

  4. Made this mostly as written (except did not toast the walnuts first), it was FANTASTIC! Will definitely make again and possibly try adding mushrooms to the mix as well as fresh tomatoes when they’re available locally. I made rice to go with it instead of pasta, only because we had pasta the day prior. Oh, I also used French lentils for the first time and they tend to stay firmer, which I appreciated but my husband wanted to cook them longer to get them softer (we’re used to red lentils which tend to turn to mush). Such lovely recipes on this site, looking forward to trying more!!






  5. Incredibly delicious! I followed the recipe as described (although I doubled the batch and I’m so glad I did! :)). It’s healthy, hearty, and simply delicious. I also made the Hummus recipe (with slightly alterations) and added it to my pasta dish – amazing meal! Became like a carbonara bolognese if there were such a thing :)…. Thank you so much for sharing this great recipe.






  6. Awesome base recipe, thanks! I used a cup of wine and it was even tastier. 😁 Plus subbed half green and red lentils for texture, and varied the herbs. Very very tasty.






  7. Made this for dinner tonight – very filling and satisfying with lots of texture and a great aroma. I served it on top of mashed potatos (with margarine, onion soup poqder and oat milk), with a cucumber side salad 🙂






  8. I found this recipe while searching for something to feed my vegan guests. I’m so glad I found it as it’s now one of my favorite lentil dishes.






  9. I have made this before, and given it great reviews. Today I tried to double it, so as to give 1/2 to my pregnant daughter, and obviously forgot something, as it is so bland.
    So I am trying to salvage a big pot of bland tasting stew (again, my fault) and debating what to do.
    Add another can of tomatoes? I know it needs more broth, but what else can I do to give it some delicious flavor?

    1. Hi Sharon, I noticed the recipe multiplier did not multiply the wine. Other than that try adding more tomato paste, salt, broth (or boullion cube) and balsamic. If too tart, sugar can help too.

      1. This recipe is incredibly delicious. Followed the instructions as written and use hemp seeds without toasting it’s so good!! I love your recipes. Thank you so much. Monique






  10. 3 stars because I’m a hard ass. I am a restaurant chef 25 years and made this first as written. Didn’t get the mouth feel of bolognese which is important making an alternative. The alternatives I used is a vegetarian “chicken stock’, cooking a bit longer than stated which didn’t leave the veg still firm. Adding more evoo better yet a cashew butter or other vegan butter to round out the flavor and adding some pasta water at the end to starch it up otherwise it was very hard to not end up with past then the sauce at the end. Polenta might be my first choice for this and all the little nitpicks might not be noticed. Just my 2 cents.






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