Do you ever find yourself wishing for a quick and easy dinner recipe that you can whip out at a moment’s notice? One that everyone loves to eat?
Well, this simple vegan bolognese might just be the answer to your prayers.
You just blend everything up, simmer it for a bit, throw it over some pasta, and dinner’s on the table in just 15 minutes.
Like that idea? Me too!
When I first met my husband over 18 years ago, one of the best dishes he used to cook for me was his spaghetti bolognese.
It was his “go to” recipe for a quick and easy meal, and it was incredibly tasty. But once we stopped eating meat, he stopped making it.
I was remembering it fondly the other day and went looking for vegan bolognese recipes, but they were all so complicated (and included a lot more veggies than I remember).
So I decided it was time to reinvent his classic recipe, with all the same great flavours, but packed with whole foods and lacking the meat.
And this is the result.
I love that you just throw everything into the blender, which as you may know, is my preferred cooking style. It makes it so fast, and I love the low-fuss method.
I was also thrilled to discover a vegan Worcestershire sauce at my local health food shop, because it adds a lovely depth to the flavours of this vegan bolognese.
You can even simmer the sauce while you cook the pasta (or spiralise your zucchini), and it all comes together very neatly at the end.
It also tastes great with a piece or two of vegan cheese slowly melting on top.
And the best part? Our kids LOVE it.
Even my fussy 6-year-old asked for “Dad’s bolognese” the other day.
How cool is that?
We’ll definitely be eating this fabulous creation on a regular basis in our house.
Vegan Bolognese Sauce recipe
Make sure to read the tips below the recipe to get the most out of this tasty vegan bolognese sauce recipe.
- 8 med (50g) sundried tomato halves
- 3 med (300g) fresh tomatoes, chopped
- 2 med (40g) medjool dates
- 1/2 tsp onion powder
- 1/2 tsp vegan Worcestershire sauce
- 1/2 tsp instant stock mix or 1/2 a stock cube
- 1/2 tsp mixed herbs or Italian herbs
- 1/2 cup (125g) water
- 200g processed mushrooms OR lentils OR textured vegetable protein (TVP)
- pasta, rice, noodles or zucchini for spiralising
- Blend all ingredients (except mushrooms, lentils or TVP) until smooth.
- Add a little extra water if fresh tomatoes are not very juicy or if sundried tomatoes are very dry.
- Put mixture in saucepan with mushrooms (or lentils or TVP), bring gently to the boil and simmer for 5-10 minutes.
- Serve over pasta, rice, noodles or spiralised zucchini.
During: 15 minutes
Need: Blender, stove
- I use dry sun-dried tomatoes in my vegan bolognese (as opposed to sun-dried tomatoes in oil), for a couple of reasons. Firstly, they’re easy to store and super convenient. Secondly, the oil content is a lot lower when they’re not packed in oil. And thirdly, I can make them myself when tomatoes are in plentiful supply in my dehydrator.
- That said, if you can’t find dry sun-dried tomatoes, you can use sun-dried tomatoes packed in oil, and it will still turn out great. You might want to reduce the amount of water slightly, but I honestly don’t think you’re going to see a big difference, and the juiciness of the fresh tomatoes will have a bigger impact than any oil from the sun-dried tomatoes. The only thing to be aware of is that the fat content of the vegan bolognese sauce will go up. It’s currently a very low-fat recipe, with only 1g of fat per serving.
- I tend to use Roma tomatoes in all of my cooking, just because I love their taste and texture. Roma tomatoes are known for being great for sauces and they suit this vegan bolognese to a “T”. Once again, if you don’t happen to have Roma tomatoes on hand, just use what fresh tomatoes you do have. It’s a very forgiving recipe.
- Medjool dates are big, sweet, soft and sticky dates that you usually find in the fresh produce section, or at your local health food store. They’re softer than regular dates, and have more of a caramelly taste and add a rich sweetness to recipes. Paul’s original recipe used tinned tomato soup which has added sugar, so I used the dates to recreate this flavour using whole foods instead.
- I used dry onion powder in this recipe for convenience. It’s so much faster than chopping up an onion, but if you’d prefer to use fresh onion, go for it. The vegan bolognese sauce is simmered after you blend it anyway, so the onion will end up being cooked as part of the sauce. I would start with about a tablespoon of fresh brown onion or sweet red onion and see if you like the balance of flavours, and then adjust the amount to suit your tastes from there.
