This is a healthier, whole foods version of the all-time popular vegan bolognese recipe since we used cauliflower walnut meat. It is also super easy since you can make it in 20 minutes! We also included our famous hack on how to make extra creamy vegan bolognese sauce. Can’t wait to try it, right?
Need more quick and easy pasta recipes? Browse through our vegan gluten-free pasta sauce recipe collection for inspiration. We particularly love our vegan cashew alfredo sauce and our spinach pasta sauce as both of them are done in 15 MINUTES!!! Not to mention our kid-favorite hidden vegetable pasta sauce with 7 different veggies and legumes.
What to expect from this recipe?
Who would have thought that you can make the traditional bolognese dish without meat? Ground beef is basically the main ingredient. In Italy, they even call it a bolognese ragu, which means a meat-based sauce. But guess what, you can do it meat-free and without any compromise in taste or texture.
We stand by our statement that the best-tasting plant-based whole foods ground beef alternative is cauliflower and walnut mince. Not to mention the quickest, as you will be ready when your pasta is cooked.
So, this seemingly weird combination works because cauliflower gives the minced texture, while walnut adds the meaty richness. And voila you have your vegan ground beef.
If you have tried using lentils, mushrooms, or tofu but still haven’t found THE ONE, this hearty vegan spaghetti bolognese recipe will surely not disappoint.
The classic vegan bolognese sauce needs only a handful of ingredients, but we added our vegan cashew alfredo sauce to turn it into a rich, creamy pasta sauce.
- Spaghetti – I didn’t know either that the classic Bolognese ragú in Italy is served with tagliatelle until my sister and her husband visited Bologna and learned about it. Anyway, we still usually use spaghetti.
- Cauliflower – We used white cauliflower. If you feel creative you can try it with yellow, green, or even purple cauliflower. It could be fun.
- Onion – We used red onion, but you can use shallots as well.
- Sieved tomato puree – You can probably find several types of tomato sauces in the stores. We recommend choosing sieved tomato puree which is thicker and unseasoned. It is by far the best ingredient to make a rich bolognese sauce.
- Sweet smoked paprika powder
- Dried or fresh oregano
- Dried or fresh basil
- Olive oil
- Salt and black pepper
- Vegan cashew alfredo sauce – It is optional to add, but a highly recommended ingredient. It is a 5-ingredient no-cook white sauce, that you can make in 15 minutes. But it makes such a difference to this vegan pasta bolognese.
🛒 You can find detailed measurements for all ingredients in the printable version of the recipe card at the bottom of this post.
Other vegan ground beef alternatives
- TVP (textured vegetable protein) is the best ingredient to use to get a real ground beef-like texture. You can see it in many of our recipes like vegan moussaka or vegan cabbage lasagna.
- Mushroom bolognese would be most people’s first choice as they are easy to work with, cheap, and is a familiar ingredient to many. Although mushrooms do not deliver on texture perfectly. It remains too spongy and you can definitely taste the mushrooms.
- Tofu could be another alternative, although most people bit hesitant to use it. It is not easy to make tofu crunchy and you can easily end up with a tofu scramble.
- Lentils are another popular alternative to making vegan spaghetti bolognese due to their familiarity. But they are lentils, easily recognizable. Nobody confuses them with meat. We made our vegan lasagna with lentils and it was delicious indeed.
- Quinoa or millet is almost perfect. They give almost the right texture. The only thing missing is that they are so tiny compared to ground beef. We use it in our vegan bean chili and in our quinoa sweet potato chili recipes and they work there since there are many other ingredients and the grains are not the only thing in the sauce.
To save time, you can definitely use a store-bought seasoned tomato-based vegan pasta sauce, or our quick, 10-min chunky vegan marinara sauce recipe, but we definitely recommend trying our from-scratch homemade creamy vegan bolognese sauce. Here is what you need to do to make it:
Preparing the ingredients
- Cook spaghetti according to packaging instructions.
- Peel and chop onion and garlic.
- Peel off the cauliflower leaves and cut off the florets. We don’t recommend using the trunk as it can be hard and fibery. You can use the trunk to make vegan cream of cauliflower soup.
