I’m pretty sure you couldn’t tell the difference between a traditional steaming bowl of pasta with meat sauce and our quicker Vegetarian Bolognese sauce made with plant-based ‘meat’ in an Instant Pot. No kidding – same taste, texture and deliciousness.
You can make this vegetarian Bolognese 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 by using 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 Bolognese sauce. Nevertheless, this vegetarian Bolognese is a thick, rich, savory meatless ‘meat’ sauce that would fool most meat eaters I think. It’s that close. And it tastes great.
You should try this ‘meat’ sauce because…
- Purists may snub their noses, but the rest of us are thrilled to serve the same meatless pasta meal to meat eaters and vegetarians alike at the same time. I don’t know about you, but 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 Bolognese sauce on pasta tastes just like the meat sauce on spaghetti 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 ‘meat’ 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
- Serving options: I serve the sauce over pasta. You can also use it for Sloppy Joes or to make a Lasagna.
- If you don’t have tomato sauce, you can use a 28 ounce can of crushed or diced tomatoes and an extra 2 tablespoons of tomato paste. San Marzano tomatoes are excellent.
- If you like a mellower or creamier sauce, add some milk or cream at the end.
- Vary the heat with more chili powder or dried chili flakes.
- Use a homemade tomato sauce if you prefer.
- The vegetarian Bolognese sauce is quite thick, especially the next day. Feel free to add another 1/2-1 cup of tomato sauce or 1/2 cup broth or water to make it saucier.
- 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 the Instant Pot
Vegetarian Bolognese (Instant Pot or Stovetop)
- 1 tbsp 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 lb plant-based ground 'meat' (like Impossible Burger or Beyond Beef)
- 3 garlic cloves, finely chopped (about 3 tsp)
- 2 tbsp tomato paste
- 1/2 cup red wine
- 3 cups tomato sauce (use 3 1/2 cups if you like it saucier)
- 1/2 cup water
- 1 tbsp dried oregano
- 1 tsp chili powder, or more
- 1/2 tsp sugar
- 1 tsp kosher salt
- 1/2 tsp ground pepper or more
- 2 bay leaves
- optional: 1 tsp prepared mustard
- PRESS SAUTE BUTTON ON INSTANT POT: to heat to "HOT". Chop veggies while heating. (See Note 1 for stove top version)
- SAUTE VEGGIES AND 'MEAT': Add oil, then veggies. Saute, stirring occasionally for 3-4 minutes. Add plant based 'meat', break up with utensil and saute for 3-4 minutes until it turns brown. Stir in garlic and tomato paste. Add wine, and deglaze, stirring for 1 minute. Press CANCEL button on instant pot.
- ADD LIQUID AND COOK: Stir in tomato sauce, water and all seasonings. Close lid and set valve to 'SEALING', then set 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 by turning valve to VENT. When button drops, you can open the lid.
- FINISH 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 pasta with Parmesan cheese if desired.