This easy lentil bolognese recipe is a quick weeknight meal that just so happens to be vegan and gluten free. It's filled with flavor and a great way to switch up pasta, plus it comes together in under 30 minutes!
Turns out, I'm a huge fan of lentil bolognese! Ok so I already knew I was, and I already knew it was incredibly easy to prepare, but I really like it. The texture of the lentils does a great job at mimicking meat--and include protein--so it really is a complete meal.
Why you'll love this lentil bolognese
- It's vegan AND gluten free, so anyone can enjoy it
- It comes together in under 30 minutes, making it a quick weeknight dinner
- The flavor is incredible and it's a great way to sneak protein into a vegetarian dish
- Lentils: The recipe calls for green or brown lentils because those are going to provide the best texture in this dish. You should be able to find them in the Indian food aisle, or near the rice and beans.
- Mushrooms: White or baby bella work best.
- Diced tomatoes: I always prefer fire roasted diced tomatoes because they have more flavor, but you can use whatever is in your pantry.
- Pasta sauce: Use your favorite kind! I used an arrabbiata sauce for a little extra heat, but any sauce will work.
- Pasta: Again, use what you have. If you want to keep this recipe gluten free, opt for a gluten free pasta.
Step 1: Cook the pasta. This part is easy--just cook pasta over the stovetop as you normally would.
Step 2: Sauté the vegetables. Don't worry, this is easy too! Start by sautéing the onion, garlic, mushrooms, and spices until they're soft. The mushrooms help to add a little more texture and nutrition to this dish, so don't omit them! If you hate mushrooms, use shredded carrots instead.
Step 3: Make the sauce. Add the diced tomatoes, tomato sauce, lentils, and water and stir so that everything is mixed together. For the diced tomatoes, don't drain out any of the liquid; instead, pour the entire can into the skillet. Bring the bolognese to a simmer and simmer for approximately 25 minutes, stirring occasionally until the lentils are cooked. If it seems too thick, add an additional ¼ cup of water.
Make sure to do a taste test before serving! I used arrabbiata sauce (spicy tomato sauce) and the ½ teaspoon red pepper flakes, which I thought was the perfect amount of flavor. If you use a more traditional sauce and want to add more spice, add more red pepper flakes. Or, omit the spice altogether and add some chopped fresh basil.
FAQs and Expert Tips
Can I substitute red lentils?
I wouldn't, and here's why. Though red lentils may seem quite similar to green and brown, they're actually going to provide an entirely different texture because they fall apart when cooked, therefore creating a mushier texture. The green or brown lentils will actually have a little bit of a bite to them--they'll be cooked of course, but certainly not mushy.
How should I store this?
Be sure to store any leftover pasta in an air-tight container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.
Can you freeze bolognese?
Yep! If you want to make this ahead and store it in the freezer, wait until it comes to room temperature, then transfer it to a plastic freezer-safe bag and freeze it for up to 3 months.
- To reheat: invert the plastic bag and dump the bolognese into a large pot or dutch oven. Add ¾ cup water, then bring mixture to a simmer. Place a lid on top, and simmer it for 25-30 minutes until it's completely thawed.
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If you made and enjoyed this recipe, please leave a comment and star rating below!
Lentil Bolognese Recipe (vegan + gluten free)
- .75 lb. favorite gluten free pasta
- ½ cup yellow onion diced
- 3 garlic cloves minced
- 1 cup white mushrooms diced
- 1 teaspoon oregano
- ½ teaspoon red pepper flakes
- pinch of salt and pepper
- 14 oz. fire roasted diced tomatoes
- 24 oz. favorite pasta sauce*
- 1 cup lentils (green or brown) rinsed
- 2 cups water or more (see notes)
- Cook the pasta over the stove as you normally would.
- In a large skillet, add the onion, garlic, mushrooms, oregano, red pepper, salt and pepper, along with 1 tablespoon olive oil, and sauté for 3-5 minutes until the onion and mushrooms are soft.
- Next, add the diced tomatoes, tomato sauce, lentils and water and stir to combine. Place a lid on the skillet, bring mixture to a boil, then reduce heat to low and simmer it for 18-25 minutes, or until lentils are cooked, stirring occasionally.
- Serve lentil bolognese over pasta, sprinkle with additional red pepper flakes (+ parmesan cheese if not vegan) and enjoy!
Great recipe! I added smoked paprika and it was delicious. Thanks for this.
I made this as written with a few additions. I added 1 whole vidalla onion chopped and 8 ounces of baby Bella mushrooms chopped. I also added 2 TB of tomato paste to the vegetables. I brought the lentils and sauce to a boil and then reduced to low for 40 minutes covered and then uncovered for 10 minutes. The lentils were cooked nicely and this was not watery at all.....possibly due to the additional vegetables and the increased cook time. This was a wonderful dish that everyone in my family loved. Thanks for sharing.
