Looking for a healthier, plant-based twist on classic bolognese sauce? Try this delicious tempeh bolognese sauce recipe! This easy sauce is made with protein-rich tempeh, loads of veggies, and flavorful herbs and spices.
It's a satisfying alternative to meat sauces and is perfect for vegans and anyone looking to add more veggie-based meals to their diet.
Updated: This post was originally published in June 2020 and has been updated with new photos and additional content.
This is one of my favorite "end of the week" recipes!
Most weeks, I food shop only once a week. Early in the week, I use vegetables with a shorter shelf life. At the end of the week, I rely on ingredients (tempeh, tofu, plant-based meats) that hold well in the refrigerator for over a week.
Using this strategy means I waste less food, save a bit of money, and save time since I only have to shop once a week!
If you want to explore more ways to cook with tempeh, try this easy roasted tempeh recipe. It's perfect to add to a variety of different meals.
💚 Why You Will Love This Recipe
- Great meaty texture without any meat!
- A healthy way to sneak more veggies into your meals.
- Easy to make recipe using simple ingredients.
This tempeh bolognese recipe relies on a few pantry staples and fresh ingredients! Here's what you need:
- Aromatics: Cooking onion and garlic create the base of the flavorful sauce.
- Veggies: I am using zucchini, yellow bell pepper, and Swiss chard. You could also use other colors of bell pepper and replace the Swiss chard with kale or spinach. This veggie bolognese is great for using up veggies you have lying around in the produce drawer.
- Tempeh: Tempeh happens to be one of the most versatile vegan protein sources. It can hold in the refrigerator for many weeks. It crumbles up great to resemble the texture of ground meat in this vegan tomato sauce. It's often found in large grocery stores near the tofu, or you can find it in health food stores.
- Red wine: A classic addition to bolognese sauce and adds more depth of flavor to the sauce.
- Tomato puree: Buy your favorite jarred tomatoes for making this sauce.
- Sweetener: You want to add a bit of sweetness to balance out the acid of the tomatoes. You can use brown rice syrup, maple syrup, agave, or honey.
- Pasta: You can serve your tempeh bolognese with your favorite pasta. You might want to try using pasta made from beans, such as Explore Cuisine Organic Edamame & Mung Bean Fettuccine. Or something a bit more traditional tasting and one of my recent favorites, Brown Rice, Amaranth & Quinoa Rotini Supergrain Pasta, made by Ancient Harvest. Both are Organic, Gluten-Free, Vegan, Non-GMO, and high in plant-based protein!
- Red wine: You can swap the red wine and use white wine instead. If you prefer to leave it out completely, you can use vegetable broth instead but note that it will slightly alter the flavor of the sauce.
- Gluten-free: If you want to make this dish gluten-free, check your tempeh package, as most aren't gluten-free. However, there are a few that offer it as an option.
- Tempeh: If you want to skip the tempeh, you can replace it with crumbled tofu.
- Tomato puree: You can use crushed tomatoes or roasted cherry tomatoes to make a thicker, chunkier sauce.
✅ How to Make Tempeh Bolognese
- Prep all the ingredients. This way, everything is ready to go as you start to cook. As the recipe card directs, chop the onions, garlic, zucchini, yellow pepper, swiss chard, and basil.
- Pulse the tempeh in a food processor to break it up into small chunks.
PRO TIP: No food processor? No worries! You can use a grater to break it up or simply crumble it with your hands.
- Heat the olive oil in a large skillet and add the tempeh and chopped onion. Cook until the onions are softened and the tempeh is slightly browned.
- Add the salt, garlic, and oregano to the skillet with the tempeh and onions.
- Add the wine to the pan. Stir to remove any browned bits from the pan.
- Add the zucchini and peppers to the pan and cook until tender, about 10 minutes. While the veggies are cooking, cook the pasta according to the directions on the package.
- Add the tomato puree and brown rice syrup to the pan and stir to combine. Cook to heat the sauce and blend the flavors. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
- Add the chopped swiss chard to the pan and cook until the leaves have wilted.
