My super simple vegan bolognese is your new go-to for a dreamy, meaty pasta sauce, ideal for a quick school night dinner!
Oooh I WISH I’d had this vegan bolognese sauce recipe twenty years ago! I grew up eating bolognese for dinner on the REGULAR (and we’re not talking a classy authentic Italian ragu – I’m talking the kind of bolognese that English kids eat and end up destroying their school uniform with permanent tomato stains because they eat it like some sort of feral animal).
Yep, this is another super easy, classic SCHOOL NIGHT recipe but flipped on its head and made vegan AF. It’s going to be your new fave dinner, I can feel it in my waters.
If you ask an Italian, this recipe isn’t a bolognese. Traditional bolognese, for instance, usually doesn’t have any tomato in it. It’s a slow-cooked ragu made from beef with a blend of vegetables called a “soffritto” and a splash of milk for good measure (which blows my mind!). Some recipes on this blog are focussed on keeping things as authentic as possible, but this recipe aint one of em.
With all due respect, this recipe isn’t an attempt to emulate the traditional bolognese AT ALL. Most of my cooking is about nostalgia and I feel like the magic of vegan cooking is being able to unlock those recipes you loved as a kid or before you went vegan. So the bolognese my recipe is based on is the bolognese I used to eat as a kid – and hopefully that hits some nostalgia points for you too!
What’s in MY vegan bolognese?
This bolognese still uses a soffritto (onion, garlic, celery and carrot) which gets cooked down until it’s buttery and nice and three dimensional (sounds snobby, but I can’t think of how else to describe it – it genuinely goes from being 1D vegetable flavours to a 3D medley).
But we’re gonna replace the beef with vegan mince or “ground” if you’re American (more on that later) and get the sauce all tomato-ey! For me, that’s where the magic of bolognese comes in – the sweet, salty, umami tang of tomatoes. Some people in the UK cook bolognese with diced bacon, so I finish my recipe off with a dash of liquid smoke, just to give it that bacon-y hit!
How do I make a killer vegan bolognese!?
As always, the FULL RECIPE is at the bottom of the page – scroll on down if you’re in a hurry. If not, hey! Thanks for sticking around – I’ve got a little step by step recipe breakdown for you, so let’s do this!
1. Make your soffritto
First, we’re going to fry up our soffritto. Remember, this is just a fancy word for a mix of veggies. It starts with onions, then garlic and then followed by carrot and celery. I recommend cooking them for at least 5 minutes, but if you have time, give them a bit longer. The longer you cook, the more 3D the veggie flavour will become!
2. Add the vegan mince/ground
Here’s where this becomes a choose your own adventure recipe! There are two ways to continue with this recipe. You can either buy some delicious store-bought vegan mince/ground OR you can sub for a can of lentils (green or brown work great but beluga are my faves).
If you use store-bough vegan mince/ground, my favourites are either Naturli, Meatless Farm or Beyond Mince. These guys have a great fat content balanced with a good protein content so it behaves a lot like real mince. But honestly, even simple frozen soya mince will work great.
3. Add your flavour bombs
These guys will take your vegan bolognese to the next level. My Mam always used to use Worcestershire sauce in her bolognese because it adds some much-needed tang and piquancy! Unfortch, “Wuzzy Sauce” as Mam calls it contains fish, so we’ll be replacing it with a vegan alternative. My fave is Mushroom Ketchup but you can also use Henderson’s Relish, which is totes vegan.
We’re also adding some dark soy sauce, tomato puree and our chopped tomatoes at this stage.
4. Cook it on down!
People ALWAYS underestimate how long it takes to properly cook down tomatoes. You ever been to a cafe where they cooked their own baked beans or chilli and it arrives all gross and watery? That’s because they DIDN’T COOK THE TOMATOES LONG ENOUGH!
Give the bolognese a good 30 mins to simmer down, but make sure you cover it with a lid, so all the moisture doesn’t evaporate.
And that’s how to make vegan bolognese!
It’s a super simple recipe and all you gotta do now is cook up some pasta and give everything a mix together! Excited?? You SHOULD BE!
WANT MORE EASY DINNERS!?
Why not try: