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Walnut and Lentil Bolognese

  • Serves: 8
  • Prep Time: 30 min
  • Cook Time: 55 min
  • Calories: 364
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
  • Garlic
  • 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: 364


  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 cup grated carrots
  • 1 cup minced celery
  • 1 cup finely minced yellow onion
  • 6 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 cup raw walnuts, finely chopped
  • 1 cup dried brown or green lentils, rinsed
  • 4 cups vegetable stock or broth
  • 1 (24-ounce) jar marinara sauce
  • 1 cup red wine, such as Pinot Noir
  • 2 teaspoons garlic powder
  • 2 teaspoons Italian seasoning
  • 2 teaspoons freshly cracked black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt, plus more to taste
  • 1 pound cooked pappardelle or tagliatelle, for serving
  • Freshly grated Parmesan cheese or vegan Parmesan cheese, for serving (optional)


  1. Heat the oil in a large saucepan or braiser over medium heat. Once the oil is glistening, add the carrots, celery, and onions and cook until softened, about 6 minutes. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute more.

  2. Add the walnuts and lentils, stir to combine. Add the stock, marinara, wine, garlic powder, Italian seasoning, pepper, and salt. Stir to combine again, then increase the heat to high and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low and cook, stirring occasionally, until the sauce thickens and the lentils are cooked to your liking, about 35 minutes.

  3. Transfer 2 cups of the sauce to a blender or food processor and blend until mostly smooth. Return the blended sauce back to the pan and stir to combine. Taste and add more salt as needed.

  4. Serve the bolognese over your favorite pasta, topped with Parmesan if desired.

Nutrition Info

  • Per Serving
  • Amount
  • Calories 364
  • Protein 15 g
  • Carbohydrates 59 g
  • Total Fat 10 g
  • Dietary Fiber 9 g
  • Cholesterol 10 mg
  • sodium 661 mg
  • Total Sugars 8 g

Walnut and Lentil Bolognese

Questions & Reviews

Join the discussion below.

  • Stacy Baird

    Does it matter what kind of walnuts? Raw or roasted? Salted?
    Do you need to soak them before using in this recipe?

    Hi Stacy, raw unsalted walnuts. Hope you enjoy!

  • Amita Patel

    Can we substitute Walnuts with Almonds?

    My daughter is allergic to walnuts.


    We haven't tried it with almonds but we imagine it would work, let us know if you try it out!

  • gina friend

    What do you mean by saying rinse lentils in a mesh sieve? I don't know-much about lentils-but I purchase dried in a bag-and use in soup straight from the bag-sounds delicious though!!

    Hi Gina! Since lentils are not processed before they are bagged/boxed it's recommended to rinse them to get off any dust, dirt and check if any small pebbles got in the bag.

  • Dawn

    If I use ready cooked lentils like puy lentils that come pre cooked in a pouch, how much water would this recipe need?

    Just use 1 cup.

  • Sharon

    What can be substituted for Lentils? My husband cant eat Lentils

    There is no substitute for lentils in this recipe. Soon we will have a mushroom ragu on this site that might be an appropriate substitute.

  • Lachlan

    I think the brand of sauce you use is the biggest influencer here. I took a guess on an expensive one, but it was a little boring. I pepped it up a bit with vermouth, red pepper and smoked paprika. Overall, a good and healthy recipe. Will make again.

    Glad you enjoyed it!

  • Keyshae Robinson

    I loved this recipe! I'm a new vegetarian and I made this (without walnuts because I'm allergic). Came out great!

    That's great, so happy you loved it! Thanks for trying it out Keyshae.

  • Janet

    Loved this recipe but when writing this review I seem to have changed alot due to allergies and family dislike of pasta it's a texture thing! Made it for our non-meat night. I subsituted Aduki beans rather than lentils, Homemade Ratatouille for the Marinara. Kept it more chunky and added into Homemade buckwheat tacos.

    So glad you like it and were able to make substitutions that work for your family Janet!

  • Wendy

    It was absolutely amazing! So hard to find vegetarian good dishes for company. Thanks

    Thanks Wendy! We are so glad you enjoyed it!

  • Ksarsama

    I’m blown away by this recipe. The sauce was so good, I wanted to eat it plain. Even my picky children enjoyed it. It was hearty and rich, and if that wasn’t enough, it was so easy to make.

    Thank you! We are so happy the whole family loved it!