When it comes to pasta, this vegan spaghetti bolognese is our favourite comfort food. Our bolognese sauce recipe is a perfect fusion of authentic Italian flavour and vegan cuisine.
In my childhood, spaghetti bolognese was a regular on the meal plan. So when I first went vegetarian and then vegan, it was one of the foods I missed most. But not anymore!
With a handful of staple ingredients of the vegan kitchen, you can make a classic Italian bolognese sauce that is every bit as flavourful as the traditional version that you used to know and love!
A good bolognese sauce might take a while on the stove to build a depth of flavour, but it’s worth every minute of simmering! This scrumptious spaghetti sauce would convince seasoned meat eaters.
Interested in more Italian inspired vegan recipes?
Vegan bolognese 101
So, how do you make yummy, authentic tasting vegan spaghetti bolognese?
A classic bolognese sauce starts out with a soffritto, which is finely diced vegetables that are slowly sauteed to caramelise. This Italian cooking technique builds a savoury backbone of flavour used as a base for a great many Italian recipes.
Our vegan bolognese gets its meaty texture from dried soya mince, which soaks up all the flavour in the cooking process. Of course, a good gulp of olive oil, aromatic herbs and garlic can’t be missing. Some other ingredients for flavour and some juicy tomatoes complete the sauce.
A perfect bolognese sauce does need to simmer for a good while. This is to cook down the tomatoes into a rich sauce, and bring out their sweetness. The flavour of the sauce keeps getting more delicious the longer you cook it for, and the more the soya mince soaks up all this goodness!
So are you ready to cook our favourite vegan spaghetti bolognese? Read on for ingredient tips and step by step instructions.
Here’s what you’ll need for an amazing vegan bolognese sauce:
- Onion, carrots, celery - The magic trio of Italian cooking to make the soffritto vegetable base. We also add some mushrooms for an umami note.
- Olive oil
- Garlic, basil and oregano - the ‘other’ classic trio of Italian flavours
- Chili flakes - for a gentle hot pepper note
- Tomato puree
- Balsamic vinegar - used in place of the traditional red wine, but also adds some acidity and fruity aroma.
- Maple syrup or brown sugar for some extra caramelisation.
- Tomatoes - we use chopped tomatoes for convenience.
- Dried soya mince - This provides the meaty texture and plant-based protein. It’s great value, and easily soaks up flavour. We always buy organic soy mince which is non GMO.
- Soy sauce - just a bit for that little extra flavour.
- Salt & pepper for seasoning.
To replace one or more ingredients, check out the section about substitutions below.
Substitutions and variations
Instead of dried soya mince, you could use your favourite plant based mince or scrambled firm tofu and skip the water at the beginning. For a wholefoods alternative, experiment with coarsely ground walnuts, cauliflower or more mushrooms.
Lentils also make a delicious ragu. Check out our vegan lentil ragu recipe.
Don’t have any celery and carrots? Vegetable bouillon or stock offer a similar savoury flavour as they are often based around these vegetables. Simply add a teaspoon or two of bouillon powder or a stock cube in with the tomatoes. I recommend you don’t leave out the onion though.
You could also use some celeriac root instead of stick celery.
A blend of dried Italian herbs can replace the oregano and basil, if you don't have them as individual herbs.
You can deglaze with red wine instead of balsamic vinegar (We just don’t keep any red wine around the house). If you use red wine, be a bit more generous, as wine is less sour than vinegar
To make the vegan spaghetti bolognese gluten-free, use tamari instead of soy sauce, and make sure to use gluten-free pasta.
Step by step
You can find the full method and amounts in the recipe card at the end of the post, but the here's a handy visual step-by-step guide:
Step 1 - In a frying pan or a saucepan, slowly sauté the finely diced onion, carrot, celery and mushrooms on medium heat.
Step 2 - Add olive oil, garlic, dried herbs, chili flakes, tomato puree, maple syrup and balsamic vinegar and saute a few more minutes.
Step 3 - Add the chopped tomatoes, soya mince, some water, soy sauce, salt and pepper and simmer, with the lid on, for 45 - 60 minutes.
Step 4 - In the meantime, cook the spaghetti to be ready in time with the sauce.
