This Red Lentil Pasta Sauce brings tons of protein to your Italian tomato sauce equation. Which means a scoop of pasta + a scoop of this hearty lentil pasta sauce goodness on top equals a full, satisfying meal. Score!

A bowl of pasta with red lentil pasta sauce and a sprig of parsley

In this Article

About this Lentil Pasta Sauce

I used to call this recipe “Red Lentil Marinara Sauce,” but finally decided to change the name to something that felt a little more accurate.

I first shared this recipe in 2014, and I thought it was super revolutionary to sneak lentils into my sauce. Then lentil bolognese became an actual vegan thing and I sort of feel like my sauce was left in the dust. Poor recipe!

Because the split red lentils don’t add a lot of texture to this pasta sauce, I actually don’t think it’s all that bolognese-y, so I’m simply calling it a lentil pasta sauce. But I also created another version awhile back with beans AND lentils and named that Legume My Marinara. SIGH. I still love that name, but I have definite pasta sauce branding issues. Anyway, if you’re looking for a nice hearty vegan bolognese situation, check that one out too! 

Why You’ll Love Red Lentil Pasta Sauce

Why will you love this recipe? Well, because it’s easy, tastes great, and gives you loads of protein in an unexpected place! But you’ve heard enough from me – here are what some of the reviews from readers like you have said:

  • “This was amazing! My husband who is a meat eater and usually doesn’t like tomato based sauces, LOVED this! :). Definitely will make it again. Thanks!”
  • “Just made this for dinner. Amazing!! As a new vegetarian I highly recommend this dish for people making the transition! Next I want to put it into our meat lasagna recipe.”
  • “Made it for dinner tonight… trying to convince my hubby plant based can taste good. This one did!”

Why Use Split Red Lentils?

Split red lentils are one of the most common types of lentils found in grocery stores. They’ve been processed a bit more than other lentils – their seed coat has been removed and they have been split in half.

Split red lentils tend to “break down” and cook faster than their non-split relatives. This makes them excellent candidates for soups and sauces – they thicken without adding loads of texture. They also cook faster than most other types of lentils.

A jar of red lentils spilling onto a barn wood surface

Red lentils are a great protein-rich addition to tomato-based pasta sauces because, unlike some other lentils, they cook down and sort of become one with whatever else you’re cooking them with.

Yes – you can see some in this lentil pasta sauce recipe. But the taste and the texture? Pure mouth-watering pasta sauce goodness.

Hearty Red Lentil Pasta Sauce cooking in a dutch oven

Red Lentil Pasta Sauce Ingredients

Hearty Red Lentil Pasta Sauce starts with onions, green peppers (strange, I know, but trust me), and carrots. Sometimes I’ll add some bonus veggies like mushrooms or shredded zucchini. Some red wine adds big flavor, but isn’t a requirement. And then a big can of fire-roasted tomatoes, red lentils, veggie broth, a nice amount of garlic, spices, and some other good stuff.

Oh, and honey. Trust me on that, too – it helps to balance the acidity of the tomatoes. (To make this recipe vegan, just sub an equal amount of vegan granulated sugar).

Hearty Red Lentil Pasta Sauce - With a hefty dose of protein in every single serving, this hearty, flavorful marinara makes just about anything a meal. Perfect for making ahead and freezing, too!

Ideas for Serving

We love this sauce served over whole-wheat spaghetti or rotini, but really, the possibilities are endless. I can’t wait to try it on some zucchini pasta, ooh or a nice gluten-free brown rice pasta, and it’ll make a perfect dip for breadsticks. I think it would be incredible in lasagna, or spooned over stuffed shells.

This sauce freezes wonderfully, too. Just scoop it in a freezer bag, label and date, and then pull it out when you need it.

Protein-o-rama + pasta sauce. It’s happening.

More Pasta Sauce Recipes

Red lentil pasta sauce over rotina pasta
5 from 9 votes

Red Lentil Pasta Sauce

Prep: 20 minutes
Cook: 35 minutes
Total: 55 minutes
Author: Kare
Yield: 8 servings
With a hefty dose of protein in every single serving, this hearty, flavorful lentil pasta sauce makes just about anything a meal. Perfect for making ahead and freezing, too!


  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 large yellow onion (diced)
  • 1 green bell pepper (seeded and diced)
  • 2 medium carrots (peeled and diced [about 1 cup])
  • 6 cloves garlic (minced)
  • 1 tablespoon Italian seasoning*
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 28-ounce can whole fire-roasted tomatoes**
  • 1 6-ounce can tomato paste
  • 2 cups low-sodium vegetable broth
  • 1/2 cup red wine (optional)
  • 1 cup red lentils
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1/2 cup minced fresh parsley
  • Pinch crushed red pepper flakes (optional; to taste)


  • Heat the olive oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add the onions, green peppers, and carrots, and cook, stirring occasionally, until soft, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic, Italian seasoning, salt, and pepper. Cook, stirring, for one more minute.
  • Add the tomatoes, tomato paste, vegetable broth, wine (if using), lentils, and honey. Stir to incorporate. Heat until the mixture comes to a boil, then reduce the heat to medium-low. Simmer sauce for about 25 minutes or until the lentils are tender.
  • Stir in parsley and a pinch of crushed red pepper flakes for a bit of heat, if you like. Taste and add additional salt and pepper if desired. Serve as desired (such as over pasta or gluten-free pasta).


Storage & Freezer Notes

Red Lentil Pasta Sauce keeps refrigerated in an airtight container for 3-4 days, or freeze for up to 3 months. To freeze, simply scoop it in a freezer bag, label and date, and then pull it out when you need it. For reheating, I find it’s easiest to let it thaw in the fridge then pour into a pan over the stove and gently bring to a simmer. If it needs thinning out, add a splash or two of veggie broth or water. I’ve kept this sauce successfully in the freezer for about 6 months.

* Italian Seasoning Substitute

Can substitute 1 teaspoon each dried basil, 1 teaspoon dried oregano, 1/2 teaspoon dried rosemary and 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme.

** Tomato Note

Plain whole canned tomatoes will work fine too – just break them up with a spoon as they’re cooking. 

Vegan Option

Substitute a vegan-friendly granulated sugar for the honey. 

Recipe Revision Notes

4/4/2023: I’ve added an optional pinch of crushed red pepper flakes. It adds a nice little bit of heat for those that love it.

Nutrition Facts

Calories: 165kcal, Carbohydrates: 24g, Protein: 7g, Fat: 4g, Saturated Fat: 1g, Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g, Monounsaturated Fat: 3g, Sodium: 381mg, Potassium: 466mg, Fiber: 9g, Sugar: 6g, Vitamin A: 3001IU, Vitamin C: 25mg, Calcium: 59mg, Iron: 3mg

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