Cauliflower Bolognese

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Cauliflower Bolognese-this hearty and healthy bolognese is made with cauliflower and lentils. Even meat lovers will enjoy this rich and delicious bolognese sauce.

Cauliflower Bolognese Recipe

Utah has been getting pounded with snow this winter. Josh is loving the snow because he has had some pretty epic ski days on the mountain, but I am kind of over it. I enjoyed the first few snow storms, but I am ready for the snow to go! I do want to thank the snow for my comfort food cravings. The snow MADE me make this amazing Cauliflower Bolognese Sauce. I was craving a big old bowl of pasta and this cauliflower bolognese was the perfect sauce to top off my spaghetti.

Cauliflower Bolognese Recipe

On one of our many snow days, I turned on the fireplace and snuggled up with Emilie’s cookbook, The Clever Cookbook. I was flipping through the book and spotted a Cauliflower Bolognese recipe and knew I had to make it for dinner. I was already craving pasta and I LOVE cauliflower so I was sold. It sounded so good!

Cauliflower Bolognese Sauce Recipe

If you are a traditionalist and are thinking, cauliflower in my bolognese, what??? Think cauliflower in my bolognese, YES! It is SO good! There are also lentils in the sauce which make it super hearty and give the sauce a nice protein boost. The cauliflower is chopped really small so you don’t even know it is there. The cauliflower and lentils give the sauce a nice, meaty texture without any meat. I changed the recipe a bit by adding balsamic vinegar, some herbs and spices, and a pinch of sugar to cut the acidity.

I served the Cauliflower Bolognese over whole wheat spaghetti and added fresh basil and Parmesan cheese.

Cauliflower Bolognese Recipe on

Oh my goodness, this sauce is life changing, seriously! My meat loving boys even loved it. They had no clue it was made with cauliflower and lentils and I wasn’t about to tell them:) Shhh, that is our little secret:) Maxwell loved it so much he was yelling bolognYAYse…ha!

The bolognese sauce has SO much flavor. The addition of balsamic vinegar really made the sauce rich and delicious. Don’t skip it! This bolognese would also be good with zoodles, spaghetti squash, quinoa, rice, on toast, or with roasted vegetables, chicken…just about everything!

I put some sauce in the freezer, it will come in handy if we keep having these cold, snowy days. Cauliflower Bolognese is the perfect healthy comfort food, you’ve gotta try it.

Cauliflower Bolognese Recipe

Cauliflower Bolognese

You will never know this hearty bolognese is meatless. It is SO good!
4.95 from 19 votes
Prep Time
15 minutes
Cook Time
1 hour
Total Time
1 hour 15 minutes


  • small head cauliflower
  • tablespoons butter olive oil for vegan
  • cup chopped yellow onions 
  • 3 cloves garlic minced 
  • 28 oz cans whole plum tomatoes in thick puree
  • 1/2  cup red lentils 
  • 3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon minced fresh thyme
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried basil
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
  • Dash of crushed red pepper
  • Kosher salt and black pepper to taste
  • 1 lb  spaghetti or other pasta can use gluten-free pasta, zoodles, or spaghetti squash
  • Chopped fresh basil and grated Parmesan cheese for serving (omit cheese for vegan)


  1. Slice the cauliflower in half, removing the thick center core. Cut into large chunks.
  2. Using a food processor, break up the cauliflower into florets. Do this in batches to create uniform pieces. Pulse the cauliflower two times until it looks crumbly with a few small florets. Put cauliflower in a bowl and repeat. If you don't have a food processor, you can finely chop the cauliflower into pieces.
  3. In a large heavy-bottomed pot, heat the butter or olive oil over low heat. Add the onions and cook until soft, about 3-5 minutes.
  4. Add the cauliflower to the pot. Increase the heat to medium and continue to cook stirring occasionally until the cauliflower begins to lose its shape and takes on a light golden color, about 10-12 minutes. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds.
  5. Pour in the tomatoes, red lentils, balsamic vinegar, sugar, thyme, basil, oregano, crushed red pepper, salt, and pepper. Mix until well combined.
  6. Place the lid on top and bring the sauce to a gentle boil. Reduce the heat to low and simmer with the lid on for about 30 minutes. Remove the lid and cook for an additional 15 minutes or until the cauliflower is soft and lentils are broken down. The sauce should be thick. Season with salt and pepper, to taste.
  7. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Cook the pasta according to the package instructions. Serve pasta with cauliflower bolognese sauce. Garnish with fresh basil and Parmesan cheese, if desired. Serve warm.
  8. Note-If you don't have whole plum tomatoes, you can use diced or crushed tomatoes. The cauliflower bolognese will keep in the refrigerator for up to one week. It will freeze in a freezer container for up to 2 months. Make sure the sauce is completely cooled before freezing. This sauce is also great with zucchini noodles, rice, or quinoa.

Maria Lichty

I’m Maria and my husband is Josh. We share a love of cooking, baking, and entertaining. We enjoy creating recipes that are simple, fresh, and family friendly. We love sitting around the table with good food, good conversation, and good friends and family! Our kitchen is always open!
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CommentsLeave a reply

  1. As a vegetarian, I think this looks absolutely incredible and is so clever! I already have most of the ingredients in my house right now, so I’ll definitely be making this asap! Thanks so much for sharing and for the great idea! 

