Lentil Bolognese Recipe

Bowl of spaghetti with lentil bolognese sauce

Lentil bolognese is a hearty, healthy red sauce with lentils, mushrooms and all the rich flavor of traditional bolognese. An easy high-protein vegan meal, made in your Instant Pot!

Serve lentil bolognese over your favorite pasta, or serve it over rice, spaghetti squash or baked potatoes. 

Total Instant Pot Cooking Time: 15 minutes to reach pressure + 15 minutes to cook + natural release


  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped 
  • 1 carrot, finely chopped or grated
  • 1 celery stalk, finely chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 16 ounces mushrooms, thinly sliced
  • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 1 28-ounce can tomato sauce or crushed tomatoes or your favorite jar of pasta sauce
  • 3 ¼ cups water 
  • 1 1/4 cups (8 ounces) green or brown lentils 
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano or Italian seasoning
  • 1 small bay leaf (or break a larger leaf in half)
  • 1 small sprig rosemary (optional)
  • Fresh basil, to finish the dish
  • Parmesan cheese or vegan cheese


  1. Press the Saute button on the Instant Pot. Warm the olive oil, then add onion, carrot, celery and garlic. Saute 3 to 5 minutes. 
  2. Add half of the mushrooms and mix well into the onion mixture. Make sure to scrape the bottom of the pot, loosening any bits of onion that have stuck.
  3. When the mushrooms have wilted and cooked down a little (2 minutes) add the remaining mushrooms and saute about 3 minutes more, stirring occasionally, until all of the mushrooms are soft. Season with salt and pepper. 
  4. Add balsamic vinegar, tomato sauce, water, lentils, salt, oregano and bay leaf. Mix well. 
  5. Secure the lid. Make sure the steam release valve is in the sealed position. Cook on high pressure for 15 minutes. 
  6. When the cooking time is complete, let the Instant Pot release pressure naturally (this will take 15 to 20 minutes).
  7. Mix well, add salt to taste. Make sure to add fresh basil and grated cheese before serving.

Recipe Note: The lentil bolognese might seem watery at first, but this is fine - you don’t want the sauce too thick or it won’t blend well into pasta. Also, as the sauce sits the lentils will continue to absorb some of the water and the sauce will thicken, especially if kept a day or two in the refrigerator. However, if you prefer a thicker sauce, you can simmer the sauce after it cooks to thicken it up. 





Freeze Leftovers: Freeze leftover lentil bolognese in Ziploc freezer bags for up to 3 months. You can freeze a large portion, or freeze smaller portions for lunches. 

Keywords: lentils, lentil pasta, lentil bolognese, green lentils, brown lentils