Lentil and Tempeh Bolognese (Vegan)

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This hearty vegan bolognese is made with a blend of lentils, tempeh, and mushrooms for a meaty texture, umami flavor, and lots of protein.

pot of vegan bolognese

This vegan bolognese is a recent addition to my repertoire of hearty, high protein, “meaty” recipes using plant-based whole foods. (Others in this list include my meaty vegan chili, sweet and sour meatballs, meatloaf, and lasagna.) Crumbled or minced tempeh is my favorite ground meat substitute since it has a firm, chewy texture, lots of protein, and is packed with nutrients. And if you don’t like the flavor of tempeh, this recipe is perfect since you can’t taste it! Combined with mushrooms, lentils, and tomatoes, this bolognese has a deep savory flavor that pairs perfectly with pasta or in lasagna (my favorite).

vegan bolognese ingredients

Key Ingredients

  • Tempeh and Mushrooms For a hearty, meaty texture when minced.
  • Lentils For extra protein!
  • Tomatoes and Tomato Paste Essential in bolognese! Tomatoes form the rich, savory sauce.
  • Red Wine or Balsamic Vinegar Just a little bit of red wine adds extra depth to the sauce. For an alcohol-free version, use balsamic vinegar at 1/4 of the amount of wine.
  • Soy Sauce For a little extra umami hit.

Tips for Success

Finely mince tempeh and mushrooms ⟶ These give the bolognese a “meaty” texture, so you want them to be very finely minced like ground meat. I recommend using a food processor to do this, it will save you a lot of time.

Use good quality ingredients! ⟶ Of course you should always use good quality ingredients in cooking, but for vegan bolognese in particular, you should focus on good quality tomatoes, wine, and flavorful mushrooms.
-Tomato Paste: If possible, use tomato paste from a tube instead of a can. The tube tomato paste is usually more flavorful.
-Canned Tomatoes: I recommend using canned whole peeled tomatoes instead of crushed tomatoes. Whole tomatoes tend to be better quality.
-Wine: Use a dry red wine like merlot or cabernet sauvignon. Don’t use cooking wine since they have other ingredients added to them like salt, sugar, and other preservatives.
-Mushrooms: Shiitake or crimini mushrooms are best. White button mushrooms will work but they aren’t as flavorful.

Use fresh herbs (optional) Fresh herbs are a lot more flavorful, so use them if you can find them. I used dried herbs in the recipe card since these are more accessible for everyone, but for fresh herbs use 1 tablespoon (per 1 tsp of dried). You can also garnish the bolognese with some fresh basil and parsley for extra flavor.

Vegan Bolognese FAQ

How long does vegan bolognese last?
This lentil and tempeh bolognese will last up to 5 days in the fridge when stored in an airtight container.

How do I serve vegan bolognese?
Serve bolognese with pasta noodles of choice (make sure they’re egg-free to keep it vegan), zucchini noodles, or soak it up with some good bread (like my no-knead seeded multigrain bread). Sprinkle with some vegan parmesan if you like a cheesy flavor. This bolognese is also a great filling for vegan lasagna!

Can I freeze vegan bolognese?
Yes! Let the bolognese cool to room temperature, then transfer to freezer-safe bags or containers – but don’t fill them to the top. The bolognese will expand a bit when it freezes so leave a couple inches of space at the top. It should last in the freezer for 2-3 months.

How do I reheat frozen bolognese?
Thaw the bolognese in the fridge overnight, then reheat in a pot on the stove. If you forgot to thaw it, you can run the container or bag under hot water to help the bolognese thaw and release from the container.

Is bolognese gluten-free?
This bolognese is gluten-free as long as you use tamari or coconut aminos instead of soy sauce. Serve with gluten-free pasta or bread.

More Hearty Vegan Mains

If you make this lentil and tempeh bolognese, don’t forget to leave a comment/rating down below and tag me in your photos on instagram @ellielikes.cooking. I love seeing all of your tasty recreations!

Lentil and Tempeh Bolognese (Vegan)

This hearty vegan bolognese is made with a blend of lentils, tempeh, and mushrooms for a meaty texture, umami flavor, and lots of protein.
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 40 minutes
Course Main Course
Cuisine Gluten-Free, Italian, Vegan
Servings 6


  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 2 carrots, diced
  • 2 celery, diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 8 oz tempeh, minced (can use food processor)
  • 4 oz mushrooms, minced (can use food processor)
  • ¼ cup dry red wine**1, or 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 3 tbsp tomato paste
  • 28 oz can whole or crushed tomatoes
  • 2 cups water
  • cups cooked lentils
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 tsp dried thyme
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 1 tbsp soy sauce, tamari, or coconut aminos*
  • ¼ tsp salt, or more to taste
  • ground black pepper, to taste


  • Heat olive oil in a pot over medium heat. Add onions, carrots, celery, garlic, and a pinch of salt. Cook until onions start to brown and celery softens, 5-8 minutes.
  • Add minced tempeh and mushrooms and another pinch of salt. Cook 2 minutes, stirring constantly.
  • Add wine (or balsamic vinegar) to deglaze the pan. Stir constantly for 1 minute, scraping the bottom of the pot for any stuck pieces.
  • Add tomato paste and stir constantly for 1 minute or until the color darkens.
  • Add tomatoes. If using whole tomatoes, add ½ cup of water and crush the tomatoes with your stirring spoon.
  • Add remaining water, lentils, bay leaf, thyme, oregano, and soy sauce. Cover and simmer for 30 minutes. Stir occasionally to prevent burning on the bottom.
  • Adjust seasonings to taste, adding more salt, pepper, or sugar as desired.


1) See this list for vegan-friendly wine.

Nutrition per serving: 240 kcal | 8.5g fat | 1.5g sat fat | 27g carb | 8g fiber | 17g protein | 500mg sodium

*Disclosure: This page may contain affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases, but the price remains the same to you. Thank you for supporting Ellie Likes Cooking!

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