This is the absolute best vegan spaghetti bolognese without meat. Even friends and family members that do not like cauliflower rice loved this recipe. You might also like our famous vegan lentil bolognese that is packed with protein.
Why you'll love this recipe
- This cauliflower bolognese contains hidden veggies and is actually good for you. Yes, you can add cauliflower in totomato sauce and turn it into a vegan spaghetti bolognese. You might be able to trick one or the other picky eater as you can barely taste the cauliflower.
- It comes together in 30 minutes and is the best quick weeknight dinner to make after work.
- It's a life-saving recipe basically made from pantry items. Keep some staples such as cauliflower rice and tomato sauce in your freezer and pantry and you should be able to make this recipe any time.
- This vegan spaghetti bolognese is super easy to make. The fact that this recipe is mainly made from pantry items makes it super easy to follow. You can use frozen cauliflower rice or make your own if you have a food processor (see step-by-step pictures below).
- It's allergen-friendly. As the name reveals, this healthy bolognese is vegetarian, vegan, dairy-free, nut-free and gluten-free if using gluten-free certifies pasta.
Disclaimer: this is a vegan spaghetti bolognese sauce with a meat-like texture but it does not taste like a meat bolognese. However, the cauliflower rice resembles minced meat and provides a texture that even meat-lovers will enjoy!
Key ingredient notes
- Herbs and aromatics are the base of any good spaghetti sauce. Use a mix of onion, shallot and garlic for a real flavor explosion. This will also help cover the taste of the cauliflower. If you don't have all the herbs on hand, use a bouquet garni (a bundle of herbs), which you can buy at most grocery stores.
- Cauliflower rice: you can use pre-made cauliflower rice (fresh or frozen) or make your own in a food processor (see step-by-step pictures below).
- Canned or jarred tomatoes: we like to use qualitative pure tomato sauce (without spices and garlic) to make this spaghetti sauce as quickly as possible. You could also use fresh tomatoes and simmer the sauce longer and without a lid until it thickens).
- Tamari: tamari is made from soy and provides a strong umami flavor to the sauce. It's an absolute must in a meat-free bolognese.
- Brown sugar: sugar balances the acidity of the tomatoes. You can use white sugar, brown sugar or coconut sugar in this recipe.
The secret ingredient in this express meat-free bolognese: add a teaspoon of bouillon powder to the sauce to make it super flavorful without having to chop vegetables.
How to make cauliflower rice
- Cut the cauliflower florets into smaller pieces. You can cut out the stem or mince it as well.
- Add the florets to the bowl of a food processor. Don't fill it up to the top. It's better to rice it in several batches.
- Pulse several times until it reaches a cauliflower rice consistency. The cauliflower grains don't have to be very fine (see picture). The thicker they are, the more texture they add to the sauce.
Pro tip: save the cauliflower leaves (and stem) to make a soup.
If you don't have a food processor you could rice the cauliflower with a sharp knife. This takes time and patience but works great as well. We recommend using a knife with a flat (instead of a rounded) blade.
- Sauté the cauliflower in oil first. This will make the sauce very flavorful and provide a meat texture without adding meat.
- Cook the spaghetti in a lot of water to promote even cooking. This also prevents them from sticking to one another.
- Rinse gluten-free spaghetti. Some gluten-free pasta can get very sticky after draining. To prevent this, rinse them under cold water once your drained them. To reheat the pasta, add them to the pot with the sauce for a few minutes. Don't leave them in for too long to prevent overcooking.
- This is a quick bolognese recipe, but if you're not in a hurry simmer the sauce for up to an hour to build up more flavor.
Step-by-step with pictures
Mice and sauté the onion. Finely mince the onion with a knife or in a food chopper. Heat a Dutch oven with some olive oil and sauté the cloves, peppercorns and juniper berries. Add the onions and sauté until soft.
Sauté the cauliflower rice. Add the cauliflower rice to the pot and sauté over medium-high heat until slightly golden. Stir frequently to prevent it from sticking to the bottom of the Dutch oven.
Add the tomato sauce and the herbs. Give it a good stir.
Simmer the spaghetti sauce for 15 minutes. As you can see in the picture, the sauce gets darker and thickens while simmering. You can stop cooking after 15 minutes as indicated in the recipe or you can simmer the sauce for up to 1 hour over low heat.
