This is my best-ever Ultimate Vegan Bolognese Sauce recipe. Once you try it you’ll agree: it hits the spot every time!
When my husband is craving something hearty and delicious, he’s more likely to request a pasta bolognese than to seek out a savory stew.
Now, it’s not always easy to create plant-based versions of his favorite foods.
After careful deliberation and testing, I’m happy to present my best-ever vegan bolognese sauce. By the way, this is also the best ever vegetarian bolognese recipe.
This bolognese vegan sauce is thick, savory, and just the tiniest bit sweet.
The texture is crumbly and silky, just as it should be.
This recipe not only makes a great pasta sauce, it also makes this delicious Vegan Lasagna.
Vegan Bolognese Sauce: The Details
To replace the meat, I used a mixture of mushrooms, ground walnuts, and textured soy protein.
I’ve seen more than one lentil bolognese recipe, but for me that texture just isn’t right.
I used to be a bit sketched out by TSP (or TVP as it is sometimes called). I don’t know why, and now I use it all the time. It’s also great as taco ‘meat’, and it’s even gluten free.
To achieve the lusciously thick texture of the sauce I used olive oil and agar powder instead of butter.
For extra umami flavor I added miso paste and used soy sauce instead of salt.
As a vegetarian, I was tempted to keep the traditional parmesan cheese and milk in this sauce. If you consume dairy products, by all means swap these into the sauce for an awesome vegetarian bolognese sauce.
Instead, I tried using nutritional yeast and oat milk.
I’m super pleased with the results: a delicious vegan bolognese anyone would be happy to eat!
Like a traditional bolognese, there’s surprisingly little tomato in this recipe. Instead, lots of celery, carrot, and onion are slowly cooked down into a robust sauce.
Of course, there’s also plenty of red wine in there, too. Be sure to read my post on vegetarian food and wine pairings if you want to make sure your wine isn’t made with animal products.
Now, this isn’t a twenty-minute recipe you can whip up on a whim. This is more of a weekend recipe.
I recommend making it on a lazy Sunday. Ideally, you should spend the day reading and inhaling the delicious aroma of the simmering sauce.
This recipe makes a decent-sized batch, so you can always freeze the leftovers and serve it up for an impromptu date-night.
How to Make Vegan Bolognese Sauce
Here is the process for this recipe.
Look at that photo of ingredients, now you know why this is a weekend recipe.
Heat 3 tablespoons of the olive oil over medium heat in a large Dutch oven. Once the oil is hot, add the carrots, onions, and celery. Sauté for 10 minutes, until softened.
Meanwhile, place the walnuts in the bowl of a food processor and pulse into coarse pieces.
Add the mushrooms.
Continue to pulse until the consistency of the mixture resembles the photo below.
Once the vegetables on the stove are soft, add the dry TVP and mix well. Cook for 3 minutes to allow the TVP to toast and absorb the oil.
Add another two tablespoons of oil to the pan along with the walnut and mushroom mixture. Turn the heat up to medium-high and brown for 5 minutes.
Add the oregano, thyme, sage, rosemary, red pepper flakes, and garlic to the pan. Cook for a few minutes until the spices are fragrant.
Next, add the red wine. Reduce for 5 minutes.
Stir in the miso, soy, sweet and smoked paprikas, and agar powder.
Add the canned tomatoes along with ½ a can of water, the balsamic vinegar, and bay leaves. Once the mixture boils, transfer it to the preheated oven. Cook, uncovered, for 60 minutes. Stir well and return to the oven for a further 30 minutes.
Add the nutritional yeast followed by the oat milk. Taste and season generously with black pepper and salt to taste.
Serve with freshly cooked plant-based pasta.
I have to admit, I had to do a bit of googling when naming this recipe. We use the word ‘bolognese’ all the time in our house, but I rarely see it spelled out.
It occurred to me that it might be spelled ‘bolognaise’, which I found out is a very common misspelling. In case you were also wondering, the proper Italian spelling is, in fact, ‘bolognese.’
Either way, it’s absolutely delicious!
Here are some expert tips that enhance the preparation and enjoyment of this Ultimate Vegan Bolognese Sauce:
Quality Ingredients: The flavors of the ingredients truly shine in this recipe, so opt for the best quality you can find. Fresh, organic vegetables, high-quality olive oil, and a good brand of textured soy protein can really make a difference.
