Rich Lentil Ragu (Vegan) – Everyday Healthy Recipes


This lentil ragu is a deliciously rich vegan sauce perfect to serve over pasta for a hearty, meat-free meal. It’s nutritious, easy to make and comes together in just over 40 minutes!

If you want to try other vegan pasta sauces check out also my tofu bolognese!

Lentil ragu sauce with pappardelle pasta in skillet with fork.

This Lentil Ragu involves cooking lentils along with vegetables in a rich, tomato-based sauce for a meatless feast that’s as delicious as it is satisfying.

Classic ragu is a meat-based sauce cooked with simple vegetables often including a moderate amount of tomatoes. In this vegetarian version it is lentils rather than meat that take the centre stage.  The sauce they produce is lighter and takes a lot less time to cook than the classic version so makes an ideal weeknight dinner.

Are lentils a good meat substitute

Yes, they are!  They have a similar texture to ground meat and are easy to use. They also do not need to be cooked for very long (unlike meat, which needs to be cooked long and slow for dishes such as ragu). And although admittedly lentils do not taste like meat they absorb flavours well so with the right ingredients can create truly delicious, rich tasting dishes (such as lentil lasagna).

Is lentil ragu healthy

Yes, it is! Lentils contain very little fat and half the calories of lean ground beef.  They don’t have quite as much protein as meat but, on the other hand, are high in fibre and minerals.

This recipe is therefore low in fat and contains a good amount of protein.

Ingredients and substitutions

Ingredients for making lentil ragu sauce in individual dishes.
Lentil ragu ingredients.
  • Lentils: see details below.
  • Tomato passata: adds richness and helps thicken the sauce. I do not recommend using canned tomatoes instead.
  • Sundried tomato puree: use 4-5 finely chopped sundried tomatoes or regular tomato puree instead.
  • Vegetables.
  • Mushrooms: regular white mushrooms work well. Either pulse them in a food processor (recommended) or chop very finely.
  • Herbs.
  • Stock: I recommend using vegan ‘beef’ stock, but if you can’t get it use vegetable stock plus 1 tablespoon of soy sauce instead.
  • Soy sauce: adds more flavour to the mushrooms.
  • Balsamic vinegar.
  • Vegan Worcestershire sauce.
  • Vegan white wine.
  • Olive oil.
  • Coconut milk: adds creaminess and tones down the sourness of the sauce. I strongly recommend using this ingredient.

What lentils to use

This easy lentil ragu can be made using any lentils that keep their shape in cooking. So either green, brown, Puy or black (beluga) lentils will work.  I do not recommend using red lentils as they can become too soft and your sauce won’t have enough texture.

Do I need to soak the lentils

Lentils do not need to be soaked before cooking. However, they are easier to digest (and take a little less time to cook) if you soak them briefly before cooking. But this step is optional (see Instructions below).

Step-by-step recipe instructions

Place the lentils in a bowl, cover with water and set aside for 30 minutes (this is optional).

1.Cook the mushrooms. In a non-stick pan heat up 2 teaspoons of oil, add the mushrooms and 1 tablespoon of soy sauce and cook for 6-8 minutes over a moderate heat until all the moisture has been absorbed and the mushrooms are lightly browned. Stir often. Remove from the pan and set aside.

Finely chopped mushrooms in large pan.

2. Sautee the vegetables. Using the same pan heat up the remaining oil, add the onion, garlic, celery and cook for about 4 minutes stirring often. Add the wine, increase the heat and cook for another minute or so.

Chopped onion and celery in large frying pan.

3. Add the lentils (either rinsed or pre-soaked then rinsed), carrot, herbs and ⅔ of the stock, cover and bring to the boil then simmer for 5 minutes.

Cooking lentils with carrot and stock in large shallow pan.

4. Add the remaining ingredients. Add the passata, tomato puree, mushrooms, balsamic vinegar, Worcestershire sauce, pepper to taste, cover and cook gently for 15-20 minutes until the lentils are fully cooked, stirring occasionally. If the sauce becomes too thick top up with a little more stock.

Making ragu sauce with lentils and passata in shallow pan.

5. Finish the sauce. Remove from the heat, stir in the coconut milk, adjust the seasoning as needed and serve your lentil ragu sauce over pasta.

Thick lentil ragu sauce with cream in large shallow pan with blue spoon.

Serving suggestions

As with any rich ragu-style sauce this green lentil ragu is best served with large pasta shapes such as pappardelle and a side dish of salad (have a browse of my salad recipes for ideas). An alternative to pasta can be a slice of easy spinach bread. Drizzle with a little olive oil and scatter over grated vegan parmesan and/or fresh herbs (such as basil or parsley) before serving if liked.

For a low-carb option serve over zucchini noodles. You can also enjoy it with leftover grilled or steamed vegetables including broccoli and peppers.

