Hearty, full-bodied and deliciously rich, this vegan bolognese is a lip-smacking riff on the Italian classic. Serve over your favourite pasta for a satisfying, budget-friendly dinner the whole family will love.
While many of my pasta recipes are one-pot and easy like my one-pot mushroom pasta, my mushroom stroganoff or my one-pot spaghetti with lemon and olives, this vegan bolognese sauce takes a little longer.
But boy is it worth it. It's big, bold and super delicious.
Things to Love About This Sauce
Reader Review. "Oh, I loved this!. So meaty and delicious but with no meat. I haven't cooked much with TVP but the texture is amazing. 5 stars!" ★★★★★ (Sarah)
If you want get more plants in to your diet or just miss the taste of traditional Bolognese, this recipe is for you. My whole family - vegan and non-vegan- loves this recipe!
What is Bolognese?
Bolognese is a ragù (the Italian word for "meat sauce"), originally from Bologna, Italy. It is usually is made from a soffritto of onions, carrots and celery, ground meat, tomato and milk (for a silky texture).
What Can I Put in My Bolognese Instead of Meat?
Today we are using textured vegetable protein (TVP) instead of mince. You can also use finely chopped mushrooms with brown lentils, or ready-made vegan mince. There are a tonne of options but I like TVP because it is really cheap and it's a great substitute for mince meat.
Ingredients & Equipment
A big-ass pot or skillet - this recipe make a lot of sauce.
Textured Vegetable Protein. TVP is a hydrated product made from soy flour. It's high in protein and fibre and when cooked, is an awesome substitute for mince meat.
You'll want the smaller crumbs not the chunks. They can be found in most supermarkets these days.
Source: The Spruce Eats
TVP is processed so we call it a "sometimes food". However, that "sometime" is now because TVP is perfect for vegan bolognese. But, if you don't want to use processed products, you can sub out the TVP for 2 cups of cooked brown lentils.
Dried porcini mushrooms. These mushrooms add so much depth to the dish - we're going to use both the hydrated mushrooms and the broth. You can find dried porcini mushrooms in most good grocers or whole food stores. If you can't get porcini mushrooms, skip them in the recipe and add a tablespoon of miso paste.
Soffritto. The combination of diced onion, celery and carrot here is called" "soffritto" - it adds a strong base to any dish. The Italian word soffritto means “slightly-fried”, and describes the process of cooking these vegetables slowly until they release their flavor. Take your time cooking the vegetables to ensure you get big flavour.
Soy milk. I know, it's a total curve ball but adding milk creates this lip-smacking silky texture to the vegan bolognese. You can skip it, but it wouldn't hurt to try it, would it? You can also use oat milk or cashew milk.
Red wine. Make sure to get a vegan red wine - one that you would happily drink. The alcohol is cooked away during the cooking process so adding it is safe for kids. If you would prefer to abstain, just omit it.
How to Make The Best Vegan Bolognese Sauce
You'll find full instructions and measurements in the recipe card at the bottom of the post.
Step 1: Heat the olive oil in a large, heavy bottomed skillet over medium heat. Add your mirepoix and mushrooms with a good pinch of salt to the pan and cook until tender and beginning to brown. This may take up to 10-minutes.
Step 2. While your vegetables are cooking, add the dried porcini mushrooms to the boiling water and set aside for 5-minutes to soften.
Step 3. When your vegetables are ready, stir in the garlic, sage, nutmeg and tomato paste.
Step 4. Strain the porcini mushrooms, keeping the liquid. Pop the dried TVC in to a bowl and pour the reserved mushroom liquid over the top through a sieve and set aside.
Step 5. Okey-dokey, now you can chop up the hydrated porcini mushrooms and add them to the skillet. Next stir in the TVP and stir to coat well.
Step 6. Throw in the milk and the bay leaves. Cook until the milk is almost cooked away and then add your red wine and cook for around 3 minutes, stirring regularly
Step 7. Now you can go ahead and add the canned tomatoes, soy sauce, stock and nutritional yeast.
Step 8: Give it a good stir and bring the sauce up to a simmer. Reduce the heat to low and continue cooking until the liquid has reduced and the sauce is thick and "meaty" - around 25-30 minutes.
Season to taste with salt and pepper and you are good to go.
How To Serve Your Bolognese Sauce
Yes! Cook up a batch or even double the recipe. Allow it to cool completely before transferring it to a freezer-proof container. Freeze for up to 2 months. To thaw, transfer the container to the fridge for 24-hours and re-heat gently on the stove to serve.
It might seem strange, but milk (dairy-free milk here) adds body, richness and a silkiness to sauces. The best dairy-free milks to use are soy or Oatly milk.
TVP made from soy is naturally gluten-free and is the most common form of TVP. It can be made from other ingredients, however, so always check the label.
Carrots, onion and celery add a natural sweetness to the base of our vegan bolognese. They also help to build the complex flavours needed to make a really good bolognese sauce. OK, so yes, you can make this sauce without the mirepoix, but if you have the time, I absolutely recommended starting with the vegetable base.
You can't go past traditional spaghetti bolognese which, in Australia, we call "Spag Bol". But fettuccini works beautifully too. Really, you can use most pasta types. Angel hair or thin pastas might be the exception, only because they will get swamped by the rich and textured sauce.
Love your pasta? Try these easy vegan pasta/noodle recipes:
Want more plant-based goodness?
Vegan Bolognese Recipe
- 1 large pot or skillet
- 3 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 celery rib finely diced
- 1 carrot peeled and finely diced
- 1 yellow onion peeled and diced
- 200 g mushrooms cremini, Swiss or Portobello
- ¼ cup porcini mushrooms
- 1 cup boiling water
- 1 cup TVP (dry)
- 4 garlic cloves
- 1 tablespoon fresh sage chopped
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- ¼ teaspoon nutmeg
- 3 tbsp tomato paste
- ½ cup soy milk
- 2 bay leaves
- ½ cup red wine
- 400 grams canned chopped tomatoes
- 2 tablespoon soy sauce or tamari
- 1 and ½ cups vegan stock beef style if you can get it
- 2 tablespoon nutritional yeast
- salt to taste
- pepper to taste
- Heat the olive oil in a large, heavy bottomed skillet over medium heat. Add the celery, carrot, onion and mushrooms with a good pinch of salt to the pan and cook until tender and beginning to turn golden, around 7-10 minutes.
- While the vegetable base (mirepoix) is cooking, add the dried porcini mushrooms to the boiling water and set aside for 5 minutes for the mushrooms to soften.
- When the vegtables are soft and beginning to brown, add the garlic, sage, nutmeg and tomato paste and cook until fragrant, around 2 minutes.
- While the garlic is cooking, strain the porcini mushrooms, keeping the liquid. Pop the dried TVP in to a bowl and pour the reserved porcini liquid over the top through a sieve. Set aside.
- Chop up the hydrated porcini mushrooms and add them to the skillet, stirring through well.
- Add the TVP to the pan and stir. Add the the milk and the bay leaves and cook until the milk is almost cooked away and then add your red wine and cook for around 3 minutes, stirring regularly.
- Add the canned tomatoes, soy sauce, stock and nutritional yeast. Give it a good stir and bring the sauce up to a simmer. Reduce the heat to low and continue cooking with a lid partially covering the pot until the liquid has reduced and the sauce is thick and "meaty" - around 25-30 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper and serve over pasta.