Red Wine: The choice of wine can greatly influence the flavor of the sauce. A robust dry red wine, such as a Chianti or Cabernet Sauvignon, will enhance the depth of flavor. If you don’t consume alcohol, a rich vegetable broth or non-alcoholic red wine could be substituted.
Fresh vs Dried Herbs: While the recipe calls for dried herbs, fresh herbs could be used for even more robust flavor. If using fresh herbs, remember the general rule of thumb is to use 3 times the amount of fresh herbs as dry.
Sautéing Vegetables: When sautéing the vegetables, make sure to cook them until they’re nicely softened and beginning to brown. This is known as the Maillard reaction, which is a chemical reaction that creates flavor and changes the color of food. It’s a key step in developing the rich flavor of the sauce.
Slow Cook: A slow, steady simmer allows the flavors to meld together beautifully. Don’t rush this process; let the magic happen.
Rest Time: This sauce tastes even better the next day. If possible, prepare it a day ahead, cool, and then refrigerate. This resting period allows the flavors to meld together even more.
Herb Toppings: For a pop of freshness and color, consider adding some finely chopped fresh parsley or fresh basil on top of the dish just before serving. Not only does this provide a contrast to the rich and savory bolognese sauce, but it also enhances the presentation of the dish. Remember, we eat with our eyes first! Please keep in mind that both parsley and basil offer different flavor profiles, so choose according to your preference. Parsley gives a fresh, slightly peppery flavor, while basil imparts a sweet, peppery note with a hint of mint.
Serving: Serve this bolognese with a fresh salad and a crusty loaf of bread for a complete, satisfying meal. Don’t forget to sprinkle some extra nutritional yeast on top of the pasta for an extra hint of ‘cheesiness’.
Pairing: Pair the dish with a glass of the same red wine used in the sauce for a delightful dining experience. If you used a non-alcoholic substitute, a sparkling water with a squeeze of lemon or lime could be a refreshing accompaniment.
There are several ways you can vary this recipe to suit your preferences or dietary needs, or simply to switch things up a bit. Here are some ideas:
- Protein Variations:
While I’ve used a mixture of mushrooms, ground walnuts, and textured soy protein in this recipe, you can experiment with different proteins. Lentils could be used for a different texture and flavor, or tempeh can work as a substitute for textured soy protein.
- Veggie Variations:
Feel free to add other veggies to this sauce. Bell peppers, zucchini, or spinach could all be delicious additions.
- Spice Variations:
You could vary the spices to change the flavor profile of the dish. For instance, adding cumin and chili could give the sauce a Mexican flair.
- Nut-Free Version:
If you’re catering to a nut allergy, substitute sunflower seeds or pumpkin seeds for the walnuts.
- Wine-Free Version:
If you prefer not to cook with wine, you could use additional vegetable broth and a splash of balsamic vinegar to add some depth of flavor.
- Pasta Alternatives:
While traditional bolognese is served with spaghetti, feel free to mix it up! This sauce can be used in a lasagna, served over zucchini noodles for a lower carb option, or with penne, rigatoni, fettuccine, pappardelle or any other type of pasta you like.
This recipe is already designed to fit a vegan diet, which means it is automatically suitable for a vegetarian and dairy-free diet as well.
For a gluten-free version, there are just a couple of modifications to make:
Textured Soy Protein (TSP or TVP): Ensure the brand you use is certified gluten-free. Some brands may process their TVP in facilities that also process wheat, which could lead to cross-contamination.
Soy Sauce: Traditional soy sauce contains wheat, so for a gluten-free diet, you should use Tamari sauce or a certified gluten-free soy sauce.
Remember to always check the labels of all ingredients you use to ensure they are certified gluten-free if necessary, as many products can contain hidden gluten or be subject to cross-contamination during manufacturing.
Frequently Asked Questions
Yes, you can. You’ll need about 2 cups of fresh, ripe tomatoes, diced.
Yes, almonds or pecans will work, though the flavor will be slightly different.
Yes, you can, but be sure to rehydrate them in hot water first.
You can use vegetable broth with a splash of balsamic vinegar.
Yes, use a gluten-free soy sauce or Tamari and ensure your TVP is gluten-free.
Bell peppers, zucchini, or spinach are all be good additions.
Absolutely, it’s great in lasagna or served over zucchini noodles, for example.
Yes, but the miso paste adds umami flavor. You could use a little extra soy sauce instead.
