This Vegan Bolognese Sauce is hearty and delicious. It’s easy to make and perfect over a bowl of pasta or layered in lasagna. A handful of plant based pantry staples create the craveable meaty texture and rich flavor.
This vegan pasta sauce is by no means a traditional bolognese. But it does have rich, savory flavor and a hearty, “meaty” texture just like any good vegan ragù.
It’s easy to make with pantry staples and is sure to become a family favorite!
Ingredients you need
Ingredients notes and substitutions
Protein ~ Crumbled chickpeas and walnuts create that perfect texture that resembles ground meat in this vegan bolognese sauce.
I use a food processor to make quick work of this step. You just want to pulse them about 5 to 6 times. Do not over-process or the chickpeas will turn to paste…and that is a texture you do not want in this dish!
If you don’t have a food processor, you can use a sharp knife to finely chop the chickpeas and walnuts.
If you prefer a smooth pasta sauce, try my spicy marinara sauce.
Aromatics ~ Garlic is not typical in traditional bolognese, but I love the flavor, so I use it. You can use it or not…personal preference.
The onion adds flavor and also adds to the texture.
Tomatoes ~ A couple tablespoons of tomato paste bring a rich, savory flavor and crushed tomatoes provide the sauciness.
Herbs ~ I like a combination of dried basil and oregano for this hearty pasta sauce. If you have Italian seasoning, that works just as well.
Flavorings ~ Because chickpeas and walnuts don’t provide the same meaty flavor as using actual beef, we’ve got to punch up the umami in other ways. Red wine, tamari, balsamic vinegar and plenty of salt and pepper get the job done perfectly.
The alcohol in the red wine will burn off, so it’s safe to serve to the whole family. However, if you avoid alcohol, feel free to leave it out and use additional vegetable broth instead.
Choose a gluten-free tamari, if needed. Liquid aminos or soy sauce (which is not gluten-free) can be used instead.
How to make the recipe
Sauté the onions in oil until soft and translucent. Add the garlic, salt, pepper, and dried herbs and sauté until fragrant (1).
Add the tomato paste (2) and stir to combine until it’s completely mixed in (3).
Add the red wine (or veggie broth) and stir (4). Let this simmer until most of the liquid has been absorbed.
Add the processed chickpeas and walnuts (5) and stir to combine (6).
Add the tamari, crushed tomatoes, and remaining vegetable broth (7).
Stir well and simmer for 15 minutes until thick and bubbly (8).
This vegan bolognese sauce is perfect over a big bowl of pasta. Typically, bolognese is served with wide, flat noodles like tagliatelle, pappardelle or fettuccine. Tube shaped pasta also works well, also, like penne or rigatoni. But, truly, any kind of pasta is fine…choose a gluten-free variety if you like or need.
It would be perfect layered in lasagna.
For a lower carb option, serve this vegan ragù over zucchini noodles (a.k.a. zoodles) or spaghetti squash.
You could also ladle a big scoop over a baked potato or simply dunk some crusty vegan garlic bread into it.
And don’t forgot to sprinkle a generous helping of Vegan Parmesan Cheese over the top!
For best results, store the sauce separately from the pasta.
Store leftovers in an air-tight container in the fridge for 4 to 5 days.
You could also freeze this vegan bolognese. Make sure to cool the sauce completely before transferring to a freezer-safe container or plastic bag. It should keep well for up to 3 months.
Pro tips and tricks
~ Cook the pasta in well-salted water according to package directions for al dente. Choose gluten-free pasta, if desired.
~ Pulse the walnuts and chickpeas a few times just until they are mostly broken up and resemble a very coarse crumble. Do not over-processes!
~ Simmer the wine until most of the liquid is gone. This will ensure the alcohol has cooked off.
~Simmer the sauce until thick and bubbly. If the sauce is too thick, add some pasta cooking water or vegetable broth. Alternately, if the sauce is too thin, simmer uncovered a bit longer until some of the liquid evaporates.
~ Serve with wide flat noodles or medium-size tube shaped pasta, like rigatoni or penne.
~ Store the vegan bolognese sauce separately from the pasta.
