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Rich and robust, this vegan 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. With a video!
Looking for more? Check out our 40 Mouthwatering Vegan Recipes and our 50 Best Vegetarian Recipes!
The last few nights have been chilly here. The air smells of leaves and pine, and woodsmoke from chimneys nearby. 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 recipe 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. And here it is- Lentil Bolognese!
We made a big pot of this vegan Bolognese and tossed it with pasta the first night, then served over polenta the second night. I can’t decide which way I liked it better. Both were so good!
Lentil Bolognese | 60-sec Video
Ingredients in Lentil Bolognese
- Lentils- the smaller the better! I prefer Black Caviar lentils (or sub-French Green Lentils or Split lentils)
- Onions and garlic – for depth of flavor
- Carrots and celery- for sweetness and complexity
- Fresh oregano or thyme –or substitute 2 teaspoons dried Italian herbs
- Tomato paste – to add depth and richness
- Red wine -optional, to add complexity
- Fresh tomatoes –or sub canned tomatoes
- Veggie stock -or substitute water plus veggie boullion
- Hemp seeds (or toasted walnuts or pecans) for texture and richness
- Balsamic vinegar – for a punch of flavor and brightness
How to make Lentil Bolognese
Saute onion in olive oil until fragrant.
Add carrots, celery and garlic, continue cooking and stirring about 5 minutes. Add herbs and seasonings.
Add tomato paste, browning it a bit. Deglaze -add a generous splash of red wine and cook this off. (Optional)
Add tomatoes and their juices.
Add the lentils, hemp seeds or walnut nuts, and broth.
Toasted ground walnuts add really great flavor- but I like the ease of adding the hemp seeds– no grinding necessary!
Keep in mind the smaller the lentils the faster the bolognese will cook! These little black caviar lentils are the best- just 20 minutes of cooking time.
Bring to a boil and cover. Simmer for 20-30 minutes
Once the lentils are tender, remove the lid and cook off some of the liquid.
Taste and adjust seasonings, and stir in the balsamic vinegar.
Serve! Spoon this over creamy polenta, or toss it with your favorite pasta. Keep it vegan if you like or top with parmesan or pecorino cheese.
More recipes you may enjoy
- Vegan Lasagna Bolognese
- Turkey Mushroom Bolognese
- Our 25 BEST Lentil Recipes! (Plus how to cook Lentils)
- Simple Braised French Lentils
- Moroccan Lentil Quinoa Soup
- Easy Healthy Veggie-Driven Pasta Recipes! (Vegan-adaptable)
On the homefront: It’s been a beautiful week here. The leaves are turning, the sun is shining, the birds are singing. Nature doesn’t seem to take notice of what is in the news and all the worldy 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!
Lentil Bolognese Recipe
- 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
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.
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 large onion, diced
- 1 1/2 cup carrots, small diced
- 1 1/2 cups celery diced
- 4–6 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 cup black caviar lentils (or other small lentils- 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 hemp seeds, or crushed toasted walnuts or pecans
- 2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
- 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.
- 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.
- 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. Uncover.
- 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.
- 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!
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.
Feel free to sub-French Green Lentils or Split Red lentils
This can be made ahead and will keep up to 4 days in the fridge.
- 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
Keywords: vegan bolognese, lentil bolognese, vegan bolognese sauce, lentil pasta sauce, lentil bolognese recipe,
I’m yet to make this recipe, but excited to try this week!
Do you think this bolognaise would work using as a base for a tasty shepherd’s pie topped with mashed potato?
Lifetime vego here 🙋♀️ so trying to appease my meat-eating hubby + kids. 😆
I think it would be amazing!
Thanks for sharing! Recipe was easy to follow and the lentils tasted great. However, to me this isn’t something I’d really eat with pasta or didn’t feel like a bolognese substitute. It felt more like a lentil stew.
Stew works too. 🙂 I love it with pasta but to each her own.
I love this recipe and its always a hit with whoever I make it for! Thank you
Thanks so much Jo!
I knew better! Cooking lentils in acid makes for an extra long cook time or tough beans. This recipe has lots of good ingredients so precook the lentils. You won’t be sorry.
Hi Alex- If using large lentils (or older lentils)you could always try soaking them first to shorten the cooking time.
Do I need to soak the lentils before?
Hi Lauren! You can, especially if using large ones- but not necessary.
This is our FAVORITE bolognese recipe! Flavorful, hearty and so easy to throw together on a busy night.
So happy you enjoyed this!
Rich, hearty and delicious. Even meat eaters loved it!
Awesome to hear Larisa and appreciate your feedback!
I love this!
Fwiw I used basic green lentils which I cooked in advance (I have one pot lol), didn’t use celery (my family mysteriously dislikes it), and did add a bit more dried oregano.
Thank you so much.
So glad it worked out for you Barbara!
Delicious! I used puy lentils and I omitted the hemp seeds / walnuts .
Fantastic meal, great easy to follow instructions even for a novice like me!!
Happy to hear this Mac!
ok, this was fabulous! Red wine and walnuts really added flavor and texture! YUM! Might be my favorite vegan recipe yet.
Great to hear Paula!
Delicious- used red lentils and worked perfectly. Yum!
Great to hear Emilia!
So good! Made it pretty much as written with toasted walnuts instead of hemp seeds. A keeper for sure!
Glad you enjoyed this!
The lentils were very good in flavor! I was skeptical about the balsamic vinegar but it really makes the dish come together. However, even though it is a very creative substitute I wouldn’t use this a bolognese substitute. It tasted like if I just mixed some leftover pasta with lentils and I was not a fan. But that is just my opinion. Thanks for the recipe.
To each their own. 🙂
Do not use whole hemp seeds
Horribly gritty and made inedible for the family.
Taste was ok.
Sorry you didn’t like the hemp- I personally really enjoy it- but to each her own. 🙂
Followed this recipe exactly. Usually I need to mess with a recipe two or three times before I get to where my husband & I like it. But, not with Feasting at Home recipes. This recipe was perfection on the first try! No tweaking needed. My husband and I both enjoyed it and it is now on my regular rotation of dinners. Thank you!
Awww… thanks so much!
The mixture had a good flavor, but the lentils never got soft, no matter how long I cooked them. Next time I will try to cook lentils separately and then add them to the mixture at the end. I’m thinking the tomatoes had a hardening effect on the lentils.
Hi Judy, if your lentils are very large or older, you can also try soaking them in water overnight or few a few hours. I used tiny black lentils here for fastest cooking!
This was delicious, I made it for my daughter but thoroughly enjoyed it too. Just wondering can you freeze the leftovers?
Glad to hear it! Yes, feel free to freeze!