The Easiest Vegan Meat(less) Sauce

Several years ago I posted a recipe called the ultimate vegan meat(less) sauce and I have to say, that recipe is pretty great. The only problem is, it’s kind of hard to make because you first have to prep some homemade veggie burgers and then a homemade marinara sauce. If you have a few hours to make dinner (ha) it’s great, but I wanted to come up with something quicker and easier that’s still just as good. In the end I came up with this one –

This sauce starts with a base of spiced onions, lentils, and riced cauliflower that cooks down into a meaty consistency, and then you just throw in a jar of your favorite sauce (or you can make my homemade marinara sauce) and simmer for a while until it’s done. The end result is a flavorful, nutrient-dense sauce that is packed with fiber and protein. Pair with some whole wheat pasta for a perfect plant-based dinner in about 30 minutes start to finish.

Makes: 4-6 servings


  • 1 yellow onion
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder blend
  • 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon Italian seasoning
  • 2 cups cooked black lentils
  • 2 cups riced cauliflower
  • 2 cups marinara sauce
  • 1/4 cup fresh basil
  • pasta, for serving

Step One

Begin warming a large saucepan with a splash of water and add in a diced yellow onion, 2 cloves of (minced) garlic, salt and pepper, and a bunch of spices right onto the onions. Just like with a curry, you’ll get a ton of flavor if you add spices right into the onions. As far as which spices to use, you can have some fun with this. I used a bunch of chili powder, smoked paprika, and Italian seasoning (the idea is to give this a hamburger meat flavor, even though I actually have no idea how one would cook hamburger meat). Allow to simmer over medium heat until the onions turn translucent (5 minutes).

Step Two

Add in about 2 cups of cooked lentils and 2 cups of riced cauliflower*. Gently mash these ingredients into the spiced onion mixture and give at least 10 minutes to simmer until the cauliflower cooks down and everything starts working together.

* Riced cauliflower is just cauliflower that has been broken up into tiny pieces resembling rice. You can make it in the food processor by pulsing a few times, or you can actually find both pre-cooked lentils and pre-riced cauliflower at Trader Joe’s if you’re fortunate enough to have one gracing your neighborhood.

Step Three

Finally, add in a jar (16 oz) of marinara sauce. Again, you can make your own with my recipe if you’re less lazy than me, or just use an unprocessed store-brought variety that you like. I also threw in some basil chiffonade for fun. Give this another 10 minutes or so to heat up and simmer while preparing the pasta.

When done, drain the pasta, toss with the sauce, and garnish with some more basil:


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  1. You have no idea how perfect timing this is! I have been vegan for three years but for some reason TODAY i was craving my moms bolognese which I havent even eaten in years! This recipe will thus be made very very soon, thanks Andrew xx

  2. not only does that look wonderful, but I’m so happy to hear from you again, as I was randomly thinking of you when I was at work the other day. Oh so many years ago do you remember your challenge to not eat any processed food for a period of time? Working at a grocery store, Trader Joe’s, it’s a little hard not to want graze through your shift. I think about 99% of the time I’m not grabbing for a cracker even if it’s vegan. Thanks for your inspiration!

    • Oh hey, good to hear from you. Yes I remember that. We did the Facebook group a few years ago, the “One Ingredient Challenge” haha and I’m glad it stuck for you … I can only imagine how difficult it would be surrounded by all the great stuff at TJ’s 🙂

      • I just love how you gave 2 solid examples that l still think of and share with others: the 2T of olive oil to 30 olives, and how high the number ingredients can go into 1 bite of something. That sadly, in a way, prevents me from eating one of the few really tasty and convenient options at Trader Joe’s, The Super Burrito. It’s pretty clean as pre-made food goes, but the number of ingredients is too many.

        • Oh man! Somehow I had never seen that super burrito at TJs before. WHY did you tell me about it, haha, now I want to try it. I might have to get one and then recreate a more unprocessed version for my next recipe…

  3. Does it have to be black lentils? I can’t find black…. we got green, brown, red. I have seen Black beluga beans, but not lentils.

  4. I am a little confused on the one ingredient plan as I’ve always been taught that pasta is not a healthy food. Also, one of your recipes uses whole wheat tortillas which are not one ingredient.
    So is your idea mostly vegan?
    I am excited to try your recipes!

    • Hi Shera! Well, whole wheat pasta is one ingredient (durum wheat). It’s true that sometimes I bend the rules – whole wheat tortillas might be more than One Ingredient, but they’re still only lightly processed and make life so much easier. It’s not about 100%, it’s okay to bend the rules sometimes if it makes it more sustainable long-term. And yes, my diet is 100% vegan. Check out this page for more info

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