Plant-Based Lentil Bolognese Recipe | Nutrition Stripped
Eat Well Sep. 4. 2018

Simple Plant-based Lentil Bolognese

Sep. 4. 2018
McKel Hill Kooienga, MS, RDN, LDN

McKel Hill Kooienga, MS, RDN, LDN

Founder of Nutrition Stripped and the Mindful Nutrition Method™

A simple plant-based lentil bolognese recipe that tastes just as delicious as traditional bolognese.

This recipe is one of many definitions of feel-good food, it’s warm, hearty, keeps you feeling full (hello fiber, protein, and healthy fats), it’s easy to make, uses affordable ingredients, and it’s a crowd pleaser. There’s nothing more you could ask for with a staple recipe for the fall and winter months.

What Is Bolognese?

Traditionally bolognese is known for it’s delicious slow-cooked tomato sauce flavor, typically made with ground beef or pork. The remaining ingredients in traditional bolognese include things you may assume are in a tomato sauce including tomato paste, garlic, basil, oregano, black pepper, salt, and olive oil, overall a dish that’s very easy to transform into a hearty plant-based meal.

It’s typically served with parmesan cheese, so in this case, we’re pulling out our Not Cheese Cheesy Dust to sprinkle on top to boost the B vitamins, protein, and get a similar umami delicious flavor. You can also serve it with fresh basil and red pepper flakes.

The pasta traditionally used with bolognese is a flat wide noodle called tagliatelle, not spaghetti although there have been many variations made called spaghetti bolognese. Since I prefer to use brown rice pasta or ones that are gluten-free, in our recipe for plant-based bolognese we’re going to use a brown rice tagliatelle by Jovial (which I found at Whole Foods, you can also order it on Amazon), otherwise a couple other gluten-free pasta that is great include Trader Joe’s brand. You can use whatever pasta you enjoy, gluten-free or not, just make it work for you and your lifestyle!

Calling All Plant-based Proteins!

A dish like a bolognese is a great one-pot meal to use as leftovers for the week ahead, it can feed multiple people in your family, and you can use the recipe in a variety of ways — a huge win in my book. Lentils are the main star ingredients in this plant-based bolognese, but it doesn’t stop there, we also are going to use ground walnuts which rival the dishes signature texture of using ground beef sans the meat. In combination with the cooked lentils and ground walnuts and topping it with a dusting of the Not Cheese Cheesy Dust, which is so delicious and easy to make and store for weeks at a time.

Lentils are a type of legume or dried bean that’s round in shape and about the size of a #2 pencil eraser. They’re found in a variety of colors and textures such as red, brown, and green. Brown lentils are firmer than the other two and are great to use in recipes like this one where you want to retain the texture, red lentils are the softest texture of the three and great for using in daal recipes.

All lentils have an earthy semi-neutral taste to them, which makes it perfect for using these in a wide variety of ways and soaking up the flavor of the recipe you’re using them in. Just like other dried beans, lentils are very affordable, can store for long periods of time, are easy to cook, and can be used in many ways with cooking, and are a good source of protein for you if you’re looking to incorporate more plant-based proteins in your life.


Plant-based Protein

Regardless of what lifestyle you practice, we all can benefit from a diet rich in plants, fiber, minerals, phytonutrients, and all the health benefits that result from some of our favorite plant-based proteins including lentils and walnuts.

  • 1 cup cooked lentils = about 18g protein
  • 1 cup of chopped walnuts = about 18g protein


Just 1 cup of cooked lentils contains about 15 grams of fiber (most of which is soluble fiber), which is a significant amount of fiber. To put it in context, if you ate a full cup of lentils, you would have met almost 50% of your daily needs of fiber (based on 35g / day which is “standard”, some folks need more, some need less).

Lentils, walnuts, and tomatoes all contain varying amounts of fiber, lentils being the richest source in this recipe. In a nutshell, fiber our digestive system move along properly, helps us stay full for a longer period of time, and releases a steady flow of energy into our bodies by decreasing the rate at which our body breaks down carbohydrates and releases sugar into our bloodstream.

Healthy Fats — Omega-3’s

Walnuts and their mineral content, antioxidants, healthy fats, and plant-based protein and fiber have been shown in some studies to help lower cholesterol, improve brain and behavioral health, reduce heart disease, increase bone health, help with blood sugar control and type 2 diabetes, provide anti-cancer benefits, and anti-inflammatory benefits.

1 cup of chopped walnuts contains 76g of fat, mostly from polyunsaturated fat, then monounsaturated fat, and little saturated fat. A common serving size for walnuts is about 1/4 cup, so per serving walnuts contain roughly 19g of fat.

The Recipe

Serves 4-6



Pinch of sea salt

1 tablespoon tomato paste

1/2 cup white wine (one that you would enjoy drinking)

1 cup full-fat canned coconut milk

1 cup ground walnuts

Ground black pepper, to taste


Step 1

You can make this recipe in a deep skillet or a dutch oven, which I prefer because I like the room to stir, but use whatever you like cooking with. To your pot or pan, on medium heat, add the olive oil, onions, and pinch of sea salt and cook the onions until soft, about 8 minutes.

Next, add the chopped celery and carrots and cook for another 5 minutes, stirring occasionally to coat in the oil and until they begin to soften. Then add the pressed/minced garlic and cook until fragrant, about 2 minutes.

Step 2

Next, add the tomato paste and stir everything together. Right after that’s incorporated, pour the white wine into the pan and scrape up any good bits from the cooked vegetables, using a wooden spoon.

Step 3

To the cooked vegetables, now add the canned chopped tomatoes, stir, then add the coconut milk, stir, then add the cooked lentils and walnuts and stir again. At this point, add sea salt and black pepper to taste and stir. Then add the parsley and basil.

Step 4

Cook uncovered for 40 minutes on medium-low heat, the tomato sauce will just be simmering, not boiling and the goal is to get the tomato sauce nice and thick.

At any point, if the sauce thickens to your desired texture before the 40 minutes, just call it done. There’s no need to cook any meat in this dish, so the cook time is really dependent on achieving the tomato sauce texture you like. Also on that note, if the sauce gets too thick for your liking, you can add a 1/4 cup of water at a time to thin it out.

Step 5

Cook your pasta upon package directions, minus 2 minutes for gluten-free pasta to make sure it’s a bit al dente. Per serving, spoon however much sauce you like to the pasta directly, give it a good toss to coat and top it with optional garnishes.

Have Leftovers? Here’s What To Do With Them:

As always, store in an airtight glass container that we recommend from the NS Shop for up to 7 days. Reheat on medium heat in a small saucepan, make the pasta at the time of serving or serve with freshly made zucchini noodles.

Can’t wait to see you try it!

Did you know that you can submit your own photo of whatever recipe you make from NS? Scroll down to the bottom right and you’ll see a section for you to show off your creations from home!

Can’t wait to see how you make these and share your meal with me! Tag us on Instagram @nutritionstripped #nutritionstripped

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