This easy lentil bolognese sauce is rich in flavor and packed with nutrients. This meat-free version of the classic Italian sauce can be served in many ways, not only over spaghetti.
Why make this lentil bolognese recipe?
Easy vegetarian recipe with detailed instructions and recipe notes.
It’s suitable for various diets – vegetarians, vegans, it’s dairy and gluten-free.
Alcohol-free – this recipe does not contain any wine.
It’s good for you – this vegetarian lentil bolognese sauce is packed with vitamins, nutrients and protein.
How to make lentil bolognese sauce
Finely diced carrots, celery and minced onion are sautéed together for about 10 minutes. I stir everything from time to time to avoid possible burning.
After, make a space in the middle and add minced garlic. Stir it around for about a minute or until it releases its aroma.
Then you can add the rest of the ingredients. Water, pureed tomatoes, salt, pepper, basil and cooked lentils. Give everything a good mix and cook until ready.
Storage and shelf life
This bolognese sauce with lentils will last at least 3 days in an airtight container in the fridge. It can also be frozen for later use (make sure to use a freezer-friendly container and leave enough free space so it can expand without a problem).
This meat free bolognese sauce is delicious over pasta, zucchini noodles (zoodles), but you can serve it with spaghetti squash and even with rice (what about Coconut Rice), if you like.
Tips for making the best lentil bolognese sauce
- When using ready cooked lentils, all you have to do is cook the sauce until the veggies (carrots and celery) are soft (or to your liking). The cooking time may vary. This will depend on the freshness of the vegetables as well as their size. Count with 20-30 minutes. In general, old vegetables need more cooking time.
- I don’t recommend using dry lentils as you would need more liquid and they might take way longer to cook. Note that the acidity in tomatoes also slows down the cooking process which means you could end up cooking them for longer than expected.
- Do check this lentil bolognese sauce a few times during the simmering process and stir it from time to time. If you see that there is not enough liquid, add more. If you feel that the bolognese sauce is too thin to your liking, you can thicken it with double concentrated tomato puree.
- You can use a splash (maybe ¼ cup) of red wine and let it evaporate before adding the lentils, if you like.
- I used thick crushed tomatoes, but you can use marinara sauce, tomato passata or pureed tomatoes instead. Note that each has a different level of thickness, which means that some might need to add more water, while others less.
If you like this meat-free bolognese sauce recipe, you might also like other vegetarian recipes:
Lentil Bolognese Sauce
- 2 tablespoons Olive Oil
- 1 Medium Onion , finely minced (1 cup)
- 1 Large Celery , finely diced (3/4 cup)
- 1 Large Carrot , finely diced (1 cup)
- 4 Garlic Cloves , minced (about a tablespoon)
- 1 cup Water
- 1.5 cup Cooked Lentils
- 1 can Crushed Tomatoes (14-ounce/400 milliliters), see note 1
- ½ teaspoon Salt
- 1/8 teaspoon Black Pepper
- 2 teaspoons Dried Basil , see note 2
- In a medium pot (3-quart/3-liter is perfect), heat the oil. Add minced onion, diced celery and diced carrot. Sauté on medium-high for 10 minutes, stirring from time to time.
- Next, add minced garlic and stir for about a minute or until it releases its aroma.
- Pour in 1 cup of water and add the rest of the ingredients: cooked lentils, crushed tomatoes, salt, pepper and dried basil. Stir well. Bring to a boil and simmer (reduce the heat to medium)until the carrots and celery are cooked through, about 25 minutes (see note 3).
- Crushed tomatoes can be substituted with tomato passata, pureed tomatoes or marinara sauce. They all have slightly different level of thickness so you might need to use more/less water than stated in the recipe.
- Dried basil can be substituted with dried oregano or marjoram.
- The cooking time may vary slightly. Note that the acidity in tomatoes slows down the cooking process and so the carrots and celery will need longer to cook than usual. It will also depend on how fresh they are (the fresh ones take less time to cook).
- If you find the sauce thick, add more liquid. If thin, you can add double concentrated tomato puree.
- More tips and serving suggestion ideas can be found in the post above this recipe card.