PRO TIP: If you prefer a thinner sauce, add up to a quarter cup of water to the tempeh spaghetti sauce.
- When the vegan tempeh bolognese is ready, garnish it with fresh basil. Serve it up over pasta and sprinkle each plate with vegan parmesan and more fresh basil.
❄️ How to Store
Refrigerator: Store the sauce separately from the pasta. The sauce will last up to five days in the fridge and the pasta is good for 3-4 days.
Freezer: Tempeh bolognese sauce can be stored in the freezer for up to three months. But I do not recommend freezing the pasta.
Reheat: If frozen, thaw in the fridge overnight. Heat in a saucepan or skillet until heated through. Add water if needed to thin out the sauce.
🔪 Helpful Kitchen Tools and Gadgets
Use a food processor to save time crumbling the tempeh. If you don't have one, a hand grater works too.
You will need a cutting board and knife for chopping. I love using this bamboo cutting board in my kitchen. It's a more sustainable option than plastic. Also, be sure you have a good quality knife and that it's sharp enough for chopping.
Use a large skillet or Dutch oven to cook tempeh bolognese sauce.
👩🏻🍳 Expert Tips
- Wash the Swiss chard well. Sand hides in the leaves easily; nothing is worse than a gritty sauce on your pasta.
- Prep all your ingredients before you start cooking. Having everything to go makes for stress-free cooking.
- Feel free to swap out the veggies for others you have on hand!
- This dish pairs really well with steamed asparagus, crusty French bread (with a side of dipping olive oil with crushed garlic), and a glass of red wine!
I love using tempeh and veggies to bulk up the bolognese sauce, as seen in this recipe. However, I also find tofu or lentils will work in a similar way and make a great way to swap out the meat.
They are similar but a little bit different. Both are Italian sauces but bolognese is usually made with more vegetables and fewer tomatoes than spaghetti sauce.
♻️️ Zero-Waste Tips
One thing we all have control over in our kitchens that can impact our planet is food waste. One common way that food is wasted is by buying fresh ingredients and then letting them go bad in the fridge before using them.
You can implement a couple of strategies to reduce the amount of food you throw away. You can start by taking the time to plan out your meals each week. That way, you know what you will be cooking and what you need to buy.
For meals later in the week, focus on buying ingredients that last longer to use in your meals later in the week. These include:
- brussels sprouts
- kale or swiss chard
By putting in a little thought, you can reduce food waste's impact on your carbon footprint.
➕ More Tempeh and Tofu Recipes
If you made this recipe, please leave a star 🌟 rating on the recipe card right below! You can also drop a review in the comment section. Your feedback is appreciated! And don’t forget to tag @themindfulfork so we can see your creations.
Easy Veggie Tempeh Bolognese Recipe
- 1 small yellow onion chopped
- 2 garlic cloves minced
- 1 zucchini quartered and diced
- ½ yellow pepper cubed
- 2 cups swiss chard chopped
- 1 ounce package tempeh
- ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
- 1 teaspoon sea salt
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- ¾ cup red wine
- 3 ¼ cup tomato puree (28 oz can or jar)
- 1 tablespoon brown rice syrup or maple syrup, agave, honey
- 1 tablespoon fresh basil chopped
- salt & pepper
- 1 pound pasta
- parmesan cheese vegan
- Prep all the ingredients: chop onions, mince garlic, dice zucchini, cube yellow pepper, and chop the swiss chard and basil.
- Pulse tempeh in food processor to make small chunks (or break apart with hands)
- Heat olive oil in a large skillet and add tempeh and chopped onion. Cook until onions are translucent, and tempeh is slightly browned. Add salt, garlic and oregano. Then pour wine into the pan to deglaze and remove any browned bits from the pan.
- Add in zucchini, and peppers cook until tender, about 10 minutes. Meanwile, heat water for pasta and cook pasta according to directions.
- Stir in tomato puree and brown rice syrup. Heat through to blend flavors. Season with salt & pepper to taste. Add chopped swiss chard, and cook until wilted. Add up to ¼ cup water if a thinner sauce is desired.
- Serve over pasta. Top with parmesan and fresh basil.