Love the additions your made, and so glad everyone enjoyed it!
Hello. The picture looks amazing. I would love to try to make this. Due to the comments about this being too watery due to the water needed to cook the lentils..........should I cook the lentils in a separate pot and then just add them in at the end without adding additional water to the recipe to prevent this from being watery?
Hi! You can if you want to... I've made this several times and never had that issue. If you want, you could start with just 2 cups of water, and then make sure to stir occasionally and if the lentils aren't cooked after 20 minutes then I'd add the extra 1/2 cup water. Give that a try and let me know how it turns out!
I unfortunately found this to be way too watery - the diced tomatoes have water in the can and the amount extra water created a soup. It didn’t thicken up even after over 20 mins of simmering. Could this be changed to only 1 cup of water? Delicious flavor but sadly not thick enough.
Hi Jasmine -- I'm so sorry this didn't work out. Did you stir it occasionally while it was simmering? That should help it to thicken. Typically without adding the extra water, the lentils won't cook.
You can't beat a classic spag bol! I agree about only using green or brown lentils. I make mine with green lentils and they stay nice and firm. Looking forward to giving your version of a vegan bolognese a try 🙂
darlene Scholten says
aS A Diabetic i was not able to make this as the carbohydrate count was too high.What might you suggest.
Maybe "Zoodles" .... zucchini cut into ribbons/noodles to replace the pasta?
Yeah, you probably want to skip meals with pasta.
Kandie Kane says
I cheated a lil bit and added pork and beef. But you'll be proud that I used the mushrooms. This was my first time trying this and in fact, I'd never heard of it. Isn't it amazing how food brings culture together! I also used tri colored pasta for fun. Very easy. Very delicious. Thanks!
Laura Wellfair says
This was a lovely meal and everyone enjoyed it could only get normal tin chopped tomatoes. I will be making this again .
Thanks Laura--glad it was a hit!
Margie Sutej says
I have a lot of recently ripened Roma tomatoes I need to use up. Could I use those and what extra spices do I need to add?
Yes you could use those! I don't think you'll need to add extra spices.. maybe just a little extra salt and/or red pepper flakes.
This was delicious! It was an easy prep too. I used Raos Marinara. I wanted to
make it spicy but I knew my littles
one wouldn’t like it so I just added red pepper flakes to
mine. I would make this again!
I'm looking for recipes with high protein and easy to cook and found this one. Will canned lentils be ok?
I think you can use canned lentils, but you won't need to cook this for nearly as long. I'd combine everything and then simmer for maybe 5 minutes? Let me know how it turns out!
If using canned lentils. Do I omit the 2 1/2 cups water?
Apologies for the delay -- you would still need to add water, but definitely not as much. I'd add 1/2 cup and go from there.
Loved it! So easy and delicious!
Made this Bolognese recipe today and it turned out great! My husband loved it over pasta and I ate it over my roasted potatoes!!! It turned out a bit more watery than I thought it would but still delicious. I used 1/2 reg sauce and 1/2 Arrabbiata sauce only because my husband doesn’t like really spicy foods. Thank you for a fabulous recipe!
Absolutely delicious! Even my meat-loving son gobbled it up....and it is so easy to make.
This just made my day Stacy! So glad your son liked it 🙂
Could this be done with red lentils? I don’t know my lentils very well but I have a huge package of red waiting to be used.
Technically yes, though the texture will be off. I believe red lentils cook more quickly than green/brown, so if you go that route, I wouldn't cook them for as long.
Hi, Will green lentils work also? Seems I bought the wrong kind!
Yes! Green or brown lentils work great.
Excited to make this. I am allergic to mushrooms -- what would you substitute?
Hi! If you can't do mushrooms, I'd try shredded carrots instead.
Simple and very tasty! Husband approved too. Will definitely make this again.
That's awesome--I'm glad it's husband approved!
Daniel Saucedo says
Just “converted” to veganism & have been looking for tasty recipes. I’m currently making this and cannot wait. Thank you so much!
Do you use canned lentils or dried? Thanks!
I also used dried lentils and they had to cook for over an hour. I don't understand how yours cooked in 15minutes.
Hi! I just adjusted the recipe to add more water, but they shouldn't take any more than 25 minutes to cook. Make sure you rinse the lentils beforehand, and that you bring the mixture to a boil first, then reduce heat to a simmer for 20-25 minutes. Hope this helps!
Thanks, I'll try that next time.
sometimes adding salt with the water can increase the cooking time of legumes. Also, if they are older they are older they can take longer. If you want to be on the safe side you can also soak them while preparing the rest, then drain and add them.
This recipe is so so delicious!! Will definitely be making it again!
Rochelle Zirdum says
I was delighted to learn that this dish tastes SO much richer as a leftover! I brought a big batch in for work and am munching away in tastebud heaven!
Looks delish! I love to add red wine to my vegan Bolognese sauce 🙂