Why is this vegan lentil ragu our favourite you might ask? Because it's wholesome, herby and rich, and it always keeps us coming back for more. When we want a flavoursome bolognese sauce or filling for any Italian dish, this is our absolute go to recipe.
We get it - there’s nothing worse than a boring, flavourless dish. So we’re very happy to share with you this delicious vegan bolognese sauce that’s far from bland! The secret to our super tasty lentil ragu is the spices and seasonings. We hope you enjoy it as much as we do.
What type of lentils?
Most vegan ragu recipes use red lentils as they are quicker to cook, but using green lentils gives a richer, more substantial texture. We also really like the nutty, peppery flavour that green lentils bring to this ragu.
- We use small rounded green lentils like the French Puy lentils, but you could also use larger, flatter green lentils if that’s what you have. If so, you will want to add another couple of minutes to the cooking time, so that they are thoroughly cooked.
- Our vegan lentil ragu recipe uses presoaked lentils to save on cooking time. You can either soak your lentils overnight in cold water. Or quick soak them for 30 minutes using boiling water.
- If you want to make this recipe without soaking the lentils first, then experiment by adding at least twice as much more water and cooking time.
- We don’t recommend using canned lentils, as they can have a very mushy texture. And the flavour of the sauce benefits from the time it takes to cook the lentils.
Oregano is a staple of Italian cuisine. I never really liked it, until I tasted the good stuff! This aromatic herb can really vary in quality and flavour. Cultivars adapted to colder climates can have less flavour, so we recommend getting yourself some of the good stuff for a real taste of Italy. A study on food fraud actually found a quarter of the samples of dried oregano they tested, also contained other ingredients, such as olive and myrtle leaves. So it’s worth getting good quality oregano!
Stock powder is a simple way to get more flavour. We use Marigold Swiss Bouillon which is available vegan and gluten free. You could use half a vegetable stock cube as an alternative. Or use your own homemade veggie broth, instead of the water and stock powder.
Canned tomatoes can vary in quality - we generally find that the organic ones have more flavour. To use fresh tomatoes instead, substitute 5 - 6 tomatoes or 2 cups diced.
Cooking the ragu
You can make our ragu in a normal saucepan on the stove, or in a pressure cooker.
- For each method you start by dicing the onion, then frying it in the pan until it's starting to brown.
- Then add the sugar and herbs and let caramelise for a minute or two.
- Next turn the heat down a bit, and add a splash of balsamic vinegar, soy sauce and tomato puree. Give it a good stir and move it around to keep it from catching
- Now add the salt and spices - garlic powder, cumin, smoked paprika, and stock powder
- And finally add the chopped tomatoes, soaked green lentils, and water. The amount of water will vary depending on the cooking method.
For the saucepan method, simmer it covered with a lid for around 20-30 mins until the lentils are tender.
In a pressure cooker or instant pot, put the lid on, bring it up to high pressure and cook for 5 minutes. Then let the pressure release naturally.
Once you have tried the basic vegan lentil ragu, we encourage you to adapt to the season and your own tastes! Here’s some ideas:
- In spring, stir in some spinach or foraged wild garlic towards the end of cooking.
- Add courgettes (zucchini), pepper, aubergine (eggplant) and other Mediterranean vegetables for a summer ragu. Just add them after you’ve fried the onion.
- Fry finely chopped celery and carrot with the onion for a traditional Italian ‘soffritto’ base
- In autumn, add some yummy mushrooms or roasted squash
- Or have a fridge clear out and use up all the random veggies you’ve got before they go to waste!
Use it in
Here’s a few ideas for how to use our flavorful lentil ragu:
- It’s perfect for making a tasty veggie spaghetti bolognese. Just cook some spaghetti, serve yourself a big portion of this ragu on top, and enjoy!
- To use it as a base for a vegan lasagne, layer it with lasagne sheets and vegan bechamel sauce. If you fancy, add some green leafy veg or thinly sliced squash, courgette, aubergine in as you layer it. Bake in the oven at 200C for 20 minutes, or until the top is golden brown.
- To make lentil calzone, start by making a batch of our vegan pizza dough and then follow the instructions in our vegan dessert calzone to bake them. So yummy!
Storage and freezing
If you don’t eat it all in one go, then store leftovers in a covered container in the fridge for up to 3 days. Reheat in the microwave or in a pan with an extra splash of water and stir it to keep it from catching on the base.
This ragu freezes great too. Simply put any leftovers in an airtight container, then freeze for up to 6 months.
If you want to make this lentil ragu specifically for freezing or meal prep, then if you keep the lentils on the less cooked, al dente side they won’t become mushy when you reheat.
Looking for more great ways to use dried lentils? Try our other tasty vegan recipes!
Green Lentil Ragu
- ¾ cup (150 g) green french lentils
- 1 onion diced
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 1 tsp sugar
- 1 tsp mixed herbs
- 1 tsp oregano
- 1 tbsp tomato puree
- 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
- 1 tbsp soy sauce or tamari sauce for gluten free
- ½ tsp (0.5 tsp) salt
- 1 tsp garlic powder
- 1 tsp ground cumin
- 1 tsp smoked paprika
- 1 tsp stock powder or bouillon
- 1 can (1 ) chopped tomatoes 400g / 14oz size
- 1 cup (240 ml) water reduce by half for pressure cooker method
Soaking the lentils
- Soak the lentils overnight in a large bowl covered with plenty of water. Alternatively quick soak in boiling water for at least 30 mins. Drain and rinse.
Cooking the ragu
- In a medium or large saucepan heat the olive oil, then add the diced onion and fry until it turns translucent.
- Then add the sugar, mixed herbs and oregano and stir whilst it caramelises for a minute or two and the herbs become aromatic.
- Turn down the heat a bit, and add the tomato puree, balsamic vinegar and soy sauce. Keep stirring to keep it from catching.
- Next add the salt and spices - garlic powder, cumin, smoked paprika, stock powder.
- Add chopped tomatoes, green lentils, and water.
- Bring up to a simmer and cook with the lid on until the lentils are soft, approximately 20 - 30 minutes.
Pressure Cooker Method
- Follow the instructions as above using your pressure cooker, but only add half the amount of water. Stir well, then put the lid on, bring up to pressure, and cook for 5 minutes. Let pressure release naturally.
Let us know what you made with our vegan lentil ragu! We're off to dig into some amazing ragu filled calzone, fresh off the campfire...
With love and warmth from the seaside,
Sophie & Paul