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Walnut and Lentil Bolognese

  • Serves: 8
  • Prep Time: 30 min
  • Cook Time: 55 min
  • Calories: 279
Walnut Vegan Bolognese with lentils with pasta on a plater with a serving spoon

Boldly flavored, super hearty and incredibly easy, this vegan walnut and lentil bolognese recipe takes your plant-based eating goals to new heights.

This post is in partnership with California Walnuts. All opinions are our own.

A Hearty, Easy Vegan Bolognese

Have you noticed how often our superfast recipes call for a jar of marinara? A store-bought jar of marinara is such a beautiful thing—it’s a shortcut that doesn’t short. Tomatoes are an ideal food for preserving and jarred marinara sauce is no exception—loaded with wonderful, slow cooked tomatoes and herbs, it’s a time-saver that really delivers. And in this case, it pairs up with lentils and walnuts to make a flavorful, rich vegan bolognese sauce that packs a huge nutritional punch, too! Healthy, hearty, vegan, rich, quick, easy, yummy—this walnut and lentil bolognese is an update on childhood favorite and a weeknight superstar.

dried past, bowl of walnuts, bowl of lentils, garlic, shredded carrots, olive oil celery, onion and marinara

Let’s Talk About Walnuts & Nutrition

It’s usually this time of year that you’ll find us in our boots tromping across farms as it’s peak harvest season across America. This year, as with many things in 2020, things were a little different. We recently had the opportunity of exploring California walnut orchards in partnership with California Walnuts by way of a virtual tour. As much as we wished we could be there in real life, the valuable information learned was not lost on us. We got to hear about the sustainability practices that walnut growers use, some of the health benefits of walnuts and the importance of proper storage. Beyond learning more about walnut cultivation, we also had the opportunity to discuss how we can incorporate walnuts into those family recipes we all hold dear, like this bolognese.

So, where exactly do walnuts come into our bolognese recipe and why? Well, the answer is two-fold. Firstly, walnuts have a richness that gives the bolognese sauce that hearty, meaty quality that we crave when we think of bolognese. Secondly, they contain nutrients—in addition to protein (4g/oz), fiber (2g.oz) and magnesium , walnuts are loaded with ALA, the plant based omega-3 (2.5g/oz) which is a “good fat” that supports heart health in myriad ways. Omega-3 ALA can’t be made by the body and has to come from food, like walnuts. ALA has been associated with benefits for heart health, brain health and inflammation. Plus, any walnuts that you have left over from making this sauce are great for snacking, or for adding to your favorite cookie recipe. Or even your favorite giant cookie recipe.

vegan walnut and lentil bolognese in a dutch oven with a wooden spoon

How to Buy and Store Walnuts

We mentioned storage above, but we wanted to talk briefly about it here because it is really important! Most nuts are pretty high in fat, so they don’t have an endless shelf life. To get the most out of your walnuts, be sure to:

  • Buy them in sealed packaging. This will ensure that they’re as fresh as possible when you first get them.
  • Store them in the fridge or freezer. Once you’ve opened the package—or if you’ve bought walnuts from the bulk section—store the walnuts in the fridge. Or, if you want to store them for more than a month or so, store them in the freezer.

Everything You’ll Need to Make This Vegan Bolognese

Jarred marinara, brown lentils, and walnuts are the main things that create the big, satisfying flavors and textures of this vegan bolognese recipe. A quick pass through the bulk section of the market, a pit stop in produce, and you’ll have everything you need to make it. Here’s what you’ll need:

  • Olive oil
  • Carrots
  • Celery
  • Onions
  • Walnuts
  • Lentils
  • Marinara sauce
  • Pasta
vegan walnut and lentil bolognese in a dutch oven with a wooden spoon
vegan walnut and lentil bolognese in a dutch oven with a wooden spoon

How To Make Vegan Bolognese

Whether you’re a devoted vegan, or simply taking a break from meat for the evening, this healthy, hearty bolognese recipe is sure to hit the spot. Here’s how to make it:

  1. Sauté carrots, celery and onions.
  2. Add the walnuts, lentils, jar of marinara sauce and a little salt and water.
  3. Simmer! Cook low and slow—much like you would with traditional bolognese—until the lentils are cooked through.
  4. Blend! If you want to, blend some of the bolognese sauce to create a creamier texture.
  5. Serve! Tossed with the pasta of your choice. If you don’t need it to be completely vegan, top it with a little parmesan cheese.
Walnut Vegan Bolognese with lentils with pasta on a plater with a serving spoon

Tools You’ll Need

More Easy Vegan Recipes To Try

Walnut Vegan Bolognese with lentils with pasta on a plater with a serving spoon
Walnut Vegan Bolognese with lentils with pasta on a plater with a serving spoon

Healthy Bolognese? Who Knew?!