- Add the raw cauliflower florets to a food processor and chop them until you get a minced texture (photo #1). Repeat this step with the walnuts (photo #2). We never peel the walnuts by the way.
Making vegan bolognese sauce
- Take a saucepan, frying pan, or a skillet and heat it over medium heat.
- Add olive oil, chopped onion, and garlic and cook them until they are soft and getting transparent. It should take only 2-3 minutes.
- Add minced cauliflower and cook it for 3-4 minutes (photo #3). Stir occasionally.
- Add minced walnut and cook it for another 3-4 minutes (photo #4). Stir occasionally.
- Add tomato sauce and seasoning (oregano, basil, salt, black pepper, and sweet smoked paprika powder) (photo #5). Then cook it for another 4-5 minutes.
Adding alfredo sauce
Finally, add one cup of our vegan alfredo sauce made with cashew nuts, dairy-free milk, nutritional yeast, garlic, and nutmeg. Your vegan spaghetti bolognese will arrive at a whole new level of creaminess.
More ways to use it
You can use this vegan spaghetti bolognese (both the sauce and the cauliflower walnut meat) in other recipes as well.
- Layer it within this lasagna.
- Use it as a shepherd’s pie, pot pie, or moussaka filling.
- Stuff it in mushroom, pepper/capsicum, butternut squash, or zucchini.
- Make chili with it.
- Top your baked potato with it.
- Fill your crepes with it to make a savory breakfast using leftovers.
- Top your mac and cheese.
What else would you use it for? Let us know in the comments.
FAQs and substitutions
How to store it?
It is perfect for batch cooking. You can easily store it in the fridge for 3-4 days without any problem.
Can you freeze it?
Store any leftovers per serving (in a jar, in a ziplock bag, or in an airtight container) in a freezer and thaw whenever you need them.
This Vegan Spaghetti Bolognese recipe is meat-free, egg-free, and dairy-free.
- Vegan – All ingredients are supposed to be vegan.
- Nut-free – It is not straightforward to substitute walnuts for sunflower seeds just like that. You would be better off skipping it or using mushrooms in a combination with cauliflower. If you need a creamy white sauce that is nut-free, make our vegan bechamel.
- WFPB-friendly (whole foods plant-based) – Since the only non-compliant ingredient is oil, you can easily skip it by sauteeing everything directly in the tomato sauce, or by using a bit of vegetable broth or water to start off the cooking. The cashew alfredo sauce we use is also compliant.
- Gluten-free – All ingredients are supposed to be gluten-free but always cook with certified products. The sauce itself is therefore gluten-free, but choose gluten-free pasta from the many different alternatives like quinoa spaghetti or a more protein-packed edamame spaghetti or chia flour pasta. Not to mention zucchini noodles for a low-carb spaghetti bolognese.
- Soy-free – All ingredients are soy-free.
More vegan pasta recipes
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Vegan Spaghetti Bolognese (Cauliflower Walnut Meat)
Prepare the ingredients
- Cook spaghetti according to packaging instructions.
- Peel and chop onion and garlic.
- Peel off the cauliflower leaves and cut off the florets. We don’t recommend using the trunk as it can be hard and fibery.
- Add the raw cauliflower florets to a food processor and chop them until you get a minced texture. Repeat this step with the walnuts. We never peel the walnuts by the way.
Making the sauce
- Take a non-stick saucepan and add a bit of olive oil. Cook on medium heat the chopped onions and garlic until they are soft and getting transparent. It should take only 2-3 minutes.
- First, add minced cauliflower and cook them for 3-4 minutes. Stir occasionally.
- Now, add minced walnut and cook them for another 3-4 minutes. Stir occasionally.
- Add tomato sauce and seasoning (oregano, basil, salt, black pepper, and sweet paprika powder). Then cook this mixture again for 4-5 minutes.
How to make it extra creamy?
- Add 1 cup of our homemade vegan alfredo sauce at the end to get a perfectly creamy bolognese sauce.
- Before serving, sprinkle it with vegan parmesan cheese. Enjoy!
UPDATED: This recipe was originally posted in July 2018, but was rewritten and republished with new photos, instructions, and tips in March 2020. More tips, info, and serving ideas were added and it was republished in June 2022.