Vegan Bolognese (Red Lentils)

How to make a red lentil bolognese?


Dried Red Lentils: The main source of protein in this recipe will come from the lentils which are a plant-based protein that can be ideal for vegans and vegetarians but also enjoyed by meat-eaters. I have these stored in bulk at home which makes this recipe budget-friendly because I only need to buy fresh vegetables and few other remaining ingredients. I usually soak the lentils in advance because it helps with digestion.

Celery Sticks: Finely chopped celery sticks 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.

Carrots: In similar vein to celery sticks, I would continue with the tradition and add finely chopped carrots too.

Chopped Tomatoes: I use chopped tomatoes from two cans, which saves time, and I also include 2 teaspoons of tomato purée. However, there are various ways in which you can include tomatoes for the sauce. You could use a decent passata sauce which is actually better for these types of recipes.

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.

Ground Cayenne Pepper: Without any chillies, this recipe will be very bland. I would start off with one teaspoon of ground cayenne pepper or red chilli powder, and perhaps add a touch more to taste. I usually just stick with one main spice for bolognese because I find less is more in terms of the types of spices you use. For example, if you choose red chill powder instead then just stick with that.

Spaghetti: I cooked 200g of spaghetti for this meal prep but you can use zucchini noodles for a low-carbohydrate alternative. I did not record the spaghetti in the nutritional information because I wanted to specifically highlight the macros for the lentil bolognese.

2) Method

This is a one-pot recipe and it is a simple process which you can actually allow to cover and heat for the most part.

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.

Step one: This step is cooking the onions, garlic, celery and carrots which takes around 15 minutes. All the chopping tastes time too, so if you have other recipes during the week for celery and carrots, why not prepare it as a make-ahead ingredient?

Step two: 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.

Serve: 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 recipe, you can either mix it with the spaghetti or keep it separately layered. This does last up to 4 days in the fridge and you can freeze the lentil bolognese up to 3 months. Finally, before you do eat, sprinkle some parmesan cheese on top and season with a touch more chilli flakes!

3) Tips

To make it low-carb: As you can see by the photo, 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 almond pasta.

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.

Use an instant pot: This is a one-pot recipe which you can eventually leave on standby to cook in low heat. For meal prep, I would find using an instant pot handy because while this is cooking, I can cook another one-pot dish which saves time.

Why you will love lentil bolognese?

Plant-based alternative: This recipe is a great source of plant-based protein and is a way to make the lentils more exciting. This meat-free version can be enjoyed by anyone, and as a meat eater myself, I find myself cooking this version more than the red meat version.

Super cheap: I already had most ingredients stored at home and only needed to buy celery sticks and carrots! During the COVID-19 lockdown, when food was flying off the shelves, I found this recipe useful to batch cook.

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Lentil bolognese in a glass meal prep container

Lentil Bolognese

  • Author: Mani
  • Prep Time: 15 Minutes
  • Cook Time: 45 Minutes
  • Total Time: 1 hour
  • Yield: 4 Meal Preps 1x
  • Diet: Vegan


Plant-based bolognese made from red lentils which is a great way to cook up a family-friendly dinner or weekly meal prep. This is a fantastic alternative for vegans and vegetarians, but even if you are a meat-eater, you will be amazed at how similar this will taste to the traditional version. 



  • 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)
  • 1 tbsp Ground Cayenne Pepper
  • Salt and Black Pepper (to taste)
  • 200g Spaghetti
  • Red Chilli Flakes and/or Parmesan Cheese (optional)


Soaking Lentils

  1. I prefer to 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.


  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 and/or parmesan cheese.


  • For meal prep purposes, refrigerate up to 4 days.
  • 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: Meal Prep
  • Method: One-Pot
  • Cuisine: Vegan


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

Keywords: Lentil Bolognese, Red Lentil Bolognese, Vegan Lentil Bolognese, Lentil Bolognese Meal Prep

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