This easy vegan Tempeh Bolognese sauce is made with crumbled tempeh, nutritional yeast, and flavourful spices. Done in under 30 minutes but with all-day flavour and packed with plant-based protein, this vegetarian bolognese sauce is the perfect quick and healthy weeknight dinner.
Anybody else in the mood for comfort food these days?
Of course you are.
Because what's better than cozying up with a big old bowl of pasta bolognese?
I can't think of much, to be honest.
When it comes to making a killer vegetarian bolognese, you've got plenty of options. Today we're making Tempeh Bolognese, which is one of my favourites for a hearty, healthy, stick-to-yer-ribs vegan bolognese sauce.
What do I need to make Tempeh Bolognese?
- Tempeh! That one should be super obvious. Related: How to Cook Tempeh.
- Canned crushed tomatoes. This forms the base of the sauce.
- Garlic and onion. Aromatics, yo!
- Nutritional yeast. For a deep umami flavour.
- Spices. To spice up your life.
How do you make this vegetarian bolognese?
Super easy, friends.
Grab your favourite medium-large saucepan and heat it over medium high heat.
Brown the onions and garlic, and then crumble the tempeh into the pan and let it get nice and browned, too.
Then the spices go in, as do the tomatoes and the nutritional yeast. Reduce the heat to low and let this bubble and simmer away for about 20 minutes, uncovered, to let the flavours develop.
While that's happening you can cook up a big pot of pasta to go with your tempeh bolognese. Spoon the sauce over the pasta, sprinkle with extra nutritional yeast, and enjoy your dinner!
As you can see, this recipe is easy peasy. It's so quick you can pull it off on a hungry weeknight after work, but it's also nice and freezer friendly if you wanted to make a big batch to stash away.
And bolognese is an excellent vehicle for sneaky veg, if you're so inclined. I've made this before with cubes of frozen spinach tossed in, or grated zucchini, which practically melts away as it cooks.
Where can I buy tempeh?
Look for tempeh in the refrigerated section of your grocery store. It's likely kept with the tofu and plant-based meats. If your regular grocery store doesn't carry tempeh, try a health food store.
You can also try making your own tempeh! My girl Alissa from Connoisseurus Veg has a comprehensive guide to tempeh, including how to make your own.
Help, I can't find tempeh!
Bummer, man. But worry not, you can replace the tempeh with an equivalent amount of crumbled tofu (previously frozen tofu works great, texture-wise), cooked lentils, or try making cauliflower-walnut "meat" sauce.
Can I make this veggie bolognese sauce in advance?
Yup! It'll last you 3-5 days in the fridge and it reheats like a dream.
Can I freeze vegetarian bolognese?
You sure can! I like to portion it into single or double servings and then freeze it, or you can totally freeze the entire batch, too.
Is this recipe vegan?
This recipe is 100% vegan as written. Vegan bolognese for the win!
Is this recipe gluten-free?
If you serve with gluten-free pasta, then you bet your butt it is!
Can I add extra vegetables to the pasta sauce?
You sure can! Grated zucchini and carrots work great in this recipe.
Hey Nutrition Lady, what's the deal with tempeh?
Glad you asked!
Tempeh is a traditional fermented soy food originally from Indonesia. It is fermented with the mold Rhizopus oligosporus in a process similar to cheese making, which causes the soy beans to stitch together into a cake.
The fermentation process also makes digestion easier, and nutrients like zinc, calcium, and iron are more bio available than in non-fermented soy products like tofu.
Tempeh is a great source of plant-based protein. Also, because the soy beans in tempeh are still in their whole form, all of the dietary fiber is still intact. Think of tofu as the white bread of the soy world and tempeh as it’s healthier whole grain cousin.
Tempeh is usually purchased in a cake-like form and can be sliced or crumbled, and is often steamed, seared, or stir-fried.
Look for tempeh that is covered with a thin whitish bloom. Sometimes it has a few black or grayish spots, which is totally fine, but it should have no evidence of pink, yellow, or blue colouration – a sign that it has become overly fermented.
Note! It's not safe to eat uncooked tempeh, so make sure it's been steamed or otherwise cooked before you sample any.
