This easy 1-Pot Lentil Bolognese recipe puts a plant based spin on the classic Italian sauce. With almost addictively rich flavors and plenty of protein, it’s a satisfying vegan dinner!

Want to include hearty lentils in your dinner routine more often? Try The Best Lentil Soup, Lentil Dahl, Lentil Salad and my Best Vegan Lasagna, which features hidden lentils in the sauce.

bowl with pasta and lentils, bread, carrots and lentils around it

Forget everything you know about boring, flavorless pasta sauces; this homemade vegan Lentil Bolognese is so much better!

Traditional bolognese is a popular Italian pasta sauce that slow-cooks beef, sofrito vegetables (onion, carrots, and celery), tomatoes, and Italian seasonings over several hours. My bolognese may be quicker than the classic but it doesn’t lack charm or flavor!

To make this stick to your ribs sauce, I used high-quality pantry staples like lentils, crushed tomatoes, and dried herbs. This keeps the process easy and budget-friendly, so you can always rely on it for everyday family meals or meal prep. Serve it over bowls of pasta for a meal that everyone can get on board with! 

speckled bowl with a fork getting some lentil pasta on it

Why I love this lentil bolognese

  • Simple ingredients, big flavor – Lentils fill this pasta sauce with protein (and fiber) so you stay full for hours. Meanwhile, a handful of vegetables, canned tomatoes, and simple seasonings build on the layers of flavor, making this sauce robust and comforting.
  • Easier than the classic – Not only does my bolognese require fewer ingredients than the classic, but it’s also ready in less than an hour.
  • A meal prep must-have – This recipe makes a ton of sauce, which you can freeze for later and use for quick dinners or your weekly meal prep!

How to make lentil bolognese

Warm the olive oil in a large skillet and sauté the onion for 5 minutes. Add the carrots, garlic, dried spices and salt and cook for 3-4 minutes.

carrots and onions in a pot with spices

Add the tomato paste and cook for about a minute. Pour the wine in (if using) and deglaze the pan, scraping any bits off the bottom.

carrots and onions in a pot, cooked

Add the lentils, walnuts and broth. Stir well, bring to a boil then lower heat and simmer for 40 minutes, until the lentils are tender.

lentils and carrots in a reddish sauce in a pot

Stir in the crushed tomatoes and balsamic vinegar. Cook for an additional 10-15 minutes.

pot with lentils and red sauce in it, unstirred

Scoop it over bowls of cooked pasta of your choice, then garnish with chopped fresh basil and vegan parmesan. Enjoy!

The lentil bolognese is also really good serve with crusty bread, over polenta or even baked potatoes.

pot with rich red lentil bolognese sauce with a ladle

Frequently asked questions

How do you serve lentil bolognese?

Bolognese is best served with spaghetti, pappardelle, and tagliatelle pasta. The sauce clings very well to these long and flat noodles, preventing it from pooling at the bottom of the bowl. Short, tube-shaped pasta noodles, like rigatoni or tubini, work well, too. I used this pappardelle, which is vegan friendly.

Gluten free? The bolognese is naturally gluten free, so feel free to serve it with your favorite gluten free pasta noodles or zucchini noodles instead.

Do you need to soak the lentils overnight?

Soaking lentils isn’t necessary because they cook fairly quickly in this sauce. However, if you want to hurry them along, you can soak them in cool water for 30 minutes before cooking.

What kind of lentils should I use?

I really like the recipe with a firmer lentil, like French green lentils or black lentils. You can use brown, green or even red though. Red lentils will take less time to cook.

Can you freeze lentil bolognese?

Yes, the sauce freezes very well! To do so, wait for the sauce to cool before transferring it to an airtight container, then freeze for up to 6 months.

square image of wide noodles with chunky lentil sauce in a bowl
5 stars (16 ratings)

1-Pot Lentil Bolognese

This easy 1-Pot Lentil Bolognese recipe puts a plant based spin on the classic Italian sauce. With almost addictively rich flavors and plenty of protein, it’s a satisfying vegan dinner!
Prep: 10 minutes
Cook: 55 minutes
Total: 1 hour 5 minutes
Servings: 8 servings


  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 medium yellow onion diced
  • 2 medium carrots peeled and diced
  • 6 cloves garlic minced
  • 1 teaspoon dried basil
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon red chili flakes optional
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 3 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1/2 cup dry red wine optional
  • 1 cup lentils I used French green lentils
  • 1 cup finely chopped walnuts
  • 4 cups vegetable broth
  • 14 ounce can crushed tomatoes
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar

For serving

  • 12-16 ounces wide noodle pasta or pasta of choice
  • Vegan Parmesan


  • In a large skillet, warm the olive oil over medium heat, then add the chopped onion and sauté for 5 minutes until translucent.
  • Add the carrots, garlic, basil, oregano, chili flakes and salt and sauté for 3-4 minutes.
  • Add the tomato paste and stir into the other ingredients for about 1 minute. Pour the wine in and deglaze the pan, scraping any bits off the bottom. Let the wine cook off for about 2 minutes.
  • Now add the lentils, walnuts and broth. Stir everything together well and bring to a boil. Once boiling, lower the heat and simmer for 40 minutes,  stirring every 10 minutes or so, until the lentils are tender. If needed, add a little water. The mixture should be thick once the lentils are tender. Don't turn the heat too high, or the broth/water will evaporate but the lentils won't get soft. A gentle simmer is what you want.
  • Stir in the crushed tomatoes and balsamic vinegar. Add additional salt to taste. Simmer for another 10-15 minutes.
  • Serve with cooked wide noodle pasta or any other pasta you like. It's also good with crusty bread and perhaps a sprinkle of vegan parmesan. Enjoy!


