vegan bolognese sauce in a large skillet

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Why I love this lentil bolognese recipe

One of our goals this year is to make our food more budget-friendly. It’s not that we were spending huge dollar amounts on groceries every month, but we never really kept track of what we were eating and how much we were spending on food.

So this year, we decided it would be smart to start tracking it, and as a result, I decided to challenge myself to stay well under our budget.

And, guess what. Meat is expensive and beans are cheap. On top of that, beans are also much more environmentally-friendly choice, and that means we are trying to incorporate them into more meals.

My secret goal (ok, maybe not so secret now that I’m telling you about it) to have one bean-based meal a week, but it’s not something I’m going to drive myself nuts over.

Anyway, this slow cooker lentil bolognese is one of the first new recipes I’ve tried with that goal in mind, and I’m sure you’re going to love it as much as I do.

overhead view of lentil bolognese over pasta in a white bowl

Here’s what you’ll need to make it

lentil bolognese in a large skillet

How to make lentil bolognese

Sauté the vegetables. Heat olive oil in large skillet to medium-high. Add the onion, carrots, celery. Let them cook, stirring as needed, until they have softened and the onions are translucent. Add the garlic and continue cooking for another minute.

Simmer the lentils. Add the rest of the ingredients and cover the pan. Reduce heat to medium-low and let the sauce simmer for about 30 minutes, or until the lentils have softened completely.

Serve over pasta. Adjust seasoning to taste and serve of your favorite pasta.

closeup of lentil bolognese sauce

FAQs and tips for cooking lentils

How long does lentil bolognese last in the fridge?

This recipe should last for up to 5 days in the fridge. After that, you’ll want to freeze it or dispose of any remaining leftovers.

Can I freeze lentil bolognese?

This recipe holds up really well in the freezer so it’s a great option for making ahead of time or meal prepping. Store in an airtight container and freeze for up to 6 months.

Can I make this recipe gluten free?

Yes! You can easily make this recipe gluten free by using gluten free broth when making the sauce. You’ll also want to serve your lentil bolognese over gluten free pasta.

Can you use canned lentils instead of dry?

Yes. You will want to reduce the liquid in the recipe to almost nothing. I would recommend adding the canned lentils and tomatoes with no more than 1/2 cup of water for simmering.

closeup of spaghetti topped with vegan bolognese sauce

This recipe would be great with:

More vegan pasta sauce recipes:


Lentil Bolognese

This simple, lentil bolognese is hearty, comforting and full of flavor – everything a pasta sauce should be. This easy recipe can be made in one pot on the stove or in a crockpot. Serve it over spaghetti – or even spaghetti squash for a healthy alternative.

  • Author: Melissa Belanger
  • Prep Time: 10 minutes
  • Cook Time: 45 minutes
  • Total Time: 55 minutes
  • Yield: 6 1x
  • Category: Mains
  • Method: Stovetop
  • Cuisine: Italian


  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 1/2 cups sweet onion, diced
  • 2 carrots, grated (about 1 cup)
  • 3 celery stalks, diced (about 1 cup)
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced (about 1 tablespoon)
  • 1/21 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes, optional
  • 8 ounces dried lentils, rinsed and picked through
  • 1 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes
  • 3 cups vegetable stock
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 tablespoon dried basil
  • 1/2 tablespoon dried parsley
  • 1 teaspoon coarse salt


Stovetop instructions:

  1. Heat olive oil in large skillet over medium-high.
  2. Add onion, celery, carrots with a pinch of salt. Sauté, stirring occasionally, until the onion is translucent and the vegetables have softened – about 5 minutes.
  3. Add garlic and continue to cook until fragrant, about 1 minutes.
  4. Add the remaining ingredients and cover the skillet. Bring to liquid to a strong simmer and allow the lentils to cook until softened, about 30 minutes.
  5. If needed, add additional water to thin sauce and adjust seasoning with salt & pepper before serving.

Slow cooker instructions:

  1. Add all the ingredients to a slow cooker, mix together until combined.
  2. Cook on low for 4 – 5 hours, or until lentils have softened and sauce is thick.
  3. Add water to thin out sauce if necessary, and adjust seasoning with salt & pepper to taste.


  • Serving Size:
  • Calories: 250
  • Sugar: 10.8 g
  • Sodium: 758.9 mg
  • Fat: 5.6 g
  • Saturated Fat: 0.8 g
  • Carbohydrates: 41.4 g
  • Fiber: 8 g
  • Protein: 12.3 g
  • Cholesterol: 0 mg

Keywords: dairy free, vegan, gluten free, vegetarain, easy, pasta sauce, pasta, lentils

Last Updated on October 28, 2021 by Melissa Belanger

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Recipe rating


    1. I made this on the stove top, and it was very tasty! I’m glad I tried it as I’ve never had anything like it before. I will definitely make again.

    1. I just used regular lentils from my grocery store. That’s all they were labeled. They were brown, so not the French or red ones.

  1. Thank you . I am going to try this weekend. I have created a fabulous lentil soup recipe I will share with you if you like. It was actually requested from a soup fundraiser.

    Thank you again, can’t wait to try.

    1. My lentils are’crunchy’ , not a nice texture at all. I’ve let them cook a while longer, but still not good. What can i do please.

  2. I can’t wait to try this recipe!

    I just made lentil/black bean “taco meat” which was fabulous. Place a cup of cooked lentils, 1 can of black beans, some diced tomatoes, and some diced peppers or onions (anything you want to throw in) in a pan with some olive oil. Add in some water or veggie stock to moisten (kind of like you would for ground beef or taco meat) – along with s&p, cumin, chili powder, cayenne and garlic powder.
    I let it get happy for about 10 minutes and then stuffed some lettuce wraps with the lentil mixture and topped with Greek yogurt, cheese, & thinly sliced cucumbers on top! AMAZING

  3. Followed the directions but the lentils were no where near done at 5 hours on low. Turned the crockpot to high an still waiting to see how this turns out.

    1. Same for me. 5 hours on low. 3 hours on high. Crunchy raw onions and very firm lentils. It was horribly sour and acidic as well.

  4. This was really easy and delicious. I made a few adjustments to my liking, and had to put on high the last hour. Makes a lots too! So I have just shy of five two cup mason jars in the freezer for future meals.

  5. Absolutely delicious! I cooked the dish for longer so my lentils were cooked through. My 2 year old and husband love it too!

  6. This was really delicious! After reading the comments, I did cook it on high from the start, and it took almost 7 hours for the lentils to really cook through. Definitely a great recipe though, and one I look forward to playing with in the future!

  7. I was so excited about this recipe, but like others found that the lentils did not cook through. I started the crockpot on high for 3 hours, then turned it to low for an additional 5 hours. By the end the lentils were still undercooked, which is a big surprise since they cook so well on the stovetop in under an hour. There were also too many lentils in the recipe. I think next time I am going to half the amount of lentils so that they actually cook and I can get more of the sauce. On the plus side, the flavors of the sauce are really good. I wish I could have appreciated it. We ended up using a jarred sauce with the spaghetti for dinner because the lentils were inedible. I am going to try to fix it today so I don’t waste all that food.

  8. Very tasty and super easy! I did half quantities & have created enough for multiple meals.

  9. This is so hearty and delicious. I’ve made it twice and both times I’ve followed the crockpot instructions, which couldn’t be easier. I’ve also served it over polenta each time, instead of pasta. Yummy!

  10. I made this on the stove and simmered the lentils for about an hour. It turned out DELICIOUS! We really enjoyed this with some cheese. I will make this again 🙂