Other pasta recipes you might enjoy:
Pumpkin Mac and Cheese
Orecchiette with Broccoli and Lemon
One-Pot Lemony Kale Spaghetti
7 Vegan Tempeh Recipes
Vegetarian Ravioli Bake
- 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
- 1 large onion diced
- 4 cloves garlic crushed
- 8 oz package tempeh crumbled
- 1 teaspoon oregano
- 1 teaspoon thyme
- ½ teaspoon chili powder
- 28 oz can diced tomatoes
- ¼ cup water more as needed
- ¼ cup nutritional yeast flakes
- Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat.
- Add the onion, and sauté until it just begins to brown, stirring frequently.
- Add the garlic, and cook for 2-3 minutes, more, until it has just softened.
- Now add the tempeh crumbles, and sauté with the onions and garlic until the tempeh begins to brown - about five minutes.
- Add the oregano, thyme, and chili and cook with the spices for about a minute.
- Add the diced tomatoes, water, and nutritional yeast and stir well to combine. If the mixture is to thick, add a bit more water as needed (remember it'll thicken as it cooks).
- Reduce the heat to medium-low, and let the bolognese simmer for about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- Serve over hot whole wheat spaghetti, with extra nutritional yeast sprinkled over the top.
- Nutrition values are an estimate only
- Nutrition calculation is for sauce only, does not include pasta.
- Help, I can't find tempeh! Bummer, man. But worry not, you can replace the tempeh with an equivalent amount of crumbled tofu or cooked lentils.
- Can I make this veggie bolognese sauce in advance? Yup! It'll last you 3-5 days in the fridge and it reheats like a dream.
- Can I freeze this vegetarian bolognese? You sure can! I like to portion it into single or double servings and then freeze it, or you can totally freeze the entire batch, too.
- Is this recipe vegan? It is 100% vegan as written.
- Is this recipe gluten-free? If you serve with gluten-free pasta, then you bet your butt it is!
- Can I add extra vegetables to the pasta sauce? You sure can! Grated zucchini and carrots work great in this recipe.
This recipe was originally published November 13, 2015. It was retested, re-photographed, and most recently updated on November 6, 2018.
I can't wait to make this. Are the herbs dry? I have fresh oregano and thyme growing so I may add them after the tomato instead. I also will deglaze with red wine for extra yum!
I use dry herbs, but fresh of course works too!
Yummy! I added mushrooms to mine!
I'm not a fan of mushrooms, but you do you! 🙂
Suggestions for making this higher in fat? Would more oil ruin this? Ghee?
I haven't tried adding more fat to this recipe, so can't say how it would turn out. One thought is you could add chopped or ground walnuts, which add a great "meaty" texture in addition to the tempeh.
For best health benefits dont brown the tempeh. Its a natural probiotic.
It's true... but browning makes it delicious! You'll still reap most of the health benefits of the tempeh with the browning, and the heat of the sauce will end up destroying many of the live bacteria anyways. Also, tempeh isn't safe to eat raw and does require some cooking.
This has joined our dinner cycle of "regulars". My only change is to sauté mushrooms with lots of garlic first, set aside, then add to the recipe as written before the simmer stage. Delicious!
So glad to hear that this recipe is your regular rotation, Barbara! I'm not a fan of mushrooms, but I know lots of people are, so great to know about that modification!
Does anyone know how much spaghetti I should use??
A single serving of spaghetti is generally considered to be 2oz, so you can multiply that by however many people you're serving.
Hey there, your Tempeh bolognese was such a delight. I added mushrooms in just after the tempeh, absolutely stunning. Happy cooking!
I tried my hand at making Tempeh this weekend and used it in this recipe it was so tasty and filling thanks for the wonderful recipe
You *made* tempeh?! Tell me more!
Heather Mason @NuttyNutrition
yummy! I have never been a tempeh fan in the past, but I think smothered in tomato sauce I might like it. Because I do always feel my pasta with red sauce is missing just a little protein.
I'm a tempeh lover, so I can't say how this might go down with someone who doesn't like the stuff, but I'm totally with you on red sauces being protein void. If you give it a whirl, let me know what you think!