Plant-based bolognese sauce makes a hearty and tasty meal that everyone will love, even meat eaters! It’s easy to make and goes together quickly in the instant pot.

Vegan bolognese sauce in a bowl over spaghetti and a side of garlic bread.

That’s when I pull out my Instant Pot and create a quick meal that does not warm up the kitchen or require me to go outside and cook over a hot grill.

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Bolognese sauce usually simmers slowly for several hours until the ingredients all meld together into a rich, thick sauce that’s perfect served over pasta. However, using the Instant Pot cooks up this thick vegan bolognese sauce in only 20 minutes of cooking time.

If you’re like me and enjoy cooking with the instant pot, you might also enjoy this Toscana zuppa soup or a bowl of Cincinnati chili. It also works great for meal prepping foods such as making shredded chicken or coconut rice.For another great pasta sauce recipe be sure and try my homemade spaghetti sauce with fresh tomatoes.

Why You Will Love Vegan Bolognese Sauce

  • Quick dinner solution! Ready in 20 minutes!
  • A great way to enjoy Meatless Monday. Plant-based bolognese sauce makes a hearty dinner without any meat.
  • Kid-friendly family dinner. Have trouble getting kids to eat more veggies? In this dish, they’re chopped small and cooked up in a luscious sauce that even the kids will love.
  • Perfect for meal prep. Make a double batch and freeze it for later!

What Is Bolognese Sauce?

Bolognese, a meat-based sauce, originated in Bologna, Italy. The sauce has just a bit of tomato for flavor, while the rest is meat, spices, and liquids which are generally wine and milk. A traditional bolognese sauce is simmered slowly for several hours until the ingredients all blend together creating a thick sauce perfect that’s perfect served over pasta.

Using a classic Italian bolognese sauce recipe as inspiration, vegan bolognese is a play on the hearty meat sauce but replaces the meaty texture with plant-based ingredients including very finely chopped cauliflower, carrots, mushrooms, and eggplant.

🛒 Ingredient notes

This easy vegetarian bolognese recipe is made with simple, wholesome ingredients you will be able to find at your grocery store.

Ingredients to make vegan bolognese sauce with images and text.
  • Aromatics: Onion and garlic are first sauteed to release their flavors which adds the base to the rich sauce.
  • Olive oil: Perfect for sauteing the vegetables in this Italian sauce, but feel free to use any vegetable oil.
  • Veggies: Cauliflower, mushrooms, carrot, and eggplant make the perfect replacement for the chopped meat in this recipe.
  • Tomatoes: Stewed tomatoes and tomato paste add rich tomato flavor.
  • Maple syrup: Helps bring out the flavor of the tomatoes and balances out the kick from the red pepper flakes and the acid in the tomatoes.
  • Balsamic vinegar: Adds a bit of umami flavor to tomato sauce giving it a great depth of flavor.
  • Spices: You are going to need oregano, basil, rosemary, and homemade Italian seasoning mix or you can use store-bought.

I found my inspiration for this vegan recipe in The Ultimate Vegan Cookbook For The Instant Pot I tweaked it just a bit to spice it up for my hubby’s liking.

See the full list of ingredients and the quantities you need, check the recipe card the end of the page!

How to Make Vegan Bolognese Sauce

Here’s an overview of what goes into making this rich, hearty vegetarian bolognese sauce. For detailed instructions, see the recipe card further down the page.

  1. Use the saute setting of the instant pot to cook the onions and garlic in the olive oil just until the onions become soft.
Onions cooking in the Instant pot and other ingredients added.
  1. Add the cauliflower florets to the food processor and pulse until the pieces are tiny about the size of couscous. Add to the onions in the instant pot. 
  2. Next, add the mushrooms to the food processor and pulse until chopped small similar to the cauliflower. Transfer them to the instant pot. Last, do the same thing with the carrots.
  3. Peel the eggplant and chop it up into small cubes and add it to the pressure cooker with everything else.
  1. Place the stewed tomatoes into the food processor and pulse a few times, just to get them into smaller pieces.
  2. Add the processed stewed tomatoes.
Tomatoes added to the pot along with spices.

7. Next, add the tomato paste, maple syrup, balsamic vinegar, oregano, basil, Italian seasoning, crushed rosemary, and salt to the instant pot. If you like it a little spicy, add the crushed red peppers as well.

8. Give all the ingredients a good stir.

Vegan bolognese cooked in the instant pot ready to serve.
  1. Lock on the Instant Pot lid and set it to cook on high pressure for 20 minutes. Let the pressure release naturally.
  2. When it’s ready, safely remove the lid and give it a taste. You can adjust any seasonings to your tastes and serve with chopped fresh basil over pasta of your choice. 

Variations and Substitutions

  • Add some protein: If you’re looking to add some protein, stir in some tofu crumbles, a vegan ground meat substitute, or even some chopped walnuts. Add these after the sauce cooks and use the saute heating on the Instant Pot to help heat them.
  • Swap out the veggies: This combination works great to create the texture of a vegan meat sauce, but if you don’t like one, swap it for another fave or simply use more than the others.
  • No stewed tomatoes? These add more flavor, but you can also use crushed tomatoes or whole tomatoes.
  • Prefer fresh herbs? I suggest stirring them in at the end of cooking for more flavor. You will need to use three times the amount of dried to get the same flavor.
  • Don’t like spicy? Skip the red chili flakes.
  • Maple syrup: If you don’t have syrup, you can also use another liquid sweetener such as agave or granulated sugar.

