This is hands down the BEST vegan bolognese sauce I’ve ever made and tried. It’s got texture from the mushrooms and walnuts and so much umami flavour. And it’s surprisingly light. Because of the reliance on fresh tomatoes, it’s great for spring and summer. Serve it on top of any type of pasta you wish, or even use spiralized veggies.
Summer is here! And this vegan bolognese recipe is perfect for your next pasta night. Every now and then in the summer, I still want a bowl of pasta, and this is my new go-to. Usually, I turn to this vegan roasted tomato cream sauce, but this one is a little easier to prep and cook. Plus, you don’t need to turn your oven on- bonus!
This easy vegan bolognese is made with some staple pantry ingredients, and a few extra goodies. Specifically, the combination of walnuts and mushrooms gives this bolognese texture a meaty flavour. Personally, I like my veggie burgers to taste like veggies burgers. And the same holds true for this meat sauce. No, it doesn’t taste like meat, but it’s delicious in its own right.
Why This Sauce Works:
- The texture is meaty, but without having any strange ingredients.
- It’s made with whole foods ingredients (mushrooms and walnuts). These two meaty ingredients combine for one delicious vegan bolognese.
- Easy! This recipe comes together in 30 minutes. This makes it perfect for quick weeknight dinners too.
- Rich in flavor. Plenty of that umami flavour from tomato paste, tamari and nutritional yeast.
- Great for meat eaters and vegans! This will please anyone’s palate, no weird ingredients required.
I love using walnuts as a vegan meat replacement. You can check out how I use them for taco meat in this vegan mason jar salad. Once they are spiced and added to this vegan bolognese sauce you will be blown away at how delicious it is. Combine this with the mushrooms for a meaty texture and you’ll love it!
You’ll use quartered cremini mushrooms for this vegan meat sauce which add a lot of texture and flavour. Plus mushrooms are packed with lots of nutrition (such as vitamin D – not easy to find in food). You’ll need about 8 ozs in total.
With the right balance of spices, you’ll be able to really transform the ingredients into something very tasty. The spices you’ll need are thyme, oregano, and optionally, you can add some mushroom powder. I used some of this Umami seasoning blend form Trader Joe’s. If you don’t have it, feel free to omit, but I love this seasoning blend. I use it in soups/stews and sprinkled on eggs or in pasta dishes.
This is definitely one ingredient that isn’t to be missed! Nutritional yeast, or nooch is one of my all time favourite ingredients. It adds a lot of flavour and of course the cheesiness to the pasta sauce, so don’t skip it.
My go-to brand for nutritional yeast is this one!
Tamari is the gluten free alternative to soy sauce. I keep it stocked in my fridge at all times! It adds more umami flavor and saltiness to this vegan bolognese sauce. You only need a little bit for flavour. You can substitute this with soy sauce or coconut aminos for a soy-free and paleo version.
Rather than using canned tomatoes, we’re using fresh! This is why this recipe is so great in the summer when tomatoes are in season and local. You’ll need about 2 1/2 cups of cherry tomatoes for this vegan bolognese recipe.
Tomato paste provides more umami flavour and also more tomato-y goodness. You’ll need about 3 tbsp of tomato paste. I find buying tomato paste that comes in a tube to be more cost effective as it lasts in the fridge longer this way than the stuff in a can.
How to Make
Making this vegan meat sauce is pretty easy. All you need is a blender or food processor to blend together the ingredients. Be careful not to over blend, as you don’t want to end up with a purée.
The first step is to add your walnuts to a blender or food processor along with the spices, nutritional yeast and tamari. Pulse about 8 times, until roughly chopped. Work in batches if using a blender.
Then add the quartered mushrooms and pulse again until just incorporated. Then add some salt and give it a mix.
Heat a large skillet over medium heat and add about a tbsp or two of EVOO. Add the mushroom/walnut mixture and cook for about 7 to 8 minutes, until the mushrooms have released some liquid. Then add in your tomato paste and cherry tomatoes. Stir to coat everything, and once you notice the skins have started to burst a bit, go ahead and smash some of them with the back of a wooden spoon.
