One-Pot Lentil Bolognese is hearty, flavorful, protein-packed and perfect served over spaghetti! Sure to become a staple recipe in your home.

looking down on a big plate of spaghetti and red meaty sauce

This vegetarian bolognese doesn’t rely on jarred marinara sauce, but is instead made from scratch with pantry staples like lentils, crushed tomatoes and dried herbs. For best results, make sure to use quality canned tomato products, since they make up the bulk of the dish.

Lentil bolognese is a “stick to your ribs” kind of meal, especially served over spaghetti. It’s comforting, classic, SO satisfying and a vegan recipe everyone can get on board with!

How to make it

  1. In a large skillet or pot, sauté the chopped onion, carrot and celery in a little olive oil until soft, 5-6 minutes. Add the garlic and cook 1 more minute.
  2. Pour in crushed tomatoes, tomato sauce, tomato paste, dried herbs, a teaspoon of sugar and salt, and stir together to combine.
  3. Stir in lentils (uncooked) and 2 cups of water. Stir, bring to a boil then simmer on low heat for 25-30 minutes.
  4. Stir frequently to prevent lentils from sticking to the bottom and burning. Add a little more water if the sauce gets too thick. The sauce will be thick and flavorful!

collage of how to make lentil bolognese in 4 steps

Tips

  • If you only have green or brown lentils, they will work but be more obvious in the sauce. Red lentils are a bit more broken down when cooked and they incorporate better in the sauce.
  • The recipe makes a lot! Enough for about 8 good sized servings over pasta. You can cut the recipe in half if you’d like, or freeze it. Leftovers keep in the refrigerator for 3-4 days as well, and reheat well.
  • When simmering, keep the heat nice and low, so it’s simmering but not boiling too hard, or the lentils may have a hard time cooking. Add water as needed.
  • Gluten-free: The lentil bolognese is gluten free already, so simple serve over gluten free pasta. I used brown rice spaghetti in the photos.

a fork swirling sauce and spaghetti around it on a plate

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square image of spaghetti and red thick sauce
5 stars (12 ratings)

Lentil Bolognese

One-Pot Lentil Bolognese is hearty, flavorful, protein-packed and perfect served over spaghetti! Sure to become a staple recipe in your home.
Prep: 10 mins
Cook: 40 mins
Total: 50 mins
Servings: 8 servings

Ingredients 
 

  • 1-2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 medium yellow onion, chopped small
  • 2 medium carrots, peeled and finely diced
  • 1 stalk celery, finely diced
  • 6-8 cloves garlic, minced
  • 28 ounces canned crushed tomatoes
  • 15 ounce can tomato sauce
  • 3 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 2 tablespoons dried basil
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt, or more to taste
  • 1/2-1 teaspoon red pepper flakes, optional
  • 2 cups uncooked red lentils
  • 2 cups water, more as needed to thin sauce

For serving

Instructions 

  • In a large skillet or pot, warm the olive oil over medium heat. Add the chopped onion, carrots and celery and sauté for 5-6 minutes until softened.
  • Now add the minced garlic and cook for 1 more minute until fragrant.
  • Pour in the crushed tomatoes, tomato sauce, tomato paste, basil, oregano, sugar, salt and optional red pepper flakes. Stir well until smooth and combined.
  • Add the lentils and 2 cups of water to the pot and stir well. Bring the mixture to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer for 25-30 minutes. Stir every 5-10 minutes to make sure the lentils don't stick to the bottom and burn. Add another 1/2 cup water or so if needed to thin the sauce if it gets too thick.
  • The lentils should be tender and the sauce thick and flavorful. Serve over spaghetti or other pasta of choice and sprinkle with vegan parmesan if desired. Enjoy!

Notes

  1. Gluten-free: The lentil bolognese sauce is gluten free, simply serve over gluten free pasta.
  2. You can substitute green or brown lentils for the red lentils. They will be more obvious in the sauce, but still good.
  3. This recipe makes quite a bit of sauce, making it perfect for meal prep. It will keep in the refrigerator for 3-4 days, and freezes very well.

Nutrition

Serving: 1serving | Calories: 245kcal | Carbohydrates: 43g | Protein: 15g | Fat: 3g | Saturated Fat: 1g | Sodium: 767mg | Potassium: 1074mg | Fiber: 18g | Sugar: 10g | Vitamin A: 3130IU | Vitamin C: 19mg | Calcium: 109mg | Iron: 7mg
Course: Main
Cuisine: American, Italian
Author: Nora Taylor
Did you make this recipe?Mention @nora_cooks_vegan_ or tag #noracooks!

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Comments

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

  1. 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!

  2. 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!

  3. 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!

  4. 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!

  5. 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!

  6. 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.

  7. 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!

  8. 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!

  9. 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!

  10. 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!

  11. 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! 

  12. 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!! 

  13. 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.

  14. 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.

  15. 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!

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

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