Hearty, loaded with veggies and seasoned with Italian flavours, this cauliflower Bolognese will make your vegan Bolognese sauce dreams come true. Ready in under an hour and served with your favourite noodles for a delicious, wholesome dinner the entire family will love.
This recipe was originally published in July 2018. It has been updated for content and photos.
Your search ends here!
This vegan Bolognese sauce has got it all.
Protein, nutrients, and so much flavour!
Why you’ll love this recipe
- Loaded with nutrients for a well balanced bowl. Protein, fiber, and tons of vitamins from wholesome ingredients like red lentils, walnuts, cauliflower and sun dried tomatoes.
- Low in calories compared to traditional versions. Lentils and cauliflower are both powerhouses for nutrition, yet remain low in calories and make up the bulk of ingredients for my cauliflower Bolognese sauce.
- Vegan friendly but omnivore approved! I make this dish for both vegans and omnivores and it is thoroughly enjoyed by all. It’s a perfect meal that anyone can enjoy, no matter their eating preference.
- SO flavourful! As the sauce simmers, the veggies, lentils and seasoning infuse the liquid with SO much flavour! Every ingredient absorbs flavour from the other in perfect harmony.
- Amazing texture. The walnuts, veggie crumble, and lentils make this vegan Bolognese sauce so hearty, so thick, and so perfectly textured, quite similar to a traditional Italian meat sauce.
How to make cauliflower Bolognese sauce
(This is a summary with step by step photos, full recipe measurements and instructions are in the recipe card below.)
Gather your ingredients. Peel the garlic, break the cauliflower into large florets and quarter your onion.
Then add the sun dried tomatoes and walnuts into the bowl of your food processor. Pulse until broken down and crumbly, without over processing. You want it to remain relatively chunky. Transfer to a bowl and set aside. (photos 1-3)
Now add the cauliflower, onion and garlic to the same food processor. Again, pulse until crumbly but do not over process. You want some chunky pieces so your cauliflower Bolognese sauce will be hearty and nicely textured. (photos 4-5)
NOTE: Work in batches to prevent over processing. I use a 14 cup food processor and usually work in two batches.
Transfer each batch to a sauce pot or deep rimmed skillet and sauté until softened. (photos 6-7)
NOTE: You should not need oil or water at this point as the veggies will release their own moisture.
Add all the remaining sauce ingredients to your pot and give everything a good stir. (photos 8-9)
Simmer your vegan Bolognese sauce for about 20 minutes to cook your lentils, thicken the sauce and get all the flavours to meld nicely. (photo 10)
Serve a generous portion of your cauliflower Bolognese sauce with your favourite pasta and a sprinkling of fresh parsley and vegan Parmesan cheese.
How long does it keep?
Store your cauliflower bolognese sauce in a sealed container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.
If possible, keep it separate from any leftover pasta to prevent the noodles from getting soggy.
You may also freeze the sauce separate from the pasta in an air tight container for up to 3 months.
Remember to leave a little room in your container for expansion.
Expert tips and tricks
- Do not over process your veggies. You want a chunky, hearty cauliflower Bolognese sauce, so make sure not to overly process or puree the ingredients.
- For nut free, you may sub the walnuts for pumpkin seeds with similar results.
- Simmer the sauce for a longer time period, rather than boil for a shorter one. Simmering your sauce allows the flavours to marry beautifully. If you have extra time, simmer for even longer than the 20 minutes called for. The more it simmers, the more the flavours will amplify.
- Add more broth if your sauce gets too thick. It should be thick and rich, but if you find it’s getting too thick while simmering, add another half to one cup of low sodium vegetable broth.
- Use more sauce if you want a “saucy-er” sauce. Traditionally, it is meant to be rich and thick though, so I recommend trying as is first.
- Add more veggies if you want even more flavour. Some great additions include mushrooms, carrots and eggplant. Just process them along with your other veggies into a crumbly texture.
- Cook your pasta ‘al dente’, do not over cook. Al dente translates as to be firm when bitten. Us Italians prefer our pasta with a little bite, and not too soft. Plus, the pasta will continue to cook and soften slightly once covered in your hot vegan Bolognese sauce, so it’s always best to slightly under cook your pasta by about 1-2 minutes.
- For a low calorie diet, pasta is not always a calorie friendly choice. Use a smaller portion of pasta and a larger portion of your cauliflower Bolognese sauce. After all, that’s where all the flavour is!
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- 1 cup walnuts or pumpkin seeds for nut free
- 1/2 cup sun dried tomatoes gently packed
- 1 yellow or red onion quartered
- 4-5 cloves garlic peeled
- 1 cauliflower broken into large florets
- 32 oz tomato sauce or puree
- 2 cups low sodium vegetable broth
- 1/2 cup split red lentils
- 1 tsp sea salt
- 1 tsp dried oregano
- 1/2 tsp dried basil
- 1/2 tsp dried parsley
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 lb pasta of choice gluten free if preferred
- vegan Parmesan cheese
- fresh parsley
- Add the walnuts and sun dried tomatoes to the bowl of your food processor and pulse until broken down and crumbly, without pureeing. Transfer to a small bowl and set aside.
- Now add the onion, garlic and cauliflower florets to your food processor and gently pulse until chopped, but again, do not over process. You want to keep the pieces chunky for a hearty sauce. Work in batches if needed. (I have a 14 cup processor and usually do two batches.) Transfer each batch to a sauce pot or deep non stick skillet.
- Sauté the veggies over medium high heat, stirring occassionally, until softened, approx 5-7 minutes. You should not need water or oil, as the veggies will create their own moisture. But if things are starting to stick, add a 1-2 tablespoons of water or oil.
- Now add all the remaining sauce ingredients: walnut and sun dried tomato mixture, tomato sauce, broth, lentils and all the seasoning. Simmer for 15-20 minutes, until lentils are cooked and sauce is thickened. Taste for seasoning and add more salt or oregano, if needed. Once cooked, discard the bay leaves.
- Meanwhile, bring a large pot of generously salted water to a boil, and cook your pasta according to package directions for 'al dente' pasta. Then serve your pasta with a generous scoop of your Bolognese sauce on top.