“Meaty” vegan dinners are made easy thanks to this Tofu Bolognese sauce! It’s way easier than the traditional Italian pasta sauce and loaded with pan-fried tofu, vegetables, and marinara for a rich and hearty recipe.
Traditionally, bolognese sauce is packed to the gills with ground beef and vegetables, then finished with cream. The hours-long low and slow cooking process is what makes it so magical, infusing rich flavors into every bite.
This Tofu Bolognese recipe is foolproof and fast, but still so flavorful (just like the original). Plus, it’s 100% vegan!
Crumbled tofu acts as the meaty replacement for ground beef. Once pan-fried, the crumbles take on a crisp and tender texture while soaking in the savory and meaty flavors from sauteed mushrooms, marinara sauce, and soy sauce. This easy 30-minute pasta sauce is bursting with meaty goodness while still being completely vegan-friendly.
You can serve vegan tofu bolognese over any pasta you like, from penne to pappardelle, for quick and easy dinners. Make this hearty meal complete with vegan garlic bread and Caesar salad on the side and enjoy!
- A vegan bolognese sauce packed with crispy pan-fried tofu that feels just like real ground beef.
- The pantry-staple ingredients are simple and come together quickly, helping you get this dinner on the table in less than 30 minutes.
- A staple vegan pasta sauce you can make again and again, or freeze for later!
- Pair it with more vegan-friendly Italian favorites, like homemade vegan pizza and vegan eggplant parmesan.
Tofu - Firm or extra firm tofu is best here. It contains less moisture, which means it will crisp easily and replicate the meaty flavor of real ground beef.
Marinara sauce - No canned or crushed tomatoes needed here. This bolognese recipe is extra easy thanks to jarred marinara sauce, which cuts out all of the effort and time of the original recipe.
Soy sauce - Feel free to use tamari or coconut aminos if you need the sauce to be gluten free.
Herbs and spices - You need a blend of red pepper flakes, nutritional yeast, oregano, and salt.
Pasta - While you can scoop the sauce over any pasta noodle you like, bolognese is traditionally served with long, flat, and wide noodles, like tagliatelle or pappardelle. But since this recipe is far from traditional, feel free to use penne, spaghetti, or fettuccine instead.
Step 1: Brown the tofu. Crumble the tofu into an oiled skillet over medium heat. Saute until it’s slightly browned.
Step 2: Cook the veggies. Now add the onion to the skillet and sauté until softened. Next, add the mushrooms and let them cook until most of the water evaporates and they’re slightly softened.
Step 3: Simmer the sauce. Stir the marinara sauce, water, soy sauce, nutritional yeast, red pepper flakes, oregano, and salt into the skillet with the tofu and veggies. Bring it up to a simmer and cook for a few minutes to bring all of the flavors together.
Step 4: Serve. Scoop the bolognese over your favorite pasta noodles and garnish with fresh basil. Enjoy!
Tips and FAQs
- Stir in a splash of dairy free milk or coconut milk at the end to give the sauce a creamy finish.
- You can saute even more vegetables along with the onions and mushrooms. Try adding carrots, celery, bell peppers, or tomatoes.
- Garlic is traditionally NOT included in bolognese recipes. But, if you love that savory flavor, go ahead and saute a minced clove or two with the mushrooms and onions.
I don’t have firm tofu. Is there another variety I can use?
Firm and extra firm tofu are the best options for tofu bolognese because they contain the least amount of water, resulting in firm and tender bites after pan-frying. You might be able to use medium tofu but it will take a while for the moisture to evaporate and crisp up.
Is there a substitute for tofu?
Crumbled tempeh or rehydrated soy curls chopped into small pieces will look, feel, and taste similar to tofu in bolognese sauce. Vegan ground meat, like Impossible Meat or Gardein, can also be used and cooked the same way as the crumbled tofu.
If tofu or vegan “meat” isn’t your thing, use my easy lentil bolognese recipe instead. It’s just as flavorful as this recipe but uses lentils as a wholesome main protein.
What do you serve with vegan bolognese?
Keep the meal Italian-inspired by serving the pasta and sauce with Caesar salad, garlic bread, quinoa meatballs, roasted artichokes, and tomato soup on the side.
If that sounds like a little too much work for you, keep this 30-minute meal easy with other simple side dishes. Lighten up the hearty bites with weeknight broccoli, fried brussels sprouts, or sun-dried tomato salad (without the cheese) served on the side.
It’s best to store the pasta and sauce separately or else the noodles will soak up the sauce and become soggy.
- Refrigerator: Store the cooked and cooled bolognese sauce in an airtight container in the fridge. It will stay fresh and flavorful for up to 5 days.
- Freezer: You can also freeze the sauce (once fully cool) in an airtight container or ziplock bag for up to 3 months.
More vegan pasta recipes
If you made this recipe, be sure to leave a comment and star rating below. Thanks!
- 1 block firm tofu pressed
- 1 tablespoon olive oil plus more as needed
- ¾ cup yellow onion diced
- 1 cup baby bella mushrooms finely chopped
- 24 oz. marinara sauce
- ¼ cup water
- 3 tablespoon soy sauce
- 1 tablespoon nutritional yeast
- ½ teaspoon red pepper flakes
- ¼ teaspoon oregano
- ¼ teaspoon salt plus more to taste
- fresh basil for garnish
- Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Use your hands to crumble the tofu directly into the skillet, then sauté it until it's slightly browned, about 4 minutes.
- To the skillet, add the onion, along with 1-2 tablespoons of olive oil and sauté for 2 minutes. Add the mushrooms and cook for 5 minutes until softened.
- Pour in the marinara sauce, water, soy sauce, nutritional yeast, red pepper flakes, oregano, and salt and stir to combine. Simmer the mixture on medium-low heat for 3-5 minutes.
- Serve bolognese over your favorite pasta, then garnish with fresh basil. Enjoy!
Karyn Geffriaud says
Made it tonight. Delicious!