There are many different versions of vegan bolognese. Common options for the meaty mixture are mushrooms, lentils, cauliflower, a combination of diced vegetables, or store-bought vegan “meat” crumbles.
Traditional bolognese is served with tagliatelle, pappardelle, or other wide, flat noodles. I use fettuccine for this vegan bolognese sauce. Tube shapes, like penne or rigatoni, are also popular with meaty sauces.
Meat sauce, or ragù, is a tomato based sauce simmered with ground meat, like beef or sausage. Bolognese is a thick, hearty meat sauce that may or may not have tomato in it. Bolognese also typically has milk in it.
This very not traditional vegan bolognese is thick and hearty and contains no milk or cream…not even dairy-free varieties, and is definitely tomato based. So, perhaps it’s more like a vegan ragù than a bolognese.
More vegan bolognese recipes
More vegan pasta recipes
- Pasta with White Beans and Kale
- Creamy Mushroom Pasta
- Vegan Spinach Artichoke Pasta
- Vegan Mac and Cheese
- Mediterranean Pasta
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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Chickpea Walnut Vegan Bolognese
For the vegan bolognese
- 1 cup chopped raw walnuts
- 1 can (15 oz) chickpeas drained, rinsed and patted dry
- 2 tablespoons olive oil use broth or water for an oil-free option
- 1 yellow onion diced
- 2 cloves garlic minced
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1 teaspoon dried basil
- 1 teaspoon salt or to taste
- 1 cup dry red wine or vegetable broth for an alcohol-free option
- 1 tablespoon tamari
- 1 can (24 oz) crushed tomatoes
- 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
- 16 ounces pasta fettuccine, spaghetti, penne, rigatoni, etc.
- Fresh basil
- Vegan Parmesan Cheese
For the bolognese
- Add the chopped walnuts to a food processor and pulse into large crumbs. Add the chickpeas and pulse just 2 or 3 times to break down the chickpeas, but do not over-process or the chickpeas will become pasty. Set aside.
- Heat the oil in a large, deep skillet over medium heat. Add the onions and sauté 5 to 6 minutes until soft and translucent.
- Add the garlic, tomato paste, oregano, basil, and salt and mix until incorporated well.
- Add the red wine and simmer until most of the liquid has evaporated.
- Add the chickpea walnut mixture, tamari and crushed tomatoes. Stir well and simmer for 15 to 20 minutes until thick and bubbly, stirring occasionally.
- Add the balsamic vinegar and stir through.
- Cook pasta according to package direction in well-salted water until al dente.
- Combine the past and vegan bolognese. Top with torn fresh basil and vegan parmesan cheese, if desired.
Storage/Freezing Store leftovers in an air-tight container in the fridge for 4 to 5 days. You could also freeze this vegan bolognese. Make sure to cool the sauce completely before transferring to a freezer-safe container or plastic bag. It should keep well for up to 3 months.
Nutrition facts calculated using regular wheat-based fettuccine. Different pasta varieties will yield different nutrition amounts.
Nutrition values are calculated using online calculators and are estimates only. Please verify using your own data.
The sodium content is way too high per serving – is this correct?
Jenn Sebestyen says
Yikes, no it wasn’t! Sorry, I use My Fitness Pal and it sometimes doesn’t choose the right options. I just fixed it. Thanks for pointing that out! Enjoy!
Chris Voci-Nam says
This looks amazing Jenn! I want to try it tonight! Stay tuned 🙂
By the way, I made the oatmeal cranberry muffins and they were delish! Non vegan friend loved them as well 🙂
Jenn Sebestyen says
Thank you, Chris! I can’t wait to hear what you think of this bolognese! If you have a minute to post a review and star rating of the muffins on that particular post, I’d much appreciate it! Thanks!
Chris Voci-Nam says
I did make this last night and it was unbelievably good! My husband thought so too!! It was not too salty at all. I used Tamari and glazed balsamic as that is all I had and it was great. The yeast and nut mixture really elevated this dish.
Thanks for the awesome recipes Jenn.
Jenn Sebestyen says
Oh, I’m so glad!! Thank you, Chris! FYI, the original numbers for sodium were way off…online calculators are so unreliable. I fixed it though! So glad you both loved it! 🙂