Vegan Bolognese Recipe Made With Red Lentils

If you are looking for a meat free alternative to an Italian classic, you need to give this vegan bolognese a try which includes red lentils with a spicy tomato sauce.

Dare I say it, but this tastes just as good as a traditional bolognese recipe and is packed with extra flavour thanks to the inclusion of spice and herbs.

This recipe is perfect for the family, but it also freezes well, which means it is also ideal for batch cooking or meal prep.

Why you will love this vegan bolognese recipe?

  • Plant-based alternative
  • Super cheap
  • Easy to cook
  • Packed with flavour
  • Perfect for meal prep

How to make a Vegan bolognese with red lentils?

1) Main INGREDIENTS

Dried Red Lentils: The main source of protein from this recipe will come from the lentils which is a delicious ingredient that is packed with nutrients. Here I used red lentils, however you can use any type. Just ensure you give them a rinse and allow them to soak in water for a while. The main benefit of using lentils is that you can often buy these in bulk which are inexpensive and very healthy. There are plenty of amazing lentil recipes and here is an example of how it can be used for a vegan bolognese.

Celery Sticks & Carrots: Finely chopped celery sticks and carrots are traditionally used in a bolognese, and while I do not use it for my spicy bolognese recipe, they certainly are a key addition to this vegan bolognese because of the flavour and crunchiness. You can also use these to make a red lentil soup.

Chopped Tomatoes: I use chopped tomatoes from two cans, which saves time, and I also include 2 teaspoons of tomato purée.

Red Chilli Powder: Without any chillies, this recipe will be very bland and the tomatoes will be overpowering. The solution is red chilli powder! Or if you want it mild, add in green chillies or paprika. I would start off with two teaspoon of red chilli powder which is enough to keep it balanced.

Mixed Herb Seasoning: You can just add 1 teaspoon each of dried thyme, dried oregano, and dried basil for this recipe, which would be enough but I use a mixed herb blend at home which is essentially all the major herbs combined together.

2) Method

Vegan bolognese is a simple dish to cook because it can be done in one-pan and you can cover to cook in low heat for the most part. You can follow the same process below can cook it in a slow cooker or instant pot which is more convenient.

As a result, I enjoy cooking this recipe for my meal prep because it is easy for portion control and I can leave this running in the background while cooking another meal.

Demonstration of celery, carrots and onions cooking in a pan

This step involves cooking the onions, garlic, celery and carrots which takes around 15 minutes.

Demonstration of red lentils and spices in a pan

Add the red lentils, spices and herbs.

Demonstration of adding chopped tomatoes to the pan

Now it is time for the fun part. Simply add the remaining ingredients and stir to combine. You can cover and leave it cooking on low heat which is why it is also a good slow cooker recipe for lentil bolognese. Before you sit down, it would be a good time to cook the spaghetti in the background to time it perfectly.

Demonstration of end result

Remove from cover and stir to combine. It will be ready to serve or you can meal prep for the week ahead.

3) How to store and reheat

This is a versatile dish because you can serve it for a family on a night and eat it fresh. If you are going to meal prep this vegan bolognese, you can either mix it with the spaghetti or keep it separately layered.

Leftover vegan bolognese in meal prep containers

This does last up to 4 days in the fridge and you can freeze the lentil bolognese up to 6 months (but do it without the spaghetti). For more information about reheating lentils and the best method, read this guide.

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Bowl of red lentil bolognese

Vegan Bolognese Recipe With Red Lentils


  • Author: Mani
  • Prep Time: 15 minutes
  • Cook Time: 45 minutes
  • Total Time: 1 hour
  • Yield: 4 servings 1x
  • Diet: Vegan

Description

If you are looking for a meat free alternative to an Italian classic, you need to give this vegan bolognese a try which includes red lentils with a spicy tomato sauce.


Scale

Ingredients

  • 1 tbsp Olive Oil
  • 1 Large Onion (finely chopped)
  • 3 Garlic Cloves (finely chopped)
  • 2 Celery Sticks (finely chopped)
  • 2 Carrots (finely chopped)
  • 200g Red Lentils (pre-soaked)
  • 800g Chopped Tomatoes (from 2x cans)
  • 2 tbsp Tomato Purée
  • 1 tbsp Mixed Herb Seasoning (or 1 tsp each of dried thyme, dried oregano & dried basil)
  • 2 tbsp Red Chilli Powder
  • Salt and Black Pepper (to taste)
  • 200g Spaghetti
  • Red Chilli Flakes and/or Parmesan Cheese (optional)

Instructions

Soaking Lentils

  1. Soak the dried red lentils in hot water as this will speed up the cooking time and they will taste better. I usually do this overnight but you can let it soak for a few hours. If you do not have time or forgot to soak, then ensure you at least rinse the lentils in water before-hand.

Cooking

  1. In your large saucepan, add olive oil and ensure it is on medium heat. Add the onions and garlic, and cook for 5 minutes. Add the celery and carrots, and cook for another 10 minutes, or until it feels soft and fragrant.
  2. Add the red lentils, chopped tomatoes, tomato purée, mixed herb seasoning, cayenne pepper, salt and black pepper. Stir combine and add water before stirring again to simmer for a few minutes.
  3. Cover pan on low heat for 25-30 minutes. Feel free to add more water if you feel the bolognese is thickening up too much.
  4. Serve with spaghetti or your preferred side dish. When serving this fresh, top up with red chili flakes.

Notes

  • For meal prep purposes, refrigerate up to 4 days and reheat in the microwave until piping hot.
  • You can freeze this vegan bolognese up to 6 months.
  • Soak the lentils before cooking for the best results.
  • The nutritional value below reflects the lentil bolognese only (does not include spaghetti but for the meal prep in my photo, the macros were: 405 calories (68.2g carbs, 16.5g protein, 6.2g fat)
  • Category: Main Course
  • Method: One-Pot
  • Cuisine: Vegan

Nutrition

  • Serving Size: 1 serving
  • Calories: 181 kcal
  • Sugar: 10.4 g
  • Sodium: 1448.6 mg
  • Fat: 5.3 g
  • Carbohydrates: 22.2
  • Fiber: 8.1g
  • Protein: 10 g

Keywords: Vegan Bolognese, Lentil Bolognese, Red Lentil Bolognese, Vegan Bolognese Red Lentils

Frequently asked questions

How many calories are in a vegan bolognese?

I will depend on the ingredients you use but for this recipe, one serving size of the vegan bolognese only was around 181 calories. This is very light which means you can control the portion of the pasta or spaghetti accordingly.

How to make this recipe low-carb?

I made this with spaghetti and the macros were: 405 calories (68.2g carbs, 16.5g protein, 6.2g fat). For some, this may be too high in carbohydrates but you can dramatically reduce this by combining the bolognese with zucchini noodles or just reducing the grams of spaghetti.

Why soak the lentils?

I make it a habit to soak the lentils overnight or at least in the morning before cooking a lentil recipe because it is so much better for digestion and I find it cooks faster too.

Does vegan bolognese freeze well?

Yes, it will freeze well up to 6 months which is perfect for batch cooking or meal prep. Allow to thaw overnight in the refrigerator or keep it in room temperature during the day. If you are following a plant-based diet, this habit can help you save time because it freezes so well and tastes just as good when reheated.

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