Lentil Bolognese

If you’re not familiar with lentils, don’t fret! They’re easy to cook with, they take on the flavors of the dish you’re cooking and are packed with nutrition.

In this recipe, I swapped out ground meat for lentils to make a vegetarian version of classic Bolognese sauce. It’s full of tomatoes, garlic, fresh and dried Italian herbs and has loads of vegetables. It’s delicious served over whole grain spaghetti or zucchini noodles.


What makes lentils so good for you?

Here are a few of the nutrients lentils contain:

  • Fiber
  • Protein
  • B vitamins
  • Magnesium
  • Zinc
  • Potassium
  • Iron

Why are lentils so popular?

They make a great plant-based alternative to meat in many recipes, like soups, stews, casseroles and ground meat (such as in taco meat).

They are similar to beans in texture and nutritional value and can be purchased canned or dried. They come fully cooked in the can and take about 30 minutes to cook from dry (with no soaking time!).

There are several varieties of lentils. The most popular and easy-to-find are brown, green, yellow and red. You can use any of these options in the dishes you cook; they each have a slightly unique flavor and texture but are generally interchangeable.

What is your favorite way to cook with lentils?

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Lentil Bolognese

  • Author: Julie Andrews
  • Prep Time: 15-20 mins
  • Cook Time: 40-45 mins
  • Total Time: 55 mins – 1 hr 5 mins
  • Yield: Serves 6 1x
  • Category: Entree
  • Method: Stove-Top
  • Cuisine: Italian, American


Homemade lentil bolognese with Italian herbs, dry red wine and tomatoes served over whole grain spaghetti.


  • 12 ounces whole grain spaghetti
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • ½ medium yellow onion, peeled and diced
  • 2 medium carrots, peeled and diced
  • 2 medium stalks celery, diced
  • 34 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1 ½ tablespoons Italian seasoning
  • ½ cup dry red wine (optional)
  • 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes
  • 3 cups unsalted vegetable stock
  • 1 cup dried lentils
  • 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
  • 1 ½ teaspoons kosher or sea salt
  • ½ teaspoon ground black pepper
  • ¼ cup fresh basil leaves, chiffonade


  1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Cook spaghetti according to package directions. Drain.
  2. Heat olive oil in a large stove-top casserole dish or Dutch oven to medium. Add the onion, carrots and celery and cook 5-6 minutes or until soft. Stir in the garlic, tomato paste and Italian seasoning and sauté 30-60 seconds or until fragrant.
  3. Add the red wine (if using) and bring to a simmer until the wine has evaporated. Add the crushed tomatoes, stock and lentils to the pot and bring to a low simmer, stirring occasionally, for 25-30 minutes or until the lentils are soft. Stir it the salt, black pepper, sugar and fresh basil. Taste and adjust seasoning, if necessary.


Cooking Tip: Use green or red lentils. Swap whole grain pasta for zucchini noodles.

Substitution Tip: Swap in 1-pound ground turkey instead of lentils for a meaty version. Saute the turkey with the vegetables, then continue on with the recipe (minus the lentils) but with only 1 1/2 cups stock instead of 3.

Topping Ideas: Top with chopped parsley and freshly grated Parmesan.

Nutrition Tip: For a lower sodium version, choose no added salt tomato paste and crushed tomatoes.


  • Serving Size: 1/6 of recipe
  • Calories: 408
  • Sugar: 13g
  • Sodium: 479mg
  • Fat: 6g
  • Saturated Fat: 1g
  • Unsaturated Fat: 5g
  • Trans Fat: 0g
  • Carbohydrates: 74g
  • Fiber: 18g
  • Protein: 17g
  • Cholesterol: 0g

Keywords: bolognese, tomato sauce, vegan, vegetarian, plant-based


  1. Stephanie A on February 6, 2021 at 8:17 am

    Thanks for posting plant based recipes! I made the switch in the beginning of the year for an undetermined timeframe, and have been loving experimenting with recipes.

    • Julie Andrews on February 8, 2021 at 2:19 pm

      That’s wonderful to hear! I will be posting plant-based recipes all month long. 🙂

      • Lisa on February 10, 2021 at 10:08 am

        Excited to see more plant based recipes! Thank you

        • Julie Andrews on February 10, 2021 at 11:24 am

          You’re welcome! And there are more to come!

