I’m pretty sure you couldn’t tell the difference between a traditional steaming bowl of pasta with meat sauce (classic Bolognese) and our quicker vegetarian Bolognese sauce made with plant-based ground beef in an Instant Pot.
No kidding – same rich flavor, texture and deliciousness.
You can make this bolognese recipe in the Instant Pot or on the stove. Instructions for both are in the recipe. The only difference is that you save 30-40 minutes or so – the magic of the Instant Pot.
I took some license with the recipe by not including milk and not serving it with a wider pasta typically used with a classic Bolognese sauce.
Nevertheless, this vegetarian Bolognese is a thick, rich, savory meatless ground beef sauce that would fool most meat eaters I think. It’s that close. And it tastes great.
Why you should try this plant-based ground beef spaghetti sauce
Purists may snub their noses, but the rest of us are thrilled to serve the same meatless pasta recipe to meat eaters and vegetarians alike at the same time. For me, this is a big deal. For over 20 years, I have had to make my vegetarian daughter a separate vegetarian meal 🙁 With this recipe, I don’t!
The vegetarian spaghetti Bolognese tastes just like the homemade spaghetti meat sauce on pasta I grew up with. Totally satisfying to meat lovers like me and my husband. But totally plant-based to satisfy vegetarians or vegans too. (And me because I’m trying to cut back on meat).
It’s really nice for vegetarians to feel like they’re not the odd man out for a change when a vegetarian dish is the main event. My daughter tells me vegetarians share a few frustrations the rest of us don’t think about much.
And it’s also heartening to know that you’re helping the environment by reducing beef consumption which is responsible for significant greenhouse gas emissions.
Are plant-based beef products healthy?
The two best plant-based beef products on the market (at this point), based on several taste tests, are Impossible Burger and Beyond Beef. The taste, texture and nutrition are very similar to ground beef.
BUT, are these products healthier than regular ground beef? No, not really. Beyond Beef and regular ground beef have about the same calories and fat (although Beyond Beef has less saturated fat). Beyond Beef has more fiber and a bit less protein than ground beef. The downside is that these products are highly processed with a long list of additives.
So this meatless meal cannot be considered a health food just because it’s plant-based. It’s certainly not bad for you, though, particularly as an occasional indulgence.
Tailor To Your Taste
- Serve the vegetarian bolognese sauce over your favorite pasta (any kind) with a salad and crusty bread.
- You can also use it for Sloppy Joes or to make a Lasagna.
- Sometimes I add these all-purpose Italian meatballs to the sauce served over pasta. Not for vegetarians of course.
- Leave out the carrots and celery. Less chopping.
- Use jarred or frozen cubes of garlic instead of chopping fresh garlic.
Make Ahead Vegetarian Bolognese
- The sauce will keep in the fridge for 3-4 days and in the freezer in a sealed container for 3 months.
Other vegetarian sauce recipes
Here are a few other vegetarian sauces that are delicious on pasta, veggies or tofu
How to make Vegetarian Bolognese in an Instant Pot
Vegetarian Bolognese (Instant Pot or Stovetop)
- Instant Pot (or check notes for stove top instructions)
- 1 tablespoon neutral olive oil
- 1 medium onion, finely diced about 1 1/2 cups
- 1 carrot, peeled, finely diced
- 1 celery stalk, finely diced
- 3/4 pound (0.34kg) plant-based ground beef (like Impossible Meat or Beyond Beef)
- 3 garlic cloves, finely chopped (about 3 teaspoons)
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste
- 1/2 cup (118ml) red wine
- 3 cups (710ml) tomato or marinara sauce (use 3 1/2 cups if you like it saucier)
- 1/2 cup (118ml) water
- 1 tablespoon dried oregano
- 1 teaspoon chili powder, or more
- 1/2 teaspoon sugar
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/2 teaspoon black pepper or more
- 1 bay leaf (or 2)
- optional: 1 tsp prepared mustard, pinch of red chili flakes
- PRESS SAUTÉ FUNCTION ON INSTANT POT: and heat to "HOT". Chop veggies while heating. (See Note 1 for stove top version)
- SAUTE VEGGIES AND 'GROUND BEEF': Add oil, then veggies. Sauté, stirring occasionally for 3-4 minutes. Add plant based ground beef, break up with utensil and sauté for 3-4 minutes until it turns brown. Stir in garlic and tomato paste. Add wine, and deglaze by scraping the bottom of the pot, stirring for 1 minute. Press CANCEL button on instant pot.
- ADD LIQUID AND COOK: Stir in the rest of the ingredients – tomato sauce, water and all seasonings (including mustard if using). Close lid and set valve to 'SEALING', then set to HIGH PRESSURE OR MANUAL button on High for 20 minutes (use + or – buttons). The Instant Pot will take about 8-10 minutes to come to pressure depending on size of pot before it starts the 20 minute cooking process. When finished (it will beep), do quick pressure release of the pressure by turning valve to VENT. When button drops, you can open the lid.
- FINISH VEGGIE BOLOGNESE SAUCE: Change function to SAUTE and stir sauce for 2-3 minutes or until desired thickness. It will thicken more on standing or in the fridge. Taste and adjust seasonings. Serve over any type of pasta with Parmesan cheese and/or a little olive oil if desired. Garnish with fresh parsley.
- No Instant Pot? Use this stovetop method: Heat oil in medium-large pot on stove to medium high. Add veggies. Saute 3-4 minutes. Lower heat to medium heat. Add plant based ground beef. Saute another 3-4 minutes until brown, breaking up with a spoon. Stir in garlic and tomato paste. Add wine and deglaze, scraping the bottom of the pan, for a minute until absorbed. Add tomato sauce, seasonings and water. Stir. Bring to boil, then lower heat and cover. Simmer for 50-60 minutes until bolognese sauce is rich and thick. If not thick enough, uncover and cook another 10 minutes. Taste and adjust seasonings.
- Variations and substitutes for the veggie bolognese sauce:
- If you don’t have tomato sauce, you can use a 28 ounce can of crushed tomatoes or diced tomatoes and an extra 2 tbsp tomato paste. San Marzano tomatoes are excellent for making a rich tomato sauce.
- If you like a mellower or creamier sauce, add some milk or cream at the end.
- Use a homemade tomato sauce if you prefer.
- The veggie Bolognese sauce is a hearty sauce that is quite thick, especially the next day. Feel free to add additional tomato sauce, broth or water to make it saucier.
- Vary the heat with more chili powder or red pepper flakes.
- Make Ahead: Cool sauce and store in fridge for 3-4 days or in freezer for 3 months. If too thick, add a bit of broth, water or more tomato sauce when reheating on stove or in microwave.