I just love cooking up staple dishes, and you can’t get more classic than a bolognese sauce. Rich, meaty and satisfying; the perfect, failsafe weeknight dinner recipe. But of course, we’re making this one vegan and grain free. Everyone truly does need a good bolognese recipe under their belt – I hope you love this one.
Achieving that richness and depth of flavour with a vegan bolognese can often prove challenging. You definitely want to avoid the end result being too tangy, earthy, or just lacking that full body of flavour. Consequently some ingredients are just essential to ensure a truly tasty bolognese.
Whatever you do, don’t skip out on the coconut aminos. This salty, savoury sauce adds that umami depth of flavour that is so essential to a good bolognese. Additionally, it balances out the sharpness of the tomato puree for a well rounded flavour. If you don’t have coconut aminos you can use vegan Worcestershire Sauce.
Similarly, the Dijon is another must have for this vegan bolognese. I just love this magic little ingredient; silky smooth and slightly spicy at the same time. It adds a deliciously subtle tangy taste to the recipe. Let’s not forget some good red wine too. I like to use organic for less sulfites and don’t worry guys you’re cooking off the alcohol for this one it’s better for the gut.
Fresh rosemary and dried oregano create that classic herby twist to the tomato base. If you don’t have fresh you can use dried but fresh is best in my opinion. Serve with fresh basil leaves to really tie this whole dish together.
Sunflower mince is without a doubt the star of this recipe. Coupled with the lentils and meaty tasting mushrooms it gives such a realistic, meat-like texture and absorbs those tomatoey Italian flavours perfectly. I spoke a lot about sunflower mince recently in my vegan chilli recipe , and it works perfectly in this bolognese too. In brief, it’s naturally sourced, high in protein, grain-free and delicious. You won’t ever want to go back to processed meat alternatives again.
Adding in Texture
Say it with me now; food texture is just as important as taste! The consistency of a dish can really make or break a recipe.
For instance; one thing we definitely want to avoid with plant-based cooking is the dreaded ‘mush’. Just because we want to be kinder to the planet and to ourselves, does not mean we have to sacrifice texture.
Sunflower mince already provides that ideal soft, chewy bite to the sauce. A substantial, meaty bolognese is what we are aiming for. My top tip is to add it towards the end of cooking. You want it to soften slightly with the moisture of the sauce but still retain a bite. Adding too soon and over cooking would result in mush… and what was it I said again… no-one likes mush!
The celery, carrots and mushrooms are an important game changer for this recipe, adding new elements to the texture and helping to bulk out the bolognese. It’s also great to sneak in those extra veggies and pack in the nutrients.
Serving Suggestions & Variations
For a truly classic vegan bolognese, serve with tagliatelle or spaghetti, and top with vegan parmesan or nooch. Make it gluten free pasta or my personal favourite, use lentil pasta (I used ZENB Fusilli Pasta made with yellow split peas) for a high protein, gut friendly option.
Want to keep things vegan keto or lower carb? Replace the lentils with more veggies like courgettes and serve this bolognese either with konjac pasta, Palmini Palm of hearts pasta, courgette noodle or in a roasted spaghetti squash for a real show stopping meal! An easy and simple way to take your meal presentation to the next level and get those extra veggies in, all while staying low carb and grain free.
- 2 extra virgin olive oil
- 1 medium onion, finely diced
- 1 large carrot, diced small
- 2 ribs celery, diced small
- 150 g mushrooms, chopped
- 2 tbsp fresh rosemary, chopped
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- 1/2 tsp dijon
- 1 tbsp coconut aminos or vegan Worcestershire sauce (I like Coconut Merchant Savoury Sauce)
- 1.5 tsp dried oregano
- 180 ml red wine
- 1 tin chopped tomaotes (400g)
- 1/3 cup tomato puree
- 1/4 cup sun-dried tomatoes, chopped (50g)
- 3/4 - 1 1/4 cups stock
- 1 tin green lentils, drained + rinsed
- Salt and Pepper to taste
- 1 cup sunflower seed mince (I like The Source Bulk Foods Organic Sunflower Mince )
- Handful fresh basil, chopped
- Heat 2 tbsp of olive oil in a large non-stick pan. Add the onions, carrot, celery, mushrooms and rosemary and fry for 5 minutes on a medium heat until soft. Add the garlic for 1 further minute until fragrant.
- Add the dijon, coconut aminos or Worcestershire sauce, oregano, red wine, tomatoes, tomato puree, sun-dried tomatoes, stock, salt, pepper, lentils and 3/4 cup stock. Bring to the boil then simmer for about 15 - 20 minutes until it starts to thicken.
- Add the Sunflower seed mince for 2 minutes to warm through. The sunflower seed mince will absorb a lot of moisture so you may need to add up to 1/2 cup more stock. It depends on how much you reduced the Vegan Bolognese down.
- Adjust seasoning to taste and Serve with fresh basil, pasta of choice (I use ZenB yellow split pea pasta for a gluten free lentil based alternative) and optional vegan cheese.