Here’s a hearty vegan bolognese that even meat lovers will enjoy. This is a vegan spin on a classic bolognese that combines roasted walnuts and cauliflower (no lentils or soy products!) for a rich, “meaty” (but meat-free) sauce. Just like a classic ragú it’s made in a rich tomato sauce with onion, celery, carrot and spices.
A vegan bolognese with a meaty texture
Who would have thought that you can make the bolognese dish without meat? Of course, I have done this with lentils which is also super yummy, but it doesn’t give you that meaty texture like a true bolognese. And this was even teenager tested. They didn’t even realise that there wasn’t any meat in this recipe. So what a great way to sneak some extra vegetables into a meal.
The combination of walnuts and cauliflower make a great meat substitute. To do so is simple. Both ingredients are simply ground together in a food processor to get a mince like texture and then roasted in the oven to bring out the flavors. Add some spices and you could even use this for tacos, burritos or other recipes in which you might use mince.
I like to serve this with spaghetti, but if you are looking for a low-carb and gluten-free option, try replacing pasta with zucchini noodles. For a gluten-free option, I love brown rice noodles, as they are similar to whole wheat in taste and texture.
Looking for other bolognese ideas?
Try my vegetarian lentil bolognese for another plant-based recipe. Make it vegan by skipping the parmesan.
Strictly vegan? Then check out my vegan recipe archive for more cooking inspiration.
Vegan Bolognese Sauce (with Cauliflower & Walnut)
- 1 small head of cauliflower (300 g florets, from a ca. 450 g head)
- 100 g raw walnuts
- 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 medium yellow onion, finely chopped
- 1 celery stalk, finely chopped
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 bay leaf
- 60 ml dry red wine, choose vegan, if needed
- 1 large carrot, peeled and grated
- 1/2 tablespoon dried oregano
- 1/2 tablespoon dried parsley
- a pinch of cayenne
- 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
- freshly ground pepper, to taste
- 2 x 680 g jar organic pureed tomato (passata)
- plus a little water, optional
- 1/2 teaspoon soy sauce (or tamari)
- 1/2 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
For the vegan parmesan (optional):
- 35 g raw cashews
- 1 1/2 tablespoon nutritional yeast
- 1/4 tsp sea salt
- 1/8 tsp garlic powder
Preheat the oven to 375°F / 190°C and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
In a food processor, pulse the walnuts and cauliflower until the mixture is evenly ground (should resemble minced meat).
Transfer to the prepared baking sheet. Bake for 25-28 minutes, stirring a 2-3 times to prevent over-browning. Remove and set aside.
Meanwhile, in a large non-stick saucepan (or wok), heat the oil over medium heat. Sauté the onions and celery until soft and translucent (about 10 minutes). Add the garlic, bay leaf and red wine. Simmer for 5 minutes, until reduced.
Add the grated carrot, herbs, tomato passata and cauliflower walnut mixture. Season with salt and stir to combine. Bring to a simmer, then lower heat. Gently simmer, partially covered for 20-30 minutes, stirring occasionally.
To finish, season with more salt and pepper, to taste, plus splash of soy sauce and balsamic. Stir well and serve with your favourite pasta or zucchini noodles for a low-carb meal. Enjoy!
A vegan parmesan is easy to make. Just ground the ingredients in a small mixer (an immersion blender also works!). Store in a sealed container in the fridge for 3-4 weeks.
- I always cook with a little red wine when I make a ragú, but this could easily be replaced with a little vegetable broth. If following a strict vegan diet then look for a wine labeled vegan. Vegan wines use alternative filtration methods rather than products derived from animals.
- With 600g dried pasta (for 6 portions) this recipe has 526 calories per portion.
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