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Simple Yet Delicious Vegan Bolognese

Updated: Jul 4, 2023

Monty Irish delivers a vegan twist on the classic spaghetti bolognese to show us how easy eating sustainably can be!

Image Credit: Chloe D’Inverno

Five years ago, our household turned almost entirely vegetarian. Spaghetti bolognese has always been one of my favourite meals and developing a vegetarian bolognese as good as the meat option was always something very important to me. However, since coming to university and meeting my girlfriend who is vegan, I wanted to push it a step further to see if my tried and tested vegetarian recipe could become entirely vegan…and so, here we are! This recipe is fundamentally very similar to cooking a meat bolognese: the longer you leave it simmering, the better it will become. It surprised me that vegan mince maintains very similar properties to meat mince whilst being cooked. Vegan mince does require more care than beef mince, but by following this simple recipe, you will end up with a delicious, filling and hearty meal that everyone will enjoy, whether you are vegan or not.

Meat-based spaghetti bolognese is such a staple in the home, especially for students, that most think it would be impossible to turn vegan. However, even such a traditionally meat-based meal as this can be turned into a far more sustainable and equally delicious option. Veganism should not be a barrier to enjoying classic food and this recipe proves this. I was a meat lover before my family switched to vegetarianism, yet with some very simple tweaking, most go-to meals can be turned vegetarian or vegan without much effort. Veganism is the way forward in terms of a sustainable future for the planet and the climate. If you are able to transform meat-dependent meals into vegan alternatives, there is simply no reason not to.

I hope the fact that the long-established meal of bolognese can be turned vegan offers inspiration to try and explore further vegan options; the majority of the time they are equally as tasty and enjoyable!

Image Credit: Chloe D’Inverno

Preparation Time: 10-15 minutes approx.

Cooking Time: 1 hour 10 minutes approx.

Quantity: For 2-4 people depending on appetite.


500g vegan mince

2 tins of chopped tomatoes

1 large white onion or 2 small white onions

2 large carrots or 3 small carrots

3 sticks of celery

1 large red or orange pepper

2 large garlic cloves or 3 small garlic cloves

2-3 heaped teaspoons of mixed herbs

1 vegan beef stock cube

¼-⅓ bottle of (very cheap) vegan red wine

4 tablespoons of tomato purée or ketchup

350ml water

Salt and black pepper

Vegetable and olive oil (for cooking)

Image Credits: Chloe D’Inverno


(1) Chop all the vegetables you have into similar sized, small chunks/slices. For the onion, dice it. For the carrots, top and tail, slice down the middle and then chop into slices a few centimetres wide. For the celery, top and tail and then cut into small slices. Once again, with the pepper, cut this into similar sized chunks as everything else. Lastly, the garlic. Since few students have a garlic press (if you do, use this as it is much easier), cut the two ends off the garlic and peel. Then, smash with the flat side of a large knife as this makes it much easier to chop finely. Do this with both of your cloves and then chop vigorously to turn it into a paste. Put all these vegetables into a big bowl ready for cooking. Make sure all vegetables are of similar size, otherwise you will end up with, for example, undercooked celery or carrots, which is not ideal.

(2) Preheat a large slug of oil in a deep pan on a high heat. I use a 50/50 mixture of olive oil and vegetable oil as it tastes much better than with just vegetable oil alone. As soon as the oil starts lightly smoking, chuck in all your vegetables from the aforementioned large bowl. Turn down your hob to a medium heat and cook all your vegetables for around 10-15 minutes while stirring occasionally. The vegetables need to soften and look glazed; if they start going brown then you are cooking them at too high a heat. Ten minutes is vastly dependent on your cooking equipment and can vary greatly; however, it is far better to slightly overcook rather than undercook your vegetables, as this will not create an enjoyable dining experience.

(3) After the vegetables soften and appear glazed, turn up the hob to a medium/high heat. As this is vegan mince, chuck in another large slug of oil. Mix the mince in with the vegetables as quickly as you can. Cook the mince for around 1-3 minutes until it all darkens slightly. Vegan mince soaks up a lot of oil during cooking so continue to add a generous helping of oil as everything cooks.

(4) Add the stock cube; crumble it up with your fingers and mix it into the mince. 

(5) Add ¼-⅓ of a bottle of red wine and about 2 tsps of your herbs. Whilst stirring continually, let the wine boil almost entirely off; this should take up to two minutes. 

(6) Next, add both tins of chopped tomatoes, a very generous sprinkle of black pepper, and a moderate pinch of salt too. Bring this back up to the boil. 

(7) Add 350ml water, equivalent to a full chopped tomato tin. Bring the heat all the way down to a gentle simmer. At this stage, I add ketchup or tomato puree; normally both (a tablespoon of each) if I have them to hand. 

(8) Leave it to simmer for up to an hour (with the lid off), stirring every 5-10 minutes. The longer you leave it simmering, the better it will taste in the end.

(9) After about thirty minutes, taste to see how things are coming along. Bear in mind, it will taste a little different at this point to how it will at the end. Therefore, regular tasting is advised; do this every 15 minutes or so. 

(10) After the sauce has boiled down to a consistency that is close to a typical bolognese, have a taste. If you believe it is lacking in something, add a tablespoon of tomato ketchup. This adds both sweetness and saltiness as well as ‘tomatoiness’. If after this addition, it is still not perfect, a teaspoon of balsamic vinegar can rejuvenate the whole mixture. If it tastes too acidic by this point, a teaspoon of granulated sugar can also be added to sweeten the mixture. However, if you have followed the recipe as stated, these additions are by no means essential.

(11) Serve with vegan cheese, salt and pepper…and obviously, pasta. If you’re feeling extra worldly, maybe even serve with some cheeky vegan garlic bread!

Quick Note: When you add everything into the pan, you may think to yourself, “how on earth will that turn into a delicious bolognese?”

The answer is to trust the process. You need to keep it gently simmering for as long as you have time for. If you only have, let’s say, 30 minutes to cook it, then turn up the heat slightly so that it simmers more aggressively. You have to be careful when doing this, however; there is risk of burning the bottom, so more frequent stirring is required. 

Image Credits: Chloe D’Inverno

About the Author: Monty Irish is a Psychology in Education student at University of York. For the past five years, Monty has opted for a ‘flexitarian’ diet, with his mother and brother being vegetarian. Recently, he has developed an interest in vegetarian/vegan cooking due to further awareness of animal welfare and the meat industry.

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