  1. Nutritional information is for the lentil sauce, and does not include any pasta.
  2. You may use another kind of lentil, like black, green, brown or even red.
  3. For nut free, leave out the walnuts or use shelled hemp seeds instead.
  4. For gluten free, serve with gluten free pasta.


Serving: 1serving | Calories: 269kcal | Carbohydrates: 27g | Protein: 10g | Fat: 14g | Saturated Fat: 1g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 7g | Monounsaturated Fat: 4g | Sodium: 889mg | Potassium: 589mg | Fiber: 10g | Sugar: 6g | Vitamin A: 3051IU | Vitamin C: 10mg | Calcium: 67mg | Iron: 3mg
Course: Main
Cuisine: American, Italian
Author: Nora Taylor
Did you make this recipe?Mention @nora_cooks_vegan_ or tag #noracooks!

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  1. This is one of my long-time favorite recipes and I see you have made edits to it in 2024. Would it be possible to post the old version somewhere too so we can make both kinds since the changes seem relatively significant? Thank you!

  2. Comes together very easily, and has great flavor. I’m always looking for ways to eat more lentils and this is definitely one of my favorites after making it today!

  3. I love this Bolognese so much. I could eat it every day. So easy too. Making some right now. I can’t wait to eat.

  4. Just tried this recipe and my carnivore husband loved it! So good! The added pop of pepper flakes gave it a bit more tang. Will make this a lot!

    1. Hi Carolyn. So glad to hear this will be part of your meal rotation! Thank you for sharing your fabulous feedback!

  5. This recipe was great. I was looking to make a pasta with no processed vegan meat. I will add this to my meal rotation. I added liquid smoke.

    1. Hi Shana. I’m glad you loved the recipe and are adding it to your meal rotation! Thank you for sharing your feedback!

  6. Delicious!  There are only three of us, so I cut the recipe in half; everyone went back for seconds and I still have enough for a couple of lunches.  Everyone agreed this should be added to our regular rotation.  Thank you for sharing it with us!

    1. Hi Debora! I’m thrilled you guys loved the recipe, and that this is going to be part of your meal rotation! Thanks so much for taking your time to share your wonderful review and comments! Happy cooking!

  7. Love this recipe!  I use it over steamed cabbage, the stuffing for stuffed zucchini and of course over pasta. Thanks!

    1. Hi Melissa. I’m so glad you are loving the bolognese! Thanks so much for sharing your review and great serving ideas!

  8. Yummmm I had it with zoodles and nutritional yeast. One thing that was a bit annoying was getting the lentils unstuck every few minutes, but it was well worth it!

  9. This was a big hit for a group of us 4 parents – 7 kids! I had done a different lentil bolognese from another chef, and it seemed bland… blah… I am SO glad that I gave this one a try. My friends’ husband had 4 helpings! Lol. Thanks for sharing with us, Nora!

  10. Can I use green lentils or a bag of mixed lentils? I want to make this for dinner tonight but only have about a half cup of the red lentils. 

    1. Sure, that’s fine to do! The lentils will just be a bit more noticeable in the sauce, but that’s not really a problem.

    2. This page wouldn’t let me make my own comment, I could only reply to Hannah for some odd reason. Anyway, this recipe is great but even after following the recipe to the T the lentils took over an hour to cook. Perhaps the lentils need to be cooked or soaked before adding?

      1. Hi Gus. Did you use red lentils or green/brown lentils? Red lentils don’t take as long to cook as green/brown and don’t need to be soaked beforehand.

  11. I made this for the first time tonight and the flavors are fantastic. Looking forward to the leftovers. I may add some sliced mushrooms next time!

  12. Venturing out & trying other legumes & whole grains besides beans & brown rice. I get such a wider variety of delcious food eating whole food, plant-based than I ever did when I ate dairy. This was delicious! It’s just 2 of us so will freeze the rest of the sauce after we eat it once or twice more tomorrow. The only thing I did different was sauteed the veggies in water (I never use oil & water works the same for me). I used stevia, 1/2 tsp of salt & whole grain. Thanks for making my 1st experiment w/ legumes such a fun & nutritious & tasty one!

  13. We had this on pasta a week or so ago. It was great , but even better just to eat by the spoonful! We froze the leftovers, and it tasted just as good as when it was fresh. Thanks for another great recipe!

  14. Easy, quick and delicious for the whole family! You make vegan food accessible, affordable and super tasty, anyone can be vegan if they eat your food! Thank you!

  15. This has fast become one of my staples when I want to have a quick, vegan dinner, thanks again Nora!

    I soak the lentils first and then rinse.  Today I used fresh basil since I had it on hand. Wow, amazing! Can’t wait for leftovers tomorrow! 

  16. Delicious!  Made this last night and it makes a GOB!! I’m going to try and freeze some to see how it holds up ?
    This recipe minus the lentils  is equally good and will be my new Italian red sauce recipe.  I’m new to your site and am anxious to see what else your cookin up Nora!! 

  17. Delicious. I was looking for a substitute to meat spaghetti for when I feel like eating vegetarian. I made a half batch and it was really good.

  18. I feel like I’ve died and gone to heaven. This Bolognese sauce is unbelievable!! Very simple recipe with ingredients most people already have in their kitchen. This will definitely become a staple recipe in my household.

  19. I loved this! So hearty and flavorful! I made it as written, and had to simmer it longer and add a bit more water…maybe the heat was too high. It makes a ton (I only made 1/2 the recipe!), and I wanted to eat it ALL. Very satisfying! I will make this frequently!

  20. Gosh Nora! It’s amazing how many great recipes you make every week!
    Super excited to try this very soon. ?

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