How to Store

  • Refrigerator: Allow the sauce to cool completely and then store in an airtight container in the fridge for up to five days.
  • Freezer: After completely cooled, portion the sauce out for future meals in the appropriate sized container or freezer bag. If using bags, flatten them out and lay them on a baking sheet to freeze. This takes up much less space and allows you to stack the bags. Thaw out the desired amount in the freezer overnight. Freeze for up to three months.
  • Reheat: Return the thawed sauce to the saucepan and cook over medium heat until heated through.

What to Serve With Plant-Based Bolognese Sauce

The beauty of this instant pot bolognese sauce is that it’s pretty much a one-bowl meal so you don’t need much!

  • For spaghetti bolognese, serve it up with pasta. It’s great over spaghetti or your favorite pasta shape!
  • Don’t eat gluten? Serve it over brown rice or a gluten-free pasta alternative.
  • Want it low carb? Serve it over zucchini noodles!
  • Add on a salad: To keep things simple, this Caesar salad or Green Jacket salad is the perfect easy salad to pair with pasta bolognese.
  • Bread is great for soaking up the sauce! This Italian Cheesy Pull-Apart Bread is perfect or my quick Vegan Beer Bread. Running short on time, then you can keep things simple with a store-bought loaf or some garlic bread.
  • Offer up some vegan parmesan cheese or nutritional yeast to sprinkle over the top!

Expert Tips

  • Chop the veggies finely in the food processor but don’t make them too small! Aim for a size similar to rice.
  • Saute the onion and garlic first before cooking under pressure. This step is essential to layering on the flavor right from the start.
  • Be sure to follow all the safety instructions for opening your electric pressure cooker after cooking.
  • Don’t skip the maple syrup or another sweetener. It enhances the flavor of the tomatoes and makes the sauce taste better.
Plant based bolognese served up in a bowl over pasta.
Plant-based Bolognese Sauce on pasta with garlic bread in bowl too
5 from 1 rating

Plant Based Vegan Bolognese Sauce

Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 20 minutes
Total Time: 35 minutes
Servings: 10 cups
Plant-based bolognese sauce makes a heart and tasty meal that everyone will love, even teat eaters! It's easy to make and goes together quickly in the instant pot.

Note: Be sure to read through the recipe’s post for tips and details about this recipe.

Ingredients
 

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • ½ cup onion, Pulse in a food processor or chop very fine pieces.
  • 6 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3 cauliflower, Pulse in a food processor or chop very fine pieces. You will need about 4 cups
  • 10 oz mushrooms, pulse in a food processor or chop very fine pieces.
  • 2 cups carrot, Pulse in a food processor or chop very fine pieces.
  • 2 cups eggplant , Peel eggplant and then chop it into dime size cubes.
  • 28 ounces stewed tomatoes, two 14.5 ounce cans
  • 6 ounces tomato paste
  • 2 tablespoons maple syrup
  • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 1 ½ tablespoon oregano, dried
  • 1 tablespoon basil, dried
  • 1 ½ rosemary , dried, chopped fine
  • 2 teaspoons Homemade Italian Season Mix, can also use store-bought
  • 1 teaspoon pink Himalayan salt
  • 1 to 2 teaspoons crushed red peppers

Instructions
 

  • Turn the instant pot to saute and add the olive. When warm, add onions and garlic. Saute for 1 minute or until onions become soft. Turn off saute.
  • Add the cauliflower florets to the food processor and pulse until the pieces are tiny about the size of couscous. Scrape out into your Instant Pot liner. 
  • Now add the mushrooms to the food processor and pulse until small, then add them to your Instant Pot liner.  Repeat with the carrots.  
  • Peel eggplant and then chop it into small cubes. Place the eggplant into the Instant Pot
  • Place stewed tomatoes into the food processor and pulse for a few times, just to get them in small pieces.  Pour into the Instant Pot liner.
  • Mix in tomato paste, maple syrup, balsamic vinegar, oregano, basil, Italian seasoning, crushed rosemary, and salt. You can also add crushed red peppers if you would like some heat to your veggie bolognese.
  • Lock on the Instant Pot lid and set to manual and cook on high pressure for 20 minutes. Let the pressure release naturally.
  • Serve with chopped fresh basil over pasta of your choice. 

Equipment

Notes

  • Chop the veggies finely in the food processor but don’t make them too small! Aim for a size similar to rice.
  • Saute the onion and garlic first before cooking under pressure. This step is essential to layering on the flavor right from the start.
  • Be sure to follow all the safety instructions for opening your electric pressure cooker after cooking.
  • Don’t skip the maple syrup or another sweetener. It enhances the flavor of the tomatoes and makes the sauce taste better.
Serving: 1cup, Calories: 139kcal, Carbohydrates: 25g, Protein: 6g, Fat: 4g, Saturated Fat: 1g, Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g, Monounsaturated Fat: 2g, Sodium: 544mg, Potassium: 1053mg, Fiber: 7g, Sugar: 13g, Vitamin A: 4648IU, Vitamin C: 95mg, Calcium: 109mg, Iron: 3mg
Cuisine: Italian
Course: Main Dish
Author: Gina Dickson

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Update Notes: This post was originally published in 2019, but was republished with new photos, step-by-step instructions and tips, and in October 2022.