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This rich and meaty vegan bolognese sauce is prepared with scrambled tempeh, tomatoes, carrots, and celery. It is thick, packed with flavor, and high in protein! Serve this rustic sauce on top of pasta, or use it in lasagna or baked casseroles!

Tempeh bolognese in a bowl, on a cutting board.

📘 What Is Bolognese

Bolognese sauce (ragù alla bolognese) is an Italian meat-based sauce. It is made primarily from tomatoes, onion, celery, carrots, and finely chopped beef or pork. The sauce is then simmered gently until thick. Bolognese sauce is often served on top of spaghetti, tagliatelle, or linguine, but can also be used to prepare lasagna or baked dishes.

This vegan version swaps the beef for scrambled tempeh! Let’s do it!

Ingredients like tempeh, carrots, celery, diced tomatoes, onions, and garlic.

🍅 How to Make It

Preparing the sauce takes some time, but it’s super easy and requires just 20 minutes of prep time. The rest is simmering! Here is what you will need:

  • Tempeh – You can use store-bought tempeh or homemade tempeh. Check out these Instant Pot Tempeh or Black Bean Tempeh recipes if you want to learn how to make your own!
  • Onion and garlic – While onions are traditionally used, you can definitely use shallots instead.
  • Diced tomatoes – You can use canned diced tomatoes or crushed tomatoes. Both will work.
  • Tomato paste – For a deeper tomato flavor.
  • Carrots and celery – Make sure you dice both very finely, you don’t want large chunks of vegetables in the sauce.
  • Vegetable stock – I recommend going with a low-sodium vegetable broth and adjusting the saltiness after cooking. You can also use Better than Bouillon.
  • Oregano and rosemary
  • Sugar – I’m adding just a teaspoon of sugar to the bolognese to balance with the acidity of the tomatoes. You can replace the sugar with maple syrup or your favorite sweetener.
  • Salt and pepper – To season. Only adjust the saltiness once the bolognese is cooked. Do not add any salt at the beginning as the flavor and saltiness will concentrate as the sauce thickens.
Sautéed tempeh in a pot.

It starts with the tempeh, which is scrambled and then sautéed until golden brown. You can scramble the tempeh using your hands, or finely dice it using a knife.

Small or Large Tempeh Crumbles?

Whether you want to make your tempeh crumbles large or very small is up to you! I personally like slightly larger chunks for a meatier texture.

Next, sauté the garlic and onions until fragrant. Add the carrots and celery and cook for another few minutes.

Celery, carrots, and onions in a pot.

Finally, add all of the remaining ingredients and let it simmer for 30-45 minutes, or until the sauce has thickened. Note: I recommend keeping an eye on it to make sure the sauce doesn’t thicken too much.

Finally, season with ground black pepper, and adjust the saltiness to your liking. Your bolognese sauce is now ready to use!

Tempeh bolognese with pepper in a pot.

📔 Tips

  • If you find your bolognese too chunky: use an immersion blender and pulse a few times until you get a thinner consistency. Do not process for too long as you want to keep some texture.
  • You can use store-bought vegetable broth, homemade vegetable broth, or Better Than Bouillon for a meatier flavor.
  • While optional, you can add about 1/8 tsp of vegan Worcestershire sauce. It will add another level of flavor to the sauce. Highly recommended!
  • If serving this bolognese on top of pasta: reserve 2-3 tablespoons of the pasta cooking water and stir it into the bolognese. This step will help emulsify the sauce and thicken it.
Close up of vegan bolognese sauce.

💬 FAQ

Can I substitute the tempeh?

Yes, you can replace the tempeh with about 1 and 1/2 cups of crumbled firm tofu.

My bolognese is too liquid, what should I do?

If you find your bolognese to be too liquid, you can continue cooking it for a few minutes or add a slurry to thicken the sauce. To make a slurry: dissolve 1 tablespoon of cornstarch in 2 tablespoons of water. Add the slurry to the sauce and let simmer for 1-2 minutes or until it has thickened.

Is this recipe authentic?

No, this recipe is not authentic, but it’s still delicious!

Can I freeze this bolognese?

