Rich Lentil Bolognese

Bowl of lentil bolognese with spaghetti.

Sometimes I get a recipe idea in my head and I can’t let go; whilst some of the recipes on this site have been developed over months, years even (I’m looking at you Better Than IKEA Swedish Meatballs), I’ve been making batch upon batch of this happily vegan, totally satisfying and very easy Rich Lentil Bolognese on repeat the past couple of weeks until I got it right: thankfully portions freeze really well!

I don’t know why I suddenly became obsessed with perfecting this, but what I can tell you is this fantastic lentil bolognese recipe smells like my mum’s Classic Bolognese Sauce when it is cooking, it is super hearty to dig into on a chilly night, but it is also a bit lighter than the meat version: and without the need for minced beef or half a pack of bacon, much cheaper to make. Either if you’re a committed vegan or simply want to cut down on meat a bit on busy weeknights like me, I promise you you’re going to love this Rich Lentil Bolognese recipe which contains everything you’d expect from a good Italian ragu, plus a few little extras to really make every mouthful special. To that end, a few ingredient notes below:

Close up of a plate of lentil spaghetti bolognese.

What sort of miso paste should I use?

I used white miso paste here because it is the jar I’ve got open in the fridge, but any miso paste will do here to give the bolognese a salty, savoury boost! Korean doenjang paste would work here, too. I tend to keep Miso Tasty brand on hand.

Can I substitute anything for the sundried tomato paste?

Yes! If you can’t get any sundried tomato paste regular tomato puree will do.

Can I substitute anything for the dried mushrooms?

I’m afraid not, because they’re what take this bolognese from very tasty but a bit flat to something worth serving up for dinner! However, while I’ve used mixed dried mushrooms here for cost effectiveness, you can use whatever dried mushrooms you have to hand. If you’ve never used them before and you’re worried about the jar hanging around at the back of the cupboard, you can also use them to make my Easy Mixed Mushroom Risotto and my Truffled Mushroom Pate.

Lentil bolognese with green lentils in a bowl bowl of spaghetti.
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Lentil bolognese with green lentils in a bowl bowl of spaghetti.

Rich Lentil Bolognese

  • Author: Rachel Phipps
  • Prep Time: 10 minutes
  • Cook Time: 1 hour 20 minutes
  • Total Time: 1 hour 30 minutes
  • Yield: Serves 4-6 1x
  • Category: Dinner
  • Diet: Vegan


An easy, hearty and rich lentil bolognese recipe that is happily vegan – perfect to serve over pasta, for Sunday meal prep, or to batch cook to fill the freezer!


  • 5g (1/4 oz) dried mushrooms
  • light oil
  • 1 brown onion
  • 1 celery stick
  • 1 large carrot
  • sea salt
  • 2 large garlic cloves
  • 1 tbsp sundried tomato paste
  • 1/2 tbsp miso paste
  • 1/2 tsp dried thyme
  • 1/2 tsp dried oregano 
  • 2 tbsp red wine
  • 1/2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 200g (7 oz) dried green lentils
  • 1 x 400g (14 oz) can chopped tomatoes
  • freshly ground black pepper


  1. Pour 500ml (2 1/2 cups) boiling water over the dried mushrooms and set aside.
  2. Heat a generous splash of light oil in a large saucepan over a medium heat. Peel and finely chop the onion, celery and carrot before gently frying them with a pinch of sea salt for 10 minutes or so until soft and starting to brown lightly.
  3. Peel and grate or mince in the garlic, cooking for a further minute until aromatic.
  4. Stir in the sundried tomato paste, miso and dried herbs. Cook for another few minutes, again until aromatic.
  5. Stir in the red wine and balsamic vinegar, followed by the lentils. Stir until the lentils are well coated with the soffrito mix.
  6. Strain the mushrooms and set aside. Add the mushroom soaking water and the tinned tomatoes to the pan, using a little mushroom water to wash any remaining tomato juices from the inside of the tin. 
  7. Finely chop the mushrooms and stir them into the pan.
  8. Bring the pan to the boil and season generously with salt and pepper. Turn the heat down to low and leave to gently blip away for 1 hour, stirring occasionally (see notes).
  9. Season to taste before serving stirred through pasta and topped with vegetarian or vegan parmesan, if liked. 


I like my lentils to still have a little bite to them, but if you’d prefer them to be a bit softer cook the bolognese for a further half an hour, adding water as needed.