- The original Worcestershire sauce was basically made from rotting fish. Yummo! I was lucky enough to find a vegan version at my local health food shop, but if you can’t find one near you, you can substitute it with a homemade recipe. I’ve included links to a few recipes for homemade Worcestershire sauce in the Resources section below.
- We’ve always used my instant vegetable stock powder in this recipe, but you can use any stock cube, stock paste or stock powder that you prefer. I don’t tend to use liquid stock, once again because it’s not as versatile, but if you want to, just swap the 1/2 cup of water plus the 1/2 tsp of stock mix for your liquid stock.
- Either Italian herbs or mixed herbs will work fine in this recipe. These two herb blends are very similar, and can be safely substituted for each other. Italian herbs generally contains thyme, rosemary, basil, oregano, sage while mixed herbs just adds marjoram to the same basic blend.
- It’s up to you which “meat substitute” you add to this recipe, but it is an important element so don’t leave it out. If you go with mushrooms, you’ll need to process them into a fine crumble or dice them very finely, so that they distribute well throughout the sauce. Cooked lentils also work well, and you can either used canned lentils or cook them yourself.
- Our “meat” of choice at the moment is “textured vegetable protein” (or TVP) simply because it’s fast and convenient, and works really well as a mince substitute. But just be aware that TVP often contains both gluten and soy, so it might not be the best option if you’re catering to people with food intolerances.
- We aim to simmer the vegan bolognese for just long enough and no more. This means that everything that improves with cooking (like the fresh tomatoes) gets properly cooked, but nothing gets cooked more than absolutely necessary. We’ve found that it needs to be at least 5 minutes, but no more than 10 minutes is required. If you do end up simmering it for longer, it’s no big deal, because everything’s still contained in the sauce, so you’re all good!
- We’re experimenting on a regular basis with all kinds of bases for this vegan bolognese sauce – wheat pastas, gluten-free pastas, rice, gnocchi, spiralised vegetables – it really works well with all of them. Just use whatever you prefer and see how you like it. My favourites at the moment are wholewheat fettuccine and potato gnocchi, but it’s important that you choose the options that you like to eat best, because then you’ll enjoy it even more.
- The vegan cheese on top of the bolognese is definitely optional, but you might find it adds a pleasant richness to the dish, especially for people who are used to heavier dishes. It will also add a little extra fat to the meal, which can be wonderfully comforting, but best avoided if you’re trying to stay low-fat.
- Another way to create this “cheesy” taste without adding fat would be to add a teaspoon of savoury nutritional yeast flakes to the blender when you’re making the sauce. I haven’t tried this option, but my mouth is watering just thinking about the possibility.
- Just because this recipe doesn’t include veggies doesn’t mean you can’t add them if you want to. We like adding sliced mushrooms to ours (and the kids haven’t noticed yet, shhhhhh), but you could try adding grated carrot, diced celery, diced red capsicum (bell peppers), diced zucchini or even eggplant. Just be aware that the veggies may change the flavour, especially if you add lots, so take it gently so as to keep the fabulous flavours in balance.
This vegan bolognese sauce is an updated, adapted version of a spaghetti bolognese sauce my husband used to make for me when we were first dating.
I have so many fond memories of it that I wanted to recreate the taste, but with a new vegan, whole food, minimal effort slant.
None of the recipes I found online were simple enough, or resembled the dish that I recalled. So I decided to adapt the original recipe.
It was obviously a brilliant recipe to begin with, because it survived the reinvention fabulously, and has now become a staple in our house all over again.
I love how tasty and satisfying this vegan bolognese sauce is, and yet it’s so simple and easy to make.
It must be time to teach my kids how to make it!
If you want to know more about Roma tomatoes, here’s a great guide to growing and using them:
If you want to know about the origins of Worcestershire sauce, this is a great read:
but if you’d rather just make your own substitute, here’s some handy links:
- Worcestershire Sauce Recipe: Easy Homemade Substitute @ Food Renegade (non-vegan)
- Vegan Worcestershire Sauce @ Forks Over Knives (vegan and pretty unprocessed)
- Vegan Worcestershire Sauce @ Food.com (vegan and fairly unprocessed)
and if you want a quick and dirty Worcestershire sauce substitute, here’s a great tip from Campbell’s Kitchen:
“If you’re out of Worcestershire sauce, use 2 teaspoons soy sauce, 1/4 teaspoon lemon juice,1/4 teaspoon sugar and a dash of hot sauce for every tablespoon Worcestershire the recipe calls for.”
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And have a brilliant day!
~ Nikki, Eating Vibrantly