Step 5 - Finally, stir some of the starchy pasta water into the bolognese to create a smooth and glossy, rich tomato sauce.
How to cook the perfect spaghetti
Cooking pasta like a pro? No problem.
Here are a few simple steps that ensure you get the best result out of your pasta.
- To cook the perfect pasta, use a big saucepan and a lot of water.
- Don't add the pasta before the water is properly boiling, then keep at a rolling boil.
- Leave the lid off the pasta pot. With the lid, more often than not the pasta will either boil over or isn’t boiling hot enough.
- Salt the cooking water just before or after the pasta goes in. Not only does salt make the pasta more flavoursome, it's also widely agreed to help the cooking process itself.
- Set a timer to prevent overcooking. Different types and brands of pasta vary in cooking time. Better to keep cooking short at first - we start at 8-9 minutes for spaghetti - and then test every minute until...
- ... the pasta is al dente. Literally Italian for 'to the tooth', this refers to that sweet spot where pasta has just a bit of a bite left to it. Not undercooked, not too soft.
- Drain cooked pasta immediately. Don't leave it swimming in the hot water until serving time.
On that note - try and plan to cook the pasta so it’s ready when the sauce is too, and doesn’t have another twenty minutes to go.
And final tip, for when you do need to keep cooked pasta from sticking before you are ready to serve it up: Briefly rinse it with cold water just after draining. Stirring in a little bit of olive oil or sauce will also help prevent spaghetti sticking and lumping together.
For a classic spaghetti bolognese, we cook 75 g (3oz.) of spaghetti per portion.
We love to top off our vegan bolognese with a generous sprinkle of our sunflower seed vegan parmesan. Use it as you would grated parmesan.
Serve with a green salad with a vinaigrette dressing. Rocket (arugula or rucola) makes for a visually pleasing garnish and also goes really well with spaghetti bolognese. Some fresh herbs such as basil or oregano is also lovely.
You can use this vegan bolognese sauce to make a delicious vegan lasagna or pair it with our easy pizza dough to make some bolognese topped pizza or filled calzone.
If you have any leftovers, keep them in the fridge for up to three days or freeze for longer storage.
Vegan Spaghetti Bolognese
- 1 tbsp vegetable oil
- 1 small onion finely diced
- 1 stick celery finely diced
- 1 small carrot finely diced
- 3 small mushrooms chestnut or white, finely diced
- 3 tbsp (45 ml) olive oil extra virgin
- 2 cloves garlic minced
- 2 tsp dried basil
- 2 tsp dried oregano
- 2 tbsp (30 g) tomato puree/paste
- 1 tsp maple syrup or brown sugar
- 1 tsp chili flakes red pepper flakes
- 2 tbsp (30 ml) balsamic vinegar or 4 tbsp red wine
- 300 g (10.5 oz) spaghetti 75g / 3oz per person
- vegan sunflower seed parmesan (optional)
- Heat up the oil in a large frying pan. Add the finely chopped onion, celery, carrot and mushrooms. Sauté on medium heat for 15 minutes, stirring regularly, until the onions are translucent and start to turn golden brown.
- Add and stir in the olive oil, garlic, dried basil and oregano, then the tomato puree/paste, maple syrup, chili flakes and balsamic vinegar. Continue to cook and occasionally stir on medium heat for 3 - 5 minutes, to form a thick paste.
- Next, stir in the chopped tomatoes, dried soy mince, soy sauce, salt, pepper and water.
- Bring to a simmer and cover with a lid. Cook covered on medium heat for 45-60 minutes. Stir every 5-10 minutes to keep from catching at the bottom of the pan.
- 15 - 20 minutes before serving, cook the pasta following instructions on the pack or our tips in the post above. Drain the pasta and reserve some of the starchy cooking water.
- Add up to 1 cup (240 ml) of the pasta cooking water to the simmered sauce (which should have reduced considerably), to make it rich and smooth.
- Serve the vegan bolognese sauce with spaghetti, a crack of black pepper, and optionally a sprinkle of homemade vegan parmesan and some rocket/arugula or a few fresh basil leaves.
This information is calculated per serving and is an estimate only.