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Tempeh Bolognese over spaghetti on a white plate on a wooden table

Tempeh Bolognese

1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars (23 votes, average: 4.04 out of 5)
  • Author:
  • Prep Time: 10 mins
  • Cook Time: 45 mins
  • Total Time: 55 minutes
  • Yield: 4-6 servings 1x
  • Category: Main Course
  • Method: Stovetop
  • Cuisine: Italian
  • Diet: Vegan


Adapted from NYC’s Natural Gourmet Institute, tempeh bolognese is a classic vegan comfort food. Serve with pasta, zucchini/sweet potato noodles, or roasted spaghetti squash. (This recipe has been updated from its original February 2017 version).


  • One 8-ounce package of tempeh, crumbled into small bits
  • 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, divided
  • 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt, divided
  • Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 1 small yellow onion, finely diced
  • 1 medium carrot, peeled and finely grated or diced (see note below)
  • 8 ounces cremini mushrooms, finely diced
  • 3 medium garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano, dried thyme, or Italian seasoning
  • 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes (optional)
  • Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg (optional)
  • ¾ cup dry red wine (see note below)
  • One 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes
  • 1 teaspoon maple syrup, honey, or granulated sugar (optional, see note below)
  • 1 pound pasta (any shape or size, see note below)
  • Chopped basil or parsley, for serving


  1. Place the tempeh in a large high-sided pan (or Dutch oven) and add 1/2 cup water. Place over medium heat and bring to a simmer. Cook until all the water has evaporated, 3 to 5 minutes. Then add 2 tablespoons of oil, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and a few grinds of pepper. Cook until golden brown and crispy, 5 to 7 minutes. Remove tempeh from the pan and set aside.
  2. Return the pan to medium-low heat and add the remaining 2 tablespoons of oil along with 1 small diced onion, 1 medium grated carrot, and 8 ounces finely diced mushrooms. Season with the remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt and a few grinds of pepper. Cook until the vegetables are soft, about 8 minutes.
  3. Add 2 minced garlic cloves, 1 teaspoon oregano, 1/2 teaspoon chili flakes, and a pinch of nutmeg (if using), and cook for 30 seconds more. Then stir in 3/4 cup wine and simmer for 2 minutes to evaporate the alcohol. Add the tempeh back in, along with a 28-ounce can of tomatoes. Cover tightly with a lid and simmer gently for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  4. Meanwhile, bring a large pot of water to a boil for the pasta. Generously salt the water and cook the pasta according to package directions until al dente. Scoop out 1/4 cup of the starchy water and drain the pasta.
  5. Add the pasta to the sauce along with the reserved water. Stir to combine. Taste and adjust the seasonings if needed. Garnish with basil or parsley.


Grated carrots pretty much melt into this sauce, giving it an earthy sweetness to balance out the tomatoes’ acidity. If you’re feeling too lazy to grate, dice the carrot instead.

This is a good way to use up a bottle of wine that’s been open for a few days too many.

I like to add a bit of sweetener to tomato sauces to balance out their acidity. This really helps round out the flavors, but you can leave it out.

As an alternative, serve this ragu over zucchini or sweet potato noodles, or roasted spaghetti squash. I also like it on mashed potatoes!


  • Serving Size: 1/6 of the recipe
  • Calories: 520

Keywords: vegan, tempeh, mushrooms, pasta, bolognese

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