This tasty vegetarian and vegan green lentil bolognese is the perfect weeknight dinner, packed with veggies and green lentils in a rich tomato sauce. This bolognese sauce is kid friendly and sure to win over anyone who tries it.
I’ve made this lentil bolognese, like, a bajillion times in the last year. What is not to love about a big heaping bowl of spaghetti bolognese?
Step away from the meat subs though, because a can of green lentils is every bit as easy to pull out of the cupboard as a bag of faux meat crumbles.
And with so many more nutritional benefits.
A quick and easy tomato sauce can be hard to get right, and I’ve made several iterations that were just OK. Lentils are relatively flavorless and so you do need a lot of flavor boosters to make this super tasty.
That’s where the red wine, vegan Worcestershire sauce, cherry tomatoes and sundried tomato paste all come into play. They all help to create a nice flavorful ragu in just around an hour.
An hour is really the quickest I could manage for a really great tasting sauce.
You’re going to take your time cooking the veggies first, getting them a little bit browned and caramelized, to get as much sweetness as possible from those onions, peppers and carrots.
You’ll then add your tomato paste and wine, and let that cook down for a few minutes before stirring in the canned tomatoes and letting it all simmer for a while longer.
If you don’t have all of these fancy schmancy ingredients…
So you want to make a tasty lentil bolognese but you don’t want to go buying sundried tomato paste or canned cherry tomatoes or vegan Worceshire sauce, and you came to me because you wanted something simple, dammit.
I use all these things to make sure the bolognese comes out super yummy in the hour or so it takes to cook it. But another way to achieve great flavor is to simply make your lentil bolognese the day before.
Because like all tomato based sauce, this tastes so much better the next day. A night in the fridge really helps the flavor to develop.
So if this is your plan, go ahead and leave out anything you don’t have / swap in normal tomatoes / tomato paste, and don’t worry too much.
It’s going to be great.
Do I need to add wine to my bolognese?
The wine is a huge source of flavor in this recipe. And after many tests, I have to conclude that it definitely tastes better with the wine.
If you’re making this for kids, you may be wondering whether it’s safe to include. That is an entirely personal decision, but with just 1/4 cup of wine in here, and 6 portions per batch, there are only 2 teaspoons of wine in each serving.
And one precaution is to let it simmer for at least an hour to maximize how much alcohol is cooked out.
If that doesn’t sound like enough wine, well go right ahead and double it! This is a decision you will not regret.
(If you love cooking with booze, can I also point you towards my Baileys chocolate pots for dessert?)
There’s more where this came from!
Love family friendly pasta recipes? Of course you do! These might float your boat too – I’ve got a couple other takes on spaghetti bolognese, and a couple other lentil pasta ideas too.
Green Lentil Spaghetti Bolognese
- 1 small carrot, chopped into small pieces
- ½ medium red onion, minced
- 1 red bell pepper, chopped into small pieces
- 250 g (9 oz) portobello mushrooms, sliced
- 5-6 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 Tbsp mixed Italian dried herbs
- 60 ml (0.25 cups) red wine, (or a splash of balsamic vinegar)
- 2-3 tsp vegan Worcestershire sauce, or 1 Tbsp of something like mushroom ketchup / brown sauce
- 400 g (14 oz) can of green lentils, drained and rinsed (if you're not using canned, it's about 1 and 1/2 cups of cooked lentils)
- 4 Tbsp of tomato paste
- 2 Tbsp of sundried tomato paste
- 400 g (14 oz) can of whole plum tomatoes
- 400 g (14 oz) can of cherry tomatoes
- 500 g (18 oz) package of dried spaghetti
- In a large skillet or pan, heat some olive oil and saute your carrots, onion and peppers until soft.
- Add the mushrooms and continue to saute all of the vegetables until they are starting to brown, and the liquid from the mushrooms has mostly cooked off.
- Add the garlic and herbs and and cook for another minute until fragrant.
- Add the tomato paste and Worcestershire sauce. Mix into the vegetables, then pour in the wine and let the mixture bubble and reduce for a few minutes.
- Add the lentils and stir through.
