This Vegan Bolognese features rich, unami flavours that will redefine your expectations of plant-based comfort food. With earthy, meaty mushrooms and hearty lentils, this wholesome and filling vegan dinner invites you to enjoy the flavours of a traditional Bolognese but with a plant based twist.
Welcome back to A Vegan Visit, where we explore the world of vegan cuisine, one delicious dish at a time.
This one-pan Vegan Bolognese is a hearty, aromatic dish that takes inspiration from the popular classic Italian sauce, yet with a compassionate twist. The meat is replaced with a delicious medley of mushrooms and lentils, creating a dish that’s hearty, satisfying, and packed with flavour.
- The written recipe
- Why you’ll love this recipe
- Step by step instructions with photos
- Recipe tips and FAQs
- Other incredible recipes like this one
What is Bolognese and where did it originate?
Bolognese sauce, or “Ragù alla Bolognese,” is a classic Italian sauce that finds its roots in the city of Bologna, Northern Italy.
Traditionally, Bolognese features a slowly simmered tomato and meat-based sauce. However, we’ve created a plant-based version of this Italian classic which uses the unami flavours of wild mushrooms and lentils to re-create a flavoursome vegan alternative.
Why you’ll love this Vegan Bolognese
- Healthful and Wholesome. Our Vegan Bolognese uses a nutrient-rich combination of natural, plant-based ingredients to create a wholesome dish that is high in protein, fibre, vitamins and minerals.
- Hearty and Satisfying. Packed with earthy mushrooms and filling lentils, it’s a meal that leaves you feeling truly satisfied.
- Umami Explosion. Dried wild mushrooms rehydrated in hot water release a unami flavour that is used to infuse the entire dish with a rich, savoury undertone. In addition, ingredients such as garlic, oregano, rosemary and marmite contribute to the complexity of the sauce.
- One Pan Recipe. This lentil and mushroom Bolognese is a one-pan recipe, keeping the washing up to a minimum (what’s not to love about that!).
- Versatile Pasta Pairing. Whilst spaghetti is the traditional choice, you can use penne, fusilli, gluten free or other pasta of choice to pair with this Vegan Bolognese sauce.
How to make this Vegan Bolognese
Make sure to head to the recipe card below for the full recipe and instructions!
Firstly, gather together your ingredients.
Rehydrate the dried wild mushrooms by adding them to a bowl with 250ml boiling water.
Add the olive oil, diced onion and grated carrot to a large pan and set over a medium heat.
Fry the onion and carrot for 10 minutes until softened.
Add the minced garlic to the pan.
Fry the garlic with the vegetables for 2 minutes.
Add 1/2 of the fresh mushrooms to the pan.
Fry the first 1/2 of the fresh mushrooms for 2 minutes until they’ve softened and reduced in size.
Add the remaining fresh mushrooms to the pan.
Fry the second 1/2 of the fresh mushrooms for 2 minutes until they’ve softened and reduced in size.
Roughly dice the rehydrated wild mushrooms and add them to the pan, along with the mushroom soaking water.
Add the remaining ingredients and stir everything together.
Bring the mixture to the boil and simmer for 30-45 minutes or until the lentils are cooked.
Top tips for making Vegan Bolognese
- Reserve the Mushroom Water. When preparing the dried wild mushrooms, it’s not just about rehydration; it’s about capturing and maximising flavour. The water used to rehydrate these mushrooms holds a treasure trove of taste, so be sure to reserve it for the sauce.
- Choose the Right Lentils. The choice of lentils can affect the texture of your Bolognese. While brown and green lentils tend to maintain their shape and add to the hearty feel of the dish, red lentils tend to break down, potentially resulting in a mushy consistency. To keep that perfect bite, opt for brown or green lentils and don’t substitute for red lentils.
- Sensible Seasoning. A well-seasoned dish is a must, but we’ve created this mushroom and lentil and mushroom Bolognese so that the seasoning unfolds during the cooking process. While we recommend checking for seasoning before serving, be mindful of adding extra salt. Salt has been added at various stages of the cooking process and both the marmite and rehydrated mushrooms add saltiness to the dish.
- Storage and Reheating. This Vegan Bolognese sauce reheats wonderfully and is great for meal prepping in bulk. Store any leftovers of the sauce (not the pasta) in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. This dish is also freezer friendly so you can store the sauce in an airtight container in the freezer for up to 3 months. Defrost the Bolognese sauce fully in the fridge before heating gently, in order to maintain the integrity of the dish.
