This vegan red lentil bolognese recipe is packed with healthy vegetables and hearty lentils. It's delicious served as a vegan spaghetti bolognese or with soba noodles, or brown rice. But red lentil ragu sauce is also perfect to make dishes such as vegetarian lasagne or a vegan shepherds pie. It's an easy to make healthy midweek dinner, and is great for meal prep.
What you'll love about the recipe
- Suitable for all the family - vegan, gluten free and dairy free. Ideal for meat free Mondays if you are looking to eat less meat!
- Made from store cupboard ingredients. Easy red lentil bolognese is perfect for the end of the week when you're running low on fresh ingredients.
- This red lentil ragu is a good base for lots of comfort food family favourites such as vegan spaghetti bolognese, veggie shepherd's pie and lentil lasagne.
- Budget friendly. You can make six servings of this lentil bolognese sauce for just a couple of pounds.
- Ideal for meal prep. The sauce can be made ahead and reheated. It also freezes well.
- This healthy red lentil bolognese sauce recipe is packed with fibre, vitamins and minerals. Red lentils are also a good vegetarian source of protein.
Ingredients for vegan lentil bolognese
Vegan red lentil bolognese is made mostly from pantry ingredients, plus a few veggies that you may already have in the bottom of the fridge. It's also budget friendly, and healthy and wholesome.
- Lentils: You'll need red lentils for this recipe. Red lentils are perfect in dishes where you want them to soften and thicken the sauce. They don't need soaking, and they cook quickly, so it's best to use a pack of dried red lentils. Red lentils are a great source of fibre, folate, and a number of other vitamins and minerals. They are also an excellent source of plant protein. See here for further information about the health benefits of lentils.
Red lentils are also perfect in soups such as this tomato and red lentil soup or butternut squash soup. They absorb flavour really well.
- Onions, carrot and celery: These veggies make a great tasty base for a red lentil bolognese. I usually chop the veg for this recipe in the food processor, as it's good to have them finely and evenly chopped
- Canned tomatoes and tomato puree: Doubling up with both canned tomatoes and puree adds extra depth of tomato-y flavour. Either whole or crushed tomatoes are fine
- Flavourings: Red lentils have a relatively bland taste, so adding extra flavour is important. You can use either Marmite or Worcestershire sauce to add a savoury flavour, and fresh thyme adds a lovely herby taste. If you prefer to use dried thyme, reduce the quantity to 1 teaspoon, as it is more concentrated. You could also replace the thyme with a teaspoon of dried mixed herbs if that's what you have available. Finely chopped garlic adds more flavour. I don't add further seasoning, as the Marmite and stock provide plenty
- Stock: You can use any veggie stock you have available - in this version I used a stock cube, but you can use fresh homemade stock if you have it. If you like, you could replace 100 ml of the stock with a small glass of red wine.
- Olive oil, or you could use coconut oil if you prefer
How to make red lentil bolognese sauce
It's quick and easy to make this veggie bolognese recipe, and you'll only need one pot. Use a pan with a well fitting lid.
Saute the onion, celery and carrots for 10 minutes before adding the other ingredients. This will help the flavour of the finished dish. Add the garlic at the end of the 10 minutes as it burns easily.
Add all the remaining ingredients, cover the pan and simmer gently for 30 minutes.
Check towards the end of the cooking time to make sure that the sauce is not starting to catch on the bottom of the pan. If it is, add a splash more stock or water. The finished vegetarian bolognese with lentils will be rich and thick.
- If you like, you can replace 100ml of the stock with a glass of red wine. The alcohol will evaporate as the sauce cooks down and you'll just be left with the flavour.
- For extra richness, you can also add a splash of balsamic vinegar.
- Vary the herbs to suit. A handful of fresh basil or parsley both go well in this vegan bolognese with lentils recipe.
- Add a pinch of dried chilli flakes if you want a little spiciness.
Serving and storage
- Try topping your red lentil bolognese with grated cheese if serving with spaghetti or rice.
- Of course, you can also use other types of pasta such as tagliatelle or penne pasta. Wholemeal pasta is the healthiest choice, or you could use spiralized veggies if you want a low carb alternative.
- If you want to make your bolognese sauce into a veggie lasagne, this easy white sauce recipe will speed the process up
- Use sweet potatoes for a topping if you're making a veggie shepherd's pie. The sweet potatoes will complement the flavour of the red lentils perfectly. See here for the full post on how to make a red lentil shepherd's pie.
- Or for an even simpler healthy meal, bake sweet potatoes in the slow cooker and top them with this vegan bolognese.
- Red lentil bolognese sauce will store well in the fridge for up to a week. You can easily reheat it on the stove in a pan. This vegan lentil ragu also freezes extremely well. Pack into plastic bags or boxes and freeze for up to 3 months
Frequently asked questions
Yes, lentils make a fantastic vegetarian bolognese sauce. Red lentils are ideal as they cook down quickly to a good texture. Replacing mince with lentils is good for your wallet, and good for your health. You can also try this vegan mince recipe which has lentils, mushroom and walnuts to give a rich meaty flavour and plenty of protein.
No, red lentils don't need to be soaked before cooking. If you look closely at a red lentil you can see that it has been split in half. That makes them very quick and easy to cook.
Yes, lentils are a very healthy ingredient. They are high in fibre, low in fat and a good source of vitamins and minerals. Lentils are also a good source of plant protein.
Other healthy lentil recipes
Lentils are also great to add to soups. They add protein, and naturally thicken the soup. Red lentils will break down completely in a soup, so fussy eaters won't even know they are there;)
Have you tried this recipe? Please leave a rating and/or comment at the bottom of the page. Your feedback and questions are much appreciated.
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Red Lentil Bolognese
- 1 onion peeled and finely chopped
- 2 carrots finely chopped
- 1 stick celery finely chopped
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 clove garlic peeled and very finely chopped
- 400 g canned tomatoes
- 1 tablespoon tomato puree
- 1 teaspoon Marmite or use 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
- 1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves or 1 teaspoon dried thyme
- 200 g red lentils
- 700 ml vegetable stock
- Place a large lidded frying pan over a medium heat, and add the olive oil. When it's hot, add the onion, celery and carrot, and fry for 10 minutes until starting to colour slightly.
- Add the garlic, tomatoes and puree, herbs and Marmite and stir to mix. Add the lentils and stock, cover and simmer gently for 30 minutes.
- Towards the end of the cooking time, check that the bolognese is not starting to catch on the bottom of the pan - if it is, add a splash more stock or water.
- If you like, replace 100 ml of the stock with a small glass of red wine.
- Dried thyme can be used in place of fresh. Reduce the quantity to one teaspoon as it's more concentrated. You can also use other herbs such as basil or parsley if you prefer.
Please note nutritional information is per serving and is provided for guidance only.