Quick and easy vegan lentil bolognese that tastes amazing on spaghetti (or any other pasta). It's one of my favorite 30 minutes dinner and vegan pasta sauce recipes! There's no chopping required as you can simply do that in a blender, food processor or food chopper. You might also like this vegan spaghetti bolognese sauce made from cauliflower.
Vegan spaghetti bolognese
This vegan lentil bolognese is really a super easy vegan pasta recipe. You definitely don't need to be a pro to make this one! It is loaded with veggies, has a ton of flavor and texture and is simply delicious. I always keep a can of lentils in my pantry to be able to make this canned lentil recipe in no time on a busy weeknight.
The real question is: does it taste like bolognese? I'm not going to lie, you don't have that meaty taste. But I'd say it comes pretty close, especially the texture. By adding the canned lentils at the very end, they stay firm and mimic the minced meat consistency. The addition of tamari (or soy sauce), which has a strong umami flavor adds that intense savory flavor we know from meat sauces.
Huge time-saving tip!
Before you move on to the step-by-step instructions, read this! This tip has been life-changing for me and makes me save so much time every time I prepare a home-cooked meal: chop your vegetables in a food processor! You can use a food processor, a powerful blender (e.g., Vitamix, KitchenAid) or even a small food chopper.
Food processors are great for chopping firm vegetables such as onions, carrots, celery, squash and more. However, they also work great on softer vegetables such as zucchini and mushrooms.
First, you want to wash the vegetables, peel them if necessary and cut them into semi-large pieces (about 2 to 3 cm depending on the size of your chopper). Then add them to your food processor/blender/chopper and use the pulsing function. Pulse several times until you reach the desired size (this can go from slightly broken down pieces to finely chopped bits).
Note that your food processor/blender/chopper will not the dice vegetables, it will coarsely chop them. However, chopped vegetables work great in most recipes, especially sauces and stir fries.
Step-by-step with pictures
Prepare the veggies. If you read my time-saving tip above, you can do this in literally 5 minutes. Wash the veggies, remove the skin of the onion, shallot and garlic and peel the carrots. Cut everything into pieces. Chop the onion, shallot and garlic in a food processor (or by hand). Sauté the latter over medium heat.
Chope the carrots and the zucchini. While the onions are in the pan, chop the carrots and the zucchini in the food processor (or by hand).
Make the sauce. Add the chopped veggies to the pan with some olive oil. Sauté them for 5 minutes with the lid on, then add the pureed tomatoes. Cover with a lid and simmer for 10 minutes. In the meantime, you can also cook the pasta.
Add the lentils and spices. When the sauce is done simmering, add the drained and rinsed lentils and the spices. My tip is to not skip the tamari sauce if you have some at home.
Storage tips (fridge and freezer)
How to store it in the fridge? Store the sauce in an air-tight container in the fridge for up to 3 days. Simply reheat it on the stove or in the microwave. It's perfect for meal-prepping as well.
How to store it in the freezer? You can store the lentil bolognese in the freezer for up to 3 months. I like to freeze it into individual portions if I have left-overs. To defrost the sauce, put it in the fridge overnight or let it sit on the kitchen counter several hours before dinner. Serve it with freshly cooked pasta.
My tip is to make a double batch and freeze half away to have a quick dinner ready on busy weeknights.
Substitutions and add-ons
This sauce is vegan, gluten free and nut free. It's packed with veggies and super flavorful.
- Keep it seasonal. If zucchinis are not in season, substitute them for mushrooms, chopped squash or celery.
- You can substitute tamari with gluten free soy sauce or coconut aminos which all have that umami flavor.
- Use canned black beans or cooked red lentils if you don't have (brown) canned lentils on hand.
Frequently asked questions
- Can I use fresh lentils/red lentils?
Of course, you can add pre-cooked red or green lentils to the sauce. Make sure they are "al dente" and add them at the very end, to add texture to the sauce.
- What if I don't have a food chopper?
If you don't have a food processor/blender or food chopper to chop the veggies, simply chop them by hand into very small pieces. This might take you a little longer but it will be just as good.
- Do I need to add tamari sauce?
Tamari sauce has that umami flavor that is great to add to vegan sauces to mimic the intense, savory and meaty flavor of minced beef. So I highly recommend adding it to the sauce. You can substitute with gluten free soy sauce or coconut aminos if necessary.
More vegan pasta sauce recipes
30-Minutes Vegan Lentil Bolognese
- 1 red onion
- 1 shallot
- 3 cloves of garlic
- 2 large carrots
- 1 large zucchini
- 700 g pureed tomatoes also known as tomato passata
- 1 can of brown lentils 400g net weight
- 1 tablespoon tamari sub gluten free soy sauce or coconut aminos
- 1 teaspoon basil optional
- 1 teaspoon oregano optional
- 1 pinch of salt and pepper
- 10.5 oz (300 g) gluten-free spaghetti
For the Lentil Bolognese
- Peel the onion, shallot, garlic cloves and cut them into quarters. To save time, mince them in a food chopper (see step-by-step pictures in post above) or mince them finely with a knife.
- Add them to a Dutch oven (or another large pot) with some olive oil and sauté over medium heat.
- While the onions are cooking, peel the carrots. Cut them into pieces (no need to be precise) and chop them in a blender (or very finely with a knife). Add them to the pan.
- Wash and chop the zucchini. Sauté the vegetables over medium-high heat with a lid on for 5 minutes.
- Add the pureed tomatoes and simmer for 10 minutes with the lid on.
- Drain and rinse the lentils and add them to sauce. Stir for 2 minutes. Add the tamari sauce, basil and oregano. Adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper.
For the pasta
- In a large pot, bring water to a boil. Cook the pasta according to the instructions on the package.
- Once cooked, drain the pasta. Serve with the hot lentil bolognese.
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