Vegetarian Bolognese is a saucy, protein-packed bolognese that’s so delicious you’ll never miss the meat. San Marzano tomatoes, garlic, and herbs simmered up with lentils and beans make a unique and hearty vegetarian bolognese sauce. This one is protein-packed and interesting with every bite.

A white pasta bowl full of vegetarian bolognese on top of whole wheat spaghetti. In the background are tomatoes on the vine and a glass of red wine.

Go big or go home, that’s what I always say. Okay … maybe I don’t say that – like, ever. But with this hearty vegetarian bolognese, I’ll say it. Because this vegetarian spaghetti bolognese definitely goes big!

In This Article

The Story Behind the Recipe

I started tinkering with legumes in marinara with this Red Lentil Pasta Sauce, but I just couldn’t stop there. Nope! Now I’ve added three – yep, three – different types of legumes to this vegetarian bolognese recipe, and I love it even more.

As a vegetarian, one thing I don’t love about classic marinara or other pasta sauces is that, when served over pasta, it just doesn’t really seem all that satisfying. Sure, you can add veggie meatballs, and there are some darn good ones. But why not just throw some beans into the mix? How much easier is that?!

Here’s what we’ve got, legume-wise, in this vegan bolognese sauce:

  1. White beans
  2. Red beans
  3. and lentils for good measure!

And it’s really kind of glorious. 

I mean, for one: Protein. We’ve definitely got protein here. Check.

A side by side image showing the beans and lentils that go into vegetarian bolognese and a pot of cooked vegetarian bolognese.
A spoonful of vegetarian bolognese as it cooks in the pot.

And then there’s deliciousness. Absolute deliciousness. Check check.

A close up of a bowl of vegetarian bolognese with whole wheat pasta.

I kept this vegetarian bolognese super simple, yet it still sports bold flavors all up in that hearty thick goodness.


The full list of ingredients? We’ve got:

  • San Marzano tomatoes
  • Onion and a decent amount of garlic sauteed in olive oil
  • Red pepper flakes for heat
  • Basil infused into the mix
  • Cannellini beans or your favorite white beans
  • Red beans or kidney beans
  • French green lentils
  • Honey – helps to cut the acidity of the tomatoes. If you want to make a fully vegan bolognese, you can sub in a vegan sugar or even grade A pure maple syrup, or leave it out.

How to Make Vegetarian Bolognese

First, you sauté your aromatics – onion and garlic – plus add the red pepper flakes, salt, and pepper.

Then, add the tomatoes along with the juices from the can. Add the water and honey, then the lentils, and simmer until the lentils are tender.

Stir in the beans and basil and continue cooking until thick, rich, and perfect!

Serve over your favorite pasta, but you can’t go wrong with spaghetti noodles for vegetarian spaghetti bolognese!

Ideas for Serving

This bean bolognese can go over so much more than just pasta! The beans and lentils just add this heartiness that somehow expands its horizons beyond plain pasta or bread-dipping.

You can:

Two white pasta bowls with whole wheat pasta and vegetarian bolognese garnished with a sprig of basil on a distressed green-painted wooden background.

More Hearty Pasta Sauce Recipes

Legume My Marinara (Hearty Marinara Sauce with Lentils and Beans) - Marinara simmered together with lentils and beans for a thick, hearty, and protein-rich take on classic marinara. We love this over whole-wheat spaghetti, stirred into spaghetti squash, or stuffed in baked sweet potatoes. Vegan, gluten-free, and freezer-friendly!
4.60 from 5 votes

Vegetarian Bolognese with Beans & Lentils

Prep: 20 minutes
Cook: 40 minutes
Total: 1 hour
Author: Kare
Tomatoes and garlic simmered together with lentils and beans for a thick, hearty, and protein-rich take on bolognese.


  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 medium yellow onion (diced)
  • 6 medium cloves garlic (minced)
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt + more to taste
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper + more to taste
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 2 28-ounce cans whole San Marzano tomatoes
  • 1 1/2 cups water
  • 1 tablespoon vegan-friendly granulated sugar
  • 1 cup French green lentils (rinsed)
  • 1 15-ounce can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 15-ounce can small red beans or red kidney beans, drained and rinsed
  • Large sprig of fresh basil


  • Set a large pot over medium heat. When hot, add the olive oil. Add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until soft, 5-6 minutes. Add the garlic, red pepper flakes, salt, and pepper. Cook, stirring frequently, for one more minute.
  • Squeeze the tomatoes to crush and add them to the pot along with the juices from the can. Add the water and honey and stir to combine. Add the lentils. Increase heat to bring the mixture to a boil and then reduce heat to medium. Simmer, stirring occasionally, until the lentils are almost cooked through, about 20 minutes.
  • Stir in the beans and the sprig of basil and continue to cook until thick and rich, about 5-10 more minutes. Remove basil. Taste and add additional salt and pepper if desired.
  • Serve over your favorite pasta (we’re partial to whole wheat spaghetti with this sauce), spooned over spaghetti squash, or in a baked sweet potato.
  • Sauce keeps refrigerated in an airtight container for 2-3 days. It also freezes very well.

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