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. This is wonderful and has a depth of flavor that I love. This recipe is soooo filling and makes me happy!






  2. This is THE BEST recipe, even the lentil averse in our family enjoy it!
    Extra easy if you prep veggies ahead of time. I have made it in big batches, it freezes well.
    Make it, you won’t be disappointed!

    1. Hi Molly, I like my pasta pretty saucy, so I use about 1 cup sauce per 2 ounces pasta. So I’d use 12-16 ounces pasta. 🙂

  3. Absolutely delicious! I’m trying to lower my cholesterol & this recipe makes it easy and tasty! Thank you so much!






  4. This was amazing! We loved it on pasta, but I think polenta was my favorite, especially with parmesan.
    As a bonus, I plenty of leftovers for the freezer!!






  5. 10 out of 10! Home run! I soaked my lentils for a few hours before cooking. Hubby and I had seconds and shared with neighbors. Will definitely be adding this to our regular rotation.






    1. I dont think you would need it- or you just may need to add tiny bit. Remember to double or triple the lentils since they are cooked. 🙂

  6. Hi, I have been cooking this recipe for a while and my family loves it, even children 🙂 We are not a vegetarian family, so I still ad a little bit of organic meat; but it makes me reduce the quantity of meat and make the dish much healthier. Thank you for sharing, have a great day, j.






  7. My meat eating boyfriend seems to actually like this recipe more than me and I really like it a lot! We usually just eat it on pasta with fresh grated Parmesan and basil, but we made a double batch this week and we are going to try using it in lasagna. Thank you for sharing another great recipe!

    Also, I almost always use a mix of red, green, and black lentils. No reason for it other than I usually seem to have a couple of bags of lentils open and this recipe is great at using them all up!






  8. Really delicious and a great substitute for using ground beef! This makes a big batch and we can’t finish in 4 days, would this freeze ok?






  9. this was good first time ever using black lentils. The consistency reminded us of chili – if you add beans






  10. Absolutely delicious. What I call “feel good food”. A definite to keep in my repertoire. I look forward to discovering more of your recipes. Thank you for sharing!






  11. enjoyed this! made as directed as a double batch and used green lentils because that’s all my grocery store had. Cooked for a total of probably 35 to 40 mins (mainly til the carrots were soft). Quick tip -if you want your sauce creamier,use an immersion/stick blender and blend up some of the chunks in the pot! I do the same with chili and it turned out a nice texture. Thanks for the recipe!






  12. This recipe was delicious! So easy to make, so filling, so comforting, and nutritious. It hit all the marks for me. I will be making this again and again.






  13. I have made this recipe multiple times now. This Bolognese is so tasty, I had to leave a review. Make sure you use black lentils. I had never heard of black lentils until I saw this recipe. Now I use them for other lentils dishes in my repertoire. They are wonderful! I make this recipe as posted using walnuts instead of the hemp, and I leave the carrots just a little bit crunchy. This provides a nice, chewy texture that I enjoy. Love this dish! Thank you ever so much, Sylvia!






  14. We had third helpings of this last night, and there’s still plenty left over. Rich and scrumptious! I followed the recipe using wine, hemp hearts, canned Tom’s, and French green lentils, which need a few more minutes to cook and a splash more liquid. Added a fair amount more salt, pepper flakes and pepper at the end. I love that this has variations and several serving options, all of which I’ll be trying. This bolognese is a keeper.






  15. This turned out better than I thought! I am soooo happy I found this recipe!
    I used red lentils and did not have celery, I topped it over whole grain bowtie pasta and spinach. The recipe made enough for me to use it for meal planning for several lunches or dinners of mine this week.
    I also topped with some shaved romano cheese, but obviously can be eaten vegan without it.
    I am also going to use this as a good option in my Prenatal & Postpartum Nutrition certification I am getting, as a healthy option for nursing mothers.






  16. So, tomato paste or anything tomato is acidic. So, why does this recipe advise to mix while cooking lentils or any bean??? Let’s get real, it’s a no go. I should’ve went with my gut from past experience and just added tomato paste at the end. My lentils are hard. Not happy.






    1. Hi Brittany- sorry this didn’t work of you, I hear your frustration! This recipe specifically calls for small black caviar lentils about 1/8th of an inch wide. Bigger lentils will take much longer, and my guess is you perhaps used different lentils?

  17. Brilliant recipe!
    Tasty and hearty 👍
    I make this often and freeze some as it makes quite a good sized batch






  18. This was delicious! Whole family loved it. Thank you for providing recipes for so many amazing vegetarian meals!






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