Substitutions and add-ins
- Shallots: you can replace 2 shallots with another onion. However, we really recommend using a mix of onion, shallots and garlic to make this vegetable spaghetti bolognese.
- Bouillon powder: you can use finely chopped carrots and celery instead of bouillon powder. Sauté them with the minced cauliflower before adding the tomato sauce. The powder allows you to make the sauce more flavorful while saving time on chopping vegetables.
- Tamari: you can use any gluten-free soy sauce you'd like. Coconut aminos work as well.
Storage and reheating tips
Refrigerating tips. If you have leftovers or made a double batch, you can store the sauce in an air-tight container in the fridge for up to 3 days. Make sure the vegan spaghetti bolognese has completely cooled down before refrigerating.
Freezing tips. This plant-based spaghetti bolognese freezes extremely well. You can store it in the freezer for 3 to 6 months. ONLY freeze it if you used fresh cauliflower rice to make the sauce. Never freeze a sauce in which you used frozen ingredients. The best way to defrost the sauce is to let it sit in the fridge overnight.
Reheating tips. Reheat the (defrosted) sauce in a pot on the stove over low-medium heat until it's warm. Alternatively, you can reheat it in the microwave.
Frequently asked questions
You can use frozen cauliflower rice for cooking without previously defrosting it. Simply add it to a pot or skillet with a little oil.
You can find fresh cauliflower rice in the fridge section (usually with other vegetables) of your grocery store or frozen cauliflower rice in the freezer section.
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Vegan Spaghetti Bolognese
- Food chopper, optional
- Large pot or Dutch oven
- 1 onion
- 2 shallots
- 2 cloves of garlic
- 3 tablespoons olive oil or preferred cooking oil
- 4 cups cauliflower rice* frozen or from 1 small cauliflower head
- 28 oz (800 ml) tomato sauce strained tomatoes
- 4 servings of gluten-free spaghetti 3 oz/80 g per serving
Spices (or use a bouquet garni)
- 5 black peppercorns
- 3 juniper berries optional
- 5 cloves
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 tablespoon tomato paste
- 1 tablespoon tamari or gluten-free soy sauce
- 1 teaspoon brown sugar
- 1 teaspoon bouillon powder* optional
- 1 pinch of salt
- Finely mince the onion, shallots and garlic in a food chopper or with a sharp knife (see step-by-step pictures in post above).
- Heat some olive oil in a Dutch oven or a large heavy pot. Fry the cloves, peppercorns, and juniper berries (if using) for 2 minutes over medium-high heat. Skip this step if using a bouquet garni.
- Add the minced onion, shallots and garlic to the pot. Sauté for 3 minutes until translucent.
- Add the cauliflower rice and sauté for 3 minutes over medium-high heat without stirring. Then, give it a good stir and cook for 2 more minutes.
- Pour in the strained tomatoes. Add the tomato paste, tamari, sugar, bouillon powder, a pinch of salt and the bay leaf (or bouquet garni).
- Cover with a lid and simmer for 15 minutes over medium heat (or up to 1h over low-medium heat if time allows).
- In the meantime, bring water to a boil. Cook the spaghetti according to package directions. Drain when cooked.
- Serve the spaghettit with the cauliflower bolognese.
- To rice the cauliflower, cut the cauliflower head in half and remove the leaves (keep them for soups). Add half the florets and the stem to a food processor. Pulse several times until minced. Repeat with the remaining florets (see step-by-step pictures in post above).
- You can use frozen cauliflower rice without previously defrosting it. Simply add it to the pot with the oil and the onions.
- Bouillon powder allows you to make the sauce more flavorful while saving time on chopping vegetables. You could also use finely chopped carrots and celery instead of bouillon powder. Sauté them with the minced cauliflower before adding the tomato sauce.
- Refrigerating tips. If you have leftovers or made a double batch, you can store the sauce in an air-tight container in the fridge for up to 3 days.
- Freezing tips. You can store the bolognese in the freezer for 3 to 6 months. ONLY freeze it if you used fresh cauliflower rice to make the sauce. The best way to defrost the sauce is to let it sit in the fridge overnight.
- Reheating tips. Reheat the (defrosted) sauce in a pot on the stove over low-medium heat until it's warm. Alternatively, reheat it in the microwave.
More vegan pasta sauce recipes
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