- Add both cans of tomatoes. Bring to bubbling, and then simmer for about 30 minutes more.
- Cook your spaghetti according to package instruction.
- Serve. Spoon spaghetti into each bowl and top with a few ladles full of bolognese sauce.
Is the nutritional value per portion?
Yes, it’s an estimate per portion and based on 4 fairly massive portions. Your asking prompted me go back and double check what I put into the calculator and I realised that there was a small error which I’ve now fixed – it’s made the calorie estimate a bit less!
I’ve never tried a bolognese sauce because I can never find one that’s vegan. But this, my friend, looks superb. Am saving it for later. Thanks for sharing.
I love comfort foods. Your recipe sounds like a great one. YUm yum in my tum
Pure soul food Christine! It´s acutally what I eat a lot. Follow you on Pinterest now. Claudia x
Hi, can you add fiber info to this recipe. I’m always trying to eat more fiber in my foods. I can tell this will have fiber because it has lentils, but it sure would be nice to see the fiber nutritional data. thanks!
Hi Jeanne! Looks like fiber was switched off in my recipe cards so I’ve edited it to put it back in. One serving of this recipe is estimated at 9.2g or 37% of the daily requirement. This is based on white pasta – use wholewheat to up that even more!
The directions mention sautéing onion, but there is no onion mentioned in the ingredients list. What do you recommend?
Oh no! Thanks for pointing this out, I have updated the recipe card. 1/2 red onion, minced.
Tip for the vegan Worcestershire sauce/mushroom ketchup/brown sauce step as I don’t have any of these in the house – a good dollop of Marmite is magical!
Doesn’t actually make it taste of Marmite at all but does add a real depth of flavour as well as slightly thickening the sauce.
Goes in all my bolognese/chilli/warming stew type dishes (and goes really well with red wine).
My sister got me onto this and I love it so hope I can pass it on to someone else 🙂
Brilliant tip! I had totally forgotten about marmite. Thank you!
In your ingredients you say Worcestershire sauce, but its not in the method. At what stage do you add it please?
I never comment on recipes, but really wanted to thank you. Not everybody is going to have certain ingrediants to hand, or even the finances perhaps to afford certain ingrediants. Allowing for this and creating a flexible recipe, you show real respect. Its so mindful, refreshing and appreciated.
I’m self employed and, weathering covid, can’t afford to make my usual meals or go-to veggie bolognaise right now. Wine, shallots, mushrooms, sundried tomatoes etc in any guise are simply not an option anymore.
A born veggie, I always have a ton of green lentils etc in the cupboard and was looking for ways to make our now v frugal bolognaise something to once again look forward to cooking and eating. A dash of balsamic is brilliant and brilliantly inexpensive / something we always have in. It also made me think, why not also add a dash of Winniary Liquid Seasoning (which we always have in and rely on doubly now as we can’t stretch to buying mushroom ketchup anymore).
Again, thanks for helping to cheer up a home cook and the folk I’m trying to cook for. Esp’ during hard times like these, having everyone look forward to dinner again…it makes a real difference.
Thank you so very much for your feedback, and for the reminder too that inexpensive options are more important than ever and something I need to continue to be mindful of. With an abundance of green lentils in the cupboards you’ve got some great options. I also have a green lentil dal recipe if that’s your taste, and green lentil tacos, burritos and enchiladas which could be worth a look. Some of those use more expensive ingredients as toppings but they’re easily swapped around. Please feel free to email me if you ever want to bounce some ideas around. I am so sorry that Covid has affected your household the way that it has, I agree that it’s so vital to have dinners to look forward to. Again, I really do appreciate the reminder of how important it is to offer options in my recipes and to be conscious of the current economical situation and I am so pleased that you had a good experience here.
This is better than spag bol made with beef!!
Aww thanks so much! That is a win!
I’ve just made this and it’s so tasty. I will definitely be making it again. I went out and bought any ingredients that I didn’t have in and made it exactly to the recipe and it is absolutely delicious. Thank you.
I am delighted to hear this Nicola, and thank you for taking the time to leave your feedback! 🙂