Yes, you can make this sauce ahead of time and it will even taste better after a day or two as the flavors meld together.
Yes, you can double it. Just make sure your Dutch oven is big enough to accommodate the larger amount.
Yes, you could use another type of vegetable oil, though olive oil adds a nice flavor.
Nutritional yeast adds a cheesy flavor to the sauce, but you could omit it if you don’t have any. Just keep in mind the flavor won’t be quite the same.
After allowing the bolognese sauce to cool completely, transfer it into airtight containers. This sauce will keep well in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.
This bolognese sauce is very freezer-friendly. To freeze it, allow the sauce to cool completely. Portion the sauce into freezer-safe bags or containers, being sure to leave some space for expansion. Seal the bags or containers tightly and freeze. It can be stored in the freezer for up to 3 months.
Thawing Frozen Leftovers
When you’re ready to enjoy your frozen bolognese sauce, transfer the container from the freezer to the refrigerator and let it thaw overnight. If you need it faster, you can use the defrost setting on your microwave.
Oven: Preheat your oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Pour the sauce into an oven-safe dish and cover it with aluminum foil. Heat the sauce for about 15-20 minutes or until heated through.
Stovetop: This is my preferred method for reheating the sauce as it helps maintain the best texture and flavor. Pour the sauce into a saucepan and heat it over medium heat. Stir occasionally until the sauce is heated through.
Microwave: If you’re short on time, you can also reheat the sauce in the microwave. Use a microwave-safe dish and heat in 1-minute increments, stirring after each minute, until the sauce is heated through.
Don’t forget to save this recipe as a dinner idea on Pinterest!
More Popular Recipes to Try:
- Vegan Lasagna with Vegan Bolognese Sauce
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- Vegan Indian Sweet Potato Soup
- 30-Minute Tuscan White Bean Skillet
- Vegan Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies
- Vegan Mushroom Stroganoff
Ultimate Vegan Bolognese Sauce Recipe
- 5 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil - divided
- 1 medium carrot - finely diced
- 1 medium onion - finely diced
- 3 celery stalks - finely diced
- 2 ounces raw walnuts
- 3 cups raw mushrooms - halved (about 10-12 cremini)
- 3/4 cup TVP mince - dry
- Herbs: ¾ teaspoon dried oregano - ½ teaspoon dried thyme , ¼ teaspoon dried sage, ¼ teaspoon dried rosemary
- 1/8 teaspoon red pepper flakes
- 4 cloves garlic - pressed
- 1 1/2 cups dry red wine
- 1 tablespoon white miso
- 1 tablespoon regular soy sauce
- 1 teaspoon agar powder
- 1 teaspoon sweet paprika
- 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
- 1 14-ounce can crushed tomatoes
- 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
- 4 bay leaves
- 2 tablespoons nutritional yeast
- 1/4 cup oat milk - or other non-dairy
- Freshly ground black pepper
- Salt to taste
- Preheat your oven to 300 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Heat 3 tablespoons of the olive oil over medium heat in a large Dutch oven. Once the oil is hot, add the carrots, onions, and celery. Saute for 10 minutes, until softened.
- Meanwhile, place the walnuts in the bowl of a food processor and pulse into coarse pieces. Add the mushrooms and continue to pulse until the consistency of the mixture resembles the photo above.
- Once the vegetables on the stove are soft, add the dry TVP and mix well. Cook for 3 minutes to allow the TVP to toast and absorb the oil.
- Add another two tablespoons of oil to the pan along with the walnut/mushroom mix. Turn the heat up to medium-high and brown for 5 minutes.
- Add the oregano, thyme, sage, rosemary, red pepper flakes, and garlic to the pan. Cook for a few minutes until the spice are fragrant, then add the red wine. Reduce for 5 minutes.
- Stir in the miso, soy, sweet and smoked paprikas, and agar powder. Add the canned tomatoes along with ½ a can of water, the balsamic vinegar, and bay leaves. Once the mixture boils, transfer it to the preheated oven. Cook, uncovered, for 60 minutes. Stir well and return to the oven for a further 30 minutes.
- Add the nutritional yeast followed by the oat milk. Taste and season generously with black pepper and salt to taste. Serve with freshly cooked plant-based pasta.
Please note that this is often misspelled as Vegan Bolonaise Sauce recipe and Vegan Bolognaise Sauce recipe.