You’ll want to keep some of the tomatoes whole for contrast. Now, go ahead and boil the water for your pasta. Cook that according to directions on the box. Reserve about 1/2 cup water and add that to the vegan bolognese sauce to loosen it along with the cooked pasta. You’ll end up using about 1/4 to 1/2 cup water depending on how thick or thin you want the sauce.
How to Serve
My personal pasta of choice for this would be bucatini, because I love how it is able to soak up more sauce.
Feel free to use any pasta shape you want, spaghetti or linguine would work too. Or if you want to go lighter, use some zucchini noodles or sweet potato noodles (my fave of the two, see here for my easy creamy sweet potato noodles with mushrooms and bacon).
Tips and Substitutions:
- Keep it grain-free: if you need, swap the pasta for zucchini or sweet potato noodles. You can also keep this paleo by swapping the tamari for coconut aminos.
- Meal prep it: this is a great recipe to make a big batch of and keep it stored in your fridge or freezer for a quick weeknight meal.
- Tomato paste: I like using tomato paste from a tube so that you can use what you need when you need it. This is way more efficient and economical than buying jarred or canned tomato paste.
- Add more veggies: if you love veggies in your pasta, add some spinach, arugula, kale or other greens into the pasta. Grilled eggplant or zucchini would also be delicious.
- Use your favourite pasta: you don’t need to keep this to just bucatini or spaghetti. This is also delicious over penne, rigatoni or any other pasta shape.
How to Store
To store this vegan meat sauce, keep it in a sealed container in the fridge for up to 5 days, or freeze it for longer. When you want to defrost it, simply let it sit on the counter for a couple hours until defrosted, or leave it in the fridge for the day. This makes it great for meal prep.
Want to learn more about meal prep, be sure to check out my meal prep made simple guide.
If you make this vegan bolognese sauce please let me know by tagging me on Instagram. Or you could leave a rating and/or review below! It truly means so much to me when I hear from you.
If you love this recipe, you’re going to want to check out my eBook which has over 50 recipes that are all one pot, delicious and EASY!
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Vegan Bolognese Sauce
A delicious and easy to make vegan bolognese sauce made from mushrooms, walnuts, spices and tomatoes.
- 1 cup Walnuts raw
- 2 cloves Garlic minced
- 1/4 tsp Mushroom Powder optional
- 1/4 tsp Oregano dried
- 1/4 tsp Thyme dried
- 1/2 tbsp Nutritional Yeast
- 1/2 tsp Tamari
- 8 ozs Cremini Mushrooms quartered
- 1/2 tsp Kosher Salt plus more for pasta
- 2 tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- 3 tbsp Tomato Paste
- 2 1/2 cups Cherry Tomatoes washed and dried
- 8 ozs Bucatini or other pasta
- 1/2 cup Water reserved from cooking pasta
In a food processor, add the walnuts, minced garlic, mushroom powder, oregano, thyme, nutritional yeast, and tamari. Pulse about 8 times, until the walnuts are roughly chopped. Add the mushrooms and pulse until incorporated, being careful not to purée the mixture, you still want some texture. Add salt and mix with a spoon.
Heat a large skillet over medium heat and add the extra virgin olive oil. Once hot, add the mushroom mixture and cook , stirring often, for 7 to 8 minutes, until the liquid from the mushrooms is released.
Add the tomato paste and stir, cook for 2 more minutes. Then add the cherry tomatoes and cook, stirring often to coat them. Cook until the skin starts to blister and burst, about 5 to 7 minutes. Smash some of the tomatoes with the back of the spoon to incorporate their juices, while leaving some whole.
Meanwhile, cook the pasta in a large pot of boiling salted water according to package directions. When the pasta is almost done cooking, reserve about 1/2 cup water.
Using tongs, add the pasta to the skillet with the sauce. Add the water to the bolognese sauce, starting with 1/4 cup and work up to 1/2 cup as needed to thin slightly.
Plate the pasta, and top with fresh chopped basil and season with salt and pepper.
To make this paleo: use coconut aminos instead of tamari and use sweet potato noodles or another paleo noodle/pasta
If using a blender to make this recipe, work in batches to ensure everything is chopped and incorporated properly.