  2. Magnus Hedemark on February 8, 2021 at 8:33 am

    Note that the suggestion of adding parmesan would undo the “plant-based” description. There are plant-based parmesan substitutes that are pretty good. I imagine nutritional yeast might also be a good substitute.

    • Julie Andrews on February 8, 2021 at 2:20 pm

      Plant-based simply means most of your food comes from plants. This recipe would be considered vegan without the Parmesan cheese that is an optional topping, and would be vegetarian if you add the Parmesan cheese. Nutritional yeast is a good substitute for Parmesan if you’re looking to make a “cheesy” recipe vegan. All options that I’ve mentioned would be considered plant-based, as is any recipe that is made all or mostly from plants.

  3. Liz Robinson on February 8, 2021 at 12:00 pm

    Can’t wait to try! Thanks for sharing

    • Julie Andrews on February 8, 2021 at 2:30 pm

      You’re welcome, Liz!

  4. Janet Meyer on February 9, 2021 at 5:40 pm

    Thank you Julie, I appreciate our fun plant-based recipes as well!! 🙂 Can’t wait to try them out!

    • Julie Andrews on February 9, 2021 at 8:04 pm

      You’re welcome, Janet! Enjoy!

  5. Jessica Lee on February 9, 2021 at 6:59 pm

    wow 74 grams of carbs That is way over my carb intake for one day. I will try this using my Konjac noodles – zero carbs, will also forget the carrots and add more garlic and celery and use fresh tomatoes since the canned tomatoes usually have salt added and sugar added Does sound good but needs to be tweaked.

    • Julie Andrews on February 9, 2021 at 8:08 pm

      Hi Jessica – Thanks for your suggestions for a low carb version of this recipe. Everyone has different nutrition needs and goals and not everyone is following or should follow a low carb diet. In fact, many people follow a plant-based, vegetarian or vegan diet and are seeking recipes like this one that feature vegetables, legumes and whole grains, and there is research to support following a plant-based diet can reduce risk of chronic conditions. With that said, the great thing about cooking is you can easily alter the recipe to meet your nutrition needs and goals as well as your taste preferences. For ingredients that are canned, like crushed tomatoes, you can pick and choose what brand and variety you want, whether that’s no added salt, no added sugar, etc – there are a ton of options. As suggested in the recipe, you can also use zucchini noodles rather than whole grain pasta, if you’d like, or shiritaki noodles. Happy cooking!

  6. Lydia G on February 10, 2021 at 1:01 pm

    Hi Julie, I would love to try this recipe, but with my food allergies I have to tweak recipes all of the time. Would sweet potatoes be a good alternative to carrots?

    • Julie Andrews on February 11, 2021 at 3:25 pm

      Hi Lydia! You could actually just leave the carrots out and add another few stalks of celery, if you’d like!

  7. Manjot Dhillon on February 11, 2021 at 10:24 am

    Plant based vegan for 2 years and loving it. Lentils are a staple, usually have it with roti ( indian bread ). Wouldn’t have thought of them going with pasta but this looks really good, will give it a try. Thanks for posting this.

    • Julie Andrews on February 11, 2021 at 3:25 pm

      That’s awesome, Manjot! That sounds delicious, and I hope you get a chance to try the bolognese.

  8. Katy Birks on February 11, 2021 at 2:22 pm

    Great to see plant based options posted, I have been vegan for sometime and love lentils but never tried them like this. Thank you for sharing 🙂

    • Julie Andrews on February 11, 2021 at 3:25 pm

      You’re welcome, Katy! Enjoy!

  9. Carrie Monska on February 11, 2021 at 5:19 pm

    My bf and I have been vegan for a few years now, and I tell you what… we eat very well. Love adding a new recipe to our repertoire, thanks for this. Looking forward to more!

    • Julie Andrews on February 25, 2021 at 4:21 pm

      Awesome to hear, Carrie! Enjoy!

  10. Greg Phelps on February 12, 2021 at 7:08 am

    this shows 74g Carbohydrates per serving for Diabetics this will kill you

    • Julie Andrews on February 25, 2021 at 4:20 pm

      Different people require a different number of carbs each day. To make this lower carb, swap in zucchini noodles instead of spaghetti or use ground meat instead of lentils for the bolognese. I provided tips for doing so in the recipe card.

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