Can I use green or red lentils in this recipe?
It’s best to stick with brown or green lentils, as red lentils tend to break down and could result in a mushy texture.
I don’t have any spaghetti, is it ok to use a different pasta?
Absolutely! You can choose any pasta variety that suits your taste – from penne or fusilli pasta to gluten-free or unique pasta types.
What’s the key to making this Vegan Bolognese extra flavorful?
The secret lies in the reserved mushroom water from rehydrating the wild mushrooms – it’s a flavour booster. This is the brand of dried mushroom that we used for this recipe.
I don’t like Marmite, can I skip it?
Marmite adds a boost of flavour, but you won’t taste it in the finished dish. Therefore, if you’ve got it in the cupboard please do use it, however don’t feel you need to buy a jar especially (you may just need to add a little more seasoning on serving).
Can I make this dish in advance and store it?
Certainly! You can refrigerate or freeze your Vegan Bolognese sauce for enjoying at another time. Store spare sauce (not the pasta) in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 3 days or the freezer for up to 3 months. Just remember to defrost it fully before heating and to reheat it gently to preserve the flavours.
Can I customize this recipe with additional ingredients?
Feel free to get creative with your Vegan Bolognese. Add vegetables or herbs that you love to make it your own.
What size pan should I use for cooking this Bolognese?
We used a 30cm cast iron casserole dish with a lid for making this Bolognese, like this one.
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Loved this Vegan Bolognese? Here are some other delicious weeknight dinners to try!
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The Written Recipe:
- 20 g dried wild mushrooms
- 250 ml boiling water
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 2 medium onions (peeled and finely diced (approx 300g peeled and trimmed weight))
- 2 carrots (peeled and coarsely grated (approx 250g peeled and trimmed weight))
- ¼ tsp salt
- 2 garlic cloves (minced)
- 250 g fresh mushrooms (diced)
- 150 g dry brown lentils (you can substitute for green lentils, but don’t substitute for red lentils)
- 2 tins chopped tomatoes ((2 x 400g tins))
- 2 tsp dried oregano
- 1 tsp dried rosemary
- 2 tbsp tomato puree
- 1 vegetable stock cube
- 1 tsp marmite
- 2 bay leaves
- 2 tbsp fresh basil (chopped)
- 400 g spaghetti (dry weight)
- grated vegan cheese (to taste)
- vegan garlic bread
- Rehydrate the dried wild mushrooms by adding them to a bowl and covering them with 250ml of boiling water. Set the bowl aside for at least 10 minutes whilst you make a start to the bolognese sauce.20 g dried wild mushrooms, 250 ml boiling water
- Add the olive oil to a large pan and then add the diced onion and grated carrots along with 1/4 tsp salt. Fry over a medium heat, stirring occasionally, for 10-12 minutes until the vegetables have softened.1 tbsp olive oil, 2 medium onions, 2 carrots, 1/4 tsp salt
- Add the minced garlic and fry for 2 minutes.2 garlic cloves
- Add 1/2 of the diced fresh mushrooms and fry for 2 minutes until the mushrooms have softened and reduced in size.250 g fresh mushrooms
- Add the remaining 1/2 of the diced fresh mushrooms and fry for 2 minutes until the mushrooms have softened and reduced in size.
- Once the wild mushrooms have rehydrated, drain and **reserve** the mushroom water and roughly chop the rehydrated mushrooms. Add both the chopped rehydrated mushrooms and the mushroom water to the pan.
- Stir in the dry lentils, tinned tomatoes, oregano, rosemary, tomato puree and marmite to the pan. Crumble in the stock cube and stir everything together thoroughly. Add the bay leaves and submerge them in the liquid.150 g dry brown lentils, 2 tins chopped tomatoes, 2 tsp dried oregano, 1 tsp dried rosemary, 2 tbsp tomato puree, 1 vegetable stock cube, 1 tsp marmite, 2 bay leaves
- Bring the mixture to the boil and then reduce the heat. Cover with a lid and simmer for 30-45 minutes or until lentils are cooked, stirring occasionally.
- Whilst the bolognese sauce is simmering, cook the spaghetti according to the packet instructions, drain it and and set it aside.400 g spaghetti
- Once the lentils in the bolognese are cooked, season the bolognese sauce to taste and then remove it from the heat. Stir through the cooked spaghetti and fresh basil.2 tbsp fresh basil
- Serve topped with grated vegan cheese, a side of vegan garlic bread and fresh basil leaves to garnish.grated vegan cheese, vegan garlic bread