This Easy Vegan Lentil Bolognese is the perfect comforting but healthy meal!
Growing up, my mom’s spaghetti was a weekly staple in our dinner rotation and one of my absolute favorite recipes. I always looked forward to the comforting dish, and as an adult, I’ve found myself looking for that similar comfort but with a vegan twist.
Most spaghetti sauces use ground beef, but since we’re all about the vegan recipes at Tasting to Thrive, I knew it was time for me to share my spin on lentil tomato sauce. I know that making your own tomato sauce can seem intimidating, but it’s actually super simple! It does take a little bit of time to simmer and develop the flavors, but most of the cooking time is inactive, besides the occasional stir.
Whenever I’m trying to veganize a recipe, I think about what role the meat or dairy plays in the dish in terms of taste, texture, and nutrition. For example, in spaghetti sauce, ground beef typically provides texture, fat and protein. When making this vegan, red lentils provide a similar texture. We can use the same spices used in spaghetti sauce to make it have a similar flavor, and lentils are also an incredible source of plant-based protein and iron. Just one cup of cooked lentils has 18 grams of protein and 36% of our daily needs of iron. Pairing the lentils with tomatoes provides a source of vitamin C to help increase the absorption of plant-based iron!
I shared a poll on my Instagram stories asking whether you would prefer me to use canned tomatoes or a pre-made jarred tomato sauce for this recipe, and the majority said canned tomatoes. I’ve opted for no salt added diced tomatoes, but whole tomatoes would also work fine, they may just need to be broken up a little bit while cooking. If you do want to use a jarred tomato sauce for this recipe, I’d recommend cooking the lentils separately since they’ll absorb some of the liquid from the tomato sauce.
Traditional bolognese sauce uses milk for a creamy texture, and usually uses thicker pasta noodles to hold onto that sauce. This an untraditional spin on bolognese, since we haven’t used any milk in the sauce- think of this more as a red sauce recipe. Traditional tomato sauce also uses a small amount of sugar to counteract the acidity of the tomatoes, but to be honest, I didn’t feel like this recipe needed it. But, feel free to add a tablespoon of sugar of your choice if you prefer!
Main Ingredients in this Lentil Bolognese
Diced Tomatoes: I’ve chosen canned, no salt added diced tomatoes for this recipe because they’re easily accessible, and most of us probably have a can of them on hand! Canned tomatoes are a great pantry staple to have on hand since they’re so versatile and packed with vitamin C and A!
Red Lentils: Red lentils are the star of the show in this recipe! Red lentils cook the fastest out of all of the lentils, making this pasta sauce come together more quickly. Lentils are packed with plant-based protein, fiber and iron, making them a nutrition powerhouse!
Herbs: I’ve kept this lentil tomato sauce relatively simple, with just the basic ingredients and some dried oregano and basil for flavor. If you’re using fresh herbs, triple the amount and add at the end to wilt into the sauce.
Garlic and Onion: Garlic and onion are a staple in this recipe. I’ve even added a little bit of garlic powder to intensify the flavor even further.
How to Make this Lentil Bolognese
- In a large saucepan over medium heat, add olive oil and sauté the onion and garlic until the onion is translucent. I recommend adding the garlic a few minutes into the cooking so that it doesn’t burn.
- Once onion translucent, add canned tomatoes (with their juices), tomato paste, lentils, oregano, basil, salt and pepper.
- Bring sauce to a simmer, cover and let simmer for 30-40 minutes, until lentil are tender, stirring occasionally.
- Once done, cook pasta as per package instructions. Serve and enjoy!
- I’ve used red lentil in this recipe, but other lentils would taste great, too. Just note that other types of lentils, like green and brown, take longer to cook than red.
- I’ve used no salt added diced tomatoes in this recipe so I can control the amount of salt added. If you only have diced tomatoes with salt added, adjust the salt to your taste preferences.
- If you’re using a type of tomato other than diced, be aware that cooking times may vary.
This Easy Vegan Lentil Bolognese is packed with flavor and takes less than an hour to make!
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 1 yellow onion diced
- 3 cloves garlic minced
- 796 mL diced tomatoes (no salt added) with their juices (28 fl oz)
- 156 mL tomato paste 5.5 fl oz
- 3/4 cup red lentils rinsed
- 1½ tsp dried oregano
- 1 tsp dried basil
- 1/2 tsp garlic powder
- 1/2 tsp salt or to taste
- 1/2 tsp black pepper or to taste
- 454 g pasta of choice
In a large saucepan over medium heat, add olive oil and sauté the onion and garlic until the onion is translucent. I recommend adding the garlic a few minutes into the cooking so that it doesn't burn.
Once onion translucent, add canned tomatoes (with their juices), tomato paste, lentils, oregano, basil, salt and pepper.Bring sauce to a simmer, cover and let simmer for 30-40 minutes, until lentil are tender, stirring occasionally.
Once done, cook pasta as per package instructions. Serve and enjoy!
Looking for more pasta recipes? Check these out!
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