Rachel Cooks

Vegan Bolognese – with lentils and quinoa

A healthy, filling vegan version of the popular bolognese sauce using lentils and quinoa for a meaty texture. Even my meat-loving husband loved this pasta with vegan bolognese! We of course put cheese on top to make it not truly vegan. Minor details.

Vegan Bolognese with Lentils and Quinoa - On RachelCooks.com

A number of months ago, I talked my meat-loving husband into being okay with one meatless meal a week.  It actually wasn’t near as hard as I thought it would be and I think he told me not to go around telling anyone but I write a blog about food…so umm…sorry Ben. The secret is out.

Everyone who chooses vegetarian whether for a night or for a lifetime does it for different reasons. For us, s big reason why we chose to do this is because it is much more budget friendly to eat meals without meat. And we’re trying to save save save right now (which is super fun, by the way. Not.).  Another reason is because typically meatless meals are lower in calories and fat. I don’t need to explain why that is a good thing, right? Obviously there are exceptions to that rule (helllllo mac & cheese) but generally it is true. At least those are the meatless kind of meals that I shoot for on our vegetarian evenings.



This recipe was one of those that I was a little apprehensive serving to my husband. I really truly didn’t think he would like it. I mean…it’s lentils and quinoa fronting as beef. Not really a meat-eater’s dream come true. But you guys! This is really good. And the texture of the lentils and the quinoa really do combine to create something that feels meaty in your mouth. Okay — I apologize for that sentence but there’s no other way to say it. It’s really simple to make too. Served up over some whole wheat noodles and you have dinner.  (I actually used regular white pasta because I didn’t want to push my husband completely over the edge, but next time it will be on whole wheat.) And if you want this to be truly vegan, of course leave the parm off. But we’re cheese lovers in this family. Especially me. Okay, mostly me.

Vegan Bolognese

Yield: 8 servings

Prep Time: 15 minutes

Cook Time: 1 hour

Total Time: 1 hour, 15 minutes

A healthy, filling vegan version of the popular bolognese sauce using lentils and quinoa for a meaty texture.


  • 1 cup brown or green lentils, sorted and rinsed
  • 3 medium carrots, peeled and each cut into 4 large chunks
  • 2 cups water
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 small yellow onion, roughly chopped
  • 1 red bell pepper, roughly chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
  • one 28-ounce can of crushed tomatoes
  • 1 and 1/2 teaspoons dried oregano
  • 1 tablespoon dried basil
  • 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes (more to taste)
  • 3 cups loosely packed spinach leaves
  • 1/2 cup quinoa, rinsed
  • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • cooked pasta for serving
  • grated parmesan cheese for serving (optional -- won’t be vegan anymore!)
  • fresh flat-leaf parsley, chopped, for serving (optional)


  1. In a medium sized saucepan, add the lentils, carrots and water. Bring to a boil over high heat and reduce to a simmer, cover and cook for 20 minutes or until the carrots are fork tender and the lentils are cooked.
  2. Meanwhile, in a deep skillet or Dutch oven, heat the oil over medium heat. Saute the onions for about 3 minutes or until they become translucent. Add the red peppers and garlic and saute for another minute or so.
  3. To a blender or food processor, add the can of tomatoes, the sauteed vegetables and garlic, oregano, basil, red pepper flakes and spinach. Once the lentils have cooked, remove the carrots and add them to the blender or food processor. Puree until smooth.
  4. In the pan where you sauteed the vegetables, add the lentils, balsamic vinegar and quinoa. Scrape any brown bits off the bottom of the pan. Add the pureed tomato mixture and bring to a simmer. Cook over low heat for about 30 minutes or until the white tails show on the quinoa meanwhile -- cook your pasta!). If needed, add some pasta water to thin out the sauce a bit.

Verdict: Loved it!

Husband’s take: Surprisingly, he loved this too.

Changes I would make: More cheese? Kidding — none are necessary.

Difficulty: Easy.

Vegan Bolognese with Lentils and Quinoa - On RachelCooks.com

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16 Responses to “Vegan Bolognese – with lentils and quinoa”

  1. denise — January 13, 2014 at 7:46 am

    looks good!

  2. Carrie @ Bakeaholic Mama — January 13, 2014 at 8:53 am

    love this! We eat a lot of lentils and quinoa, my kids hate ground meat but will do both of these! This recipe is a keeper for sure!

  3. Marnely Rodriguez-Murray — January 13, 2014 at 9:22 am

    I love this because it looks like a great meal to make when I’ve got NO idea what to make! I’ve always got lentils in the pantry, so saving this recipe for a meal this winter!

  4. Kim | Just For Clicks — January 13, 2014 at 12:06 pm

    This looks SO good! I’m focused on Clean Eating right now and this will definitely go onto my menu plan. I’ve found some great Brown Rice Pasta…. which will pair perfectly! Pinning this now…

  5. Liz @ Virtually Homemade — January 13, 2014 at 12:25 pm

    What a creative way to use quinoa. makes so much sense since it’s packed with protein.

  6. Julie — January 13, 2014 at 6:44 pm

    This is a brilliant way to mix up the typical Bolognese. I love the idea of doing half lentils-half meat for the sauce, too!!

  7. Stephanie @ Eat. Drink. Love. — January 13, 2014 at 11:02 pm

    Yum! My husband is the same way abut dinners. He wants the meat, but I could easily go without it!

  8. Kathryn — January 14, 2014 at 9:18 am

    This sounds great! Really hearty and flavourful – I bet you don’t miss the meat at all.


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