  2. My kids are allergic to lentils but this recipe looks amazing. Is there another bean or vegetarian protein you could recommend instead of lentils that would work great in this recipe? I have been vegetarian for 20+ years and love to come to your site for ideas!

    1. Hmmm, I have only tried it with lentils. They are small and hearty and hold up nicely in the sauce. You can try white beans, but they might get a little mushy. Chickpeas might work too, but they will be bigger and have a different texture. Let me know if you try it!

  3. I can’t believe you posted this today. I was just looking in the fridge thinking I don’t have meat on hand but I have cauliflower and pasta. Ugh. Did not want pasta and marinara with steamed cauliflower. Thanks so much. I will make this tonight! I just restocked our lentils this week too but they are green…

    1. Made it. My three kids 9, 6, 4 all gobbled it up quite happily. My 6 yr old whispered to me, “I know what you put in this sauce” but she smiled like it was our secret and kept eating. My husband liked it but hopes meat returns next time. Haha. I loved it and was filled up and my tummy thanked me too. Yes I could taste some lentils but they are not overpowering at all just kind of in the background and since I enjoy them I was seeking out their texture. If it was mushrooms I would have endeavored to ignore them. Haha

  4. That bread that is with your cauliflower Bolognese, do you have that recipe? It looks really good. Also can you taste the lentils? Not my favorite. Thanks so much for your recipes.

    1. The lentils give the sauce a hearty texture. I like them in the sauce and don’t think they are that noticeable. The bread is from Smith’s bakery, a Kroger store. It is a whole grain loaf.

  5. I’m not sure I’m ready for cauliflower in my pasta but it does look good and the sauce ingredients sound like a good mix. I’m going to give it a try – once I talk the rest of the family into it:)

  6. I have been craving vegan bolognese that acutally resembles real bolognese and this hit it!! Incredible!! Thank you so much!

  7. Your recipes never disappoint! I made this dish last night and it was a hit with my carnivores, we are having the leftovers for tonight’s supper. Win win! Thank you for the inspiration.

    1. I am sure they will be fine. You might see them more in the sauce, but if you don’t mind, they will work!

  8. This stuff. Amazing.

    I usually don’t comment on recipes but this is a life-changing recipe for me. I have a love-hate relationship with traditional bolognese. I love the flavors but I don’t like an overly meaty dish and I can’t eat too much of it. This sauce is. The. Bomb. The texture is perfect, flavors are on point, and it’s pretty easy to make. This was my first experience with lentils and I would say a definite success. Never buying a red sauce again!

  9. Hi,  this looks fantastic. Question – the recipe calls for whole tomatoes. Do they break down as they cook?  The sauce doesn’t look like it has big pieces of tomatoes. Can I use crushed tomatoes? Thanks!

    1. I use whole plum tomatoes and they do break down. If you don’t have them you can use diced or crushed tomatoes. Enjoy!

    2. Thanks!  I made it with one can of plum tomatoes and one can of crushed tomatoes.  The sauce was amazing!  I think next time I will use 2 cans of crushed as they seemed to cook better.  

  10. Interesting, mine has been at a fast simmer for 5 1/2 hours and my lentils are still crunchy 🙁 Also after a taste test I had to double up on all added seasonings (and I added some bouillon for an enhancement)

    1. The lentils should soften while cooking, ours didn’t take that long. If you are having trouble you can always cook the lentils first, but again, I just added them in and they softened just fine.

  11. I have never commented although I have made many of your recipes…and they were all good.  I have been trying to cook more vegetarian meals and so many of them are a lot alike.  When I made this recipe, I didn’t dare tell my family what it was…ha!  It was incredibly good and not a one of them realized it wasn’t made with meat. Awesome job Maria!

  12. Great recipe! Thanks! And the best is- you can make it vegan so easy! Instead of parmesan use nutritional yeast.  I also added half of a carrot, mushrooms  and celery breaking it up in food processor, and a pinch of smoked paprika.  DELICIOUS <3 

  13. 5 stars
    Fantastic! I’ve been searching for more plant-based recipes for my family. This was excellent and hearty. I added a can of tomato paste with the garlic and also about a cup of red wine. Served it over spaghetti squash with roasted veggies on the side and garlic bread. My whole family loved it. 

  14. I’d love to cut down prep time even more by using pre-riced cauliflower. Do you think it would work, and about how much do you think a small cauliflower would yield? Thanks!

    1. I googled this. I also wanted to use pre-riced cauliflower and was curious. Two different sources said that 1 head of cauliflower is equivalent to about 4 cups riced. Since this recipe calls for a small head, maybe 3-4 cups??

  15. 5 stars
    This recipe is fabulous!!  My husband refuses to eat cauliflower – except when he doesn’t realize that he IS eating it – ha!  So this recipe is even more perfect just for that!

    I’m a no-added-fat vegan so didn’t add the oil, and of course the recipe was even more health-licious!  I found that for some reason my red lentils took much longer than an hour to cook which is very strange, so will just allow for extra time next time.

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