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High Protein Lentil Bolognese {vegan, grain-free, easy}

High protein lentil bolognese served with grain-free (chickpea) pasta is a powerhouse supper! It is also vegan, easy, frugal, and boasts almost 20 grams protein per serving.

Bolognese made with Lentils

It’s pasta time.

Hearty, satisfying pasta that tastes like it has been simmering all day. Pasta that makes you feel cozy, even when it still feels like summer outside.

The pasta happens to be frugal, packed with nutrition, meat-free, dairy-free, and grain-free, too.

It’s my High-Protein Lentil Bolognese. Isn’t the sauce a stunner?

Pooped at the end of a long workday? Me, too. So rest assured, I crafted this dish to require little effort, as well as a minimum of dirty pots and pans. 

It’s so worth it. 

Ready? Let’s go!

How to Make Lentil Bolognese

First up, finely chop an onion, a medium carrot, a stalk of celery, and several cloves of garlic.  I throw all into a food processor.

Carrots and celery may sound odd for a red sauce, but their subtle sweetness is essential for a traditional bolognese. Using “tradition” as my rationale may sound ridiculous, considering this is a very untraditional bolognese. But it is also all the more reason why I wanted to keep the underlying flavors classic. 

Cook and stir the vegetables over medium-high heat for 6 to 7 minutes until softened, then add a tablespoon of dried Italian herbs.

Next, add the lentils, tomato puree (this is thicker and richer than crushed tomatoes), water, white wine, and a tablespoon of balsamic vinegar.

I used split red lentils because they cook in roughly half the time of whole lentils, However, you can use whatever lentils you have on hand. You will need to add about 15 to 20 minutes more cooking time as well as about 1/2 cup more water.

Bring the sauce to a boil and then reduce the heat to low, Cook the sauce, uncovered, for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. The lentils should be mostly soft at this point. Partially cover the pot and cook 20 minutes longer, allowing the sauce to thicken and the flavors intensify.  

Remove the pot from the heat and add the final ingredient: milk. Like the carrots and celery, this might sound weird. It’s not; it’s another traditional addition (well, not the nondairy part, but you get the idea). The milk lightens and mellows the sauce. Don’t we all need more mellow at mealtime?

Go ahead and taste the sauce, adjusting the salt to your liking. 

You can pair this sauce with any pasta you prefer. In my case, that’s chickpea flour penne pasta!

Use Chickpea Pasta for Even More Protein

Pasta made from chickpea flour is not newfangled craziness; it’s actually a classic option throughout southern Italy. It is appearing with greater regularity in supermarkets, too, right alongside regular pasta.

The texture of chickpea flour pasta is just like regular pasta but with FLAVOR (slightly nutty…umm, like chickpeas). It is also packed with protein and fiber.

Both my local supermarket (Kroger) and Wal-Mart, in my smallish Texas town, now sport not 1, not 2, but 3 brands of chickpea pasta (Banza, Barilla, and Lensi)! It is likely available at your local stores, too.  If it is not with the other pasta, check out the health food section of the store. You can also order it online.

20 grams of Protein per Serving

Toss the sauce with the hot cooked pasta. Serve, sprinkled with optional parsley and Vegan Parmesan Cheese.

It’s even more delicious than it looks.

Have a big bowl! 1/8 of the recipe (about 1 and 2/3 cups) has almost 20 grams of protein and 14.3 grams fiber (kapow!), yet only 316 calories.

That’s my kind of traditional.

Happy eating!

More Amazing Vegan Lentil Recipe to Love:

High Protein Lentil Bolognese {vegan, grain-free, easy}

High Protein Lentil Bolognese {vegan, grain-free, easy}

Yield: 8 servings
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 47 minutes
Total Time: 52 minutes

Hearty, healthy, homestyle bolognese, made with lentils and grain-free (chickpea) pasta. It is vegan, easy, frugal, and very high in protein (almost 20 grams per serving).


  • 1 medium carrot, peeled, cut into pieces
  • 1 large stalk celery, cut into pieces
  • 1 medium-large onion, cut into chunks
  • 3 cloves garlic, peeled
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon Italian dried herb blend
  • 1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 1/2 cup red lentils, rinsed
  • 2 cups (500 mL) water
  • 1 28-ounce (794 g) can tomato puree (not crushed tomatoes)
  • 1/2 cup (125 mL) dry white wine (see note for options)
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
  • 1/3 cup (75 mL) nondairy milk
  • 16 ounces (454 g) chickpea pasta (I used penne)
  • Optional: chopped fresh parsley leaves, Vegan Parmesan Cheese


  1. Place the carrot pieces, celery, onion and garlic in a food processor; process until finely chopped.
  2. Heat the oil in a large pot or large, deep skillet over medium-high heat. Add the chopped vegetables; cook and stir for 6 to 7 minutes until softened. Add the herbs and salt; cook and stir 1 minute longer.
  3. Add the lentils, water, tomato puree, wine, and vinegar to pot; bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and cook, uncovered, for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Partially cover and cook 20 minutes longer until sauce has thickened.
  4. Remove pot from heat and stir in milk. Adjust the salt to taste.
  5. Toss the sauce with the hot cooked pasta. Serve, sprinkled with optional parsley and Vegan Parmesan Cheese.


Storage: Store the cooled sauce in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days or the freezer for up to 6 months.

Wine Options: An equal amount of red wine, vegetable broth or water can be used in place of the white wine.

Lentils: Other varieties of lentils can be used in place of the split red lentils. Split red lentils cook faster than other lentils, so plan on simmering the sauce for an extra 15 to 20 minutes and add an extra 1/2 cup of water, or more as needed.

Nutrition Information
Serving Size 1/8 of recipe (1 and 2/3 cups)
Amount Per Serving Calories 316Total Fat 5.8gSaturated Fat 0.3gCholesterol 0mgSodium 501.3mgCarbohydrates 52.5gFiber 14.3gSugar 11.8gProtein 19.4g

Did you make this recipe?

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Tuesday 25th of October 2022

Is that the weight of the pasta in the ingredients list cooked or uncooked?


Wednesday 26th of October 2022

Hi Kenna, It is for uncooked (I used Banza chickpea flour pasta, which is 8-ounces per box). This makes a lot of sauce, so you could freeze half of the sauce and serve the other half over just one 8-ounce box of pasta (4 servings). ?


Tuesday 31st of May 2022

Does the nutritional information include the chickpea noodles or is that just for the sauce?


Wednesday 1st of June 2022

Hi Mandy, It includes the noodles. It would be about 14g protein per serving using regular (wheat) penne.


Sunday 29th of September 2019

This looks delicious and I'm going to have to try it. A quick question related to the tomato puree: You list a 28-ounce can tomato puree. Is that 28 oz a volume measurement (fluid ounces) or is it a weight measurement? Being outside the U.S. I need to know if I should convert it to milliliters or to grams.


Sunday 29th of September 2019

Hi Dareo, Apologies, I meant to list the grams measurement. 28 ounces refers to the can size and what the manufacturer is saying is the measurement of tomatoes inside the can. It is a 794 g can. I hope that that helps. :)

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