NOURISHMENT – Recipe for Success

One-Pot Lentil Bolognese

By Elle Penner MPH RD

Hosting a holiday meal this year? I recommend having at least one meatless main that all guests can enjoy. This flavor-packed lentil Bolognese is simple to make and good enough to bring together the vegan and meat-loving guests at your table.

Featuring protein- and fiber-rich lentils in place of ground beef, this sauce resembles a traditional Bolognese in texture and flavor but is completely plant-based. First, onions, carrots, celery and tomato paste are caramelized to create a flavorful foundation, which is heightened with the addition of umami-rich miso paste and canned crushed tomatoes. Wholesome green lentils simmer to tender perfection in the miso-tomato broth, yielding a thick, flavorful, vegan Bolognese in less than one hour. Of course, it also can be made in advance so all you have to do is heat and serve the day of your holiday gathering!

This lentil Bolognese is delicious over pasta or zoodles, but it also can be layered into lasagna or stuffed into shells should you want to serve a casserole-style meal. If you’re lucky enough to have leftovers, grab some soft rolls for vegan sloppy Joes, or freeze some for a quick dinner another night.

MAKES: 9-10 cups sauce


  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 small yellow onion, diced small (about 1½ cups)
  • 3 medium carrots, diced small (about 1 cup)
  • 3 medium celery stalks, diced small (about 1 cup)
  • 4 large garlic cloves, minced or pressed
  • 1 (6-ounce) can tomato paste
  • 1 (15-ounce) can crushed tomatoes
  • 1½ tablespoons miso paste (gluten-free, if required)
  • 1 cup uncooked green lentils
  • 5 cups water
  • 1 teaspoon granulated sugar (optional)
  • kosher salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste


Heat olive oil in a small pot or Dutch oven over medium heat. Add onions, carrots and celery and cook, stirring occasionally, until soft and slightly caramelized, about 15 to 20 minutes.

Add garlic and tomato paste and stir to combine with carrots, celery and onions. Cook, stirring frequently, until tomato paste is darker and fragrant, about 4 to 5 minutes, reducing heat if it begins to burn.

Add crushed tomatoes, miso paste, lentils and water to pot and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, for 30 to 45 minutes, or until lentils are soft, adding more water, ½ cup at a time, if sauce starts getting too thick. During the last 10 minutes of cooking, sweeten sauce with up to 1 teaspoon of sugar, and season to taste with kosher salt and freshly ground pepper.

Sauce can be served over pasta, zoodles or roasted spaghetti squash, layered into lasagna, stuffed into shells or served on rolls for vegan sloppy Joes.

Make ahead: This sauce can be made up to three days in advance. Reheat in a covered pot or saucepan over low heat to desired temperature, stirring occasionally and adding more water if sauce is too thick.

Video & photo credit: Elle Penner MPH RD


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Elle Penner, MPH RD

Elle Penner is a registered dietitian and former lead dietitian at MyFitnessPal, turned full-time writer, recipe creator, photographer, blogger and mama. Her favorite things include her camera, carbs, sweaty workouts and her son.