This vegetarian Mushroom Lentil Bolognese is hearty and rich and perfect over a big plate of pasta. Use pantry staples to make this delicious dish in just about 30 minutes.
Pasta is one of my dinner go-to’s. The whole family loves it. The kids will always eat pasta, no matter what.
I try to make pasta meals healthier by serving it up with thick, hearty sauces. That way I can serve them less noodles, but they are still full and satisfied.
This Mushroom Lentil Bolognese is one of the most often made recipes in my kitchen.
Done in just 40 minutes from start to finish, you could be calling it dinner tonight too!
Ingredients you need
Ingredient notes and substitutions
Lentils ~ Use brown or green lentils. They hold their shape well. Use canned or steamed lentils for convenience.
You could also cook your own dried lentils.
Do not use red lentils. They turn to mush when cooked and do not hold their shape. Great in soup, but not in this lentil bolognese recipe!
Mushrooms ~ They provide a nice “meaty” texture. I use Baby Bellas, also known as cremini mushrooms. White button mushrooms would work, too.
Tomatoes ~ Canned crushed tomatoes are best for this recipe.
Use fire roasted tomatoes for a slightly smoky flavor.
Wine ~ Use a dry red wine. The alcohol cooks off, so it’s safe to use in this pasta sauce recipe even if you’re feeding kids. However, if you want an alcohol-free option, just leave it out.
Not all wine is vegan. If this is important to you, you can check Barnivore, an online directory of vegan and vegetarian beer, wine, and liquor, to find one that suits your needs.
Extras ~ Tamari and balsamic vinegar add richness and help to balance the flavors of the dish. If you like a little heat with your pasta sauce, add a pinch of crushed red pepper flakes.
How to make the recipe
Sauté the onion and mushrooms until the onions are soft and translucent and the mushrooms have let off all their liquid (1).
Add the dried herbs and red wine, if using, and simmer until the liquid is evaporated. Add the tomatoes, broth, tamari, salt and pepper (2). Stir to combine and simmer until thick and bubbly.
Add the cooked lentils and balsamic vinegar (3), stir, and simmer for a few minutes to heat through (4).
How to serve
This lentil bolognese is perfect over a big plate of pasta. 16 ounces of pasta works perfectly with one batch of sauce.
You could also serve it over baked potatoes, polenta, rice, zoodles (zucchini noodles), or layer it in lasagna.
And don’t forget the vegan parmesan cheese sprinkled over the top!
Store leftovers in an air-tight container in the fridge for 4 to 5 days. Store sauce separate from pasta, if using.
This lentil bolognese sauce also freezes really well. Let it cool completely before transferring to a freezer-safe container or plastic bag. It should keep well for up to 3 months.
Pro tips and tricks
~ Use brown or green lentils, not red, for best texture.
~ Use canned lentils or packaged steamed lentils to make this dish in just 40 minutes. If you have leftover cooked lentils in the fridge, that works great, too!
~ Sauté the onions, mushrooms and dried herbs to bring out the most flavor before adding the liquids.
~ Use a dry red wine that you would drink on its own. If it doesn’t taste good in a glass, it won’t taste good in the final dish!
~ To make this lentil bolognese gluten-free, be sure to use gluten-free tamari and serve with gluten-free pasta, if using.
~ To make this dish oil-free, sauté the vegetables with broth or water, instead of oil.
Typically, no. Traditional bolognese is made with ground meat. We are ditching the meat in this vegan version of bolognese and replacing it with lentils and mushrooms.
Use brown or green lentils for this lentil bolognese sauce. Red lentils become mushy when cooked and will make a thicker, soft sauce with not a lot of texture. Brown or green lentils more closely resemble the hearty texture of ground meat.
Yes! This vegan pasta sauce freezes well, so make a big batch!
More vegan pasta recipes
- Vegan Stuffed Shells
- Smoky Black Eyed Peas Pasta
- Cheesy Chili Mac
- Creamy Vegan Mushroom Pasta
- Roasted Vegetable Pasta
- Vegan Mac and Cheese
I hope you love this recipe as much as we do! If you tried it, please use the rating system in the recipe card and leave a comment below with your feedback.
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For even more easy family recipes, be sure to check out my cookbook, The Meatless Monday Family Cookbook!
Mushroom Lentil Bolognese
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 yellow onion diced
- 10 ounces baby bella (cremini) mushrooms diced
- 2 tablespoons dried parsley
- 1 tablespoon dried basil
- 2 teaspoons dried oregano
- ¼ cup robust red wine your favorite (I used a cabernet)
- 1 can (28 oz) crushed tomatoes
- ½ cup low sodium vegetable broth
- 1 tablespoon tamari
- ¾ teaspoon salt or to taste
- ½ teaspoon black pepper or to taste
- 1 cup cooked lentils brown or green
- 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
- Heat the oil in a large, deep skillet over medium heat on the stove. Add the onion and sauté until soft and translucent, about 5 to 6 minutes.
- Add the mushrooms and sauté 5 to 6 minutes until they are soft and have released their liquid.
- Add the parsley, basil, oregano, and red wine and sauté until no liquid is left, stirring occasionally.
- Add the crushed tomatoes, vegetable broth, tamari, salt and pepper. Stir to combine. Increase the heat to bring to a boil, then decrease the heat to medium-low and simmer for 15 to 20 minutes, until thick and bubbly.
- Add the cooked lentils and balsamic vinegar. Stir to combine and ook another 2 to 3 minutes to heat through.
Storage/Freezing Store leftovers in an air-tight container in the fridge for 4 to 5 days. Store sauce separate from pasta, if using. This sauce also freezes really well. Let it cool completely before transferring to a freezer-safe container or plastic bag. It should keep well for up to 3 months.
Nutrition facts calculated for sauce only, not including pasta.