If you make this walnut and lentil bolognese recipe, let us know how you like it! Share a photo and tag us on Instagram using @themodernproper and #themodernproper so that we can see your stuff! Happy eating!

Walnut and Lentil Bolognese

  • Serves: 8
  • Prep Time: 30 min
  • Cook Time: 55 min
  • Calories: 279


  • 2 tbsp Olive oil
  • 1 cup Grated carrots
  • 1 cup Celery, minced
  • 1 cup Onions, finely minced
  • 1 cup Walnuts, finely chopped
  • 1 cup Dried lentils (brown or green), rinsed in a fine mesh sieve
  • 1 (24) oz jar Marinara
  • 6 cups Water
  • 1 tsp Salt
  • 1 lb Wide pasta noodles, such as pappardelle or tagliatelle
  • Parmesan cheese or vegan parmesan cheese, optional


  1. In a large saucepan or braiser heat olive oil over medium heat. Add the carrots, celery and onions and sauté until tender, about 6 minutes.
  2. Add the walnuts and lentils along with the salt, water and jar of marinara. Stir to combine.
  3. Simmer on medium-low for 45 minutes stirring occasionally, until sauce thickens.
  4. When the lentils have reached your desired tenderness, transfer 2 cups of the sauce to a blender or food processor. Blend until nearly smooth. Add the blended sauce back to the pan and stir to combine. Blending is an optional step, but it helps add a creaminess without the need to add cream.
  5. Remove from heat, and serve over your favorite pasta—such as pappardelle or tagliatelle—and top with freshly grated or vegan parmesan cheese.

Nutrition Info

  • Per Serving
  • Amount
  • Calories 279
  • Protein 11 g
  • Carbohydrates 27 g
  • Total Fat 14 g
  • Dietary Fiber 10 g
  • Cholesterol 1 mg
  • sodium 574 mg
  • Added Sugars 7 g

Walnut and Lentil Bolognese

Questions & Reviews

Join the discussion below.

  • Steff

    How much water do you add to the sauce? I’m just checking to see if the 6 cupsis for the sauce or for boiling noodles.

    Yes the water is for the sauce. What ends up happening is that the lentils soap up all of the water as they get tender.

  • deb

    what is the green garnish?

    It's parsley! You can use it if you'd like to, but it's completely optional :)

  • Pamela Gehl

    can this sauce be made a day or two ahead of time?

    Yes! That would be fine.

  • Van Nguyen

    Made it for the very first time and love it 😍. Thank you for sharing such an easy but tasty recipe. I do have a lot of leftover sauce. How long can I keep it in the fridge and is it freezable ? Cant wait to try other recipe

    Yes! You can absolutely freeze it. We recommend 3-5 days in the refrigerator and 3-4 months in the freezer.

  • Susan Kromrey Cramer

    What kind of lentils?

    Brown or green

  • Van Nguyen

    I came across this recipe while looking for more plant based recipe and decided to give it a try since I had all the ingredients at home. It turned out amazing and so easy to make. Thank you so much!

    So glad you enjoyed it!

  • Linda Morgan

    I made the walnut and lentil bolognese several times as its rich tasty sauce is both satisfying and healthy. We love it.

    So glad you love it!

  • Juls Dee

    Absolutely delicious! My whole family - both the vegetarians and the meat eaters - loved this dinner!

    Wonderful news! Thanks for letting us know!

  • vigirl

    This was a good base. To get it to my taste, I added basil (dried and fresh), garlic powder, oregano, 1 tablespoon of sugar and fennel seeds. I didn't measure the herbs I just put in enough to my taste. I also pureed 4 cups of the sauce in my vitamix (vs just 2 cups). It was a very hearty sauce and I served it over fettuccine.

    Love these additions!

  • A.J. Bonaventura

    I really enjoyed this. I made up some eggplant parmesan with some leftovers from the Ratatouille and served it with some whole wheat bowtie noodles. This really makes a lot of sauce.