Jun 15, 2010

Vegan bolognese sauce

Spaghetti with meat sauce was always the ultimate comfort food for me. It’s hard to think of anything quite as satisfying. But alas, I can’t eat meat anymore, so what to do? Come up with a killer vegan bolognese sauce, of course!

This one is particularly chewy and meat-like, because it has not just one, but three “meaty” ingredients: tempeh, mushrooms and lentils. Could this be the vegan holy trinity?

Vegan Bolognese Sauce

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
3 large cloves garlic, minced
1 medium yellow onion, finely chopped
1/2 small green bell pepper, finely chopped
1 small carrot, finely chopped
1 stalk celery, finely chopped
1 8-ounce package tempeh, crumbled
8 ounces cremini or white mushrooms, chopped
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 6-ounce can tomato paste
1 bay leaf
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon dried basil
1/2 cup dried red lentils [UPDATE 10/10/11: Spanish pardina lentils are by far the best type to use]
1 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes
1 28-ounce can whole tomatoes, undrained, chopped
1 cup dry red wine
1/4 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon fennel seed
1/2 teaspoon salt, or up to 1 teaspoon, to taste

Heat the oil over medium heat in a large dutch oven. Add the garlic, onion, bell pepper, carrot, celery and crushed red pepper, and saute for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Turn the heat up a bit, add the mushrooms and tempeh and cook for 3 minutes, stirring constantly. Lower the heat back to medium, stir in the tomato paste and cook for 2 minutes more. A

dd the herbs, tomatoes, parsley and wine, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, partially covered, for 10 minutes. Add the lentils and cook until they just tender. This usually takes 20 minutes, but I’ve had some lentils take a lot longer. So keep tasting it along the way to determine when it’s done. If the sauce gets too dry, add a bit of water. Add salt at the end of the cooking time. Serve on whole wheat spaghetti or use in lasagna.

Serves 8

See more recipes: Entrees, Gluten-free, Vegan


  • I’ve done a lentil-based pasta bolognese a few times – usually using the Du Puy style lentils – pretty good.

  • It’s been too long since I’ve had spaghetti bolognese. Your version looks seriously good.

  • What an excellent idea to use tempeh, mushrooms and lentils in the sauce. This looks amazingly yummy!!!

  • That looks great! I love finding new things that the non-veg will eat and enjoy too, thanks. BTW, I found you on tastespotting. I know I love knowing where my visitors come from.

  • Thanks so much for your comments. I really like your blog too, and will add it to my blogroll.

  • […] of the most delicious ways to eat chard.  It makes a perfect side dish for a pasta dish such as my spaghetti with vegan bolognese sauce, or as a topping for bruschetta.  I would even eat this for breakfast in an egg white omelet. But […]

  • This looks delicious. Beautiful photo. I hope you will submit this recipe and more to my new “vegan finds” website:



  • […] Source: WhatWouldCathyEat.com […]

  • Cathy, this recipe is incredible! I did make a few changes, though, just to make it my own: I subed a can of fire roasted tomatoes for the whole tomatoes which added an extra kick. Secondly, I used Fakin’ Bacon instead of the regular tempe ’cause I love that smokey flavor. Lastly, I don’t like mushrooms (gasp!) so I replaced them with vegan hamburger crumbles. I kept all of the other veggies and spices the same and cooked the lentils twice as long. Like you, I have found that lentils NEVER cook in 20 min., like they’re supposed to. Anyway, the sauce made twice as much as I expected, which was good because my husband LOVED it. And his carnivore friend at work did too! We ate it with brown rice spaghetti noodles for a few days, then used the rest spread on pitas, added some vegan cheese, and had meaty pizzas! Thank you so much for sharing!

  • whatwouldcathyeat

    So glad you liked it, Alyssa. Adding a smoky taste is something I wouldn’t have thought of for this, but it sounds really good!

  • That looks like one lush bowl of vegan comfort! Love it!

  • Sue Thornton

    Please someone tell me what tempeh is and where I get it?

  • Tempeh is a fermented soy bean cake and you can get it at any health food store, and most supermarkets.

  • Shirley McKenzie

    I lived in Lincroft for 20 years and am a devotee of the Jersey Shore. Miss Red Bank, etc. every day. But to the sauce recipe. Who would miss meat with this lovely concoction? I can’t wait to try it. Thanks for posting.

  • Marisa Stone O'Brien

    So excited to try this! Love bolognase and have just very recently gone Vegan after watching some different food movies on Netflix and doing some reading!

  • Paige

    I am eating a bowl of spaghetti and this bolognese! Thank you so much, great recipe. The things I did different: no fennel seed, fresh tomatoes skinned and smushed, fresh oregano and basil, the juice from the tomatoes because I didn’t have any wine, green lentils, and I also added a little sugar. It turned out just right, not too watery or dry, and just the right amount of spicy, not to mention a beautiful red color.

  • Cool, it’s about time this sauce received some love!. One of my most under-appreciated recipes! Maybe I’ll try it your way next time, Paige.

  • Arlene

    Can the sauce be frozen?

  • whatwouldcathyeat

    Hi Arlene, I’ve never frozen this sauce but I don’t see why it wouldn’t be fine.

  • Abbey

    Will this still taste good if you don’t use mushrooms and tempeh??

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