Can I use lentils from a can

Canned lentils are a ready-to-eat product so won’t absorb the flavours from the sauce as well as dried lentils which cook in the sauce. For this reason I recommend using dried lentils in this vegan lentil ragu recipe.

However, if you do not have dried lentils or prefer to use canned add them to the sauce halfway through so they don’t overcook (approx. 2 cups). Follow Step 3 (but do not add the lentils) then add all the ingredients in Step 4 and cook for 8 minutes. Stir in the lentils (drained and rinsed) and cook for 10 more minutes.

Top down view of ragu with lentils and pasta in skillet.

Top tips for making lentil ragu sauce

  • *You can, but don’t have to, soak the lentils for 30 minutes before adding into the sauce (they will be easier to digest and take a little less time to cook).
  • Because this recipe contains several ingredients with added salt you will likely only need to add pepper to taste.
  • Best served hot over pasta (such as pappardelle).
  • Boil the pasta as the sauce is bubbling away. Save some of the pasta water to add later, if needed.
  • This sauce will thicken as it cools so to loosen the consistency add a drop of water (from cooking the pasta).
  • The coconut milk adds creaminess but you will NOT taste the coconut in the sauce.
  • Refrigerate leftover lentil ragu pasta sauce covered, for up to 4 days.

Reheating and freezing

You can reheat this sauce either in a saucepan or in the microwave. Add a splash of water to loosen the consistency.

The sauce also freezes well (in an airtight container for up to 3 months) and because it does not contain red lentils (which overcook easily) it won’t become mushy after defrosting. For best results defrost in the fridge overnight.

Other recipes to try

Check out also these other easy vegetarian meal ideas!

Keep in touch!

If you make this vegan lentil ragu recipe I’d love to know how it turned out for you. What lentils did you use? Let me know in the comments below, thanks:)

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Thick lentil ragu sauce with cream in large shallow pan with blue spoon.

Rich Lentil Ragu (Vegan)

This lentil ragu is a deliciously rich vegan sauce perfect to serve over pasta for a hearty, meat-free meal.

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Course: Main

Cuisine: dairy free, vegan

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Cook Time: 35 minutes

Total Time: 45 minutes

Servings: 5 servings

Calories: 215kcal

Instructions

  • Soak lentils (optional): Place the lentils in a bowl, cover with water and set aside for 30 minutes.Fry mushrooms: In a non-stick pan heat up 2 teaspoons of oil, add the mushrooms and 1 tablespoon of soy sauce and cook for 6-8 minutes over a moderate heat until all the moisture has been absorbed and the mushrooms are lightly browned. Stir often. Remove from the pan and set aside.
  • Saute vegetables: Using the same pan heat up the remaining oil, add the onion, garlic, celery and cook for about 4 minutes stirring often. Add the wine, increase the heat and cook for another minute or so.

  • Lentils: Add the lentils (either rinsed or pre-soaked then rinsed), carrot, herbs and ⅔ of the stock, cover and bring to the boil then simmer for 5 minutes.

  • Add remaining ingredients: Add the passata, tomato puree, mushrooms, balsamic vinegar, Worcestershire sauce, pepper to taste, cover and cook gently for 15-20 minutes until the lentils are fully cooked, stirring occasionally. If the sauce becomes too thick top up with a little more stock.

  • Finish off: Remove from the heat, stir in the coconut milk, adjust the seasoning as needed and serve your lentil ragu sauce over pasta.

Notes

  • *You can, but don’t have to, soak the lentils for 30 minutes before adding into the sauce (they will be easier to digest and take a little less time to cook).
  • Because this recipe contains several ingredients with added salt you will likely only need to add pepper to taste.
  • Best served hot over pasta (such as pappardelle). Love pasta? Browse these easy pasta meal ideas!
  • Boil the pasta as the sauce is bubbling away. Save some of the pasta water to add later, if needed.
  • This sauce will thicken as it cools so to loosen the consistency add a drop of water (from cooking the pasta).
  • The coconut milk adds creaminess but you will NOT taste the coconut in the sauce.
  • Refrigerate leftover lentil ragu pasta sauce covered, for up to 4 days.
  • Freeze in an airtight container for up to 3 months.

Nutrition

Serving: 1serving | Calories: 215kcal | Carbohydrates: 30g | Protein: 11g | Fat: 5g | Saturated Fat: 1g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g | Monounsaturated Fat: 3g | Sodium: 270mg | Potassium: 822mg | Fiber: 12g | Sugar: 7g | Vitamin A: 380IU | Vitamin C: 12mg | Calcium: 53mg | Iron: 4mg

*Nutritional information is automatically generated and should be considered as an estimate.

**A note about baking: If using a fan-assisted oven refer to your appliance’s instructions and adjust the temperature accordingly.





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