Yes! This bolognese freezes very well. Thaw on the counter or in the refrigerator overnight before using. You can then reheat it gently over medium heat.

How long does this bolognese keep?

This tempeh bolognese will keep for up to 5 days in the refrigerator or 2 months in the freezer.

I hope you are going to love this homemade bolognese sauce! It’s delicious on top of spaghetti, but can also be used in lasagna, bakes, and more!

⭐️ Did you like this recipe? Let us know in the comments below, and tag us on Facebook, Instagram, or Pinterest!

Vegan bolognese sauce on top of spaghetti.
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Recipe

Vegan Tempeh Bolognese

4.67 from 3 votes
Author: Thomas Pagot
This delicious vegan bolognese sauce is rich and meaty, and packed with flavor! Serve it on top of pasta, or use it in lasagna or baked casseroles!
Prep Time : 20 minutes
Cook Time : 40 minutes
Total Time : 1 hour
Servings 6 servings

Ingredients
 

  • 1 tbsp oil
  • 7 ounces tempeh scrambled into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 1 tbsp soy sauce
  • 1 tbsp oil
  • 1 tbsp vegan butter
  • 1 medium onion finely diced
  • 3 cloves of garlic minced
  • 1 medium carrot finely diced
  • 1 celery stalk finely diced
  • 1 14-ounce can diced tomatoes
  • 2 tbsp tomato paste
  • 1 tsp oregano
  • 1/2 tsp rosemary
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 1/8 tsp smoked paprika
  • 2 cups vegetable broth I used a low-sodium broth
  • salt and black pepper to taste

Instructions
 

  • Heat one tablespoon of oil in a non-stick skillet over medium heat. Once hot, add the scrambled tempeh and sauté for 3-5 minutes, or until golden brown.
  • Deglaze the pan with the soy sauce and stir to coat the tempeh. Cook for one more minute. Remove from heat and set aside.
  • Next, heat another tablespoon of oil and one tablespoon of vegan butter in a medium pot over medium heat. Once the butter has melted, add the onion and garlic, and cook for 2-3 minutes.
  • Add the diced carrots and celery and sauté for 3-5 minutes. Add the scrambled tempeh and cook for another minute.
  • Add the diced tomatoes, tomato paste, oregano, rosemary, sugar, and smoked paprika. Pour in the vegetable broth.
  • Bring to a boil, then lower the heat and let simmer partially covered for 30-40 minutes, or until the bolognese has thickened to your liking. I personally let it simmer for 30 minutes.
  • Once the bolognese has reached the desired consistency, remove it from heat and adjust the saltiness to taste. Season with about 1/8 tsp of ground black pepper.
  • Use this bolognese on top of noodles, pasta, or in baked dishes! This bolognese will keep for up to 5 days in the refrigerator.

Notes

  • If you find your bolognese too chunky: use an immersion blender and pulse a few times until you get a thinner consistency. Do not process for too long as you want to keep some texture.
  • While optional, you can add about 1/8 tsp of vegan Worcestershire sauce. It will add another level of flavor to the sauce. Highly recommended!
  • If serving this bolognese on top of pasta: reserve 2-3 tablespoons of the pasta cooking water and stir it into the bolognese. This step will help emulsify the sauce and thicken it.
Course : Condiment, Dinner, Lunch
Cuisine : American, Italian
Did you make this recipe? Tag @fullofplants on Instagram and hashtag it #fullofplants
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About the Author

Thomas Pagot is the founder, photographer, and recipe developer behind Full of Plants. He created the blog in 2016 as a personal cookbook for vegan recipes. Through years of recipe development, Thomas has successfully grown Full of Plants into a trusted resource for plant-based recipes.

Learn more ➜

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I’m not a big fan of tempeh usually but always looking for a recipe to change my mind.
Does this taste like regular tempeh or does the taste get dominated by the sauce?

5 stars
Tempeh bolognese is totally new to me, I will try it soon. Thank you!

5 stars
Again compliments for this recipe! I am not so fond with the tempeh, I use other vegan meat substitute instead. But the sauce is delisious!

4 stars
I cooked Tempeh scrambles for over 6 minutes and couldn’t get it to brown. Added vegan worchestershire….it tastes good however.