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

Shallow rectangular white dish containing sauce with penne pasta, garnished with shredded Parmesan and chopped herbs. Text overlay reads "Vegan bolognese (lentil and quinoa)"

A number of months ago, I talked my meat-loving husband into being okay with one meatless meal a week. It actually wasn’t nearly 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, a 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 to choose vegetarian is because typically (not always!) 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.

Pasta and vegan sauce, with Parmesan cheese and fresh herbs, in white serving dish.

This recipe is one that I was a little apprehensive serving to my husband the first time I made it. 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 Ben agrees! The texture of the lentils and the quinoa combines 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. Serve vegan Bolognese sauce over whole wheat noodles and you have dinner. Or use regular white pasta, if you prefer. And if you want this meal to be truly vegan, of course, omit the Parmesan cheese or use  your favorite vegan cheese. We’re cheese lovers in this family. Especially me. Okay, mostly me.

If you’re looking for a more classic Bolognese pasta sauce, be sure to try Instant Pot Bolognese. It’s a game changer, ready in an hour! Or try this healthier Turkey Bolognese Recipe. It’s made on the stovetop with ground turkey and turkey sausage, and it’s super flavorful.

Used in the recipe:

More pasta for your carb-loving soul:


Front view of pasta and sauce in rectangular white serving dish.

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 crushed tomatoes
  • 1 tablespoon dried basil
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons dried oregano
  • 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 — use a vegan cheese to maintain vegan-ness)
  • 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, sauteed vegetables and garlic, basil, oregano, red pepper flakes and spinach. Once the lentils have cooked, remove 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
  5. Meanwhile — cook your pasta as directed on the package. If needed, add some pasta water to thin out the sauce a bit.
  6. Serve immediately. Garnish with parsley, if desired.
Nutrition Information:
Yield: 8 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 166Total Fat: 5gSaturated Fat: 1gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 3gCholesterol: 1mgSodium: 296mgCarbohydrates: 26gFiber: 7gSugar: 7gProtein: 8g

RachelCooks.com sometimes provides nutritional information, but these figures should be considered estimates, as they are not calculated by a registered dietitian. Please consult a medical professional for any specific nutrition, diet, or allergy advice.

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Front view of pasta and sauce in rectangular white serving dish.